ERIC Number: ED227535
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1983-Apr
Reference Count: 0
The Authoritarian Character of the John Birch Society: The Functional Utility of Alarmist Discourse.
Smith, Craig Allen
Conventional wisdom holds that the right-wing John Birch Society disintegrated during the late 1960s. An examination of the society's periodical readership indicates that it has, instead, expanded. Moreover, this expansion occurred during a period of ideological dissonance for the organization, a fact that undermines confidence in the explanation for Birchist appeal that sees the society as providing a protective, closed belief system for its members. Psychological explanations of the authoritarian character structure does, however, provide an explanation for this trend. An examination of "The Blue Book of the John Birch Society," a transcription of Robert Welch's addresses at the society's founding in 1958, reveals that the society epitomizes the three characteristics of classical authoritarianism--a view of the world as jungle, a tendency toward hierarchy, and a sadomasochistic tendency. Consequently, Birch doctrine functions psychologically for the authoritarian types most desirable for organization purposes while alienating potentially troublesome democratic characters. In this way, the society accomplishes its recruitment, consolidation, and confrontation with one rhetorical approach. (Author/JL)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Blue Book of the John Birch Society; John Birch Society; Welch (Robert)
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Speech Communication Association (Orlando, FL, April 6-9, 1983).