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Joseph and Hyrum Smith. [Source: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church, more commonly known as the Mormon Church), is murdered in an Illinois jail along with his brother Hyrum. The Smiths have been unpopular since the founding of the Mormon Church in the late 1820s. In 1832, a Christian mob tarred and feathered Joseph Smith. In 1838, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs ordered all Mormons expelled from his state; three days later, rogue militiamen massacred 17 Mormons, including children, at the Mormon settlement of Haun’s Mill. In 1844, Joseph and his brother Hyrum were charged with treason and jailed in Carthage, Illinois. A mob breaks into the prison and murders both men. Though five are charged with the murders, none are ever convicted. [Smithsonian Magazine, 10/2010]
A portion of a painting illustrating the street violence surrounding the ‘Bible Riots.’ [Source: Granger Collection / Smithsonian]Philadelphia is rocked by a series of conflicts that will become known as the “Bible Riots of 1844.” In the 1830s, Philadelphia, a large factory town, began simmering with conflicts and issues between a large and disparate number of groups, roughly divided into two: Irish and German immigrants, mostly Catholics, who are fighting for better working conditions and better treatments both through the Church and through the burgeoning labor movement; and “nativists,” a loose movement that has arisen in something of a backlash against the large influx of immigrants. Many of the Irish and German immigrants have become identified with urban Democratic political machines, sparking resentment among non-Democratic “native” Americans. The Irish in particular become targets of the “nativist” movement. In 1844, Catholics begin mounting complaints that their children are being forced to read from the Protestant King James Bible in public school every day. That version of the Bible (often abbreviated KJV) is required reading in Philadelphia public schools, in part because of the efforts of Pennsylvania legislator James Buchanan, who pushed through some of the country’s first legislation requiring public schools; however, the Pennsylvania legislature inserted language into the bill requiring daily Bible reading. Catholics see the mandated daily Bible readings as an attempt to undermine their religion, a view given credence when their requests that the KJV be substituted with Catholic Bibles are ignored. The complaints spark a series of riots that target Irish Catholic churches (no German Catholic churches are burned or vandalized, in part because Irish Catholics, a larger and more prominent group than the Germans, tend to be more vocal and are more closely identified with the “problem”). In response, groups of Irish Catholics target Protestant churches. The Philadelphia city government does little if anything to protect either group. Both sides accuse the other of vandalism and duplicity; the “nativists” insist that the Catholics want to install the Pope as the leader of the US government, and the Catholics accuse city officials of letting the “nativists” attack them at will. The riots result in a number of churches being partially or completely burned, at least 20 people dead, and the Irish Catholics becoming more forceful and more organized, taking a more aggressive part in politics and the labor movement. [Smithsonian Magazine, 10/2010; Patrick J. O'Hara, 2011]
A handbill celebrating the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The phrase at the bottom reads: “Hip! Hurrah! The white man is on top.” [Source: Monthly Review]The US Congress denies Chinese-Americans the right to vote or be citizens by passing the Chinese Exclusion Act. Historian William Wei will later write that the Exclusion Act was driven by decades of racism against Chinese immigrants, with the express goal of “driv[ing] them out of the country. This hostility hindered efforts by the Chinese to become American. It forced them to flee to the Chinatowns on the coasts, where they found safety and support. In these ghettos, they managed to eke out a meager existence, but were isolated from the rest of the population, making it difficult if not impossible to assimilate into mainstream society. To add insult to injury, Chinese were criticized for their alleged unassimilability.” The Exclusion Act is the first such legislation in US history to name a specific group of people “as undesirable for immigration to the United States,” and “marked a fateful departure from the traditional American policy of unrestricted immigration.” [Harper's Weekly, 1999; American Civil Liberties Union, 2012] The Exclusion Act will be repealed over 60 years later (see December 17, 1943).
An excerpt from a ‘Harper’s Weekly’ cartoon from 1876 showing two white men menacing a black man attempting to cast a vote. The cartoon illustrates the effect of the ‘grandfather clause.’ [Source: Harper's / St. John's School]The Louisiana legislature adopts a so-called “grandfather clause” designed to disenfranchise African-American voters. As a result, the percentage of registered black voters drops from 44.8 percent in 1896 to 4 percent in 1890. Louisiana’s lead is followed by similar laws being passed in Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, and Virginia. Louisiana’s “grandfather clause” requires voters to register between January 1, 1897 and January 1, 1898. It imposes a literacy test. Illiterate or non-property owning voters whose fathers or grandfathers were not eligible to vote in 1867 (as per the Fifteenth Amendment—see February 26, 1869) are not allowed to register. Almost all African-Americans were slaves in 1867, and were not allowed to vote. The American Civil Liberties Union will later write, “[T]he measure effectively disfranchises all black voters who cannot read or write or who do not own more than $300 in property.” [School, 2011; American Civil Liberties Union, 2012]
Justice Henry Brown. [Source: Wikimedia]The US Supreme Court rules 7-1 in Plessy v. Ferguson that a Louisiana law requiring “equal but separate accomodations for the white and colored races” is constitutional. Homer Plessy, a light-skinned black man who sometimes “passed” as white, took part in a plan by a small number of black professionals seeking to have a court overturn the Louisiana Separate Car Act of 1890. Plessy boarded a whites-only railroad car and was arrested, as per arrangement, by a private detective. The group intended to use Plessy’s light skin tone to demonstrate how arbitrary and unconstitutional the law was. Plessy’s lawyers argued that Louisiana’s segregation law violated both the Thirteenth Amendment, which bars slavery, and the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees all Americans equal protection under the law (see July 9, 1868). Louisiana courts consistently found against Plessy, and the case moved all the way to the Supreme Court. Writing for the Court’s majority, Justice Henry Brown rules that the law does not “discriminate” among legal rights by race, but merely recognizes a “distinction” between races “which must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the other race by color.” He adds: “Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts or to abolish distinctions based on physical differences, and the attempt to do so can only result in accentuating the differences of the present situation. If the civil and political rights of both races be equal, one cannot be inferior to the other civilly or politically. If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them on the same plane.” The ruling establishes the “separate but equal” doctrine that informs many states’ decision to segregate public facilities—schools, railcars, even drinking fountains. Justice John Marshall Harlan, a former slave owner and a pro-slavery politician, writes a fiery dissent that refutes Brown’s assertion that the Louisiana law discriminates equally among whites and blacks. Harlan writes, “Everyone knows that the statute in question had its origin in the purpose, not so much to exclude white persons from railroad cars occupied by blacks, as to exclude colored people from coaches occupied by or assigned to white persons.” He disagrees with the majority opinion’s finding that segregation on railcars does not violate African-Americans’ constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. But Harlan does not advocate social equality among the races. Instead, he argues that legally imposed segregation denies political equality. Harlan writes: “The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth, and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage, and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty. But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.” Harlan’s dissent becomes the underpinning of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision (see May 17, 1954). [PBS, 12/2006; PBS, 12/2006]
Senator Benjamin Tillman, an ardent segregationist who once said, ‘My Democracy means white supremacy.’ [Source: Black Americans in Congress]President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt signs the Tillman Act into law. The Act prohibits monetary contributions to national political campaigns by corporations and national banks. Roosevelt, dogged by allegations that he had accepted improper donations during his 1904 presidential campaign, has pushed for such restrictions since he took office (see August 23, 1902 and December 5, 1905). [Federal Elections Commission, 1998; Center for Responsive Politics, 2002 ; Moneyocracy, 2/2012] Senator Benjamin Tillman (D-SC), later described by National Public Radio as a “populist and virulent racist,” sponsored the bill. [National Public Radio, 2012] In 1900, Tillman was quoted as saying about black voters: “We have done our level best. We have scratched our heads to find out how we could eliminate every last one of them. We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it.” [Atlas, 2010, pp. 205] Unfortunately, the law is easily circumvented. Businesses and corporations give employees large “bonuses” with the understanding that the employee then gives the bonus to a candidate “endorsed” by the firm. Not only do the corporations find and exploit this loophole, they receive an additional tax deduction for “employee benefits.” The law will be amended to cover primary elections in 1911 (see 1911). [Campaign Finance Timeline, 1999]
An alliance of the countries of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro, later to include Greece, demands that the Ottomans immediately grant autonomy to Christians. Serbia then invades Kosova and crosses northern Albania to the coast, Montenegro invades the same region, and Bulgaria invades Macedonia and part of eastern Albania. According to author Paulin Kola, the war is based on a policy called Nacertanije (meaning “draft”), created in the mid-1800s by Serbian foreign minister Ilija Garasanin. Nacertanije advocates annexing Kosova and northern Albania to Greater Serbia, connecting Serbia to the Adriatic. A Serb soldier describes a speech by his commander once they reached Kosova: “‘Brothers, my children, my sons!’ His voice breaks. ‘This place on which we stand is the graveyard of our glory. We bow to the shadows of fallen ancestors and pray God for the salvation of their souls.’ His voice gives out and tears steam down his cheeks and gray beard and fall to the ground. He actually shakes from some kind on inner pain and excitement.… We are the generation which will realize the centuries-old dream of the whole nation: that we with the sword will regain the freedom that was lost with the sword.” The war results in a heavy toll among Kosovar civilians. About 25,000 Albanians are killed, and only three survive the war in the town of Ferizaj. Subsequently, an international commission established by the Carnegie Endowment will say in 1914 that the civilian toll was an intentional policy. Before the war, Serbia denied that Albanians could be independent and dehumanized them, according to Kola. Former Prime Minister Vladan Djordjevic said Albanians were thin, short, and that their Roma and Phoenician traits made him think of primates who slept hanging in trees. After occupation, there are cases of Muslims being forced to convert to Orthodox Christianity, and in one case 500 Albanians are shot for their refusal. [Kola, 2003, pp. 11-12]
The Minnesota Supreme Court denies Native Americans in that state the right to vote. The case, Opsahl v. Johnson, was brought by members of the Red Lake Chippewa Tribe. The Court finds that members of the tribe cannot vote in county elections because they have not “yielded obedience and submission to the [Minnesota] laws” (see November 3, 1884 and 1888). [American Civil Liberties Union, 2012]
Women and men gather to protest for the right of women to vote, 1848. [Source: Declaration of Sentiments 1848 (.com)]The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress and ratified just over a year later, grants the right of women to vote. Because women now play a fundamental part in elections and campaigns, campaign financing and practices are dramatically expanded and changed. [Connecticut Network, 2006 ; The Constitution: Amendments 11-27, 2012; Doug Linder, 2012] Women have been organizing for the right to vote at least since the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention in 1848. Women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony declared in 1852 that “the right women needed above every other… was the right of suffrage.” Suffragists tried and failed to win the right of “universal suffrage” during the debates on the so-called “Reconstruction Amendments” (see February 26, 1869) that granted the right to vote and other rights to male minority members. An amendment granting the right to vote has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1878. Western states such as Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho were the first to grant women the right to vote; former President Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party was the first to proclaim its support for women’s suffrage in its party planks. Southern states were the primary opponents to the amendment. The Amendment will be ratified by a single vote in the Tennessee state legislature in August 1920 (24-year-old lawmaker Harry Burns will cast the deciding vote, carrying a letter from his mother urging him to “be a good boy” and “vote for suffrage”), and will become law later that month. [American Civil Liberties Union, 2012; Doug Linder, 2012]
The North Dakota Supreme Court grants the right to vote to 273 Native American members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. In the case of Swift v. Leach, the Court rules that the tribesmen have abandoned their tribal affiliation (see 1888) and have “adopted and observed the habits and mode of life of civilized people.” [American Civil Liberties Union, 2012]
Father Charles Coughlin. [Source: Spartacus Schoolnet]Father Charles Edward Coughlin, an ordained Catholic priest, hosts what may be the first politically oriented national radio broadcast in US history. Coughlin, who started his political involvement as a supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, quickly becomes a virulent Roosevelt critic, calling Roosevelt’s economic policies “socialism.” By 1930, CBS broadcasts Coughlin’s weekly radio show nationwide. Coughlin’s harsh criticism of communist and socialist governments, such as the Soviet Union, widens to encompass the US government and many aspects of American life. He accuses the citizenry of “scorn[ing] the basic family and national doctrine of Jesus Christ,” citing divorce statistics as “proof” of his assertions. He does not spare the corporations, blasting them for treating working families unfairly and warning of the dangers of the “concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.” Coughlin begins claiming that American communists have infiltrated many levels of government and corporate leadership, and lashes out at what he calls the “Bolshevism of America.” In April 1931, CBS refuses to renew his contract, and Coughlin organizes his own radio network which eventually claims over 30 radio stations and some 30 million listeners. In 1936, Coughlin, who has grown disillusioned with Roosevelt over his administration’s failure to take over the nation’s banking system and other of Coughlin’s suggested reforms, forms a hardline anti-Communist, isolationist organization called the “Christian Front.” When the US begins publicly opposing the German Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, Coughlin turns on Roosevelt entirely, accusing him of advocating “international socialism or Sovietism,” and praising Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini as “anti-Communist fighters.” By 1940, according to playwright Arthur Miller, Coughlin is “confiding to his 10 million Depression-battered listeners that the president was a liar controlled by both the Jewish bankers and, astonishingly enough, the Jewish Communists, the same tribe that 20 years earlier had engineered the Russian Revolution.… He was arguing… that Hitlerism was the German nation’s innocently defensive response to the threat of Communism, that Hitler was only against ‘bad Jews,’ especially those born outside Germany.” Coughlin echoes Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels in claiming that Marxist atheism in Europe is a Jewish plot. He claims that America is overrun by “Jewry,” resulting in critics labeling him a “fascist.” Boston police discover that for several years Jewish youths in the city have been beaten and terrorized by what the Christian Science Monitor calls “Coughlinites and the Christian Front”; other assaults on American Jews are later found to have been carried out by people who support Coughlin, often with the complicity of local law enforcement and Catholic officials. The Christian Front collapses in January 1940 when the FBI raids its New York branch and finds a cache of weapons; FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover tells the press that the organization is planning the assassinations of a number of prominent Jews, communists, and “a dozen Congressmen.” Coughlin’s influence is badly damaged by the FBI’s claims, and Coughlin’s rhetoric continues to move to the extreme. By September 1940, he is calling Roosevelt “the world’s chief warmonger,” and in 1941 says that the US, not Germany or the Soviet Union, is the biggest threat to impose its domination on the world. “Many people are beginning to wonder who they should fear most,” he says, “the Roosevelt-Churchill combination or the Hitler-Mussolini combination.” When the US enters World War II at the end of 1941, the National Association of Broadcasters arranges for Coughlin’s broadcasts to be terminated. At Roosevelt’s behest, the US Post Office refuses to deliver his weekly newspapers. And in May 1942, Coughlin is ordered by Archbishop Francis Mooney to cease his political activities or be defrocked. Although Coughlin will continue to write pamphlets about the dangers of communism until his death in 1979, his influence on American political thought ends in the first months of the war. [New York Times, 1/21/1940; Dinnerstein, 1995, pp. 132-133; Spartacus Schoolnet, 2010]
Entity Tags: Christian Science Monitor, Benito Mussolini, Arthur Miller, Adolf Hitler, CBS, Christian Front, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph Goebbels, National Association of Broadcasters, Francis Mooney, Charles Edward Coughlin
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
The masthead for the March 7, 1939 issue of ‘Liberation,’ a magazine published by the ‘Silver Shirts.’ [Source: Georgetown Bookshop]White supremacist and ardent Nazi follower William Dudley Pelley, a New England native of what he calls “uncontaminated English stock,” founds the Silver Shirts, a neo-Nazi organization, in Asheville, North Carolina, the same day that Adolf Hitler ascends to power in Germany. Apparently Pelley funds the organization through the proceeds of a best-selling book, Seven Minutes in Eternity, in which he claimed to have died and gone to “the beyond” for a seven-minute period. Pelley and his followers, including Henry Lamont “Mike” Beach (see 1969), dress themselves in silver shirts emblazoned with a large cursive “L,” blue corduroy knickers, and gold stockings. Pelley considers himself a Republican, though he is not politically active in the usual sense.
Anti-Semitic, Anti-Government - His efforts attract members from pro-Nazi groups, Ku Klux Klan chapters, and others sympathetic to his anti-Semitic views. In August 1933, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) will warn: “The Silver Shirts came into existence the early part of this year. They are enrolling white Protestant Christians as members of a Christian militia, through a plan of State encampments that are reported to extend into various states of the Union, with posts in every community.” According to Silver Shirt documents obtained by the AJC, the group intends to bring about the establishment of a strictly Christian government in the US; accuses President Roosevelt of being a “dictator” and “set[ting] aside the Constitution, which they desire to restore”; intends to “save [the] United States from a state of Sovietism into which… the Jews are leading the country”; accuses Jews of being a “money power” bent on destroying the nation’s economy via their “control” of the Federal Reserve; and says that “a people who constitute only 2.5 per cent of the population [Jews] to be held down to a 2.5 per cent influence in the American government, and we propose to see that it is brought about, race prejudice or no!” The group also advocates a form of direct democracy, in which citizens mail in their votes for or against pending legislation, and proposes the reorganization of America into what it calls a “colossus corporation,” where “[e]very citizen shall be both a common and a preferred stockholder.”
