John Stormer, whose ‘None Dare Call It Treason’ was a landmark of conspiracy literature, dies at 90
WASHINGTON — John A. Stormer, a Cold War-era anti-communist author and pastor whose widely circulated book ‘‘None Dare Call It Treason’’ warned of Soviet subversion in America and helped catapult arch-conservative standard-bearer Barry Goldwater to the Republican presidential nomination in 1964, died July 10 at a rehabilitation center in Troy, Mo. He was 90.
With the Soviet Union already in open control of a quarter of the world’s land mass, including Cuba, Mr. Stormer wrote in his treatise, ‘‘The hidden tentacles of the communist conspiracy exert unmeasured influence over the rest of the world.’’
Mr. Stormer flooded the country with 7 million copies of his 75-cent, self-published paperback with the help of a few deep-pocketed Republican donors in the first 10 months of 1964. The red-baiting volume helped consolidate some of Goldwater’s far-right base and made the two-term Arizona senator the clear front-runner for the GOP nomination against more moderate candidates.
Goldwater was praised throughout ‘‘None Dare Call It Treason’’ for touting a tough military stance against Soviet expansionism abroad and warning against Communist-stoked ‘‘federal paternalism’’ at home.
Mr. Stormer cast the Eisenhower administration’s trade agreements and nuclear test ban talks with the Soviets as ‘‘accommodation’’ and ‘‘concessions’’ in ‘‘a continual erosion of the American position.’’ He agreed with the John Birch Society and other far-right groups that the State Department was honeycombed with communists and elite leftist intellectual sympathizers bent on the destruction of American democracy.
‘‘Lenin and his heirs have had the sometimes knowing, sometimes unknowing, cooperation of the United States State Department every step of the way,’’ Mr. Stormer wrote.
More broadly, he described what he saw as the gradual undermining of traditional values of American churches, schools, civic organizations, and, ultimately, the government.
‘‘Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,’’ Goldwater declared at the Republican National Convention, adding ‘‘moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.’’
It was the sort of battle cry that worried moderates in the party but delighted his Democratic opponent, incumbent President Lyndon Johnson, whose surrogates painted Goldwater as unhinged and likely to trigger a nuclear war.
Mr. Stormer and other Republicans contended his book’s power was lasting and helped fuel a rise of a new, more aggressive GOP conservatism that brought Ronald Reagan to the White House in 1981.
Mr. Stormer’s theories of a hydra-headed plot became emblematic of what historian Richard Hofstadter called the ‘‘paranoid style in American politics.”
Writing in Politico in 2010, scholar Matthew Dallek made a direct link between Mr. Stormer’s book and later conspiracy-minded extremists such as broadcaster Glenn Beck who feed into ‘‘this sense of a nation besieged by liberals. They seem to see themselves in a struggle in which violence may be justified to defend the nation’s revolutionary heritage.’’
Mr. Stormer’s book contained more than 800 footnotes in its 253 pages, documenting his claims of Marxist infiltration with citations from government studies, newspaper articles, and congressional committee reports.
Despite the patina of scholarship, the book encountered criticism, including from moderate Republican leaders.