Friday, February 16, 2007

Henry Ford and Father Coughlin Love the Jews

Update: I can't possibly do this subject justice during breakfast, but this is simply a quick "off the top of my head" writeup. I'll be the first to admit that it contains simplifications and generalizations of Coughlin's speech. But that doesn't mean he wasn't a dirtbag.

From the May 28, 1927 issue of The New Yorker:

A visitor calling on the Marxes in their dressing-room, incidentally, arrived just as another gentleman departed. "That fellow you saw leaving," explained Harpo (of the red wig), "is the greatest salesman in the world...He must be, because he just convinced two Marx Brothers that Henry Ford loves the Jews, and sold them Lincoln cars."

Henry Ford's extreme anti-semitism is no secret, but this reminds me of another psycho, this one Canadian: Father Coughlin.

I make it a habit (or rather a duty) to listen to every old time radio show that comes my way. The wonderful otrcat site includes comprehensive "samplers" of shows when you order from them, so even though I haven't purchased the Father Coughlin collection, I still listened to one of his 1938 broadcasts called "Jew, Christian, and Persecution."

I don't have a lot of time for racists, and that includes anti-semites. It's always confused me that certain people (including Ernst Zundel, who was just sentenced to jail in Germany and who used to live across the street from a friend of mine in Toronto) stereotype Jews as being incredibly capable on one hand -- able to control the entire WORLD, apparently -- but incredibly inferior on the other. If one race has managed to dominate the financial and political machinery throughout the entire world then the rest of us are a bunch of lazy bums.

So sitting through an hour of Father Coughlin wasn't my favourite thing to do, but it did hammer home the lessons that racists -- and ideologues in general -- use to twist the facts.

The most disgusting and cynical technique of all is false sympathy. He repeatedly and vehemently sympathises with the Jewish victims of persecution in Germany...then proceeds to blame them for their persecution. And this is how he does it:

  1. In Russia, the Czar treated the people well (he never states this outrageous claim, but it's a necessary unspoken premise for everything that follows).
  2. The only reason that the people suffered was because the bankers in Russia were greedy.
  3. Jews dominate the banking community, therefore the Jews made the people in Russia suffer (pogroms, anyone?)
  4. As a reaction to this Jew-created suffering, the people were willing to embrace any ideology that would save them.
  5. So they embraced Communism, an idea developed and bankrolled by "secular Jews" (must of Father Coughlin's broadcast consists of his proving this link, but I don't think it's particularly relevant. Since Coughlin hates Communism almost as much as he hates the Jews, however, this link is important to him).
  6. Communism is evil, not because it resulted directly and indirectly in the deaths of millions of people (which the world community wasn't much aware of in 1938) but because it's GODLESS, thanks to those secular Jews who developed and paid for it.
  7. Nazism is sorta bad and represses people (Coughlin gives lip-service to Hitler's badness, but is most angry that people focus on the repression of Jews in Germany, and don't give equal time to repression of one of Hitler's most heinous crimes is of eclipsing repression of Christians by repressing so many darn Jews).
  8. Nazism is simply a response to the GODLESS THREAT OF COMMUNISM!

That's the big point of Coughlin's speech, which leads us to his final rhetorical swoop: since Jews are responsible for Communism, they are ALSO responsible for their own victimization in Germany! And as Coughlin ominously says, if communism isn't stamped out here in America, something akin to Nazism will arise in America as well, and the Jews will suffer.

But you see, Coughlin says he doesn't WANT the Jews to suffer (it's apparent that he really doesn't want Jews getting any sympathy). He really loves the Jews. Meanwhile, from the other side of his face he's exposing the Great Jewish Conspiracy to Spread Communism. So excuse me if I don't buy into his false sympathy routine.

Why am I mentioning all this? Because this is one of the most complicated and bizarre anti-semitic slippery slopes I've run across, and also because people have forgotten Father Coughlin, who was born in Hamilton Ontario so therefore not so very far from where I live. He's better left forgotten, but he is a potent reminder of how offensive hatred often hides itself as concern and defense.

PS: If it's any consolation, FDR managed to get Coughlin shut down in the early '40s. Not because of his antipathy towards Jews, but because of his opposition to FDR's policies, mainly as they regarded American entry into WWII.

PPS: And where did Hitler plan to relocate all the Jews in Europe? You guessed it: Madagascar.

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