Psychic Messages - Pelley claims to receive psychic messages from “the vastness of cosmos,” including two sets of documents, the “Esoteric Doctrines of the Liberation Enlightenment” and the “Liberation Scripts,” which set forth the “Christ government” he intends to establish. In a Silver Shirt newsletter, Pelley writes: “It is the order of things that those wicked and malignant spirits who have incarnated in certain sections of the Hebrew race trying to bring the downfall of the Christ Peoples, should meet a fearful fate in this closing of the Cycle of Cosmic Event. That contest is on-the-make and Hitler’s job it has been to do the advance work. But Hitler is not going to finish that work. THE FINISH OF IT COMES RIGHT HERE IN AMERICA!” Pelley writes that “the Jew” is possessed of a “nomadic character, making him an internationalist whose ultimate objectives may well mean the destruction and disappearance of the United States.” [American Jewish Committee, 8/24/1933; Ian Geldard, 2/19/1995; David Neiwert, 6/17/2003]
Spike in Membership Will Dwindle - Pelley’s group will enjoy its largest membership of some 15,000 in 1934; four years later, the group will dwindle to around 5,000 members. [The Holocaust Chronicle, 2009] Pelley will be convicted of sedition in 1942, and by the time he emerges from prison in 1950, his Silver Shirts will have long since disappeared.
'Christian Fascist' - In the early 1980s, graduate student Karen Hoppes will write extensively about Pelley. She will write of his Christian fundamentalism: “[T]he link with fundamental Christianity establishes the uniqueness of American fascism. The majority of fascist groups justified their existence by their desire to change the United States into a Christian society.… The relationship between the religious identity of these groups and their political demands can be shown by a careful survey of their rhetoric. The Christian fascist does not distinguish between the application of the terms anti-Christ, Jew, and Communist. Neither does he distinguish between Gentile and Christian.” [David Neiwert, 6/17/2003]
Marinus van der Lubbe. [Source: Spartacus Educational]The German house of parliament, the Reichstag building, is set ablaze, allegedly by Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist. At 9:14 p.m., a fire station in Berlin receives an alarm that the Reichstag, assembly location of the German parliament, is on fire. The fire seems to have been started in several places, and by the time the police and firemen arrive, a huge explosion has set the main Chamber of Deputies in flames. Looking for clues, the police quickly find 24-year-old van der Lubbe, naked and cowering behind the building. Van der Lubbe is a Dutch insurrectionary council communist and unemployed bricklayer who recently arrived in Germany. Chancellor Adolf Hitler and political aide Hermann Göring arrive soon after, and, when they are shown van der Lubbe, Göring immediately declares the fire was set by the communists and has the party’s leaders arrested. [Shirer, 10/11/2011, pp. 191-192]
State of Emergency Will Be Declared in response to the Fire - Hitler will subsequently take advantage of the situation to declare a state of emergency and encourage aging President Paul von Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree, abolishing most of the human rights provisions of the 1919 Weimar Republic Constitution. The Nazis are running on a platform of hysterical anti-communism, insisting that Germany is on the verge of a communist revolution and the only way to stop this is to pass the Enabling Act. Hitler’s platform in the campaign will comprise of little more than demands that voters increase the Nazi share of seats so the Enabling Act can be passed. In order to decrease the number of opposition members who can vote against the Enabling Act, Hitler plans to ban the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), which holds 17 percent of the parliament’s seats, after the elections and before the new Reichstag convenes. [Chicago Tribune, 4/27/1942]
Nazis Will Claim that the Alleged Perpetrator Is Part of a Communist Conspiracy - The Reichstag fire will allow Hitler to accelerate the banning of the Communist Party and will be used to confirm Nazi claims of a pending communist revolution. The Nazis will argue that the fire was meant to serve as a signal to launch the revolution, and warn the German public about the grisly fate it will suffer under communist rule. The Nazis will allege that van der Lubbe was part of the communist conspiracy to burn down the Reichstag and seize power, while the communists will allege that van der Lubbe was part of a Nazi conspiracy to blame the crime on them. The resulting Leipzig War Crimes Trial will be widely publicized and broadcast on the radio. The public will assume that the court will find the communists guilty on all counts. However, Georgi Dimitrov, who will stand accused in the trial for involvement with the Reichstag fire, will give up his right to a court-appointed lawyer and defend himself successfully. He will prove his innocence and the innocence of his communist comrades (except van der Lubbe) and be set free. In addition, he will present evidence that the organizers of the fire were senior members of the Nazi Party. However, van der Lubbe will say that he set the Reichstag fire, and did so in an attempt to rally the German people against fascism. He will be sentenced to death and be executed by guillotine on January 10, 1934, three days before his 25th birthday. [Milwaukee Journal, 8/24/1942; Guardian, 1/12/2008]
Responsibility for the Fire Will Become a Subject of Controversy - Historians will generally agree that van der Lubbe was involved in the Reichstag fire. The extent of the damage, however, will lead to considerable debate over whether he acted alone. Considering the speed with which the fire engulfed the building, van der Lubbe’s reputation as a mentally disturbed arsonist hungry for fame, and cryptic comments by leading Nazi officials, it will be generally believed the Nazi hierarchy was involved in starting the fire in order to reap political gain. Journalist William L. Shirer will argue that van der Lubbe was goaded into starting the fire by someone else, while the Nazis set a more elaborate fire at the same time, thereby placing van der Lubbe at the scene of the crime and framing him for an attempted communist takeover. Despite the outcome of the event and the dubious claims by the Nazi Party of a takeover, the issue of responsibility for the fire will still be debated decades later. [Shirer, 10/11/2011, pp. 191-192; Oxford University Press, 12/14/2013] The Enabling Act will be passed by the Reichstag on March 23, 1933. It will be the second major step after the Reichstag Fire Decree through which the Nazis legally establish Nazi Germany by providing the government with legislative powers, effectively handing dictatorial powers to Hitler. [Daily Telegraph, 4/15/2001; Koonz, 11/30/2005, pp. 33; Guardian, 1/12/2008]
Upton Sinclair. [Source: NNDB (.com)]Upton Sinclair, the author of Urban Jungle and a well-known “muckraking” journalist, runs as a Democratic candidate for governor of California. Sinclair has previously run failed campaigns for political office as a Socialist. He runs on a platform of eliminating poverty in California. To beat him back, the California Republican Party hires an ad agency and the first political consulting firm in the country, Whitaker and Baxter. The consulting firm decides that the best way to beat Sinclair is to portray him as a crazed Bolshevik—a “Red.” The firm produces phony newsreels of staged events, and pays for them to be shown at movie houses throughout California. One newsreel depicts crowds of bedraggled hoboes leaping off of a freight train, and one hobo telling the camera, “Sinclair says he’ll take the property of the working people and give it to us.” Another ad depicts an actor with a heavy beard and a thick Russian accent explaining why he will vote for Sinclair: “His system worked well in Russia, so why can’t it work here?” Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM and a powerful California Republican, ensures that the newsreels get near-saturation coverage throughout the state. Sinclair is defeated. In 1990, media pundit Roger Simon will write, “Though more than a half-century has passed, the fundamentals of that first negative video commercial are the same that are used in negative TV ads today: fear, danger, and stereotyping of the enemy.” [Regardie's Magazine, 10/1/1990]
American Liberty League logo. [Source: David Pietrusza]Prominent Democrats and Republicans join together to form the American Liberty League (ALL). The organization, according to the founders, exists “to combat radicalism, preserve property rights, uphold and preserve the Constitution.” ALL spokesman Jouett Shouse says ALL will fight to preserve “traditional American political values.” According to the Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, ALL was organized by “disgruntled business conservatives, Wall Street financiers, right-wing opponents of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and defeated rivals within Roosevelt’s Democratic Party.” ALL is financed by, among others, industrialists Pierre, Irenee, and Lammot du Pont; former Democratic Party chairman John J. Raskob; financier E.F. Hutton; and executive Sewell Avery of the department store chain Montgomery Ward. Most of the politicians in the organization are Republicans, but these are joined by anti-Roosevelt Democrats such as Alfred E. Smith, who ran for president in 1928. Many ALL members were once part of the Association against the Prohibition Amendment, which fought to re-legalize the US liquor industry. ALL unsuccessfully fights to block federal regulations and additional taxes on business, the creation of public power utilities, pro-labor barganing rights, agricultural production controls and subsidies, New Deal relief and public jobs programs, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Social Security, and other Roosevelt-era programs and initiatives. According to the Encyclopedia, “critics effectively lampooned league members as champions of privilege, ungrateful critics of an administration that had saved capitalism, and vindictive and selfish individuals seeking revenge on a president for betraying his social class.” ALL works diligently, but unsuccessfully, to unseat Roosevelt in 1936, backing Republican contender Alfred M. Landon. After Landon loses in a landslide to Roosevelt, the organization fades in prominence. The Encyclopedia concludes that ALL’s “legacy of fund-raising tactics, ideology-driven issues research and public education, and coordination with partisan legislative and electoral campaigns foreshadowed today’s political action committees and independent-expenditure organizations.” [New York Times, 8/23/1934; Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, 1/1/2004] In 2003, columnist Ralph De Toledano will write, “The Liberty League was laughed out of existence by New Yorker cartoonists, who depicted its members looking out over Fifth Avenue and snorting that doomsday was here and Josef Stalin lurked in the bushes.” [Insight, 9/2/2003] In 2010, writer Kevin Drum will compare the American Liberty League to the tea party movement (see September 2010). [Mother Jones, 9/2010]
Entity Tags: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, E.F. Hutton, Alfred M. Landon, Alfred E. Smith, Works Progress Administration, Sewell Avery, Pierre du Pont, American Liberty League, Jouett Shouse, John J. Raskob, Irenee du Pont, Kevin Drum, Lammot du Pont, Ralph De Toledano
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
A photo of the February 1939 Bund rally in Madison Square Garden. The backdrop depicts President George Washington. [Source: US Holocaust Museum]The German-American Bund, the most influential pro-Nazi movement in the US prior to World War II, holds a rally in New York City’s Madison Square Garden that attracts some 20,000 participants. The rally is to protest for the rights of white Gentiles, whom the organization calls the “true patriots” of America. The Bund is led by Fritz Kuhn, an outspoken anti-Semite; at its height, the organization boasts some 25,000 members along with 8,000 “Storm Troopers.” Although the group portrays itself as patriotic Americans, even combining images of George Washington and the Nazi swastika, almost all of the members are German immigrants with ties and/or allegiances to Hitler’s Nazi movement. Public opinion polls show Kuhn is considered the most prominent anti-Semite in the nation. The party has little support outside of a few large cities. Shortly after the rally, Kuhn is investigated, found to have close ties to Germany’s Nazi Party, and eventually jailed for embezzling funds from the organization, causing many members to depart. In December 1941, the US government will outlaw the organization. [The Holocaust Chronicle, 2009; US Holocaust Museum, 2010; US Holocaust Museum, 2010]
Italy occupies Albania, with 50,000 soldiers, 173 ships, and 600 bombers, facing some Albanian civilian volunteers and regular soldiers. The ruling family escapes to Greece and then the UK, though King Zog I does not abdicate. Early on the Italians face resistance from 15,000 Albanians along the coast at Durres, Vlora, Saranda, and Shengjin, as well as inland. Later, 3,000 guerillas seek refugee in the mountains and political resistance begins. Under Italian control, the Constituent Assembly soon proclaims the union of Albania with Italy and invites Italian King Emmanuel III to rule Albania. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 593-595; Kola, 2003, pp. 22]
Koch Industries logo. [Source: Koch Industries / Wikipedia]Oil magnate Fred Koch co-founds Wood River Oil and Refining Company, later renamed Koch Industries. The firm will grow to become one of the largest energy conglomerates in the US, and Koch will become an influential backer of right-wing politics. Koch is a virulent anti-Communist who will be one of the first members of the John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011), a far-right organization that reflects his hatred of Communism (he believes both the Republican and Democratic parties are irretrievably infilitrated by Communists) and opposes almost every aspect of governance in general. Koch will write glowingly of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s murderous suppression of Communists during World War II. Both Koch and the JBS have little use for minorities; of African-Americans, Koch will write, “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America,” and he will say that government welfare programs were designed to attract large numbers of blacks to the cities, where they would foment “a vicious race war.” In 1963, using language that reporter Jane Mayer will later say “prefigures the Tea Party’s talk of a secret socialist plot,” Koch will warn that Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the US until the president is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.” Koch’s two sons, David and Charles, will have their father’s political views deeply ingrained into them (see August 30, 2010). In 2007, David Koch will tell a reporter: “He was constantly speaking to us children about what was wrong with government.… It’s something I grew up with—a fundamental point of view that big government was bad, and imposition of government controls on our lives and economic fortunes was not good.” Gus diZerega, once a close friend of Charles’s, will later say that the brothers transfer their father’s hatred of Communism to the US government, which they will come to view as a tyranny. DiZerega will write that the Kochs, like many other hard-right conservatives, redefine “socialism” as almost any form of government which taxes citizens and regulates businesses. [New Yorker, 8/30/2010]
In accord with the Vienna pact, Germany takes Trepca for its mines, as well as the Lab, Vucitrn, and Dezevo (Novi Pazar) districts, creating a territory called the Kosovo Department. Security forces composed of, and led by, Albanians are formed—a gendarmerie of about 1,000 and about 1,000 irregulars, called the Vulnetara. Bulgaria annexes the Gnjilane, Kacanik, and Vitin districts. Italy takes much of Kosovo and the towns of Debar, Tetovo, Gostivar, and Struga, about 11,780 square kilometers and 820,000 people. In May this area is merged with Albania, occupied by Italy on April 7, 1939. Albanian forces are raised by the Italian army, Albanian is spoken in government and education for the first time, and the Albanian flag flies in Italian Kosovo. Albanians are able to freely travel through Albanian areas. Serbs and Montenegrins are imprisoned, deported for forced labor, or killed by occupation forces. Many are deported to Pristina and Mitrovica to labor in the mines of Trepca, or to Albania for construction. According to Serbs, Albanian attacks, generally against settlers, force about 10,000 Slavic families to leave Kosovo. Collaboration and resistance groups form throughout the occupied Balkans. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 121-122; Kola, 2003, pp. 22-23]
In an article, “The National Question in Yugoslavia in the Light of the National Liberation Struggle,” published in the newspaper Proleter, communist partisan leader Josip Broz Tito writes: “The question of Macedonia, the question of Kosovo and Metohija, the question of Montenegro, the question of Croatia, the question of Bosnia-Herzegovina will easily be solved to the general satisfaction of all only if resolved by the people themselves, and this right each people will win gun in hand, in the present national liberation struggle.… The words ‘National Liberation Struggle’ would be a mere phrase, or even a deception, if they did not, in addition to the all-Yugoslav meaning, have a national significance for each people separately.” This contrasts with Tito’s developing view that Yugoslavia’s territorial integrity should be preserved after the war, instead of allowing self-determination for each nationality. [Kola, 2003, pp. 47-48]
Through communist leader Miladin Popovic, the Communist Party of Albania (CPA) tells the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) that it has a mistaken policy in Kosova and the Dukagjin Plateau and needs to allow the region to have “its own leadership, emerged from the war, of which the majority must at all costs consist of Albanians; they should have their own national liberation council, the composition of which should not be dictated.” The CPA also says Kosova should have its own partisan organization, under the Yugoslav General Staff. Also, the CPA wants the CPY to “clearly and frankly” tell Kosovars that, after the occupiers are driven out, “they, like the others, will enjoy the complete and undeniable right to self-determination up the secession.” The CPY refuses to change its position and communist leader Josip Broz Tito says the proposals “would in fact gratify the enemies of the Marxist-Leninist struggle in Yugoslavia and all the reactionary and fascist cliques, which are wanting to wrest piece by piece from the democratic movement of the peoples of Yugoslavia by bringing to the foreground not the question of fighting the enemy but delimitation, national antagonisms, etc.” [Kola, 2003, pp. 50-51]
The Communist Party of Yugoslavia advocates national independence in the anti-fascist struggle, and puts off questions of unification until peace is established. Scholar Branka Magas will later analyze this decision as reflecting British opposition to a Balkan union and concerns that the Allies might land and try to divide Yugoslavia into a communist west and capitalist east. [Kola, 2003, pp. 84]
