The John Birch Society as a movement of social protest of the radical right
Broyles, John Allen
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The problem of this dissertation is psychological and sociological description and analysis of the appeals and activities of the John Birch Society as a movement of social protest of the radical right. The John Birch Society is one of the major organizations described in current journalistic treatments as radical right or as right-wing extremist. The Society came to public prominence in the spring of 1961 as awareness of its fairly widespread organizational accomplishments and of the more extreme opinions of its founder, Robert Welch, were brought to public attention by the press. The method included both library and field research. Library research, both before and after the field research, focused upon the provision of an adequate framework of psychological and sociological theory through which to perceive the setting, the leader, the organization and membership, and the ideology and activity of the John Birch Society. The primary data so perceived were those of many of the Birch Society publications, those provided by observers of local Birch Society conflicts in Gloucester, Little Rook, El Paso, Dallas, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Phoenix, and Wichita, and those provided by the participants on each side of these conflicts through interviews and, with many, through the administration of a questionnaire. Secondary data were provided by newspaper, newsmagazine, and personal correspondence descriptive of the leader, the organization, the membership, the ideology, and the local and national activities of the Birch Society. The conclusions of this dissertation are as follows: 1. The Birch Society functions as a fundamentalist reaction. 2. The top leadership of the Society is charismatic. 3. The organizational-leadership structure of the Society is an unstable mixture of both charismatic and rational-bureaucratic elements. 4. The stance of the Society as an aggressive sect is inherently unstable. 5. The activity and ideology of social protest represent the major appeal of the Society. 6. The conflict in which the Society engages is characteristically non-communal. 7. The ideology of the Society is substantively and formally logic-tight and, characteristically, those who affirm it are highly closed-minded. 8. Within our troubled setting, the ideology provides the social-psychological appeals of certainty, superiority, and self-righteousness and "justifies" aggression toward otherwise invulnerable objects of frustration. 9. As a fundamentalist reaction, the Society fails to serve its manifest function, none of its latent functions appear to be constructive, and some are latently dysfunctional even for its own existence. 10. The Society is well described as a movement of social protest of the radical right. These conclusions led the author to observe that the non-rational character of the Society tends to dominate and to obscure whatever fundwnental forces and issues may be in conflict. The implications of this observation, for the legitimated processes of the American democratic society, then led the author to the position that the only way to move conflicts with the Society into potentially constructive channels appears to be through insistence upon the norms of rational and communal conflict.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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