Virtual Jewish Book Council Author Talk
Co-Hosted by the Falmouth Jewish Congregation
Monday, February 5th
“The John Birch Society was once considered so far out on the paranoid fringe it was synonymous with kookiness. In his fascinating and scrupulously researched narrative, Dallek shows how the Republican Party’s extremists took over the GOP. Revelatory and readable, Birchers is essential history for anyone trying to understand American politics.”―Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money
“A timely, critically important contribution to the history of our present political and constitutional crisis.”―Kirkus, starred review
“Illuminating…In addition to Dallek’s scrupulous research, he knows how to tell this story with a clarifying elegance and restraint.”―New York Times
Historian Matthew Dallek’s latest is a deeply researched account of how a notorious far right organization set the Republican Party on a long march toward extremism
At the height of the John Birch Society’s activity in the 1960s, critics dismissed its members as a paranoid fringe. After all, “Birchers” believed that a vast communist conspiracy existed in America and posed an existential threat to Christianity, capitalism, and freedom. But as historian Matthew Dallek reveals, the Birch Society’s extremism remade American conservatism. Most Birchers were white professionals who were radicalized as growing calls for racial and gender equality appeared to upend American life. Conservative leaders recognized that these affluent voters were needed to win elections, and for decades the GOP courted Birchers and their extremist successors. The far right steadily gained power, finally toppling the Republican establishment.
Making the case for today's relevance of understanding the Birchers, regarding charges of racism and antisemitism, the Southern Poverty Law Center notes the following:
"Charges of racism and anti-Semitism have dogged the John Birch Society since its earliest days. It opposed civil rights legislation in the 1960s, saying the African-American freedom movement was being manipulated from Moscow with the goal of creating a “Soviet Negro Republic” in the Southern United States. The society was a close ally of Alabama’s segregationist governer George Wallace and reportedly had 100 chapters in and around Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city, as well as chapters across the rest of the state. Thompson, the group’s CEO, said the society has never been either racist or anti-Semitic, going so far as to add that once a member is discovered to harbor such views he or she is immediately “booted out.’’" (access the full article here: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2013/bringing-back-birch
About Matthew Dallek:
Matthew Dallek is a historian and professor of political management at George Washington University. The author of The Right Moment and Defenseless Under the Night, his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Politico, and other publications. He lives in Washington, DC.
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