Following an initial meeting on July 23 in Zall i Herrit, representatives of the National Liberation Council meet with the Balli Kombetar leadership at Mukje, Kruja district, on August 1 and 2. CPA Political Bureau member Ymer Dishnica leads a 12-member delegation, including non-communists Abaz Kupi and Myslim Peza. The Ballist delegation includes their chair, Mit-hat Frasheri. According to Enver Hoxha, the NLC delegation is told that unity must be based on the Balli Kombetar fighting the occupation and not continuing to fight the NLC’s forces or the CPA, then there could be “a broad conference to lay on the table and discuss many problems concerning unity.” Hoxha’s goal is to persuade the Balli Kombetar to fight the Italians and join the NLC, at the same time preventing it from being a rival military and political force. The result of the meeting is a plan to create a Committee for the Salvation of Albania, with each side having six representatives, by August 8. The Committee is to lead the guerrilla war until an independent, democratic, and “ethnic Albania” (including Albanian areas left out of the 1913 borders) is established. The Committee plans to dissolve when a provisional government is established. An election with universal suffrage is planned, to establish a constitutional assembly to determine Albania’s post-liberation government. During this time, Mussolini’s government loses power in Italy, so the delegates also call for a declaration of independence. Each side signs, with final approval pending from their organizations, and a proclamation signed by the Committee and the Ballists, and not mentioning the NLC or fascism, is released. The NLC rejects the agreement. Hoxha later says “Our comrades [at Mukje] did not know how to defend the line of the National Liberation Front, but fell right into the lap of the ‘Balli Kombetar‘… what they talked about there was ‘independent Albania’ and ‘ethnic Albania,’ and the war of today was forgotten.” He sees the proclamation of independence as a Ballist grab for credit and a way to “blot out April 12, 1939, because three quarters of the Ballists had recognized the Accord of the Crown [giving it to Italy], while we had never recognized it.” Yugoslav sources claim Hoxha tries to prevent open armed struggle with the Balli Kombetar. Miladin Popovic reportedly says: “[T]his union [with the Ballists] cannot be accepted. We are being strengthened with each passing day.… Then, this ethnic Albania! Impossible!” Dishnica claims that he acts at Mukje on directives from the CPA leadership. Subsequently, Abaz Kupi abandons the NLC and creates the Legaliteti, arguing that Zog is Albania’s legitimate leader. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 172-189; Kola, 2003, pp. 41-44]
Entity Tags: Enver Hoxha, Albanian National Liberation Council, Ahmet Zog I, Abaz Kupi, Balli Kombetar, Committee for the Salvation of Albania, Legaliteti, Myslim Peza, Italy, Party of Labor of Albania, Mit’hat Frasheri, Miladin Popovic, Ymer Dishnica
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
A second Albanian National Liberation Conference is held and publicly states that the Mukje agreement (see August 1-2, 1943) is “an act that violated the fundamental principles of the Peza Conference and ran counter to the interests of the war and the unity of the Albanian people.” It also decides “to take a clear stand against [the pro-western Balli Kombetar], to expose its anti-national and anti-people policy.” The Ballists are accused of undermining the National Liberation Movement by calling it “a Communist movement,” fanning chauvinism by saying Serbia and Greece are threats, and obstructing the national liberation war. They allow the possibility of cooperation, as long as the Ballists “participate in the uncompromising and relentless war against the invaders” and agree that the national liberation councils are “the sole people’s power.” The Conference states that the way to self-determination for Kosova and Cameria, an Albanian-inhabited region in Greece, is through the national liberation war. The Conference also increases the General Council from the seven representatives elected at Peza to 62, creates rules with the goal of making the NLC into Albania’s legitimate government, and integrates new anti-fascist organizations, such as the Anti-fascist Youth Union. [PLA, 1971, pp. 169-172; Kola, 2003, pp. 57]
Italy surrenders to the Allies, but the Italian commander in Albania tells his forces to surrender to the German military. About 15,000 surrender to the Albanians, and about 1,500 are organized into the “Antonio Gramsci” Battalion of the 1st Storm Brigade of the Albanian National Liberation Army. Meanwhile, about 70,000 German soldiers invade Albania. According to the official PLA history, the Germans say they are liberating Albania from Italy and that they will protect Albanian independence in exchange for Albania joining their anti-communist war. [PLA, 1971, pp. 173-174]
The US Supreme Court upholds by a 6-3 vote the legitimacy of Executive Order 9066 issued by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, 1942 that mandated all Americans of Japanese heritage to report to internment camps during World War II. Writing for the Court in the case of Korematsu v. United States, Justice Hugo Black finds that an executive order based on race is “suspect,” but says that the “emergency circumstances” of wartime make the order necessary and constitutional. Forty-four years later, in 1988, Congress will formally apologize and issue monetary reparations to Japanese-American families who had been forced into the camps. [PBS, 12/2006; Los Angeles Times, 5/24/2011] In 2011, acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal will state that his predecessor during the case, Charles Fahy, deliberately hid evidence from the Court that concluded Japanese-Americans posed no security or military threat. The report from the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) found that no evidence of Japanese-American disloyalty existed, and that no Japanese-Americans had acted as spies or had signaled enemy submarines, as some at the time believed. Katyal will say that he has a “duty of absolute candor in our representations to the Court.” Katyal will say that two government lawyers informed Fahy he was engaging in “suppression of evidence,” but Fahy refused to give the report to the Court. Instead, Fahy told the Court that the forced internment of Japanese-Americans was a “military necessity.” Fahy’s arguments swayed the Court’s opinion, Katyal will state. “It seemed obvious to me we had made a mistake. The duty of candor wasn’t met,” Katyal will say. [Los Angeles Times, 5/24/2011]
The Third and Fifth Divisions of the Albanian National Liberation Army pursue German forces into Yugoslavia, in coordination with Yugoslav forces. Author Peter Prifti will later say around 15,000 Albanians fight in Yugoslavia and 350 or more die there. They fight in Kosova (including Pristina and Novi Pazar), Montenegro, western Macedonia, a portion of Serbia, and the Sandjak region in southern Bosnia-Herzegovina, going as far as Visegrad, almost 80 miles away from Albania. Albania is alone among the European socialist states in liberating itself with only its own forces in World War II, which Front, a Yugoslav military magazine, will admit in the early 70s, breaking decades of unacknowledgment. [Prifti, 1978, pp. 197-198]
The Central Committee of the CPA convenes at Berat for its Second Plenum, along with CPY representative Velimir Stoinic. Sejfulla Maleshova and Pandi Kristo become CC members just before the meeting, apparently in a way that violates party rules. Along with organizational secretary Koci Xoxe, they are later accused of conspiring with Stoinic to attack the CPA. Some charges are that the CPA is not communist and that it acts both sectarian and opportunist. Liri Gega is removed from the Central Committee “for sectarianism and pronounced adventurism,” and those individual charges are said to come from the entire party’s policy. Maleshova says the CPA is becoming a terrorist “band of criminals,” for actions like the execution of Mustafa Gjinishi, one of the CPA’s representatives at the Mukje meeting. Xoxe says “a gang of four,” starting with Miladin Popovic, lead the CPA. Stoinic also criticizes the CPA and says: “You are small, a good bite for imperialism. You can’t hold power without Yugoslavia, especially present-day Yugoslavia.” Therefore, the two countries should have close links: “Their exact shape cannot be revealed at this conference, but let the link be confederal or closer than that. This is your perspective, this is what you should inculcate in people’s minds.” This is the first time the CPY’s wish to join the two countries is mentioned in public. Stoinic also says Tito should be praised more. Relying on documents published after capitalism is restored in Albania, Paulin Kola will later say that Hoxha and the rest of the CPA completely accepted the criticisms, and that Hoxha also blamed Popovic and Dusan Mugosa of the CPY, but Hoxha’s memoirs say that he rejected the charges against the CPA. The Central Committee is also enlarged by 18 at the Berat Plenum. [PLA, 1971, pp. 227-231; Kola, 2003, pp. 58-61]
Entity Tags: Enver Hoxha, Dusan Mugosa, Albania, Koci Xoxe, Velimir Stoinic, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia, Sejfulla Maleshova, Miladin Popovic, Paulin Kola, Pandi Kristo, Party of Labor of Albania, Mustafa Gjinishi
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Portion of a 1955 cartoon warning against the evils of three government health programs, including water fluoridation. [Source: Spectator]As World War II is coming to a close, the US Public Health Service (USPHS) begins a pilot program in Michigan to add fluoride to selected cities’ water supply, as a tooth-decay preventative. By 1950, 87 American towns and cities volunteer to have the agency fluoridate their water supply. By the early 1950s, water fluoridation is compulsory. Studies show that children between the ages of 5 and 9 show significantly smaller rates of cavities and tooth decay when they regularly drink fluoridated water, though studies of older children and adults are less clear. As the federal government begins rolling out its mandatory fluoridation program, far-right organizations such as the John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011) and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) begin taking rigid stances against it. The JBS, a staunchly anti-Communist organization, accuses the federal government of imposing “creeping socialism” and “Soviet Communism” on the nation by making fluoridated water mandatory, and warns Americans against the government “polluting our precious bodily fluids.” (In 1993, JBS member Murray N. Rothbard differentiates between the brands of communism at work, saying, “[N]o, not Bolsheviks, guys: but a Menshevik-State Capitalist alliance.”) The JBS, in accusations later echoed by Rothbard, accuses the government of working with aluminum manufacturer Alcoa to dump sodium fluoride, a byproduct of aluminum manufacturing, into the nation’s water supply and rid Alcoa of the cost of disposing of the substance. The 1964 satirical film Dr. Strangelove features a character, General Jack D. Ripper, shouting, “Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?” [New American, 1/1993; Reason, 12/5/2001; Hileman, 5/2008] In 1988, the Fluoride Action Network notes that the two opposing camps—fluoridation is beneficial and has no side effects vs. fluoridation is useless and harmful—have fought to an argumentative standstill, with no middle ground between the two. Jacqueline Warren, an attorney with the National Resources Defense Council, says, “Neither side has given the other one rational moment.” [Hileman, 5/2008] In the early 1990s, environmentalist and public health safety groups begin calling for new examinations of the impact of fluoride on the human body, pointing to “valid concerns” about fluoride having a toxic impact on the human body and on the environment. In 2008, one JBS member warns, perhaps sardonically, “Don’t be surprised if we learn soon that the fluoride in Chinese toothpaste is nuclear waste from North Korea.” [Reason, 12/5/2001; Mother Jones, 5/2008]
Miladin Popovic, secretary of the Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) for Kosova, is assassinated. Yugoslavia says that Haki Taha, a nationalist Albanian teacher from Tirana, is responsible, but Albania will later say it was done by the Yugoslav secret service, because Popovic advocates letting Kosovars decide whether to stay in Yugoslavia or not. Yugoslavia names Popovic a national martyr. [Kola, 2003, pp. 62]
The New World News, a British Moral Rearmament publication, prints what it calls the “Communist Rules for Revolution,” claiming that the “rules” were captured during a raid on a German Communist organization’s headquarters in Dusseldorf in 1919 by Allied forces during World War I, and published in the Bartlesville, Oklahoma (US) Examiner-Enterprise that same year. In 1946, the NWN writes, the attorney general of Florida, George A. Brautigam, obtained them from a known member of the Communist Party, who told him that the “Rules” were then still a part of the Communist program for the United States. According to the NWN, the “Rules” are as follows:
Corrupt the young; get them away from religion. Get them interested in sex. Make them superficial; destroy their ruggedness.
Get control of all means of publicity, thereby:
Get people’s minds off their government by focusing their attention on athletics, sexy books, plays, and immoral movies.
Divide the people into hostile groups by constantly harping on controversial matters of no importance.
Destroy the people’s faith in their natural leaders by holding the latter up to contempt, ridicule, and obloquy.
Always preach true democracy, but seize power as fast and as ruthlessly as possible.
By encouraging government extravagance, destroy its credit, produce years of inflation with rising prices and general discontent.
Incite unnecessary strikes in vital industries, encourage civil disorders, and foster a lenient and soft attitude on the part of government toward such disorders.
Cause breakdown of the old moral values—honesty, sobriety, self-restraint, faith in the pledged word, ruggedness.
Cause the registration of all firearms on some pretext, with a view to confiscating them and leaving the populace helpless.
The “Rules” are a hoax invented by NWN writers: there was no German Communist “Spartacist” headquarters in Dusseldorf, the Examiner-Enterprise never published such a document, and Russian experts at the University of Chicago will label them an “obvious fraud,” “an obvious fabrication,” and “an implausible concoction of American fears and phobias.” In 1970, the New York Times will investigate the document; no copies of it exist in the National Archives, the Library of Congress, or any of the university libraries it examines. Montana Senator Lee Metcalf (D-MT) will look into the document’s existence around the same time, and will learn that both the FBI and CIA have already investigated it and found it to be “completely spurious.” (Brautigam did endorse the “Rules,” and his statement and signature avowing the legitimacy of the “Rules” will give the document a veneer of legitimacy.) However, the “Rules” will continue to be used to claim that Communists are for a number of ideas unpopular among European and American conservatives, most frequently gun control and sex education. The National Rifle Association is one organization that frequently cites the “Rules” in its arguments against gun-control legislation, citing the Communists’ “secret plans” to “confiscate” Americans’ guns and thus “leav[e] the populace helpless.” American and British lawmakers regularly receive copies of the “Rules” in letters and faxes citing their opposition to gun control, sex education, support for labor, or other “Communist” ideals or entities. In 1992, University of Oklahoma political science professor John George and his co-author Laird Wilcox will write in their book Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe, “Widely distributed since the mid-forties, the ‘rules’ have been trundled out at various times when they ‘fit’ or ‘explain’ the issues of the day, especially to argue against firearms control and sex education.” In April 1996, George will say: “These people [meaning far-right American extremists] would love for the document to be real. But it has been exposed again and again as a phony.” Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand will write: “The rules have to do with dividing people into hostile groups, encouraging government extravagance, and fomenting unnecessary ‘strikes’ in vital industries. What we have lost, the list suggests, is a world without dissent, budget deficits, inflation, and labor unrest. I just can’t remember any such Golden Age.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. xx; Free Inquiry, 1999; Rosa Luxemburg, 2003; Snopes (.com), 7/10/2007]
Albania is allowed to participate in the Paris Peace Conference, regarding the post-war settlements between the Allies and Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Finland, but is not a full participant, instead being classed with Austria. The Albanian government argues that it was a full member of the Allied effort, fielding 70,000 Albanian Partisans, including 6,000 women, against around 100,000 Italians and 70,000 Germans. It says Italy and Germany suffered 53,639 casualties and prisoners and lost 100 armored vehicles, 1,334 artillery pieces, 1,934 trucks, and 2,855 machine guns destroyed or taken in Albania. Out of its population of one million, Albania says 28,000 were killed, 12,600 wounded, 10,000 were political prisoners, and 35,000 were made to do forced labor. Albania says 850 out of 2,500 of its communities were destroyed by the war.
Disputed by Greece - To oppose Albania’s demands, Greece argues that Albania is at war with it. Greece also claims Gjirokastra and Korca, south of the Shkumbin River, and there is some fighting along the border. By 11 votes to seven, with two abstentions, the conference votes to discuss Greece’s territorial claims. Italian King Victor Emmanuel III blames Albania for the invasion of Greece, and Greece points to a declaration of war by the Albanian occupation government after Daut Hoxha was found murdered at the border in summer 1940.
Hoxha's Address - Enver Hoxha addresses the conference. He points to hundreds of Albanians conscripted by Italy who deserted or joined the Greeks, who then treated them as POWs. Many were later sent to Crete and joined British forces who landed there. Others joined the Albanian Partisans or were captured by Italy, court-martialed for “high treason,” and imprisoned in the Shijak concentration camp. There are other cases of attacks on Italian forces by Albanian soldiers. Hoxha also mentions attacks on Albania by Greeks, such as the over 50 homes in Konispol burned by German soldiers guided by a captain under Greek collaborationist General Napoleon Zervas on September 8, 1943. His forces also joined German forces in their winter 1943-44 Albanian offensive. They invaded and burned again in June 1944. Hoxha refutes Greek claims that Albania is treading on the rights of the Greek minority, which Albania numbers at 35,000. There are 79 schools using Greek, one secondary school, autonomous Greek local government, and Greeks in the government and military. Between 1913 and 1923, Hoxha claims there were 60,000 Albanians in Greece, 35,000 of whom were classified as Turks and deported to Turkey in exchange for Turkish Greeks. In June 1944 and March 1945 Zervas’ forces attacked Greek Albanians, and at least 20,000 fled to Albania. Hoxha will later say that what Albania terms the “monarcho-fascist” Greek government commits 683 military provocations against Albania from its founding to October 15, 1948. Hoxha claims the Greek prime minister tells a Yugoslav official at the Peace Conference that he is open to dividing Albania with Yugoslavia, but Yugoslavia refuses. Hoxha tells the conference, “We solemnly declare that within our present borders there is not one square inch of foreign soil, and we will never permit anyone to encroach upon them, for to us they are sacred.” Italy is accused of harboring Albanian and Italian war criminals, including “fascists” who assassinated an Albanian sergeant at the Allied Mediterranean High Command in Bari in March. The Italian politicians are accused of threatening Albania during recent elections. In conclusion, Hoxha asks that the Peace Conference further limit Italy’s post-war military, claims Italy committed 3,544,232,626 gold francs worth of damage in Albania, and Albania wants to be classified as an “associated power.”
