Initially founded with only 11 lonely crackpots, the organization had by the early 1960s grown to nearly 100,000, each and every one of them searching nearby haystacks for concealed Communists. Joseph McCarthy had gone away, but that didn’t mean his nemesis was gone. No indeed; the Red Menace was everywhere – Red Skelton, Red Buttons, Red Ryder – and Commie wanna-bes such as Rosie Clooney and Pinky Lee. Only the witch-hunters of the John Birch Society stood between Evil and Armageddon.
The John Birch Society had its coming out party on December 9, 1958, under the tutelage of Robert H. W. Welch, Jr., a candy man who made caramel lollipops, marketed under the name Sugar Daddies. He also gave the world Sugar Babies, Junior Mints and Pom Poms before turning his attention to weightier matters.
The John Birch Society’s mission was the revival of the flagging spirit of McCarthyism; its tools, unsubstantiated accusations and innuendo; its cause celebré, the vast communist conspiracy existing within the U.S. government, particularly that nest of vipers at the State Department. According to its credo, the American people consisted of four groups: “Communists, communist dupes or sympathizers (fellow travelers), the uninformed who have yet to be awakened to the communist danger, and the (hopelessly) ignorant.”
Fortunately, by this time, Americans had tired somewhat of McCarthyism and had moved on to the menace of rock and roll under its Pied Piper of Prurience, Elvis Presley. As a result, few of the society’s sensational charges were taken seriously by mainstream American society. Oh, a few people got worked up by the Communist plot to poison us with fluoride in our drinking water, but for the most part, it was ho-hum as usual.