Choosing Sides : Right-Wing Icons in the Group Research Records

Envisioning Enemies > The Federal Government

The Church League of America presents Ronald Reagan on The Welfare State. The Church League of America, date unknown.

Originally organized in 1937 to protest the US Supreme Court nomination of Hugo Black, the Church League of America is best-known for the red-baiting tactics used by Baptist minister Major Edgar C. Bundy, the group's most-famous leader during the 1950s and 1960s. With the goal of outing people and acts in US government that Bundy held to be "subversive," the Church League amassed what it eventually referred to as the largest "pro-freedom and antisubversive" archive in the United States. As a sign of the Church League's prominence amidst anti-communist conspiracy propagators, this archive ultimately included many of the files used by Senator Joseph McCarthy to support his celebrated Congressional hearings during the 1950s.

While the Church League was centrally-run from its headquarters in Wheaton, Illinois, it did arrange local events such as the film screening advertised in the pictured flyer. Although the specific film advertised is unclear, Ronald Reagan began to speak frequently on conservative themes in the early 1960s. He decried "socialized medicine" as early as 1961 and famously became a rising star in the Republican Party with his 1964 "A Time for Choosing" speech in support of Barry Goldwater. As the seat of the legislative branch of government, the US Capitol building was a particularly popular icon for conservatives wishing to invoke a government whose laws they perceived to encroach on individual freedom. The Capitol's personification as an evildoer is also on display in the next item in this exhibit, "The Business End of Government".

The Business End of Government. Western Islands Publishers, 1973.

Written by Dan Smoot and published by Western Islands (a press run by the John Birch Society), 1973’s The Business End of Government purported to demonstrate "the full and alarming spectrum of government forces now being brought to bear against one of our vital assets, the free American businessman." Such an offering was typical for Smoot, a one-time FBI agent who built a career as a conservative commentator working first for H.L. Hunt’s Facts Forum organization. From the mid-1950s on, he published The Dan Smoot Report and produced numerous radio and television broadcasts in order to propagate his small government, anti-tax, anti-communist, and anti-liberal views.

The Business End of Government was specifically focused on federal regulatory measures, featuring chapters such as "Harassment: The OSHA Syndrome" and "The FDA Con Game." Just as the book’s cover image featured a faceless shooter whose silhouette is that of the US Capitol, Smoot’s argument was that an impersonal bureaucratic government was killing the independent American.

The Treason Cycle. N.G. Peil, c. 1960s.

The Delmarva To Restore American Independence Now ("TRAIN") committee that distributed this image was one of many TRAIN groups affiliated with the John Birch Society ("JBS"). JBS members first organized TRAIN committees as early as 1966; they quickly appeared throughout the United States. Operating largely independently from both JBS and one another, TRAIN groups were an example of JBS’s strategy of forming "ad hoc" committees--others included "TACT: Truth About Civil Turmoil," and "TRIM: Tax Reform IMmediately"--in order to focus advocacy on single issues. Their organizers thought that these ad hoc organizations might more effectively win followers for narrow causes than could the broader and more grandiose goals of the JBS. (For more information on the John Birch Society, see: The Heartbeat of the Americanist Cause.) The particular TRAIN group that created this flyer was based in Salisbury, Maryland, a town on the Delmarva Peninsula.

TRAIN committees' main concern was to promote US nationalism and isolationism in order to protect against encroaching foreign communism, which they expressed in this illustration as an attempt to "expose" the supposed US funding of communist partisans in Vietnam. (Although not evident here, TRAIN committees were also an important outlet for anti-UN advocacy during the late 1960s.) To this end, TRAIN committees circulated petitions, sponsored talks, organized film viewings, and distributed literature like this flyer in order to stop what one Florida TRAIN activist called "the tragic result . . . that the American taxpayer is being forced to foot the bill for both sides of this [Vietnam] war."

Citizens for Constitutional Rights Newsletter. Citizens for Constitutional Rights Committee, c. 1974.

The cover of this flyer brings together several widely-used icons of conservative thought in order to highlight the Citizens for Constitutional Rights ("CCR") organization's views on the Federal Reserve System and federal taxation. Like many conservative organizations, the CCR used the Liberty Bell to symbolize a connection to an idyllic patriotic past, while the image of Uncle Sam under some form of attack (in this case, being thrown off a cliff in the inset drawing) was a popular way to suggest how far the country had strayed from the values of that era. The fan of money at the center of this flyer suggested the nature of the specific failure that the CCR envisioned.

Many conservatives who were angry about what they perceived to be the growing reach of the federal government expressed their feelings with worries about how this expansion would be paid for. In this context, the ability of the federal government to "print money" (a common oversimplification of the Federal Reserve system) and collect income taxes became easy targets for opponents of federal power who felt that it impeded on their own rights. As this flyer typically asked, "Would YOU like to Create All this Money--for Less than 8 cents? TAX Free!" Under the headline "The Great ‘Federal Income Tax’ Fraud," the back of the flyer asserted that the Federal Reserve banks and the Internal Revenue Service were unconstitutional. Given the enduring nature of both tax denial and criticism of the Federal Reserve among libertarian activists and politicians, many readers may well have followed the flyer's instruction "to copy and distribute all or any page herein . . . . in the interest of truth & Knowledge."

China Has Gun Control. Gun Owners of America, c. 1989.

The Gun Owners of America ("GOA") produced and distributed this bumper sticker in response to the deaths of Chinese pro-democracy activists at Tiananmen Square in June 1989. By referencing the notion that restrictive gun laws led to the inability of Chinese protestors to defend themselves from a tyrannical government, this item tied into a still-active conservative ideology of firearm rights that linked gun ownership to the preservation of democratic government.

A commercial artist and mid-level California Republican operative named H.L. "Bill" Richardson founded the GOA in 1975. In addition to trying to sway popular opinion with lectures, opinion pieces in periodicals, and items such as this bumper sticker, the GOA operated (and still operates) as a lobbying group and legal defense fund in support of liberal gun ownership rights. Through an associated political action committee, it also supports political candidates it feels are in favor of its goals.

The Great Society: Fake-Hokum-Parity. Creator unknown, c. 1960s.

The image pictured above is from a set of anti-Great Society bumper stickers produced by an unknown artist. Each of them featured the term “Great Society” written in the same chaotic combination of broken letters and body parts, followed by a different punch line. In addition to the pictured item’s play on words involving the Christian ideals of “faith, hope, and charity,” other bumper stickers read “Great Society: Serf Yourself,” “Great Society: Abominable Snow-Job,” and “Great Society: A New Leech on Life.”

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