US, British Opposition - These requests are opposed by the UK and US. Albania afterward considers its share of the reparations to be too low. The UK and US will later oppose Albanian participation in the Moscow conference on peace with Germany, held in March-April 1947. An American delegate will say: “We are of the opinion that, first, Albania is not a neighbor of Germany, and second, it did not take part in the war against Germany. Only some individual Albanians, perhaps, took part in this war, but apart from this there were also Albanians who fought side by side with the Germans.” [PLA, 1971, pp. 258; Hoxha, 1974, pp. 539-542, 593-614; Hoxha, 1975, pp. 90-91, 99]
Entity Tags: Turkey, Greece, Germany, Enver Hoxha, Daut Hoxha, Albanian Partisans, Albania, Italy, Napoleon Zervas, Victor Emmanuel III, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Yugoslavia, United States of America, United Kingdom
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Yugoslav fighter planes land in Tirana, apparently without permission. Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha brings this complaint up with Stalin at their meeting on July 16, and says that Yugoslavia admits it was a mistake to violate Albanian airspace. According to Hoxha, Stalin replies in part, “It is a very good thing that you have friendly Yugoslavia on your border, because Albania is a small country and as such needs strong support from its friends,” and Hoxha agrees generally. However, Yugoslav official Vladimir Dedijer will claim in 1949 that the fighters are requested by the Albanian General Staff and that Hoxha visited central Albania accompanied by the fighters, at his request. [Hoxha, 1979, pp. 73; Kola, 2003, pp. 88]
Yugoslavia’s envoy to Albania Savo Zlatic tells the Albanian leadership that, while the Central Committee of the CPA is dealing properly with Yugoslavia, there is another anti-Yugoslav position in Albania. Hoxha will later recount in The Titoites, “Whenever we raised any opposition, [the Yugoslavs] immediately thought that the Soviets ‘had prompted us,’ although, without denying their merits, in 1946 and even 1947 the Soviets regarded us mostly through the eye of the Yugoslavs.” He will specifically mention that Zlatic complains to him that an Albanian has insulted Yugoslavia by disagreeing with a Yugoslav adviser on cotton in front of Albanian farmers, with the implication that the Albanian was repeating Soviet advice, because Albanians are ignorant about cotton farming. Hoxha will write that he says, “Leave the specialists to get on with their discussions, Comrade Zlatic, because this does not impair your prestige or ours or even that of the cotton!” Hoxha will say that two or three days later, Economy Minister Nako Spiru reports that Zlatic said, “there are two economic lines in our country: the line of the Central Committee, which is correct in principle, and, parallel with this, the concretization of a second line in practice, contrary to that of the Central Committee,” which Spiru sees as an attack on him. According to Paulin Kola, only Spiru publicly opposes the economic integration, and he is the highest ranking official in close contact with Soviet officials. Zlatic objects to the slow pace of economic integration and what Yugoslavia sees as Albanian appeals to the Soviets. Specifically, the unification of prices in the two countries is supposed to be done in May, but takes until late June, and rates of pay issues in late May are not resolved until July. On June 20 or 21, Hoxha sends Spiru and Koci Xoxe, who is close to Zlatic, to meet with Zlatic about the Yugoslav concerns. Xoxe believes the accusation should be investigated, and there is tension between him and Spiru. The Albanian leadership rejects the charge of two lines, and Xoxe does not put up opposition. [Hoxha, 1982, pp. 327-335; Kola, 2003, pp. 87-88]
When his plane lands in Leningrad on a trip to the Soviet Union, Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha receives a letter from Albanian Economy Minister Nako Spiru. The letter says that Yugoslav communist leader Svetozar Vukmanovic-Tempo told Albanian Interior Minister Koci Xoxe in Tirana before the delegation left for the USSR, “The union of Yugoslavia with Bulgaria has been achieved in principle. It is not good that Albania should lag behind.” When Hoxha asks Xoxe about it in Leningrad, Xoxe denies that it happened. Hoxha will later claim he first learns of the impending union of Albania with Yugoslavia from Yugoslavia’s envoy to Albania Savo Zlatic in November 1947, leading him to believe Xoxe lied in July. [Hoxha, 1982, pp. 362-363]
Yugoslavia’s envoy to Albania Savo Zlatic requests a meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Enver Hoxha and Interior Minister Koci Xoxe regarding the views of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) on relations between the two countries. According to Hoxha’s later account, Zlatic starts by saying, “A general decline in our relations is being observed, and especially in the economy our relations are quite sluggish.” The Yugoslavs say disputes in joint enterprises are constantly being taken to an arbitration commission, that there is an improper attitude towards the Yugoslav advisers, and that Albanians are accusing the Yugoslavs of not fulfilling their obligations while being lax about fulfilling their own commitments.
Plans for a Balkan Federation - Zlatic says Yugoslav relations with Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria are advancing much more than relations with Albania. Further, Zlatic says Albania’s draft five-year plan is autarchic, in going beyond grain growing and light industry, when the Yugoslavs can provide the products of heavy industry. Hoxha will later say that the Albanian leadership never intended to make their economy “an appendage of the Yugoslav economy” in the way Zlatic is suggesting, although perhaps Albanian Economy Minister Nako Spiru did when he signed an Economic Convention in Belgrade (see November 27, 1946). Hoxha says Spiru kept silent about any concerns he had. Hoxha will also later claim that Xoxe knew of plans for union between Yugoslavia and Albania, but he did not. Zlatic says “The present-day Yugoslavia is its embryo, the nucleus of the federation [of Yugoslavia, Albania, and Bulgaria],” and “In practice the ‘economic union’ is the federation itself.” The Yugoslav plan is to form joint military, culture, and foreign policies later, and include additional countries. The leadership should only talk about economic unification for the time being, Zlatic says, but “this is the best way for the rapid development of the relations of our joint economies,” which is a necessity for Albania. Therefore, Zlatic says, this is not Yugoslav “pressure” to unify. Zlatic says Spiru “put his trust in the advice of the Soviets” regarding the five-year plan, creating a “wrong, unrealistic, anti-Yugoslav and anti-Albanian” plan. Hoxha will later recount saying that the Albanian leadership sent Spiru to consult the Soviets and backs the plan. Yugoslavia calls for a strengthened Co-ordination Commission, as “a kind of joint economic government,” but Zlatic cannot give Hoxha details. The Yugoslavs have not allocated funds for Albania’s five-year plan, so Zlatic says there should only be a one-year plan for 1948. Scholar Paulin Kola will later write that Zlatic says Albania receives more aid than a republic of Yugoslavia and that Zlatic repeats the Yugoslav demand that Albania not make economic agreements with other countries without Yugoslavia’s approval.
Yugoslavs Accuse Spiru of Treason - Zlatic blames all of the problems on Spiru and his allies, while Hoxha expresses doubt and says Spiru is not in control. Zlatic says Spiru lied about Yugoslavia promising 21 billion dinars to Albania. Hoxha will later say that the Vice-President of the State Planning Commission, Kico Ngjela, verifies that the Yugoslavs promised the funding. Spiru is allegedly an “agent of imperialism” sabotaging Yugoslavia’s relations with Albania and the USSR. Hoxha requests Zlatic’s statements in writing, and Zlatic is evasive. Hoxha will later say the Yugoslavs’ real attack was on him, and that the allegations were a signal to Xoxe to try to replace him. [PLA, 1971, pp. 312; Hoxha, 1974, pp. 750 -753; Hoxha, 1982, pp. 353-373; Kola, 2003, pp. 89-90]
Through Soviet influence, an Albanian delegation headed by Prime Minister Enver Hoxha, and including Interior Minister Koci Xoxe, Hysni Kapo, and Kristo Themelko is invited to Bulgaria. Hoxha later recounts that the Yugoslavs do not know about the invitation until he informs the Yugoslav ambassador. The delegation stops in Belgrade on December 12 and meets with Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito. Xoxe and Themelko also meet with Yugoslav Interior Minister Alexsandr Rankovic, which Hoxha will later say was probably at Rankovic’s request. The first night in Bulgaria, Hoxha says Xoxe and Themelko tell him he should have praised Tito more in the meetings with the Bulgarians. Later Xoxe says the Treaty of Friendship, Collaboration and Mutual Aid with Bulgaria should be in agreement with the Yugoslavs, and his amendment is added. According to the official PLA history, Xoxe tries to make the treaty dependent on Yugoslav approval, but Hoxha prevents this. According to academic Paulin Kola, Bulgarian leader Georgii Dimitrov says an eastern European federation, including Greece, is inevitable, an idea quickly rejected subsequently in an issue of the Soviet newspaper Pravda. Hoxha’s account says the Albanians do not reveal their tensions with Yugoslavia to the Bulgarian leadership. The delegation again stops in Belgrade on the way back, but Hoxha says they are received by lower ranking leaders than before, with a colder reception, and are told Tito is in Romania. [PLA, 1971, pp. 313; Hoxha, 1982, pp. 391-418; Kola, 2003, pp. 91-92]
Entity Tags: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Greece, Georgi Dimitrov, Enver Hoxha, Bulgaria, Alexander Rankovic, Albania, Hysni Kapo, Josip Broz Tito, Koci Xoxe, Kristo Themelko, Yugoslavia, Romania, Soviet Communist Party, Paulin Kola, Party of Labor of Albania, Pravda
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
President Harry Truman triumphantly displays a newspaper headline declaring victory for his opponent, Thomas Dewey. Dewey lost the election. [Source: Electoral-Vote (.com)]Advertising executive Thomas Rosser Reeves Jr. approaches Republican presidential candidate Thomas Dewey and offers to produce television ads for the Dewey campaign. Dewey is even with Democratic incumbent Harry Truman in the polls. “This could be a close election,” Reeves says. “I can pretty much tell which states are going to be close. If you would start two or three weeks before Election Day and saturate those critical states with spots, it could swing the election.” Reeves may be aware of the powerful impact negative newsreels had on the 1934 California gubernatorial election (see 1934). Dewey refuses, saying, “I don’t think it would be dignified.” Dewey subsequently loses one of the closest presidential elections in US history. In 1990, media pundit Roger Simon will write: “In 1948 there were fewer than 500,000 TV sets in America. Four years later there were nearly 19 million. And nobody ever said no to television again.” [Regardie's Magazine, 10/1/1990]
In a letter dated January 26, 1948, and delivered by Yugoslav General Milan Kupresanin, Tito tells Albanian leader Enver Hoxha that Greece, aided by the British and Americans, is about to invade Albania, so Yugoslavia wants to quietly station a division and supporting soldiers in the Korca region. Academic Paulin Kola will later claim that Albania proposes that the Albanian and Yugoslav soldiers should be under a unified command, as a step towards military unification. In his memoir, The Titoites, Hoxha will say that he tells Kupresanin that the request has to be discussed by the leadership and that he personally is against it. Kristo Themelko and Chief of the Albanian General Staff Beqir Balluku, who replaced Hoxha ally Mehmet Shehu, previously met with Tito and said Albania would accept the military assistance. Kupresanin comes with a team to survey the area. Hoxha replies that Albania can defend itself, the Greek government forces are wrapped up in an offensive against the Greek Democratic Army, the plan should not be hidden from the Albanian public, and that hosting the division would destabilize the region. Hoxha says to Kupresanin that “the worst thing would be if, from such a precipitate action, enemies or friends were to accuse us that Albania has been occupied by the Yugoslav troops!” and says Kupresanin briefly blanched. Xoci Xoxe is also at the meeting and supports the Yugoslav request, and says action should be taken quickly. Kupresanin is insulted when Hoxha says Yugoslavia should reinforce its own border with Greece if war is so imminent. Privately, Hoxha believes that “the urgent dispatch of Yugoslav to our territory would serve as an open blackmail to ensure that matters in the [Eighth] Plenum would go in the way that suited the Yugoslavs.” In a report to the Tirana party organization on October 4, 1948, Hoxha will say Yugoslavia was seeking to create “a phobia of imminent war” and divide Albania from the Soviets by “the stationing of a Yugoslav division in Korca and the dispatch of other divisions.” Since he cannot stop the Plenum from being held in February, he tries to stop the division from being approved, by requesting advice from the Soviets. The Soviet government subsequently says it does not expect a Greek invasion and that it agrees with Hoxha. In With Stalin, Hoxha will say that Stalin will tell him in spring 1949 that the USSR was not aware of the situation, though Yugoslavia claimed to be acting with Soviet approval.
Yugoslav Accounts - Subsequent memoirs by Yugoslav leaders Milovan Djilas, Edvard Kardelj, and Vladimir Dedjier will say that Albania was already hosting a Yugoslav air force regiment, and that Yugoslavia wanted to station two army divisions, at Albania’s request. Dedjier says that Stalin wanted Hoxha to make the request, and Jon Holliday will later outline several interpretations, based on the various possibly inaccurate accounts.
The Yugoslav Reaction - According to Hoxha’s report to the Tirana party organization, after Albania rejects the division, the Yugoslav envoy, presumably Kupresanin, calls for reorganization of the Albanian military, new roads and bridges to accommodate Yugoslav tanks, stringing new telegraph wires, and the mobilization of 10,000 soldiers and mules for transport, over two to three months. The Yugoslav also says Albania should tell the Soviets that it wants the Yugoslav division and ask why the Soviets oppose it. He asserts that Albania would only be able to defend itself for 10 days, while it would take 15 days for Yugoslav forces to reach southern Albania, and the UN would get involved, preventing Yugoslav intervention, which would be Hoxha’s fault. Albania agrees to make improvements and mobilize the soldiers and mules, on Yugoslav credits. Hoxha says the Yugoslavs are working through Kristo Themelko, who two or three times tells the Political Bureau that Albania needs to unify with Yugoslavia to carry out these measures. After March 30, Yugoslavia will reduce its involvement with Albania after a critical letter from the Central Committee of the CPSU(B) to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 763 - 767; Hoxha, 1979, pp. 92-93; Hoxha, 1982, pp. 439-446; Halliday and Hoxha, 1986, pp. 106-108; Kola, 2003, pp. 93]
Entity Tags: Milovan Djilas, Paulin Kola, Greece, Milan Kupresanin, Mehmet Shehu, League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Soviet Communist Party, Josip Broz Tito, Kristo Themelko, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom, United Nations, Albania, Beqir Balluku, Eduard Kardelj, Enver Hoxha, Yugoslavia, Jon Halliday, United States of America, Vladimir Dedijer, Greek Democratic Army
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
At the Eighth Plenum of the Communist Party of Albania’s Central Committee, Yugoslavia’s criticism of the CPA and the Yugoslav plan to accelerate unification are endorsed. Koci Xoxe, as interior minister and the CPA’s organizational secretary, uses his power to threaten, remove, or arrest people. Mehmet Shehu is barred from the meeting. In an unusual turn, there is no report to the Plenum, other than what Prime Minister and CPA General Secretary Enver Hoxha will call “a so-called conclusion of a meeting of the Political Bureau,” presented by Xoxe. According to Hoxha, Xoxe conspires with Xhoxhi Blushi, Nesti Kerenxhi, Pellumb Dishnica, Tahir Kadare, Gjin Marku, and others, who turn the meeting from questions of substance to reviewing alleged misconduct by the recently deceased Economy Minister Nako Spiru and others. Hoxha does accept some of the criticisms of Spiru, Liri Belishova (Spiru’s wife), and Shehu; many years later Belishova and later Shehu will be charged with treason. At the Plenum, it is implied that Hoxha allowed Spiru to act. Xoxe and Pandi Kristo urge the Plenum to expand its criticism of the leadership, but Hoxha will later say his clean record prevented attack, and he makes few comments. According to Hoxha, Xoxe comes close to accusing him of leading a faction with Spiru. Nonetheless, Hoxha later says that he thinks the majority in the CPA and Albania do not approve of the Plenum’s conclusions. The Political Bureau is enlarged. A committee is formed to draft a resolution to be approved at a later Plenum.
