The modern American conspiracy theory starts in small-town Wisconsin

The modern American conspiracy theory starts in small-town Wisconsin

The decades fall away as you open the front doors.

It’s the late 1950s in the cramped little offices — or maybe the pre-hippie 1960s. It’s a place where army-style buzz cuts are still in fashion, communism remains the primary enemy and the decor is dominated by American flags and portraits of once-famous Cold Warriors.

At the John Birch Society, they’ve been waging war for more than 60 years against what they’re sure is a vast, diabolical conspiracy. As they tell it, it’s a plot with tentacles that reach from 19th-century railroad magnates to the Biden White House, from the Federal Reserve to COVID vaccines.

Long before QAnon, Pizzagate and the modern crop of politicians who will happily repeat apocalyptic talking points, there was Birch. And outside these cramped small-town offices is a national political landscape that the Society helped shape.

“We have a bad reputation. You know: ‘You guys are insane,’” says Wayne Morrow, a Society vice president. He is standing in the group’s warehouse amid 10-foot (3-meter) shelves of Birch literature waiting to be distributed.

“But all the things that we wrote about are coming to pass.”

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