Recently, in conjunction with a new writing project, I began to research the life of Charles Coughlin, the infamous radio priest, hatemonger, and venomous anti-Semite of the 1930s. To this end, I ordered from Amazon a CD entitled Father Coughlin is on the Air! I actually bought the CD from one of Amazon’s many independent sellers. I did not pay attention to the name of the vendor, and clicked through as quickly as possible to complete the sale and get back to work.
When the CD arrived, it came with a catalog, copied poorly on plain white paper. I paid no attention to this cheap-looking product directory, putting it in my inbox for later review. That evening, I played the CD. Based on Coughlin’s evil reputation as the father of hate radio, I expected to hear a ranting and raving lunatic. However, during the two radio broadcasts on the CD – programs for April 4 and 11, 1937 – Coughlin did not come across as unduly intemperate or unhinged. Quite the opposite. His delivery was powerful and passionate, and spoken in a strong and mellifluous voice, although for this listener fairly confusing, as the priest spoke disjointedly of unseemly debt and taxation levels, as well as the “manufacturing of money,” and what he quaintly termed “private property-ship.”
The Original Rush Limbaugh
Nevertheless, Coughlin’s radio sermon, if that’s what it was, made me uneasy. While listening to him, and knowing the depths of prejudice and hate he plumbed as a radio preacher, it was as if some ancient imp had freed himself from his bottle and was now flying about my darkened bedroom like an angry bat. During the 1930s, this unholy demagogue ruled the airwaves, with more than 40 million people in the United States tuning in to his weekly broadcasts. This represented nearly one-third of the nation. Listeners sent him up to 80,000 letters each week. This was more correspondence than anyone in the United States received, including the president.
During his broadcasts in the late 1930s, Coughlin routinely railed against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the New Deal (he called it the “Jew Deal”), and what the priest termed the “international conspiracy of Jewish bankers.” He also spoke favorably of European fascism. He thought the Jews in Germany deserved what they got on Kristallnacht, when the Nazis went on a rampage of roaring violence against them on the night of November 9-10, 1938. German Nazis cheered on Coughlin’s broadcasts and considered him a hero.
Eventually, Americans began to grow weary of Coughlin’s jeremiads against the Jews and encomiums on behalf of the fascists. Many radio stations across the country refused to carry Coughlin’s broadcasts, and the government temporarily forced him off the air. The radio priest was soon able to resume broadcasting for a short period, but to a much smaller audience. Then Coughlin’s religious superior, the archbishop of Detroit, ordered the priest to cease his political activities, including his radio work, for good. Coughlin complied and faded away, like some malefic spirit, into inglorious history, dying in 1979, at the age of 88.
What’s in the Catalog?
The next day, while taking a work break, I decided to briefly review the catalog that had accompanied the CD. I hoped that it might list some other vintage recordings of interest, perhaps Father Devine or Billy Sunday. Upon a hurried first glance, I thought that it listed historical posters, pamphlets, and other paraphernalia pertaining to Germany. However, a closer look quickly revealed that the catalog contained nothing but Nazi memorabilia. Inadvertently, I had bought my CD from modern-day admirers of Adolf Hitler. Of course, I know that such degraded individuals exist, but this was the first time in my life that I had ever been in touch with them, at least indirectly.
Because Coughlin was a vicious anti-Semite, this organization of Nazi sympathizers would naturally feature his vile sermons. The other materials they sell are even more disturbing. Among the catalog items listed: a collection of essays by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, SS rings, bronze busts of Adolf Hitler, swastika pins, Third Reich films in DVD format, including the wicked The Eternal Jew, a picture book entitled The Hitler Nobody Knows, Luftwaffe daggers, speeches on CD by Charles Lindbergh of the pernicious America First Committee, Nazi armbands, the Germanic Nordic Man book series, and more.
Indeed, the catalog contained hundreds of odious Nazi items, all premium-priced and ready for shipment. It is disturbing, but not surprising, that a strong market still exists for such odious products. As our own modern-day Father Coughlins – Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage (appropriate name), Mark Levin, et cetera – continue to prove, a flourishing market will always exist for vitriol, prejudice, contumely, and hate. – Mickey Murphy © 2011 MMMurphy
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