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Father Charles Coughlin, et al

Posted by MacZad
Aug 19 2012

The chances are that you have never heard of Catholic priest, Father Charles Coughlin. During the late 1920s and into the early 1940s he was a popular radio personality with a huge audience for his weekly broadcasts. He was a democrat, a populist and an isolationist but also in his later broadcasts revealed himself to be a bigot who dispensed angry, irrational charges and assertions. As do all demagogues he had to have scapegoats. His were mainly the Jews, and he even concocted a non-existant Jewish-Communist connection to heap his vitriol upon.

In the late 1930s he praised the fascist leaders Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler and his horrific anti-Semitic policies. Coughlin’s isolationism ultimately doomed him; after Pearl Harbor, and after Hitler declared war on America, there was no longer a mass audience for his message. Now Coughlin, though mostly forgotten, is thought of as one of the major demagogues of the 20th century.

Here are links to sources of the content in the above paragraph and to one of his 1938 broadcasts:

Pioneering Hate Radio        Father Coughlin        History Matters


Today we have several modern-day equivalents of Father Coughlin - demagogues all, spewing angry hate filled talk on radio and Fox News. The techniques used to inflame the audience are the same as those used by Coughlin more than a half century ago. Their scapegoats are different: welfare mothers, NAACP, the homeless, the unemployed, SNAP, liberal media, gays etc., and they shift their audience's attention away from the real problems and inequities of the times by their constant scapegoat harangues. It's a classic diversion technique which has much of their audience looking in the wrong direction for the source of many of the nation's problems. Surely the homeless, those on welfare or food stamps (SNAP) have an insignificant voice in Washington compared to the wealthy and the corporations with all their K Street lobbyists, but these guys portray their scapegoats as powerful and a principal source of the nation's problems - what rot!

Though their audiences are far smaller that Coughlin's , Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity, et al, are far more powerful than he ever was as they function as an extension of the Republican Party. They echo what the party says and the party leadership often echoes what they say. However, my guess is that the country is slowly waking up their demagoguery, their influence has peaked, and in another 50 years they will be remembered like Coughlin is today - mostly forgotten and known only as major demagogues of the 21st century; what a personal legacy to have!

Here are some other takes on the similarity between Coughlin and his modern-day equivalents:

Rush Limbaugh        Father Coughlin's Heirs        Coughlin/Limbaugh

Want to try the opposite of these guys? I suggest Up with Chris Hayes Saturday and Sunday mornings 8 to 10 eastern, on MSNBC.,

Categories: Illuminating Dark Places, Seeking Better Governance