Monday, August 23, 2010

When Roosevelt Is Dictator - And How!

What I had hoped would be a mcguffin has turned into a red herring. What a boondoggle.

Headed back from NYC, I chronicled my success in finding a rare and unusual artifact in the microfilm stacks at the NY Public Library. Entitled When Roosevelt Is Dictator - And How! (A Fascist Prophecy) and published in January 1936, I thought I had found a document which would clue me into the left-wing school of thought that FDR was not only not the Socialist he was accused of being, he was actually a little Mussolini, seizing unparalleled power from the other branches of government.

I don’t actually need a pamphlet to spell out how that thinking might go. But a period expression of such anxiety, coming as I thought this would as a frantic screed on the subject … well, I was giddy at what it might contain. It’s brief, I had it photocopied because I did not have time to look it over right there in the library.

Well. You can see where I am going, this was not the discovered I had hoped for. In fact, I am still not sure what it is. The piece was written by James Francis Thierry, and the only other item I can find from him from anywhere is the short story The Adverntures of the Eleven Cuff-Buttons, a parody of Sherlock Holmes written eighteen years earlier, in 1918.

The fact that the protagonist of Cuff-Buttons is named Hemlock Holmes should give you an impression of the overpowering wit of Mr. J.F. Thierry.

Subtitled A Reply to “Red” Lewis’s Novel “It Can’t Happen Here” the pamphleteer describes in ludicrous detail exactly how FDR plans, following his reelection, to kick out most of his cabinet, replace them with Commie apparatchiks, and order the U.S. Military to shut down Wall Street, drag certain well-known moguls out into the street (naming names - Morgan, Hearst, &c.) line them up against a wall and SHOOT THEM (his emphasis, not mine) and basically single-handedly take over the nation by force.

From the prose, which is full of MOCKING CAPITALIZATIONS, weerd sperring, and by punctuating the description of certain acts of terror with the refrain, “Ain’t we got fun?” (he uses that phrase so many times for comedic effect he sounds like a vindictive nine year-old with ADD) you can be sure this is meant to be a hilarious piece of satire.

But what is his point? By continually referring to “Red” Lewis you would think he were a Republican, except for 1) the contempt with which he obviously holds Republicans, too and 2) the fact that he can’t possibly believe FDR would do any of what is being described. So he thinks “Red” Lewis did write his book about FDR, and that his plot is too tame and not what a true despot would actually do - which was already made clear by Mussolini and Hitler up to this point in history.

Is that it? He’s an FDR supporter, who does believe Sinclair Lewis is a Communist suggesting FDR is the dictator represented in his novel It Can’t Happen Here.

Or maybe he’s just a scattershot satirist, with no point at all except making fun of everybody. And like most satirists with no point of view … it’s obnoxious and not very funny.

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