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The World of the John Birch Society
Conspiracy, Conservatism, and the Cold War

Author(s): D. J. Mulloy

A Selection of the History Book Club
Named One of "Six Books for Insight on a Trump Presidency" by the Washington Post

As far as members of the hugely controversial John Birch Society were concerned, the Cold War revealed in stark clarity the loyalties and disloyalties of numerous important Americans, including Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Earl Warren. Founded in 1958 as a force for conservative political advocacy, the Society espoused the dangers of enemies foreign and domestic, including the Soviet Union, organizers of the US civil rights movement, and government officials who were deemed "soft" on communism in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Sound familiar? In The World of the John Birch Society, author D. J. Mulloy reveals the tactics of the Society in a way they've never been understood before, allowing the reader to make the connections to contemporary American politics, up to and including the Tea Party. These tactics included organized dissemination of broad-based accusations and innuendo, political brinksmanship within the Republican Party, and frequent doomsday predictions regarding world events. At the heart of the organization was Robert Welch, a charismatic writer and organizer who is revealed to have been the lifeblood of the Society's efforts.

The Society has seen its influence recede from the high-water mark of 1970s, but the organization still exists today. Throughout The World of the John Birch Society, the reader sees the very tenets and practices in play that make the contemporary Tea Party so effective on a local level. Indeed, without the John Birch Society paving the way, the Tea Party may have encountered a dramatically different political terrain on its path to power.

Biography of Author(s)

D. J. Mulloy is Associate Professor of History at Wilfrid Laurier University and author of American Extremism.


  • "The World of the John Birch Society is a thorough, fair, and nuanced examination of the controversial organization. . . . [A] must-read for anyone who wants to understand the mind-set of the JBS."
    H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences
  • "Mulloy's work offers a much-needed return to an examination of the far right. The rise of the Tea Party, the persistence of allegations about the place of Barack Obama's birth, his alleged 'un-Americanism,' and other recent political developments suggest that some of the older concepts, and the older focus on more extreme elements of the right, remain warranted."
    Timothy Thurber, author of Republicans and Race
  • "Mulloy's essential look at [the John Birch Society] brilliantly reveals the Society's hard-nosed conservatism while linking it to movements that preceded today's Tea Party."
    Publishers Weekly