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“An invaluable contribution to understanding the mentality of extremist conservatism and its supporters.” —Kirkus, starred review
“The John Birch Society had a huge impact on American politics. They were responsible for the lurch into insanity. The religious right, the Tea Party and the takeover of the Republican Party by extremists can't be understood unless you understand the paranoid xenophobia Birchers injected into America. This book is about a journey through and out of that Bircher netherworld. It's a vital piece of the puzzle to understanding the madness that overcame America and a moving story about one person's journey back to sanity.” —Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy For God
"Experiencing this splendid volume is like reading a history book inside out: events you only knew about from afar are revealed anew, with the striking ground-level intimacy of a fine family memoir. I've been waiting for a book like this: one that demonstrates the shockingly effectual continuity of the John Birch Society as a force in American political life: from its early days discrediting the Cold War credentials of JFK, to its outsized role building up grassroots momentum in the Clinton impeachment, to its sudden eruption into mainstream Republican thinking with the rise of the Tea Party movement." —Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland
“This passionate, personal history of the John Birch Society is timely and important. At a moment when Tea Party activists have embraced many of the Birchers' most outrageous notions, Claire Conner has performed a great service by reminding us of the origins of some of most virulent ideas that continue to pollute our body politic. As the skeptical daughter of two passionate Birchers, Conner may be the only person who could have written such a clear-eyed, insider’s account of the persistent dangers of right-wing extremism.” —Charles Kaiser, author of 1968 In America and The Gay Metropolis
“An affecting portrait of late-20th-century America on the fringe." —Publishers Weekly
“This insider’s view of the most radical right-wing organization of the Cold War era describes the seeming paranoia and questionable logic of the most devoted JBS members. Conner provides colorful descriptions of many of the eccentric JBS leaders, including founder Robert Welch. . . . Readers interested in learning more about this example of the Cold War era’s ultraconservative political trends will be fascinated by Conner’s description of the perpetual fear of JBS members regarding communist takeovers and communist infiltration of the highest levels of our government. Recommended.” —Library Jounal
Posted October 6, 2013
Very compelling read. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the insidiousness of the John Birch Society views and their impact upon family dynamics. As someone with two right wing brothers (we were not raised that way), I am trying to understand the attraction to right wing views. One is a "more traditional" conservative/libertarian, but under the veneer thinks racism is a thing of the past, poor women can simply relocate to a state where abortion is more readily available, and is, of course, completely opposed to the ACA. The other borders on mentally ill. I have long theorized that right wing views are some form of group psychosis, not unlike cults, with the intense pressure to conform, conform, conform. I can only conclude that they are based upon fear and intense discomfort with ambiguity and tolerance, which (without any scientific evidence to share) I attribute to hard wiring of the brain reinforced through environmental stimuli. More scientific and anthropological study is needed. My greatest fear is that the GOP has made a Faustian deal and this time has no idea how to relegate the JBS back to the fringe organizations where it belongs. I fear however that thirty years of brow-beating the American public with these views has made them acceptable to a new generation of Caucasians terrified of being a minority. I found the author's discussion of her evolving views on abortion particularly fascinating. She writes about her naivety of pregnancy and biology, and her own struggle with difficult pregnancies and miscarriages. This resonated because as someone who has always been pro-choice having worked with rape victims in college and who later experienced five pregnancy losses myself, I could see her struggle with own black and white conclusions. I think what I admired most was her ability to love her parents and be there at the end regardless of the fact that they were dreadful parents. I highly recommend this memoir.
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Posted August 13, 2013
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