Nativism Watch

Brigitte Gabriel’s Idaho visit spurred by far-right John Birch Society

Imagine2050 Staff • Jul 26, 2016

On August 4, Brigitte Gabriel, the founder and president of the anti-Muslim grassroots group ACT for America, is scheduled to speak in Twin Falls, Idaho. She will speak at the invitation of a local conservative group, We the People Magic Valley, which is associated with the John Birch Society.

Idaho, and Twin Falls specifically, has seen a recent uptick in hateful rhetoric directed toward Muslim refugees. Local ACT chapters have been stirring up anti-refugee sentiment, most notably at city council meetings. Given this context, Brigitte Gabriel is likely to speak about her work to obstruct humane refugee resettlement programs.

The group sponsoring Gabriel’s speech includes a chapter of the John Birch Society, an organization known for codifying white nationalism and far-right conspiracy theories for the past 50 years.

According to its website, We the People Magic Valley claims to be a “committee” of “various local and national organizations who have banded together” to defend America. This committee includes the John Birch Society; Idaho ACT for America chapters; and Dally Post Tactical; an Idaho-based Second Amendment advocacy outfit.

So what is this organization Brigitte Gabriel has chosen as a partner?

According to Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons, co-authors of the book Right Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, “[T]he Birch society pioneered the encoding of implicit cultural forms of ethnocentric White racism and Christian nationalist antisemitism rather than relying on the White supremacist biological determinism and open loathing of Jews that had typified the old right prior to WWII. Throughout its existence, however, the Society has promoted open homophobia and sexism.”

As Berlet notes on his blog, the John Birch Society’s “conspiracist theories do not center on scapegoating Jews and Jewish institutions, nor do they center on biological racism. In a more subtle form of racism and antisemitism, JBS promotes a culturally–defined WASP ethnocentrism as the true expression of America.”

Brigitte Gabriel’s association with the John Birch Society simply reinforces the bigotry that ACT not only tolerates in its allies, but actively promotes.

The John Birch Society was also where notorious white nationalists William Pearce and Willis Carto first launched their careers.

This is not the first time an ACT chapter has associated with the John Birch Society. As previously highlighted at Imagine 2050, a similar coalition exists in Southern California. Calling itself Unite Inland Empire, the coalition consists of Birchers, the ACT Corona chapter, and a chapter of the far-right, anti-government group Oath Keepers.

It is also not the first time ACT has been associated with anti-Semitism. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Flynn, who serves in an advisory role on ACT’s board of directors and is scheduled to speak at its upcoming national conference, earned condemnation for retweeting an anti-Semitic post this past weekend.

Though John Birth Society’s strong history of anti-Semitism may superficially seem to conflict with ACT’s hardline defense of Israel, in reality it simply reinforces the bigotry that ACT not only tolerates in its allies, but actively promotes.

Note: Anti-Muslim firebrand Pamela Geller was also scheduled to participate in an anti-refugee rally in Twin Falls next week, but the event has since been cancelled.

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