I grew up in Appleton, WI and when I was seeking employment after I graduated from college, I diligently searched through the local newspaper for possible positions. One day, I saw a listing for an organization needing a political researcher and immediately submitted my resume. A few days later, I received a call asking me to come in for an interview with a local organization whose name I had heard before but didn’t know much about, so I headed to the library to do a bit of research about them and quickly realized that I was probably not what they were looking for but I still went to the interview nonetheless, open-minded and hopeful.
Needless to say, it did not go well and degenerated into a bit of a shouting match, after which I was escorted from the building. Today, that same newspaper where I first saw the job listing, The Post Crescent, has profiled that very organization and you can probably understand why I didn’t get the job:
The young couple sipped chocolate milkshakes in a front-window booth at Culver’s, unaware that the low-slung brown office building across the street was command central in the war to save America from a godless conspiracy.
By summer, the leafy lower branches of a maple tree will obscure some of the building’s silver letters, but on this spring evening the sign was clearly visible.
“The John Birch Society,” it read.
20 years ago this spring, when the John Birch Society moved its headquarters to the current location west of Appleton, home of then-chief executive officer G. Allen Bubolz, the group was hard to overlook — its unassuming small-town base notwithstanding.
In Grand Chute, the society’s new headquarters shared a hometown with one of its best-known heroes, U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Like McCarthy, the Birchers achieved notoriety for an obsession with exposing communist infiltrators during the Cold War.
The organization is named for John Birch, a missionary and Army Air Force surveillance officer killed by communists in China 10 days after the end of World War II, making him the first American casualty of the Cold War.
During the Cold War, the John Birch Society branded President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican, as a “dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy.”
Years later, the group derided President Ronald Reagan, also a Republican, as a “lackey” of the perceived communist conspiracy.
Communist agents infiltrated or manipulated every level of the American government, John Birch Society founder Robert Welch claimed.
Art Thompson, the organization’s 70-year-old chief executive officer, believes the John Birch Society saved America.
Eventually I moved to Washington DC and ended up here at People For the American Way. So now, instead of helping the Birchers save America from a “godless conspiracy,” I became part of that very godless conspiracy that is, to hear them tell it, resolutely seeking to destroy this great country.