Results of the Plenum - According to the official party history, Xoxe uses intimidation and surveillance to control the party and plans to execute opponents, weakens mass organizations such as the unions, and wants to abolish the Communist Youth Organization, formerly headed by Spiru. Yugoslav advisers become unquestionable. The Co-ordination Commission becomes “almost a second government,” and joint companies come under Yugoslav control. Fraternization is encouraged to make unification look like a popular demand. Hoxha prevents Xoxe from expelling all Soviet advisers, merging the Albanian military with the Yugoslav military, and unifying the countries. Subsequently Savo Zlatic, Xoxe, Kristo, and Themelko will say the Soviet advisers are generally no longer needed, but Hoxha, Hysni Kapo, and Gogo Nushi are able to keep them in the country. Yugoslavia wants Albania to request unification, and the Political Bureau decides to ask for clarification from Yugoslavia and the USSR leadership.
Varying Accounts - According to Albanian academic Paulin Kola, Hoxha will endorse federation at a Political Bureau meeting on March 14 and say that was the plan from the beginning, and is ready for formal announcement. Kola will portray both Hoxha and Xoxe as pro-Yugoslav and pro-Soviet. [PLA, 1971, pp. 314-317; Hoxha, 1982, pp. 446-469; Kola, 2003, pp. 92]
Entity Tags: Nako Spiru, Nesti Kerenxhi, Enver Hoxha, Mehmet Shehu, Liri Belishova, Kristo Themelko, Pandi Kristo, Hysni Kapo, Koci Xoxe, Party of Labor of Albania, Paulin Kola, Pellumb Dishnica, Yugoslavia, Albania, Albanian Communist Youth Organization, Xhoxhi Blushi, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Gogo Nushi, Savo Zlatic, Tahir Kadare, Gjin Marku
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
The multilateral Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) condemns the leadership of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia on June 28, 1948. The declaration is published on July 1 in Albania, following the Ninth Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPA on June 27-30. The Albanian legislature, the People’s Assembly, will subsequently cancel all treaties with Yugoslavia, other than the July 1946 Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Aid. The CPA leadership refuses an invitation to send a delegation to the CPY’s Fifth Congress. [Hoxha, 1982, pp. 501-502]
Greek forces enter Albania before being pushed back across the border. The Albanian government views the invasion as an attempt to claim southern Albania. A few days afterward the UN special committee on the Greek civil war will excuse the action, saying that Greece cannot allow a neighbor to try to overthrow its government. Previously, the committee had accused Albania of giving the most aid to the Greek communist army of any country bordering Greece. [Kola, 2003, pp. 97-98]
Novelist and political activist Howard Fast, an avowed Communist who writes regularly for the pro-Stalinist Daily Worker, agrees to speak at a concert featuring baritone Paul Robeson and folk singer Pete Seeger. The concert is organized by a group called People’s Artists, and slated to take place at a picnic ground just north of Peekskill, New York. The concert is to benefit a group called the Civil Rights Congress, fighting for a stay of execution for six African-American youths sentenced to death in New Jersey.
Volatile Mix of Ideologies, Ethnicities - The Peekskill area is a well-known vacation place for African-Americans. The area itself is populated by large and antagonistic groups of conservatives of ethnic minority backgrounds, and leftists, most of them Jewish and many from New York City, who live in the area either all year or as summer residents. Parts of Peekskill, Fast later writes, have been “bypassed by the rush of American industrial development” and are home to large numbers of unemployed and underemployed rural Americans. Before the concert begins that evening, Fast learns that the Peekskill Evening Star has been running inflammatory editorials calling for the local populace to come out in protest at the “anti-American” and “subversive” concert—“every ticket purchased for the Peekskill concert will drop nickels and dimes into the basket of an un-American political organization… the time for tolerant silence that signifies approval is running out,” one editorial reads—and the American Legion is planning a march to “vehemently oppose” Robeson’s appearance. “Let us leave no doubt in their minds that they are unwelcome around here either now or in the future,” the local Legion chapter commander, Edward Boyle, writes in a letter published by the Evening Star. Fast reads through a week’s worth of editorials in the Evening Star, finding instances of what he calls “anti-Semitism and anti-Negroism… anti-Communism [and] anti-humanism.” [Fast, 1951; American Heritage, 3/1976; White Plains Reporter Dispatch, 9/5/1982]
Paul Robeson - Robeson is a vibrant figure among American leftists and radicals: the son of a runaway slave; an all-American football player at Rutgers; the first African-American to play the title role of “Othello” in a mainstream theatrical production; a world-renowned singer; and an avowed Marxist who has spent extensive amounts of time in the Soviet Union. Previously lionized by many Americans, his popularity soured when, after World War II, he began speaking out ever more forcefully in favor of the Soviet way of life, and against American capitalism and democracy. As a result, Robeson is now an extremely controversial and polarizing figure. Many perceive Robeson as author Roger Williams later describes him: “the personification of near-treasonous anti-Americanism.” [American Heritage, 3/1976] The concert never takes place; instead, the grounds and audience are attacked by an angry, violent mob (see August 27, 1949).
Paul Robeson. [Source: Paul Robeson Community Center]A concert organized by various left-wing organizations and slated to take place at a picnic ground near Peekskill, New York (see Mid-August - August 27, 1949) never happens. Instead, the organizers and audience members are attacked by an angry, violent mob.
Mob Attacks - Novelist Howard Fast, who is slated to emcee the concert, arrives at the grounds, and, hearing reports of a mob gathering under the rubric of a “parade,” organizes some 40 “men and boys,” both white and African-American, to defend the women and children coming together in the hollow for the concert. Fast’s fears are quickly realized: a large mob of American Legion members and local citizens, and largely fueled by alcohol, as evidenced by the hundreds of liquor bottles later found strewn throughout the grounds, moves to attack Fast’s group with billy clubs, broken bottles, fence posts, and knives. More by chance than by strategy, Fast’s group finds itself in a defensible position, where it cannot be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. Its members manage to beat back three separate assaults; Fast hears screams from the mob: “We’re Hitler’s boys—Hitler’s boys!” “We’ll finish his job!” “God bless Hitler and f___ you n_____ b_stards and Jew b_stards!” “Lynch Robeson! Give us Robeson! We’ll string that big n_____ up! Give him to us, you b_stards!” “We’ll kill every commie b_stard in America!” “You’re never going out!” “Every n_____ b_stard dies here tonight! Every Jew b_stard dies here tonight!” (Singer and activist Paul Robeson, the concert headliner, is unable to approach the concert venue, and is never in any real danger.) During the assaults, state and local police stand by and do nothing to intervene; local and national reporters jot down notes and take photographs. Late in the evening, someone sets a cross ablaze, prompting Fast’s group to link arms and sing “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Later inquiries by the concert organizers will show that at least three different times during the violence, individuals were able to escape the riots and phone the local and state police, the state attorney general’s office, and the office of the New York governor, “all without result.” No arrests are made and no one is held for questioning, even though, the organizers will find, “14 cars were overturned and at least 13 people were hurt seriously enough to require medical attention.” [Fast, 1951; White Plains Reporter Dispatch, 9/5/1982]
Book Burnings - The fourth and final assault of the night comes in the form of a barrage of rocks and other missiles. Fast’s group runs for the concert venue, where its members mount the platform and once again link arms. Fast and others see some members of the mob find the books and pamphlets brought by the concert organizers; the mob members make a huge pile and set it ablaze. Fast later writes: “[T]o crown our evening, there was re-enacted the monstrous performance of the Nuremberg book burning which had become a world symbol of fascism. Perhaps the nature of fascism is so precise, perhaps its results on human beings are so consistently diseased, that the same symbols must of necessity arise; for standing there, arms linked, we watched the Nuremberg memory come alive again. The fire roared up and the defenders of the ‘American’ way of life seized piles of our books and danced around the blaze, flinging the books into the fire as they danced.” (Upon revisiting the site two days later, Fast will note “at least 40” flashbulbs in and around the ashes, indicating that many photographs were taken of the book burning, but in 1951, he will write that he has yet to see any of those photographs.) [Fast, 1951]
Law Enforcement Intervenes - Three of the most severely wounded of Fast’s group are escorted to safety by federal law enforcement officials, who had watched the proceedings without intervening. The rest are forced to sit while local law enforcement officials investigate the stabbing of one of the mob members, William Secor. (Evidence will show that Secor had been accidentally cut by one of his fellows.) Later, state police escort members of Fast’s group to their vehicles and allow them to drive away. No arrests are made and no one is held for questioning, even though, the organizers will find, “14 cars were overturned and at least 13 people were hurt seriously enough to require medical attention.” The head of the Peekskill American Legion, Milton Flynt, says after the riot, “Our objective was to prevent the Paul Robeson concert, and I think our objective was reached.” [Fast, 1951; White Plains Reporter Dispatch, 9/5/1982] Author Roger Williams will later write of Fast’s descriptions, “Fast’s account, although marred by exaggeration and Marxist rhetoric, is substantially supported by other participants and eyewitnesses.” [American Heritage, 3/1976]
Initial Media Responses Relatively Favorable to Mob - The first media reports and commentary about the concert are far more supportive of the mob (see August 28, 1949, and After) than later examples (see Mid-September 1949).
Second Attempt - Within hours, Fast and the concert organizers decide to reschedule a second concert, this time to be protected by large numbers of burly union workers (see September 4, 1949, and After).
After a concert organized by leftist groups in downstate New York is attacked by an angry, violent mob (see August 27, 1949), initial media reports tend to support the mob and blame the concert organizers for the violence. The New York Times writes that it “regretted” the actions by both the concert organizers and the mob in what it calls “the Peekskill affair.” The New York Herald Tribune says the mob violence was deplorable but “understandable.” Other papers celebrate the violence. Significantly, the New York News reports two days later: “Frank Niedhart, manager of the Niedhart Fife and Drum Corps, today said that his organization did not participate in Saturday night’s anti-Robeson [American Legion] parade because many of the members are minors. He said he did not want to bear the responsibility of possible injury to the youngsters if trouble should develop.” Subsequent media reactions are far more critical of the riots (see Mid-September 1949). [Fast, 1951; White Plains Reporter Dispatch, 9/5/1982] The local district attorney will join the area media in blaming the concert organizers, not the mob, for the violence (see September 1949).
After the mob riots and attacks at Peekskill, New York, that disrupted a concert featuring left-wing activists Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger (see August 27, 1949), novelist Howard Fast, another activist who had successfully organized the concertgoers into resisting the mob attacks, takes part in an August 28 meeting to assess the situation and discuss whether the concert should again be attempted. The meeting attracts over 1,600 people. (One apparently impromptu attack on the group, mounted by what Fast calls “a dozen young hoodlums from Peekskill,” is easily driven back.) The organization behind the concert, People’s Artists, joins with Labor Party and trade union members in deciding to try a second time. Fast agrees to organize the defense. The group gives itself the name “Westchester Committee for Law and Order.” On August 30, Fast joins a large gathering of at least 3,000 people at a Harlem ballroom, where Robeson speaks movingly of the struggle for recognition and against repression.
Organizing for Battle - By week’s end, organizing on both sides is taking place. The local unions are bringing hundreds of brawny workers to the area concert grounds, while the local American Legion, Fast learns, has put out a call for 30,000 veterans to come to the concert and disrupt the proceedings, though as Fast later writes, only about a thousand protesters appear, and he has no way of knowing how many of them, if any, are veterans. A friend, whom Fast does not name, explains why the area’s people may be so willing to answer the mob’s call: “This is a funny neighborhood.… You know, there’s no real industry here except the railroad, and the kids grow up in these river towns with no jobs and no future—just a rotten, perverted petty-bourgeois outlook. They get a job at a gas station or a grocery store or a lunch wagon or with the fire department or some other political handout—or they don’t work and just scrounge around and live off the few dollars they pick up. They get twisted with bitterness, and they don’t know what causes it or where to direct it. Then they hate, and it’s easy for the Legion and the local Chamber of Commerce to use that hate. They’re using it now.” [Fast, 1951; White Plains Reporter Dispatch, 9/5/1982; National Public Radio, 9/5/1999] Announcing the second concert, Communist Party leader Ben Davis says, “Let them touch a hair of Paul Robeson’s head, and they’ll pay a price they never calculated.” [American Heritage, 3/1976] The second concert will be successful (see September 4, 1949) but the audience is attacked, and over 100 injured, upon trying to leave the venue (see September 4, 1949, and After).
A press conference in Paris announces the formation of a National Unity Committee, which includes the Balli Kombetar (National Front), represented by Mit’hat Frasheri, the Legaliteti (Legality), represented by Abaz Kupi, and former King Zog. There is more counter-revolutionary guerilla activity in Yugoslavia than in Albania, which the Yugoslavs attribute to Ballists. After Albania’s break with Yugoslavia the year before, the British and American governments decide to focus on Albania in their plans to use nationalism to end Soviet influence in eastern Europe. They want to do this without revealing their involvement and avoiding another Greek invasion of Albania. Therefore they deny involvement in the formation of the National Unity Committee and the US government says the National Unity Committee is a subcommittee of the Committee for Free Europe. [Kola, 2003, pp. 97-99]
Entity Tags: Committee for Free Europe, Abaz Kupi, Balli Kombetar, Greece, Ahmet Zog I, Legaliteti, National Unity Committee, Yugoslavia, Mit’hat Frasheri, United States of America, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
The Westchester County District Attorney, George Fanelli, reports on the so-called “Peekskill Affair,” in which a concert organized by leftist groups was attacked and halted by an angry, violent mob (see August 27, 1949). According to the New York Compass, the district attorney says “that he didn’t know anything about the disorders but was sure that the concert-goers—and not the veterans or the hoodlums who attacked them—were responsible.” Fanelli later tells the Peekskill Evening Star, “The facts that I now have would indicate that the demonstration by the veterans’ associations was peaceful and orderly, and that after they disbanded the pro-Robesonites provoked the violence when Secor was stabbed by one of their number.” Fanelli uses the term “pro-Robesonites” in reference to Paul Robeson, the African-American singer and pro-Communist activist who was to headline the concert; Secor is William Secor, a mob member who suffered a flesh wound when one of his colleagues accidentally cut him with a knife. [Fast, 1951; White Plains Reporter Dispatch, 9/5/1982]
Hundreds of volunteers, mostly union members, form a “human wall” to defend the concert and its audience from the mob. [Source: Howard Fast]Left-wing activists make a second attempt at holding a concert outside of Peekskill, New York, featuring African-American singer and activist Paul Robeson. After the first one was disrupted by angry mobs (see August 27, 1949), organizers plan for a much more strongly defended second event (see August 28-30, 1949). The venue for the first concert is heavily damaged by the mob’s depredations, so a German-American landowner named Stephen Szego, who escaped Hitler’s Germany years before, agrees to let the concert take place at the now-abandoned Hollow Brook Country Club ground. (Activist and novelist Howard Fast, who helps organize the event and documents it, will later note that Szego will suffer an attempt to burn down his house and has bullets fired through his walls as a result of his generosity.) The defense, organized by dozens of trade union workers, is designed to be unique, Fast will write: “a defense without weapons, a defense, if possible, without a blow being struck, a defense which would achieve its purpose through the highest type of discipline and restraint.” As the opening of the concert approaches, some 25,000 people—far more than the organizers had anticipated—begin streaming into the country club’s grounds; outside the grounds, a large mob begins to grow. In addition, a large and well-armed police contingent is on hand. According to Fast, the opening salvo of rock-throwing from the mob is ordered by the police: “Backed by hundreds of laughing cops, the American Legion heroes lined the road and heaved rocks at our defense line.” The violence escalates when several carloads of latecomers, all African-Americans, are attacked by the mob, pulled out of their cars, and beaten. An apparent assassination attempt against Robeson is thwarted when union workers flush two mob members from what is apparently a sniper’s nest; both are found with high-powered rifles. When Robeson takes the stage to sing, 15 union workers surround him, providing a “human wall,” in Fast’s words, to defend him from any possible sniper’s bullet. Robeson, folk singer Pete Seeger, and other musicians are able to play successfully, even though a police helicopter hovers over the sound truck, apparently trying to drown out the music with the sound of its rotors. Seeger later recalls: “We heard about 150 people standing around the gate shout things like ‘Go back to Russia! K_kes! N_gger-lovers!’ It was a typical KKK crowd, without bedsheets.” [Fast, 1951; American Heritage, 3/1976; White Plains Reporter Dispatch, 9/5/1982; National Public Radio, 9/5/1999] Concertgoers are attacked, beaten, and pelted with rocks by the mob as they attempt to leave the grounds (see September 4, 1949, and After).
Eugene Bullard being beaten by police officers and rioters. [Source: Howard Fast]The second Peekskill concert, organized by left-wing activists and featuring African-American singer Paul Robeson (see September 4, 1949), takes place successfully after the first was disrupted by a large, angry mob (see August 27, 1949). But another mob has gathered, and though they are unsuccessful in stopping the concert from taking place, they are ready for the audience and participants at the concert’s end.
