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

Portraying Patriotism > Flying the Flag

For God and Country. The Christian Crusade, 1961.

In addition to founding and running the Christian Crusade (see: Christian Crusade litter bag for more information), Billy James Hargis was a prominent member of numerous organizations that aligned with his policies. These included the John Birch Society and “We, the People!,” an organization that advocated for a reduction in government power, lower taxes, and rejection of US membership in international organizations like the United Nations.

Such intimate connections between supposedly distinct organizations were common (the John Birch Society was often the link; for example, see: The Treason Cycle) for somewhat marginalized conservatives, and they are quite clearly on display in this item. The reel-to-reel tape for which this image served as a cover featured a speech given at the 1961 Christian Crusade annual convention by Robert Welch, the founder and leader of the John Birch Society. Hargis is pictured on the cover, in which the images of a cross and crown of thorns blend neatly with the stars and stripes. These design elements typify both Hargis’ message that the US should fundamentally be a Christian nation and his penchant for self-promotion.

"Fortify Our Freedom." Storer Broadcasting Company, 1965.

The Storer Broadcasting Company, a series of independent radio stations owned by broadcast pioneer George B. Storer, produced the LP album pictured here in 1965 as "a public interest contribution." Featuring the voice of J. Edgar Hoover, "Fortify Our Freedom" advertised itself as "a series outlining the safeguards all Americans can use to protect themselves from falling prey to communism and other forces of internal subversion." The album included tracks devoted to topics such as the "Chronology of the Communist Party of the United States," "Communist Speakers at American Educational Institutions," "American Communists vs American Policy on Viet Nam," and "American Communists and Racial Disturbances".

Fight Communism. Creator unknown, date unknown.

Poster stamps like these (see also: Dump Lindsay) are precursors to modern stickers. Although carrying no monetary value, conservative activists would often affix them to letters, postcards, and flyers as a way of advocating their causes.

This example showcases two of the most common icons that conservatives used to evoke American pride: the United States flag and the Statue of Liberty. In this case, the flagpole doubles as a spear, piercing the communist “snake within our borders” as the Statue of Liberty towers above it, visually suggesting the power of the United States to defeat its enemies.

There is No Progress without the Faith, Confidence and Risk Capital of the Investor. Investors in America, Inc., November 1970.

First organized in the 1940s, Investors in America, Inc. sought to turn ownership of shares in publicly-traded companies into a basis for political identity. By the mid-1960s, the organization claimed a membership of 1.4 million people in the US and abroad. The pamphlet pictured here was designed to promote one of its newsletters, Investors Clarion, in 1970. Featuring the words of its longtime president, Nick Papolos, the brochure vacillated between vague pronouncements about how "investors, our companies, labor, and government . . . must all defeat the problems of the cities, crime, hunger, water and air pollution," and more concrete complaints about the effects of corporate taxes.

Above all, Papolos argued that "the challenge that faces us today [in 1970]" was from foreign competition of Japanese and German corporations that had accomplished "what Japan and Germany could not do militarily." In this context, the pamphlet’s reliance on the images of the US flag and the seal of the United States, combined with a call to "Awake and Survive" and "Join Today!" seems calculated to resonate as not merely patriotic, but militantly so.

Crime: Don't Let it Happen! Citizens Councils of America, c. June 1972.

Although the Citizens' Council movement's main motivation was to oppose advancements in civil rights for African Americans, it expanded its efforts to other less-divisive issues in a play for mainstream acceptance. This was evident throughout the anti-crime flyer which is partially reproduced here. The interior pages featured admonitions "to stay clear of narcotics, and other kinds of drugs" if "you love freedom," instructions on when and how to call the police, and other advice for citizens looking to take a hand in minimizing crime in their neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the relentless use of a red, white, and blue color scheme combined with other recognizable images of Americana (such as the allusion to the "Uncle Sam Wants You" army recruitment poster) emphasized the patriotic nature of the cause. Despite such a seemingly inclusive message, however, the preface of this pamphlet betrayed both the origins of the Citizens' Council movement and its definition of "citizen" when it warned "that forced racial integration contributes greatly to our nation's rising crime rate." In this example as in so many of others, the right-wing emphasis on fighting crime and patriotism was in fact a thinly-veiled allusion to the supposed dangers of the civil rights movement.

Famous Quotations: Theodore G. Bilbo. Citizens' Councils, Inc., c. 1955-1970s.

Theodore G. Bilbo was a former governor of Mississippi and three-term United States Senator who became a hero of white supremacists in the 1940s for, among other things, writing the rabidly racist Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, quoted on the pictured card. The Citizens’ Councils of America frequently used such rhetoric of the supposed impending doom that racial integration would bring about in order to advance its white segregationist agenda, first forged in the wake of the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v Board of Education.

Yet although such verbal rhetoric was often matched by equally terrifying visual imagery, that was not the case on this card. Rather, the image of eagle and shield that appeared above the quotation was generically patriotic. Even more telling was the Citizens’ Council logo appearing at the bottom of the card. The twin US and Confederate flags appealed to Southern heritage and national pride, while the "States’ Rights, Racial Integrity" motto portrayed the professedly positive ideals promoted by the Citizens’ Council. In both cases, the imagery appealed to senses of group pride based on a unified vision of the US that had no room for alternatives.

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