Saturday, November 27, 2010

Radio Priest (book)

I think I have some kind of stomach virus. I have been up since 4 am with a roiling stomach, which was not alleviated by choosing to take this time to finish reading Donald Warren's biography of Charles Coughlin, Radio Priest: Charles Coughlin, The Father of Hate Radio.

The book refers to Coughlin as a "footnote" in American history, but I am coming to believe he is more of a blind-spot. There are two Jewish members of a certain age in the Playwrights' Unit, and when I brought in a scene making passing reference to this radio priest, one of my peers needed me to explain who he was, while the other was all too aware of his history.

Warren's book details the interesting life of this narcissistic and hateful Catholic priest, though I have to admit I was more interested in the earlier, pre-WWII history, after which it gets bogged down in the question of whether or not Coughlin received direct monetary compensation from the Nazis. This is not unimportant information, but there were an awful lot of names and unanswered questions and a great many specious claims as to make the author sound almost as conspiratorily-minded as his subject.

Published in the mid 1990s, Radio Priest attempts at the outset to trace Coughlin's brand of right-wing, bellicose wailing to the then-present day polititainers like Rush Limbaugh. The book is well-overdue for a reprint with a new forward.

Anything clever I might say comparing Father Coughlin to the likes of Glenn Beck was already done in a much more professional manner in the September 13 issue of The Onion in the article Nation Once Again Comes Under Sway Of Pink-Faced Half-Wit:
Dr. David Snider, a media historian and author of the book "Frothing, Shouting Dim-Bulbs: An American Tradition", said that the current porcine loudmouth is the latest in a long line of pink-faced half-wits that began in the 1930s with the incendiary radio broadcasts of Father Charles Coughlin, a pink-faced half-wit Roman Catholic priest.

According to Snider, this original pink-faced half-wit exploited the Great Depression to foment his message of virulent anti-Semitism—a tactic of shamelessly preying upon American misery and misfortune that has since been employed by nearly every pink-faced, intellectually corrupt piece of shit asshole to open his fat, disgusting pig mouth since.
Radio Priest opened my eyes to the finer points of anti-Semitism, and the more recent defense of anti-Semitism practiced by those who hold it dear, namely blaming only bad Jews for all the evil which befalls the rest of us - good Christians and good Jews alike.

The good Father taught us that in the olden days, because of true anti-Semitism, Jews could not own land, nor were they tolerated to stay anywhere for any length of time. As a result, Jews put all of their savings into GOLD, which they carried from place to place. And they learned to create more gold by lending gold for interest - an act, children repeat after me, call usury - something Christians were forbidden to practice because it goes against God's law (see: Shakespeare's: The Merchant of Venice.)

Flash-forward to the 20th Century, or at least to 1936 which concerns us most, and Coughlin has made it clear that what threatens our world the most is the Jew-backed, Communist world conspiracy, made possible by "international financiers" - this being the term Coughlin more commonly used early in his career before coming right out and saying "Jews".

The year 1936 was the high point in Coughlin's political career. And remember, we are talking about a parish priest from Detroit. He supposedly answers to the Catholic Church, and Warren's book is loaded with documented missives and direct quotations from interviews detailing the back and forth between bishops, cardinals, federal agents and the like, describing the thoughts of Church superiors and how they might deal with a person who had gained an historically unprecedented amount of influence and power due strictly to the power of mass media - the radio.

The story ends with a whimper, not a bang. Warren would have us outraged that the Catholic Church did very little to reign in a figure who increasingly (especially after his own party's humbling in the 1936 Presidential election) hateful rhetoric led directly or indirectly to hate crimes and which was arguably "lending aid and comfort to our enemies" during the war with Germany. Since his book has been published, accounts of child abuse by priests too numerous to tally left this reader unsurprised at the Church's inaction.

Now, if I may offer my own opinion: What is distressing to me is no longer that individuals such as Coughlin can miseducate so many people. It is the extent to which so many people actually prefer to think in a paranoid and fearful manner. It is the only explanation. Just recently Glenn Beck dedicated three hours to bête noire of the right, George Soros. Granted, Beck was doing a hatchet job on a single individual, not an entire race, but he did attempt to distance himself from accusations of anti-Semitism by - ta-dah! - accusing the Jew Soros of being anti-Semitic.

Remember what the good Father taught us - Jews are not the enemy, Bad Jews are the enemy. An important distinction. Let us continue. From The New Yorker, November 29, 2010:
Beck pictured Soros as a deeply evil figure, a shadowy manipulator whose marionettes include unions, the Democratic Party, the media, and the President; a rapacious financier who seeks to subvert and destroy the American republic in order to satisfy his own greed for money and advance his plot to establish an all-powerful global, state under his control. As it happens, these tropes correspond uncannily to those of classical anti-Semitism.
I happened to read this article the same morning I finished Warren's book. Hmn.

Unlike Beck, who has the support of his Gentile oligarch Rupert Murdoch, Coughlin relied on independent radio stations which became increasingly unhappy with his rhetoric to carry his message across the country and his radio broadcasts were suppressed by the late 1930s, and with is a major source of his revenue. Around the same time, however, his weekly paper Social Justice gained a higher-quality look, which different color inks to make it pop and higher quality photographs. There is evidence that this funding came straight from Berlin. It is without a doubt that several articles in the paper were direct transcriptions of speeches from the office of Joseph Goebbels. Eventually he was pressured to cease publication as a case was being created against him as a disseminator of seditious materials.

Radio Priest, Charles Coughlin, the Father of Hate Radio
The Onion
The New Yorker


  1. For more reading about "Silver Charlie," I recommend Alan Brinkley's book "Voices of Protest." It's about both Coughlin and Huey Long, but you can concentrate on the Coughlin chapters if you don't have time for the Kingfish. Brinkley is an excellent writer, and he really puts these two men into historical context.

  2. Thank you! I should know more about the Kingfish ... as you can see I have cast a wide net, and I was not a little distressed to look back at the month of November and see much has been dedicated to this one subject. But Huey's shadow looms long. (See how I did that?)