Rock Attacks, Roadblocks - The audience members, with many women and children in their ranks, attempt to leave, mostly by car, and are told by security guards to roll up their windows as they are driving out, as the mob is apparently throwing rocks and other missiles. (A New York Times reporter later writes of the large piles of stones piled up about every 20 feet down one road, apparently placed their ahead of time for use as missiles.) However, the long, slow procession of cars attempting to leave the venue is halted when a small group of police officers attack the cars, including the vehicle bearing Robeson. None of the cars’ occupants are injured, though many windshields are smashed and fenders beaten in. Novelist and concert organizer Howard Fast, driving his own car, turns onto a secondary road to attempt to leave the venue, but his car is assaulted by a knot of six or seven rock throwers, accompanied by two police officers who do not throw rocks. Fast believes the police officers are there to protect the assailants if any of the cars stops to launch a counterattack. Fast will later learn that all of the secondary roads have similar knots of rock-throwing people in place to inflict damage on cars; some are blocked by piles of logs and boulders. He drives through several such ambushes, but he and the people with him escape injury.
145 Reported Injuries - Others are not so lucky; many people, including women and children, are seriously injured by rocks and broken glass. One concert goer, Eugene Bullard, is spat upon by a veteran and spits back; he is thrown to the ground and badly beaten by a group of police officers. Afterwards, Fast will report, the area hospitals quickly fill up with victims of the barrages, “the blinded, the bleeding and the wounded, the cut, lacerated faces, the fractured skulls, the infants with glass in their eyes, the men and women trampled and beaten, the Negroes beaten and mutilated, all the terribly hurt who had come to listen to music.” A union trademan, Sidney Marcus, is wounded so badly by a rock to the face that he requires weeks of reconstructive surgery. Fast later learns that approximately a thousand union workers had chosen to stay behind as something of a “rear guard” to protect the last of the audience members; they were assaulted by a combination of mob members and police officers, badly beaten, and threatened with incarceration. (Twenty-five were indeed arrested and taken away.) For Fast, the night ends when he returns to the area to look for a group of stranded audience members, and is shot at. He does not find the stranded people. The final tally is 145 concert-goers injured. [Fast, 1951; White Plains Reporter Dispatch, 9/5/1982; National Public Radio, 9/5/1999]
Arrests and Lawsuits - Twelve protesters are arrested; five later plead guilty to minor offenses. No one among the concert-goers and “Robesonites” is arrested. Author Roger Williams will later write: “As the victims of the violence they were hardly subject to arrest, except that the prevailing local attitude held them guilty of provoking the attacks made upon them. As the Peekskill mayor, John N. Schneider, put it, the responsibility ‘rests solely on the Robesonites, as they insisted on coming to a community where they weren’t wanted.’” Numerous civil lawsuits will be filed on behalf of groups of victims; none will be successful.
History Professor: Peekskill Becomes an 'Endorsement of ... Persecution' - Much later, history professor James Shenton will say, “Peekskill opened up what was to become extensive public endorsement of the prosecution and persecution of so-called Communists.”
Trying to Forget - Years later, the memory of the riots still haunts the area and intimidates many residents, according to Williams’s 1976 report. Residents refuse to discuss the riots, some for fear of reprisals even decades later. Williams will recount the story of one high school teacher, Anne Plunkett, who was amazed that her children knew nothing of the riots, even though some of them were the children of participants. But when she assigns her students the riots as an optional class project, as Plunkett will recall: “The first time, librarians wouldn’t give the kids access to the back newspapers. The next time, I was called to the principal’s office and told that parents had been telephoning to complain about my ‘upsetting and exciting the children unnecessarily.’” [American Heritage, 3/1976]
In the days and weeks after the Peekskill riots (see August 27, 1949 and September 4, 1949, and After), four Yale Law School professors call for the New York attorney general to launch a federal investigation of the riot. They accuse Governor Thomas Dewey of “fail[ing] to take decisive action… from the beginning,” and write that “positive measures on behalf of the American tradition of political freedom must be taken now. If a situation of this sort is allowed to drift, without action from the leaders of our government, it can only too quickly get completely out of hand.” The president of the National Lawyers Guild issues a similar call: “Any idea that the present officials of the State of New York could be relied upon to vindicate the ends of justice and the principles of democracy without federal intervention should be completely set aside by the statement and action of Governor Dewey on ordering a grand jury inquiry.” [Fast, 1951]
In the days and weeks after the Peekskill riots (see August 27, 1949 and September 4, 1949, and After), several veterans organizations denounce the mob violence at the two events, and condemn the participation of their local chapters and members who were part of the mobs. The national commander of the American Legion, George Craig, issues a statement repudiating his organization’s involvement in the riots. “The American Legion believes in the preservation of law and order and does not countenance violence in any situation short of war,” Craig writes. “The Legion will not give its official sanction to counter-demonstrations such as those at Peekskill. It prefers to leave pro-Communist demonstrations strictly alone.” The Jewish War Veterans issues a directive prohibiting its chapters from “initiating or participating in any public demonstration which poses potential consequence of riot or public disorder.” The American Veterans Committee (AVC) calls upon the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other veterans organizations “to prevent further outrages such as have occurred in Peekskill.” The AVC blames Peekskill veterans’ organizations for the “two disgraceful episodes.” [Fast, 1951]
New York Herald Tribune masthead, from 1941. [Source: Andrew Cusack]In the days and weeks after the Peekskill riots (see August 27, 1949 and September 4, 1949, and After), many newspapers condemn the violence that marred the two concerts. The New York Herald Tribune writes that “true Americans must feel deep shame and concern for the quality of citizenship that believes it is defending its country by catcalls and boos and rocks thrown at passing automobiles.” The New York Times writes, “Civil rights are rarely threatened except when those who claim them hold views hateful to the majority.” The New York Sun blames local law enforcement officials: “The local and county police clearly let the demonstration against the concert degenerate into a riot.” The New York Post calls the rioters “hoodlums” who “proclaim[ed their] contempt for democratic process, inflicting violence on real and alleged Communists and innocent bystanders with fine and frenzied impartiality.” The Christian Science Monitor says the rioters used the same tactics used by “Fascist[s]” and the “Ku Klux Klan.” Speaking of the main target of opprobrium, singer, avowed Communist, and African-American Paul Robeson, the Fort Wayne News Sentinel observes, “Whether or not Mr. Robeson follows the Kremlin manual is of less concern than that Americans shall not forget the First Amendment to the Constitution.” The Des Moines Register states: “Those who gathered at Peekskill to hear Robeson were entirely within the law in doing so. Those who provoked the violence repudiated the Constitution, the government, and those things which Americans have long prided themselves on—fairness and freedom.” And the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, “Veterans’ organizations in Westchester County, New York, lowered themselves to the level of the Ku Klux Klan.” [Fast, 1951]
In the days and weeks after the Peekskill riots (see August 27, 1949 and September 4, 1949, and After), many members of the local clergy denounce the violence. Thirteen local Protestant and Jewish clergymen issue the following statement: “We, the undersigned clergy of Peekskill and surrounding communities, desire to express our attitude toward the recent disturbances at Hollow Brook and the aftermath in the community.… Acts of violence have been committed. Lies, malicious rumors about responsible citizens, vilification and inflammatory language about members of our minority races and faiths have been circulated. A vicious example of lawlessness has been held up to the world as our way of life.… There is no need to try to convince ourselves or the world that the ugliness is not real or that it is not here… we must admit our fault and mistake. Admitting them, let us show shame and contrition for these violent and unlawful acts and attitudes.” A separate statement from a local Catholic priest reads in part: “Acts of violence are contrary to the teachings of our church and the lawful procedure required by our form of government. While offended sensibilities are understandable they offer no excuse for violence. The use of force solves nothing. Instead it accentuates grievances and promotes discord and disunity.” [Fast, 1951]
After the Peekskill riots (see August 27, 1949 and September 4, 1949, and After), First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Roosevelt, says: “This is not the type of thing that we believe in the United States. I dislike everything that Paul Robeson is now saying.… I still believe, however, that if he wants to give a concert, or speak his mind in public, no one should prevent him from doing so. No one who disagrees is obliged to stay or even to go to hear him.” [Fast, 1951]
Albanian Prime Minister Enver Hoxha and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin discussed the treatment of Yugoslav Albanians at their second meeting, in March-April 1949, and do so in more detail at a third meeting, that November, with both meetings taking place in the Soviet Union. At the November meeting, Hoxha says these matters are up to those Albanians living in Yugoslavia to resolve, “However we for our part, without ever interfering in the internal affairs of Yugoslavia, will never cease supporting the rights of our brothers of the one blood, living in Yugoslavia, and will raise our voice against the terror, the policy of extermination, which the Tito-Rankovich clique is pursuing towards them.” Stalin says that he read Hoxha’s previous letter about Kosova and agrees that the Kosovar Albanians will decide their own destiny. He says that the Soviet Union will not attack Yugoslavia and that “we must attack that anti-Marxist views and actions of Tito and the Yugoslav leadership, but I stress that in no way should we ever interfere in their internal affairs,” which are up to the Yugoslav people to determine. He also says, “We must not leave any way for the Titoite enemy to accuse us later of allegedly waging our fight to break up the Yugoslav Federation.” This echoes the advice Hoxha heard from Soviet deputy foreign minister Andrey Vyshinsky at a summer 1948 meeting in Romania (see After June 1948). [Hoxha, 1979, pp. 107-109, 137-143; Hoxha, 1982, pp. 536-537]
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) releases the findings of its investigation into the Peekskill riots (see August 27, 1949 and September 4, 1949, and After). The report concludes, in part:
“There is no evidence whatever of Communist provocation… on either occasion.”
“While the demonstrations were organized to protest against and express hatred of Communism, the unprovoked rioting which resulted was fostered largely by anti-Semitism, growing out of local resentment against the increasing influx of Jewish summer residents from New York.” Some of the violence was triggered, the ACLU finds, by resentment left over from earlier attacks on a local Ku Klux Klan chapter. One of the buses used by the rioters carried a bumper sticker that read: “COMMUNISM IS TREASON. BEHIND COMMUNISM STANDS—THE JEW! THEREFORE, FOR MY COUNTRY—AGAINST THE JEWS.”
“The local press bears the main responsibility for inflaming, possibly through sheer irresponsibility, Peekskill residents to a mood of violence.”
“[Leftist activist and singer Paul] Robeson’s concerts were not an intrusion into Peekskill but were private gatherings held five miles outside of Peekskill, which were disrupted deliberately by invading gangs from nearby localities.”
“Terrorism was general against all who advocated freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and preservation of constitutional rights.”
“The evidence proves beyond question that the veterans intended to prevent the concerts from being held.”
“Effective police protection at the first concert was deliberately withheld.”
“Preparations to police the second concert appeared adequate; therefore, there was reason to believe that the concert-goers would be protected.… These preparations were largely a sham insofar as the Westchester County police were concerned and left the concert-goers undefended.”
“The wounding of William Secor, rioting veteran, occurred while he was assisting in the commission of a crime.” Secor, one of the rioters who attacked the concert-goers, was apparently the victim of an accidental knifing by one of his own colleagues.
“The evidence indicates that at least some of the state troopers honestly tried to preserve law and order while county police fraternized with the rioters.”
“There is strong indication that the initial violence was planned and was carried out according to plan.” The report details eyewitness accounts of veterans and locals filling the trunks of their cars with rocks. “The wide extent of the stoning indicates careful planning on the part of some person or persons. It can hardly be coincidence that, as cars with broken windows streamed down the county towards New York, they were met with volleys of stones in community after community through which they passed.”
“Terrorism spread over the whole area and included threats against private individuals, against their safety, lives, property, and business.”
“National condemnation has been the chief factor causing residents of the Peekskill area to question this action. The local clergy have joined in this denunciation.… Sentiment in the area is now sharply divided and there is evidence that the legal authorities are moving toward restriction of freedom of speech and assembly, presumably in violation of the Constitution.” [Atkinson et al., 1949 ; Fast, 1951]
In a report to President Eisenhower, the Joint Chiefs of Staff make the following observation: “We should do what is necessary even if the result is to change the American way of life. We could lick the whole world if we are willing to adopt the system of Adolf Hitler.” [Hunt, 9/1/2009, pp. 5]
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, attempting to protect government files from Senator Joe McCarthy (R-WI)‘s anti-Communist “witch hunts” and to prevent government officials from being forced to testify at the Army’s hearings on McCarthy, cites a never-before-used phrase, “executive privilege,” to resist giving over information or allowing aides to testify. While presidents have withheld information from Congress before in narrow and defined circumstances—in 1792, George Washington refused to allow Congress and the courts to obtain information about a disastrous military expedition against Native Americans along the Ohio River, for example—Eisenhower is the first to assert that the executive branch has the right to withhold any internal documents or block officials from giving testimony to other branches or agencies of the government. In 2007, reporter and author Charlie Savage will write that Eisenhower’s actions “creat[ed] a potentially boundless new category of government information a president could deny to Congress.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 20; National Public Radio, 6/28/2007]
Part of the Westboro Baptist Church as it appears in recent years. The URL “godhatesamerica.com” is written on a banner hanging in front of the church. [Source: Ask (.com)]The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kansas, holds its first services under the auspices of Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps. Phelps, his wife, nine of his 13 children, and their spouses and children make up the core of the WBC’s small congregation. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will describe the church as a virtual cult led by Phelps. Phelps and his extended family members live in houses on the WBC compound in Topeka, with the houses arranged in a box formation and sharing a central backyard. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] The congregation will quickly begin shedding members because of Phelps’s vitriolic preaching, and for a time Phelps will attempt to support the church by selling vacuum cleaners and baby carriages door-to-door. For years, much of the church’s income comes from Phelps’s children, who regularly sell candy door-to-door. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]
Atmosphere of Fear, Abuse Alleged - According to one of Phelps’s estranged children, Nathan Phelps, Phelps uses violence and abuse to keep the members in line; in the SPLC’s words, “cultivating an atmosphere of fear to maintain his authority.” Nathan and his two siblings, Mark Phelps, and Dortha Bird, will later leave the church and family, and all three will allege physical and psychological abuse in multiple newspaper and television interviews. Fred Phelps will dismiss all the allegations as “a sea of fag lies.” Nathan will allege that his father beat him with a leather strap and a mattock handle until he “couldn’t lie down or sit down for a week.” They will also allege that Phelps beat his wife, forced his children to fast, and other charges. No child abuse charges brought against Phelps will ever result in convictions, usually because the children will refuse to testify out of what Nathan Phelps will call fear of reprisal. Children in the Phelps family are kept close to the church, and, the SPLC will write, “their upbringing offers them few opportunities to integrate into mainstream society. It is common to see young children from the Phelps family at WBC pickets, often holding the group’s hateful signs. These children casually use the words ‘fag’ and ‘dyke’ in interviews, and the older children report having no close friends at school. The Phelps family raises its children to hold hateful and upsetting views, and to believe that all people not in WBC will go to hell.… The children quickly grow alienated in school and in society, leading them to build relationships almost exclusively within the family. This helps to explain why nine of Fred Phelps’ 13 children have remained members of the church.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] Phelps, who dropped out of the fundamentalist religious Bob Jones University, was ordained as a Baptist minister at the age of 17. He met his future wife Marge Phelps after his California street ministry against dirty jokes and sexual petting was the subject of a Time magazine profile. Between 1952 and 1968 the couple will have 13 children. Phelps will go on to earn a law degree from Washburn University in 1962, though he has some difficulty being admitted to the Kansas bar because no judge will be willing to vouch for his good character. Between 1951 and 2010, Phelps will be arrested multiple times for assault, battery, threats, trespassing, disorderly conduct, and contempt of court. He will be convicted four times, but will successfully avoid prison. He will decorate his WBC compound with an enormous upside-down American flag. He will go on to vilify both liberal and conservative lawmakers, including future President Ronald Reagan, and will praise enemies of the nation such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] Mark Phelps will later call his father “a small, pathetic old man” who “behaves with a viciousness the likes of which I have never seen.” All three estranged children say that Phelps routinely refers to African-Americans as “dumb n_ggers.” Bird later says, “He only started picketing in 1991, but I want people to understand that nothing’s changed, he’s been like this all along.” She will change her last name to Bird to celebrate her new-found freedom away from the family, though she will continue to live in the Topeka area. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]
Fundamentalist Doctrine - Phelps teaches a fundamentalist version of Calvinist doctrine called “Primitive Baptist,” in which members believe that God only chooses a select few to be saved, and everyone else is doomed to burn in hell. The WBC Web site will later explain: “Your best hope is that you are among those he has chosen. Your prayer every day should be that you might be. And if you are not, nothing you say or do will serve as a substitute.”
