Avlon: The Return of the Fright Wing
John Avlon has a piece at The Daily Beast on the appalling rise in conservative circles of the once marginalized John Birch Society, and their co-sponsorship of CPAC: Return of the Fright Wing.
When the John Birch Society announced that it would be co-sponsoring CPAC, its press release declared that “true conservative leaders are hard to find these days, especially in a movement dominated by neoconservatives and RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).” With all the enthusiasm for RINO hunting these days, it’s worth remembering that the Birchers initiated some of the first obsessive attempts to characterize any dissidents as heretics. They introduced the term “ComSymp”—for “communist sympathizer”—that allowed any skeptic to be stigmatized without the difficulty of proving he or she was communist. At the time, Republican Senator Milton R. Young of North Dakota reflected on the Birchers’ obsession with what would become known as RINO hunting: “Strangely enough, most of the criticism is leveled not against liberal public officials but against more middle of the road, and even conservative Republicans.”
The re-emergence of the John Birch Society with a veneer of respectability given to it by co-sponsorship of CPAC is a troubling sign of the times, a decision on par with the National Tea Party Convention giving prime-time speaking slots to Tom Tancredo and WorldNet Daily editor Joseph Farah. It is an invitation to isolation and ridicule. As a report by the California attorney general’s office on the John Birch Society in 1961 stated, “In America, preposterousness prevents the acceptance but not the expression of ideas.” The question for those at CPAC is: Are they tolerating the Birchers? Or accepting them?