Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Father Charles Coughlin

A catholic priest and pro-fascist voice. It's always struck me as strange and unpredictable, the political voices that are silenced and the ones that are not. When communists and socialists managed to get into media, the government ran amuck in a decade long witch hunt. But fascists... hey that's ok! Never mind that it was the fascists not communists or socialists that marched millions of jews into ovens...

Anyway what brings me to Coughlin is a study by the Indiana University's Journalism dept. they took a modern day talking head Bill O'Reilly and compared his programming (style not content) and compared to the old nazi-sympathizer. Obviously, comparing anyone mano-a-mano to a nazi is pretty partisan, but it makes for interesting reading. O'Reilly is not known to be a nazi, but maybe he's a fascist sympathizer. More here.

FACT: The researchers found that O'Reilly called a person or a group a derogatory name an average of once per 6.8 seconds, during his opening editorials. That's where the similarities began and what led me to consider that Billy-boy's not busking with an original stage show there.

Charles Edward Coughlin was born way back in 1891 in Canada. (who'd have thunk it .. a canadian fascist?) He was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience, as more than forty million tuned to his weekly broadcasts during the 1930s. He began his radio broadcasts in 1926 at WJR-AM. His regular sermons didnt' innure him to management, by 1931 the CBS radio network dropped his free airtime. He was forced to raise money to create his own national network. But he was a natural, he soon had millions of listeners.

He became a political moover and shaker in his own right. In the 1932 elections he was a strong Franklin Roosevelt supporter and after the big win, also a New Deal proponent. But by 1934 his relationship with Frankie soured. his rhetoric was so venomous that the presidne t sent Joe Kennedy and Attourney general Frank Murphy to cool him out. But no dice. Charlie cranked up the pressure. They also tried to get the future Pope Pius XII to calm him down, to no avail.
Father Charles Coughlin had a stong set of confliciting values (like O'Reilly). He said in 1935 "I have dedicated my life to fight against the heinous rottenness of modern capitalism because it robs the laborer of this world's goods. But blow for blow I shall strike against Communism, because it robs us of the next world's happiness." So he hates modern capitalism and communism? so he's in favor of socialism? nope. In his bile spitting at Roosevelt he often accused Roosevelt of "leaning toward international socialism." Was he in favor of monarchy? He seems to have hated everyone. Did I mention he hated jews? Third Reich Books sells a CD of his broadcasts: here.
But he was an isolationist and appealed to that then growing segment of the U.S. He took them and his core Irish Catholics to found a political party in 1936. The Union Party, nominated William Lemke for President. Coughlin promised to retire if Lemke did not get 9 million votes Lemke garnered less than 1 million (still impressive) Coughlin did stop broadcasting for almost a whole year. Did I mention he was a fan of Huey Long?

In 1938 while Nazis ran amuck killing german Jews with impunity Coughlin's broadcasts and speeches became more antisemetic than ever. After Kristallnacht, Coughlin somhow rationalized blaming the Jewish victims. he actuall said that "Jewish persecution only followed after Christians first were persecuted." New York City had no tolerance for that bullshit and his show got the axe at WXYZ-AM, WINS-AM and WMCA-AM. His show remained on daytimer WHBI-AM in Newark. In 1942 new bishop of Detroit ordered Coughlin to stop his loud-mouth political yammering and return to his duties as a parish priest. Coughlin went back home and wrote anti-communist flyers on the side until he died in 1979.