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, organisers 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 organised 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 organisation was Robert Welch, a charismatic writer and organiser 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 organisation still exists today. Throughout The World of the John Birch Society, the reader sees the very tenets and practises 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.
D. J. Mulloy is Associate Professor of History at Wilfrid Laurier University and author of American Extremism.