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The Rise of the John Birch Left

The John Birch Society was founded in 1958 by businessman Robert Welch, and named after a Christian missionary shot by Communist forces in China in 1945, whom Welch named as the first casualty of the Cold War. The Birchers’ core principles, that Communism is evil, its expansion needed to be stopped, and that communists had infiltrated American government (see also: Hiss, Alger) were laudable. But the group’s zeal to defend them drove them to paranoid levels, to the point where the Birchers were accusing President Eisenhower of being a crypto-commie, leading to Russell Kirk’s hilarious rejoinder to the Birchers, “Ike’s not a communist, he’s a golfer!”

Not to mention all that business about fluoride in the water, which Stanley Kubrick and Terry Southern had loads of fun satirizing in Dr. Strangelove. All of which led William F. Buckley to banish the Birchers from the postwar conservative movement he was building, leaving them a marginalized fringe group. (They're still around, and still coming up with zany conspiracy theories.)

The modern left is built around a trio of laudable principles: protecting the environment is good, racism is bad, and so is demonizing a person over his or her sexual preferences. (In the chapter of his book Intellectuals titled “The Flight from Reason,” Paul Johnson wrote that “At the end of the Second World War, there was a significant change in the predominant aim of secular intellectuals, a shift of emphasis from utopianism to hedonism.” ) But just as the Bircher right began to see communists everywhere, the new Bircher left sees racism, sexism, homophobia, and Koch Brothers everywhere.

They’re lurking around more corners than Gen. Ripper imagined there were commies lurking inside Burpelson Air Force Base. They’re inside your video games! They own NFL teams! They'll steal your condoms! Disagree with President Obama? Racist! (That goes for you too, Bill, Hillary, and your Democratic supporters.) Not onboard for gender-neutral bathrooms? Not too thrilled with abortion-obsessed candidates like Wendy Davis and “Mark Uterus”? Sexist! Disagree with using global warming as a cudgel to usher in the brave new world of bankrupt coal companies and $10 a gallon gasoline? Climate denier!

And as with the original Birchers, don’t get ‘em started on fluoride.

The original Birchers weren’t bad people, but their Cold War paranoia got the better of them. Similarly, as Charles Krauthammer famously said, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil,” which illustrates how a John Birch-style worldview can cause the modern leftists to take an equally cracked view of his fellow countrymen, to the point of writing off entire states and genders:

And historic racial progress:

Modern Bircherism perfectly defined.

The John Birch left? I think it’s a phrase whose time has come; let me know your take in the comments. I’ll be back after I have a drink of grain alcohol and rainwater, help yourself to whatever you'd like.

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