Successful Lawsuits Help Fund Church - In 1964, Phelps will found a law firm specifically for defending the church against civil suits; the firm employs five attorneys, all children of Phelps. Phelps himself is a lawyer, but he will be disbarred in 1979 by the Kansas Supreme Court, which will find that he shows “little regard for the ethics of his profession.” The church does not solicit or accept outside donations; much of its funding comes from successful lawsuits against the Topeka city government and other organizations and individuals. The SPLC will explain, “Because the Phelps family represents WBC in court, they can put the fees they win towards supporting the church.” As of 2007, many Phelps family members will work for the state government, bringing additional revenue to the church. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] Nathan Phelps will later say that his father routinely files frivolous lawsuits in the hope that his targets will settle out of court rather than face the expenditures of a bench trial. (One extreme example is a 1974 class action suit demanding $50 million from Sears over the alleged delay in delivering a television set. In 1980, Sears will settle the suit by paying Phelps $126. Another, more lucrative example is a 1978 civil rights case that earns Phelps almost $10,000 in legal fees as part of the settlement of a discrimination case.) [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2001]
Reviling Homosexuality - One of the central tenets of the church’s practices is the vilification of homosexuality, which the church will use to propel itself into the public eye (see June 1991 and After, 1996, June 2005 and After, September 8, 2006, October 2-3, 2006, and April 2009). The church’s official slogan is “God Hates Fags.” The church will begin its anti-gay crusade in the late 1980s with the picketing of a Topeka park allegedly frequented by homosexuals. In the early 1990s, WBC will launch its nationwide anti-gay picketing crusade. The church will win international notoriety with its picketing of the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay student brutally murdered in Wyoming (see October 14, 1998 and October 3, 2003). After the 9/11 attacks, the church will begin claiming that God brought about the attacks to punish America for its tolerance of homosexuality (see September 8, 2006). The church will also begin picketing the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005, claiming that God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality and persecuting the WBC (see June 2005 and After). The church will win notable victories in court regarding its right to protest at funerals (see March 10, 2006 and After and June 5, 2007 and After). Nations such as Canada and the United Kingdom will ban WBC members from entering their borders to engage in protest and picketing activities (see August 2008 and February 2009). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] Phelps will write in an undated pamphlet detailing the “message” of the WBC: “America is doomed for its acceptance of homosexuality. If God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for going after fornication and homosexuality then why wouldn’t God destroy America for the same thing?” In 2001, a Topeka resident will tell an SPLC researcher: “I’m so tired of people calling him an ‘anti-gay activist.’ He’s not an anti-gay activist. He’s a human abuse machine.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL): “Though the group’s specific focus may shift over time, they believe that nearly all Americans and American institutions are ‘sinful,’ so nearly any individual or organization can be targeted. In fact, WBC members say that ‘God’s hatred is one of His holy attributes’ and that their picketing is a form of preaching to a ‘doomed’ country unable to hear their message in any other way.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2012]
Senator Strom Thurmond (right) supervises the typing of an early draft of the document that will come to be known as the ‘Southern Manifesto.’ [Source: Strom Thurmond Institute]A hundred and one congressmen, mostly conservative Southern Democrats, sign a document forwarded to President Eisenhower that becomes known as the “Southern Manifesto.” The document, formally entitled “The Declaration of Constitutional Principles,” is prompted by the recent Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision mandating the desegregation of American public schools, and is designed to pressure wavering Southern lawmakers into defying the Court’s decision as part of what researcher Tony Badger will later call “the massive resistance strategy so passionately advocated by the conservatives.” It is read aloud on the floor of the Senate by Walter George (D-GA), and was originally conceived by Senator Strom Thurmond (D-SC) with the assistance of his colleague Harry Byrd (D-VA), though the final version was tempered by a rewrite overseen by Senator Richard Russell (D-GA). The “Manifesto” declares that in certain instances, states are free to ignore federal laws and court decisions such as Brown v. Board. The document declares the Court decision an attempt to “substitute naked power for established law,” calls it “a clear abuse of judicial power,” and says that the states can and must defy the Court’s decision in the interest of establishing the rights of the states against the federal government. The principle of “separate but equal” treatment of white and black Americans, codified in an 1849 case and upheld by the 1896 Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, is, the signers state, “the established law of the land” and cannot be overturned by the current Court. It is up to the states, not the federal government, to determine if and when they will desegregate their separate school systems. Far from mandating equal treatment, the signers state, the Brown decision “destroys the amicable relations between the white and Negro races that have been created through 90 years of patient effort by the good people of both races,” and “has planted hatred and suspicion where there has been heretofore friendship and understanding.” The “judicial encroachment” of the decision must be resisted by “any lawful means,” they write. The signers conclude, “Even though we constitute a minority in the present Congress, we have full faith that a majority of the American people believe in the dual system of government which has enabled us to achieve our greatness and will in time demand that the reserved rights of the States and of the people be made secure against judicial usurpation,” and ask their supporters not to give in to the “agitators” determined to sow chaos and disorder in the name of desegregation. [US Senate, 3/12/1956; Time, 3/26/1956; Badger, 4/1997]
Disparate Group of Non-Signers - Cambridge University scholar Tony Badger will later write of the Southern lawmakers who refuse to sign the document, “The evidence from Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and North Carolina highlights the diversity of political opinion among the non-signers—from New Deal liberal to right-wing Republican ideologue—and the disparate sources for their racial moderation—national political ambitions, party loyalty, experience in the Second World War, Cold War fears, religious belief, and an urban political base.” [Badger, 4/1997]
Thurmond Calls NAACP 'Professional Racist Agitators,' Says Southern Whites Are Nation's 'Greatest Minority' - After the reading, Thurmond delivers a far less measured television address, calling the organization that brought the original lawsuit, the NAACP, a group of “professional racist agitators” and saying: “All of us have heard a great deal of talk about the persecution of minority groups. The white people of the South are the greatest minority in this nation. They deserve consideration and understanding instead of the persecution of twisted propaganda.” After his speech, one Georgia woman praises Thurmond’s “courage and wisdom,” and asks: “Wouldn’t it be possible to remove much of the Negro population from the South? I sincerely wish that this might be done, and would be glad to even contribute personally to the expense of such a plan.” [Cohodas, 1993, pp. 284-300]
Counterattack in Congress - In the following days, a succession of Northern Democrats lambast the manifesto on the Senate and House floor, and none of the signatories rise to speak in its defense. Wayne Morse (D-OR) says the document advocates nothing less than the “nullification” of the federal government, and if taken to its logical conclusion, the dissolution of the United States into 50 disparate entities. “If the gentlemen from the South really want to take such action,” he says, “let them propose a constitutional amendment that will deny to the colored people of the country equality of rights under the Constitution, and see how far they will get with the American people.” [Time, 3/26/1956; Cohodas, 1993, pp. 284-300] One Southern senator says shortly after its reading, “Now, if these Northerners won’t attack us and get mad and force us to close ranks, most of us will forget the whole thing and maybe we can pretty soon pretend it never happened.” [Time, 3/26/1956] The “Manifesto” heralds a split in the Democratic Party, between conservative, segregationist “Dixiecrat” Southerners and the moderate-to-liberal remainder of the party’s lawmakers. Thurmond will lead an exodus of the segregationists from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party shortly thereafter. [Cohodas, 1993, pp. 284-300]
One of a number of semi-official ‘Christian Identity’ logos. [Source: KingIdentity (.com)]The “Christian Identity” theology, formerly a fairly benign expression of what is known as “British-Israelism” or “Anglo-Israelism,” begins to spread throughout the US and Canada, particularly on the west coasts of these nations. This belief holds that white Americans and Canadians are the real descendants of the Biblical tribes of Israel. In 2003, author Nicole Nichols, an expert on far-right racist and religious groups in America, will define the concept of “Christian Identity” as practiced by many white supremacist and separatist groups. Christian Identity is not an organization, she will write, but an ideology that many organizations have adopted in some form or fashion. Christian Identity “elevates white supremacy and separatism to a Godly ideal,” she will write, calling it “the ideological fuel that fires much of the activity of the racist far right.” According to Christian Identity theology, Jews are neither the “true Israelites” nor the true “chosen people” of God; instead, Christian Identity proponents claim, Jews are descended from an Asiatic people known as the Khazars, who settled near the Black Sea during the Middle Ages. [Nicole Nichols, 2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005; Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 5/30/2006] In 2005, the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance will write, “Followers tend to be involved in political movements opposing gun control, equal rights to gays and lesbians, and militia movements,” and quote Michael Barkun, an expert on radical-right groups, as saying, “This virulent racist and anti-Semitic theology… is prevalent among many right-wing extremist groups and has been called the ‘glue’ of the racist right.” [Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 5/30/2006]
Beginnings; 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' - In the 1920s, William J. Cameron, editor of the Dearborn Independent weekly newspaper, popularized the anti-Semitic hoax manuscript called “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which purported to detail the “secret teachings” of Judaism, including the planned takeover of the world’s governments, the subjugation of non-Semitic races, and the bizarre, cannibalistic rituals supposedly practiced by Jews. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Wesley Swift and 'Mud People' - In the 1940s, a former Methodist minister, Wesley Swift, started his own church, later known as the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. Swift had deep ties to a number of radical right-wing groups including the Ku Klux Klan; Swift and his associates set the stage for the mutation of the Christian Identity into a loosely organized set of virulently anti-Semitic, racist belief systems that will come to be grouped together under the “Christian Identity” rubric. Swift himself taught that only the white race was created in the form of God, while Asian and African races were created from the “beasts of the fields,” and thusly are subhuman creations. In Swift’s version of Genesis, Eve, the wife of the first “true” man Adam, was seduced by The Serpent, who masqeueraded as a white man. Eve bore a son, Cain, who is the actual father of the Jewish people. This reinterpretation, sometimes called the “two-seed” or “seedliner” theory, supports the Christian Identity propensity to demonize Jews, whom Swift and others labeled the “spawn of Satan.” Today’s white Europeans and their American and Canadian descendants, Swift taught, are descended from the “true son” of Adam and Eve, Abel, and are the actual “chosen people” of God. Some Christian Identity adherents go even farther, claiming that subhuman “pre-Adamic” races existed and “spawned” the non-white races of the world, which they label “mud people.” [Nicole Nichols, 2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Permeates Racist, Far-Right Groups - By the 1960s, a new group of Christian Identity leaders emerges to spread the Identity theology through the radical, racist right in America and Canada, popularizing the once-obscure ideology. Most prominent among them are three disciples of Swift: James K. Warner, William Potter Gale, and Richard Butler. Warner, who will move to Louisiana and play a leading role in the fight against civil rights, founds the Christian Defense League and the New Christian Crusade Church. Gale, an early leader of the Christian Defense League and its paramilitary arm, the California Rangers, goes on to found the Posse Comitatus (see 1969), the group that will help bring about the sovereign citizen movement. Gale will later found the Committee of the States and serve as the “chief of staff” of its “unorganized militia.” Butler moves Swift’s Church of Jesus Christ Christian to Idaho and recasts it as the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations (see Early 1970s). Under the leadership of Butler, Gale, Warner, and others, Christian Identity soon permeates most of the major far-right movements, including the Klan and a racist “skinhead” organization known as the Hammerskins. It also penetrates many extreme anti-government activist groups. The Anti-Defamation League will write, “The resurgence of right-wing extremism in the 1990s following the Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992) and Waco standoffs (see April 19, 1993) further spread Identity beliefs.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005] Nichols will write: “Christian Identity enclaves provide a trail of safe havens for movement activists, stretching from Hayden Lake in northern Idaho (the Aryan Nations stronghold) to Elohim City on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border (see 1973 and After). Many white supremacists on the run from federal authorities have found shelter and support from Christian Identity followers.” Some organizations such as the Montana Militia are headed by Identity adherents, but do not as a group promote the theology. [Nicole Nichols, 2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Bringing Forth the Apocalypse - Many Christian Identity adherents believe that the Biblical Apocalypse—the end of the world as it is currently known and the final ascendancy of select Christians over all others—is coming soon. Unlike some Christians, Identity adherents do not generally believe in the “rapture,” or the ascendancy of “saved” Christians to Heaven before the Apocalypse ensues; instead, Identity followers believe Jesus Christ will return to Earth only after the time of the “Tribulation,” a great battle between good and evil, which will set the stage for the return of Christ and the final transformation of the world. Identity followers believe it is their duty to prepare for the Apocalypse, and some believe it is their duty to help bring it about. They tend to cast the Apocalypse in racial terms—whites vs. nonwhites. Identity adherents believe that worldly institutions will collapse during the “end times,” and therefore tend to distrust such institutions, making Identity theology appealing to anti-government ideologies of groups such as militia, “Patriot,” and sovereign citizens groups. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
21st Century Identity - In the 21st century, Christian Identity groups are strongest in the Pacific Northwest of America and Canada, and the US Midwest, though Identity churches can be found throughout the US and in other parts of Canada. Identity churches also exist in, among other nations, Ireland, Great Britain, Australia, and South Africa (see June 25, 2003). The Anti-Defamation League will write: “Yet while spread far it is also spread thin. Estimates of the total number of believers in North America vary from a low of 25,000 to a high of 50,000; the true number is probably closer to the low end of the scale. Given this relatively small following, its extensive penetration of the far right is all the more remarkable.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Identity Violence - Identity adherents commit a number of violent acts, often against government and/or financial institutions, in an outsized proportion to their small numbers. In 1983, Identity adherent Gordon Kahl kills two US Marshals who attempt to arrest him on a parole violation, and kills an Arkansas sheriff before finally being gunned down by authorities (see February 13, 1983 and After). The white supremacist terrorist group The Order (see Late September 1983) contains a number of Identity members, including David Tate, who kills a Missouri Highway Patrol officer while attempting to flee to an Identity survivalist compound (see April 15, 1985). During the 1980s, small Identity groups such as The New Order (or The Order II) and the Arizona Patriots commit bombings and armored car robberies. After the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), Identity minister Willie Ray Lampley attempts a number of bombings (see November 9, 1995). In 1996, the Montana Freeman, led by Identity members, “stands off” federal authorities for 81 days (see March 25, 1996). Between 1996 and 1998, Eric Robert Rudolph, who has connections to Identity ministers such as Nord Davis and Dan Gayman, bombs an Atlanta gay bar (see February 21, 1997), several abortion clinics (see October 14, 1998), and the Atlanta Summer Olympics (see July 27, 1996 and After). In 1999, Identity member and former Aryan Nations security guard Buford Furrow goes on a shooting spree at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles (see August 10, 1999). [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Entity Tags: Eric Robert Rudolph, David Charles Tate, Willie Ray Lampley, William Potter Gale, Committee of the States, Church of Jesus Christ Christian, Christian Defense League, California Rangers, Anti-Defamation League, William J. Cameron, Arizona Patriots, Buford Furrow, Aryan Nations, Wesley Swift, New Christian Crusade Church, The New Order, Nord Davis, Nicole Nichols, Ku Klux Klan, The Order, Michael Barkun, Montana Militia, James K. Warner, Hammerskins, Richard Girnt Butler, Posse Comitatus, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, Gordon Kahl, Dan Gayman, Freemen
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
A Time magazine profile lambasts the racist, anti-Communist John Birch Society (JBS—see December 2011), in what is many Americans’ first exposure to the group. It delineates the organization’s penchant for secrecy, its domination by its “dictatorial” leader, Robert Welch, and its hardline battle against almost every element of the federal government as “agents of Communism.” Forty to 60 percent of the federal government is controlled by Communism, the JBS believes. Time calls the organization “a tiresome, comic-opera joke” that nonetheless has cells in 35 states and an ever-widening influence. In Wichita, Kansas, JBS student members are trained to inform their cell leaders of “Communist” influences they may detect in their classroom lectures, and the offending teacher is berated by parents. A Wichita businessman who wanted to give a donation to the University of Wichita decided not to donate after being hounded by local JBS members, who wanted the university to fire professors and remove selected books from its library. “My business would be wrecked,” the businessman explains, “if those people got on the phone and kept on yelling that I am a Communist because I give money to the school.” Nashville, Tennessee, JBS members organize community members to verbally attack neighbors whom they suspect of Communist affiliations. JBS’s current priority, Time writes, is to bring about the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren. Welch, who obtained his wealth from his brother’s candymaking business, believes that Social Security and the federal income tax are all part of the “creeping socialism” that is taking over the federal government. He retired from the business in 1957 and founded the JBS shortly thereafter, naming it for a US Navy captain killed by Chinese Communist guerrillas after the end of World War II. Welch’s seminal tract, “The Politician,” accuses President Eisenhower and his brother Milton Eisenhower of being Communist plants, and accuses both men of treason against the nation. [Time, 3/10/1961]
The cover to the AMA album featuring Ronald Reagan. [Source: Larry DeWitt]The American Medical Association (AMA) releases an 11-minute spoken-word album (LP) featuring actor and promising conservative politician Ronald Reagan. Reagan speaks against what he and the AMA call the “socialized medicine” of Medicare, currently being considered in Congress as part of legislation proposed by Democrats Cecil King and Clinton Anderson; many refer to the legislation as the King-Anderson bill. The AMA, along with most Congressional Republicans and a good number of Democrats, has been fighting the idea of government-provided health care since 1945 (see 1962).
