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

Portraying Patriotism > Connecting to the Past

The Heartbeat of the Americanist Cause. The John Birch Society, c. 1960s.

After three decades in the candy manufacturing business, Robert Welch founded the John Birch Society (“JBS”) in late 1958 to promote what his organization called the goal of “less government, more responsibility, and a better world.” In practice, this meant attacking communism and so-called “communist sympathizers” (some observers credit Welch with coining the phrase “comsymps”) and promoting US nationalism by advocating against immigration and US involvement in international ventures such as the United Nations. Welch and JBS frequently referred to this overarching project as promoting “Americanism.” Owing to its status as one of the most prominent right-wing groups of the 1960s (it boasted several members who were also Congresspeople), Group Research, Inc. paid particular attention to the Society.

The image pictured here formed the top portion of a two-piece cover of a publicity brochure JBS produced to explain its function, organizational structure, and initiatives. (Click on image to reveal the second piece.) The pictured cover featured a round cut-out above the title, leaving a detail from the first page visible. The bridge is a replica of Concord’s North Bridge located at the original site where soldiers fired the first shots of the American Revolution. On the interior page, an Emerson quotation located above the full picture is from his 1836 work, “Concord Hymn,” which he wrote to accompany the unveiling of a war memorial at the site. JBS included a caption for this image with the anachronistic term “Americanists” to describe the patriots of the American Revolution, intended to suggest a continuity of ideas between them and John Birch Society members.

Get With It! The Center for Constitutional Rights, c. 1974.

More explicit than the John Birch Society’s allusion to Concord Bridge (see the previous item), the Center for Constitutional Rights Committee’s flyer used Revolutionary War soldiers to metaphorically “drum up” support for their anti-tax mission. Many conservative organizations during this period frequently alluded to the American Revolution as a symbol of core US values, but this was a particular favorite of anti-tax groups. They used the images of minutemen as an accessible icon for Americans who had grown up hearing about the Boston Tea Party and “no taxation without representation.” The text of the flyer further reinforces this connection to the past with the slogan “1776 to _____ It Is Up to You!!!” and its reference to the U.S. Constitution’s tax clause in the pledge statement.

DEATH! to the Traitors. The Sam Adams Committee of Public Safety, c. 1970.

This panel appeared as part of a white supremacist manifesto published circa 1970 by the Illinois-based Sam Adams Committee on Public Safety, and distributed by the National States Rights Party (see: "Vote Right-Vote White-Vote States Rights," below). As the publication explained, the Sam Adams Committee "has been founded to reassert the political functioning of the Whitefolk majority within our United States of America" (emphasis in original) through a combination of propaganda and political campaigning. The author's use of the passive voice in describing the Committee's origin betrayed a typical tendency by such conspiracy-driven groups to hide the identity of their members.

The name "Sam Adams Committee on Public Safety" explicitly attempted to link modern white supremacy with the American Revolution. This theme is repeated at several points throughout the document, including one instance where its author compared school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas with the Revolution’s battle at Concord, Massachusetts. This rhetorical move is also on display in the pictured image, which suggests that white supremacy--as represented by the lynching of an African American--is a fundamental aspect of US heritage. But this is also a tragic image, suggesting that this heritage has been lost by what the screed elsewhere refers to as "the insidious forces of diversion and subversion within our midst."

Vote Right-Vote White-Vote States Rights. The National States Rights Party, February 1964.

An outgrowth of the United White Party (founded circa 1957), the National States Rights Party came into its own in 1958 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Its primary leaders were Edward R. Fields and J.B. Stoner, who met in law school. It was there that they first worked together on the white supremacist and anti-Semitic causes that were the cornerstone of the NSRP’s platform. As the party’s constitution explained: "We . . . believe in the Christian heritage of our people, the White Race and the Nation which the Whiteman created out of the wilderness of this continent." The NSRP was never a significant political force, despite claiming to be "America’s third largest party." It fielded candidates for president and vice-president in both 1960 and 1964, winning 44,984 votes with Arkansas governor Orval Faubus on the ticket in 1960, but only 6,953 votes with New York’s John Kasper in 1964.

The pictured item is from a flyer advertising the NSRP’s national convention to nominate candidates for the 1964 election. As is apparent here, the NSRP drew heavily on Nazi symbolism, publishing a newsletter called the Thunderbolt in reference to an icon used by several Nazi organizations during World War II. The jagged symbol in the center of the standard used by the NSRP and pictured here is composed of the two s-shaped runes that signified the Nazi Schultzstaffel ("S.S."), although the NSRP arranged them to overlap rather than appear next to each other (as was the case with the original Nazi symbol).

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