Monday, February 03, 2014

Father Coughlin before WWII

This blew my mind. While father Coughlin today is remembered mostly as the pro-fascist Catholic Bishop of Detroit and a radio lecturer, his radio politics began far left of that. By WWII he was a teeth-gnashing anti-semite and an awkwardly popular embarrassment to WWJ-AM. But his career began much earlier in 1926, not with racism, but lecturing against it. In 1926 the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on the grounds of his church and he took to the airwaves to comment.

He remained largely liberal and pro-New Deal for over a decade founding the National Union for Social Justice in 1934. He endorsed Roosevelt in the election of 1932 famously saying "The New Deal is Christ's Deal." In a 1935 collection of his lectures he praises one of Roosevelt's speeches literally quote by quote. He tears into greedy bankers and criticizes our failure to provide for the poor. (kind of sounds like the new pope.)  He was highly critical of Laissez Faire and had some pretty radical ideas about the distribution of wealth:
"To finance our recovery independent of the banker and his privileged greed, we have in our vaults today $8,234,000,000 in gold and $1,229,000,000 in silver. In all $9,472,000,000 of metallic currency against which there has been issued only $5,534,000,000 of greenbacks, of currency.

Shall we suffer while this money remains idle to fatten the wallets of the bankers or shall we employ it to create employment for the underprivileged?"
While the National Union for Social Justice praised President Roosevelt 's administration and advocated the nationalization of utilities and banks. He wanted to return to a precious metals standard, and allow private citizens to print money. 1936 was the year he went off the rails blaming all Jews as somehow synonymous with all bankers. He became heavily critical of Roosevelt because he was too soft on bankers. He became an obsessed with anti-communist. In 1936 he founded a political party called "the Union" solely intended to siphon votes away from Roosevelt. It failed and dissolved a year later. The NUSJ became so rabid that in In 1942, the publication's mail permit was revoked under the Espionage Act of 1917.

In 1938 after  Kristallnacht, some of his affiliates refused to air his speeches without pre-clearing their contents.  Stations list WINS and WMCA cancelled his program. Coughlin denied that he was an anti-semite. Later, information from the FBI indicated that he had received direct funding from the Nazi party in Germany. After 1936 he began supporting another political group, the Christian Front. But in January of 1940, their New York office was raided by the FBI for plotting to overthrow the US government. That same year new requirements ensconced by the NAB finally forced him off the air.