Socialism Advancing under Cover of Liberal Policies - Reagan begins by warning that as far back as 1927, American socialists determined to advance their cause “under the name of liberalism.” King-Anderson is a major component of the secret socialist agenda, Reagan says. “One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine,” he says. “It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project.” No real American wants socialized medicine, Reagan says, but Congress is attempting to fool the nation into adopting just such a program. It has already succeeded in imposing a socialist program on the country by creating and implementing Social Security, which was originally envisioned to bring “all people of Social Security age… under a program of compulsory health insurance.” Reagan, following the AMA’s position, says that the current “Eldercare” program, often called “Kerr-Mills” for its Congressional sponsors, is more than enough to cover elderly Americans’ medical needs. (Author Larry DeWitt notes that in 1965, Kerr-Mills will be superseded by Medicaid, the medical program for the poor. He will write, “So Reagan—on behalf of the AMA—was suggesting that the nation should be content with welfare benefits under a Medicaid-type program as the only form of government-provided health care coverage.”) King-Anderson is nothing more than “simply an excuse to bring about what [Democrats and liberals] wanted all the time: socialized medicine,” Reagan says. And once the Medicare proposal of King-Anderson is in place, he argues, the government will begin constructing an entire raft of socialist programs, and that, he says, will lead to the destruction of American democracy. “The doctor begins to lose freedom,” he warns. “First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then doctors aren’t equally divided geographically. So a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him, you can’t live in that town. They already have enough doctors. You have to go someplace else. And from here it’s only a short step to dictating where he will go.… All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man’s working place and his working methods, determine his employment. From here it’s a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay. And pretty soon your son won’t decide, when he’s in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him where he will go to work and what he will do.” DeWitt will note that this is far more extravagant than any of the Medicare proposals ever advanced by any lawmaker: “It was this more apocalyptic version of Medicare’s potential effects on the practice of medicine that Reagan used to scare his listeners.”
Advocating Letter-Writing Campaign - Reagan tells his listeners that they can head off the incipient socialization of America by engaging in a nationwide letter-writing campaign to flood Congress with their letters opposing King-Anderson. “You and I can do this,” he says. “The only way we can do it is by writing to our congressman even if we believe he’s on our side to begin with. Write to strengthen his hand. Give him the ability to stand before his colleagues in Congress and say, ‘I heard from my constituents and this is what they want.’”
Apocalypse - If the effort fails, if Medicare passes into law, the consequences will be dire beyond imagining, Reagan tells his audience: “And if you don’t do this and if I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” Reagan is followed up by an unidentified male announcer who reiterates Reagan’s points and gives “a little background on the subject of socialized medicine… that now threatens the free practice of medicine.” Reagan then makes a brief closing statement, promising that if his listeners do not write those letters, “this program I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country, until, one day… we will awake to find that we have socialism. And if you don’t do this, and if I don’t do it, one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” [Larry DeWitt, 9/2004; TPMDC, 8/25/2009]
American Medical Association logo. [Source: American Medical Association]The American Medical Association (AMA), in conjunction with many Congressional Republicans and some Democrats, attempts to beat back attempts to create a new government-run program to provide medical care for the elderly, to be called “Medicare.” The AMA and its political allies have fought the idea of a government-provided health care program for senior citizens since 1945, when then-President Harry Truman first suggested universal health care for all Americans.
Minimal 'Eldercare' Considered Too Much - Currently, a modest health care program for senior citizens, called “Eldercare,” is the only government coverage American seniors have. It is based on a compromise proposal written by conservative Democratic Senator Robert Kerr (D-OK) and Representative Wilbur Mills (D-AR) and signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower. Eldercare provides government benefits only for senior citizens who can demonstrate economic need, and states that choose not to participate in the program can opt out entirely. However, the AMA considers even this truncated program far too invasive, and fiercely opposes the more sweeping “Medicare” proposal, called King-Anderson after its main authors, Senator Clinton Anderson (D-NM) and Representative Cecil King (D-CA). The legislation is mired in Congressional committees. [Time, 2/19/1965; Larry DeWitt, 9/2004]
WHAM - The opposition to King-Anderson is led by the Women’s Auxilary of the AMA, which is given the task of coordinating the WHAM program—Women Help American Medicine. WHAM is directly dedicated to defeating the King-Anderson bill in Congress, “a bill which would provide a system of socialized medicine for our senior citizens and seriously curtail the quality of medical care in the United States.” The public campaign consists of the usual rallies and advertisements, most funded by corporate lobbyists working for the AMA and other health care firms. WHAM accuses King-Anderson proponents of being “socialists” and warns of federal bureaucrats violently invading “the privacy of the examination room.” WHAM coordinates an extensive grassroots effort under the rubric of “Operation Hometown,” enlisting local medical societies to speak out against King-Anderson, and providing pamphlets, reprints of press releases and articles, and talking points to local physicians.
Operation Coffeecup - Operation Coffeecup is a less visible, but just as important, element of the WHAM campaign. It centers around a series of “coffee klatches,” or “impromptu” get-togethers in kitchens and living rooms across America, hosted by WHAM members. WHAM members are told to downplay the significance of the events. One instruction tells them to portray the events as nothing more than “spontaneous” neighborhood get-togethers: “Drop a note—just say ‘Come for coffee at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. I want to play the Ronald Reagan record for you.’” The attendees are shown how to write equally “spontaneous” letters to members of Congress opposing the King-Anderson bill. The letters are carefully constructed to give the appearance of real, unsolicited missives written by concerned Americans, not the product of an orchestrated lobbying effort. Each WHAM member uses a 10-point checklist to ensure that the letters cover the points needed to make the argument against King-Anderson, and are not full of boilerplate, obviously copied-over material. The program is deliberately kept quiet, for fear that the media will portray it as an attempt to manipulate public opinion.
Reagan on Vinyl - The centerpiece of the Operation Coffeecup material is a vinyl LP entitled Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine (see 1962). The album is a 19-minute recording featuring an 11-minute address by Reagan, followed by an eight-minute follow-up by an announcer. WHAM members are assured that Reagan’s work for the organization is unpaid and voluntary, though they are not told that his father is a top AMA executive. Instead, they are told Reagan is motivated entirely by his sincere political convictions. The hope is that Reagan’s message will inspire legions of housewives to write letters demanding that King-Anderson be defeated. The AMA claims that Operation Coffeecup prompts a “legion” of responses. [Larry DeWitt, 9/2004]
Exposed - In June 1962, investigative reporter Drew Pearson exposes Operation Coffeecup in his newspaper column. Pearson writes: “Ronald Reagan of Hollywood has pitted his mellifluous voice against President Kennedy in the battle for medical aid for the elderly. As a result it looks as if the old folks would lose out. He has caused such a deluge of mail to swamp Congress that congressmen want to postpone action on the medical bill until 1962. What they don’t know, of course, is that Ron Reagan is behind the mail; also that the American Medical Association is paying for it.… Reagan is the handsome TV star for General Electric.… Just how this background qualifies him as an expert on medical care for the elderly remains a mystery. Nevertheless, thanks to a deal with the AMA, and the acquiescence of General Electric, Ronald may be able to outinfluence the president of the United States with Congress.” [Larry DeWitt, 9/2004; TPMDC, 8/25/2009]
Entity Tags: American Medical Association, Cecil King, Clinton Anderson, Operation Coffeecup, Drew Pearson, Women’s Auxilary of the AMA, Operation Hometown, Ronald Reagan, Women Help American Medicine, Medicare
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
W. Cleon Skousen. [Source: Skousen2000 (.com)]Author W. Cleon Skousen, a supporter of the John Birch Society (JBS—see December 2011), writes an article attacking the Time profile of the JBS (see March 10, 1961) as being part of an orchestrated Communist attack on the organization. The article came about after the international Communist Party “ordered” the “annihilation” of the JBS, Skousen says. Skousen denies the group’s penchant for secrecy, saying that it was openly set up in 1958 as a network of “study groups” examining the threat of Communism to American society. The organization, he writes, is nothing more than “a study group program with a strong bias in favor of traditional American constitutionalism.” By 1960, the JBS earned the enmity of competing conservative groups, Skousen says, because the organization “had rallied together most of the best informed and hardest working patriots in many cities.” However, he writes, JBS members tend to be part of other conservative movements as well. The JBS worked to defeat a bill, slated to be introduced in January 1961, that would largely defund the House Committee on Un-American Activities “so it could not investigate the Communist Party.” Skousen says that JBS efforts derailed the bill, handing the American Communist Party “an overwhelming defeat.” After the bill was defeated, Skousen says, “a manifesto… from Moscow” ordered the destruction of the JBS, as it posed the primary danger to “Communist progress” in the US. The Time magazine profile of the JBS was part of that effort, Skousen says, after the organization was attacked in the pages of the Daily People’s World, a West Coast publication that Skousen says was “the official Communist newspaper” of that area. Within days, the information in the article was reprinted in Time’s own article, which reached far more people than the People’s World. “[T]he thing which astonished me,” Skousen writes, “was the rapidity with which the transmission belt began to function so that this story was planted in one major news medium after another until finally even some of the more conservative papers had taken up the hue and cry.” Skousen calls the article a Communist plant filled with fabrications and lies. He says that JBS leader Robert Welch’s accusations that President Eisenhower and other pro-American world leaders are Communists were made in “private communication[s] to his friends” and were never part of official JBS principles, and took place well before Welch founded the JBS in 1957; therefore, Skousen writes, to report Welch’s characterizations is to smear the JBS. Skousen also denies any racism or anti-Semitism on the JBS’s part, and uses a sympathetic 1963 report by the California Senate Factfinding Committee to “prove” his claims. The report concluded that Welch and the JBS have “stirred the slumbering spirit of patriotism in thousands of Americans, roused them from lethargy, and changed their apathy into a deep desire to first learn the facts about communism and then implement that knowledge with effective and responsible action.” Skousen concludes that while Americans are free to disagree with JBS principles and actions, any criticism of the organization should be considered potential Communist propaganda designed to smear the organization and reduce its effectiveness. If the criticism does not come from Communists themselves, it plays into Communist hands. As he claims to have been told by “[a] former member of the Communist Party National Committee,” “The Communist leaders look upon the stamping out of the John Birch Society as a matter of life and death for the Party.” [Our Republic, 1963]
Part of a poster distributed by the John Birch Society in Dallas in the days before President Kennedy’s motorcade travels through that city. Kennedy will be assassinated while in the motorcade. [Source: Spartacus Schoolnet (.com)]The John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011), an anti-Communist organization that embraces racist and white supremacist ideologies, distrubutes posters throughout Dallas accusing President Kennedy of committing treason against the United States. The poster distribution is timed to coincide with Kennedy’s visit to Dallas, where he is scheduled to drive through the city in a motorcade on November 22. Kennedy will be assassinated during that motorcade. The poster, designed to appear as a “Wanted” notice, enumerates the following “charges” against Kennedy:
“Betraying the Constitution (which he swore to uphold). He is turning the sovereignty of the US over to the Communist controlled United Nations. He is betraying our friends (Cuba, Katanga, Portugal) and befriending our enemies (Russia, Yugoslavia, Poland).”
“He has been WRONG on innumerable issues affecting the security of the US (United Nations, Berlin Wall, Missile Removal, Cuba, Wheat deals, Test Ban Treaty, etc.).”
“He has been lax in enforcing the Communist Registration laws.”
“He has given support and encouragement to the Communist-inspired racial riots.”
“He has illegally invaded a sovereign State with federal troops.”
“He has consistently appointed Anti-Christians to Federal office. Upholds the Supreme Court in Anti-Christian rulings. Aliens and known Communists abound in Federal offices.”
“He has been caught in fantastic LIES to the American people (including personal ones like his previous marriage and divorce).” [Spartacus Schoolnet, 2008]
Conservative segregationist George Wallace (D-AL) says of the civil rights movement and the accompanying unrest, “There’s nothing wrong with this country that we couldn’t cure by turning it over to the police for a couple of weeks.” [Hunt, 9/1/2009, pp. 16] (Some sources will cite this statement as having been made in 1967.) [Lloyd and Mitchinson, 2008, pp. 11]
Farmer and mechanic Gordon Kahl, a World War II veteran who earned two Purple Hearts while flying bombing missions and a convert to the Christian Identity “religion” (see 1960s and After), now embraces the burgeoning anti-tax protest ideology (see 1951-1967). He writes a letter to the IRS telling it that he will never again “give aid and comfort to the enemies of Christ” by paying income taxes, which he calls tithing to “the synagogue of Satan.” Kahl is a virulent anti-Semite who believes that World War II was engineered by Jewish bankers who had “created” and backed Adolf Hitler in order to subjugate “the feisty German people.” Kahl denies that the Holocaust ever occurred, calling the concentration camps “mostly work camps” where less than 50,000 Jews died. Communism, he writes, is a “smoke screen” for “world Jewry,” which uses every means at its disposal—including the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs—to deceive and undermine Christians. To his friends and family, Kahl is a loving father and husband and a scrupulously honest businessman, but as author Daniel Levitas will write in 2003: “These virtuous aspects of his character did not extend beyond his small Anglo-Saxon circle, however. Kahl’s world was divided strictly into opposites and he felt only murderous contempt for those who fell on the other side of the line—satanic Jews, nonwhites, and the Christian lackeys of the International Jewish Conspiracy.” Kahl is a firm believer in ZOG, the “Zionist Occupied Government” of the United States, and he believes that most law enforcement officials are either unwitting dupes of this “conspiracy” or knowing members. Kahl leaves California for the West Texas oilfields, and in 1973 joins the anti-tax, anti-government Posse Comitatus (see 1969). [Levitas, 2002, pp. 193] Kahl will be convicted of tax evasion (see 1975 - 1981) and, fleeing incarceration, will kill two police officers in a shootout and later die himself after killing a third (see February 13, 1983 and After and March 13 - June 3, 1983).
Roger Ailes (left) and Richard Nixon in a 1968 photo. [Source: White House Photo Office / Rolling Stone]Roger Ailes, the media consultant for the Richard Nixon presidential campaign, decides that Nixon should, during a televised town hall, take a staged question from a “good, mean, Wallaceite cab driver.” Ailes is referring to the overtly racist third-party candidacy of Governor George Wallace (D-AL). Ailes suggests “[s]ome guy to sit there and say, ‘Awright, Mac, what about these n_ggers?’” According to Nixonland author Rick Pearlstein, the idea is to have Nixon “abhor the uncivility of the words, while endorsing a ‘moderate’ version of the opinion.” [Pearlstein, 5/2008, pp. 331; Media Matters, 7/22/2011] The suggestion is not used. Ailes will go on to found Fox News (see October 7, 1996).
Minnesota attorney Jerome Daly defends himself in a lawsuit filed by the First National Bank of Montgomery, in a case later cited as First National Bank of Montgomery v. Daly. The bank sues Daly in Credit River Township, Minnesota, after foreclosing on his property for nonpayment of his mortgage, and seeks to evict Daly. Daly, a well-known anti-tax protester who has filed “protest” tax returns in the past (see 1951-1967), argues that the bank never actually loaned him any money, but merely created credit on its books. Since the bank did not give him anything of tangible value, he argues, the bank has no right to his property. Both the jury and the Justice of the Peace presiding over the case, Martin V. Mahoney, agree, and declare the mortgage “null and void.” In his ruling, Mahoney admits that the verdict runs counter to provisions in the Minnesota Constitution and some Minnesota statutes, but contends that such provisions are “repugnant” to the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights in the Minnesota Constitution. Mahoney finds in his ruling that all Federal Reserve paper money has no intrinsic value. Initially, Daly retains his right to the property and has his mortgage revoked, but the bank appeals the case and the verdict favoring Daly is reversed, as is a similar lawsuit brought by Daly against another bank. The Minnesota Supreme Court begins proceedings against Mahoney and Daly for “constructive contempt” of the law. Mahoney’s death in 1969 voids the proceedings against him, but Daly is subsequently disbarred for his arguments, which the Minnesota Supreme Court finds entirely fraudulent, “unprofessional,” and “reprehensible.” The case and its reasoning will be frequently cited in lawsuits challenging the US banking system, particularly the practice of “fractional reserve banking.” The case has no value as precedent, but will often be cited by groups supporting a government-owned central bank or opposing the Federal Reserve system. [State of Minnesota, County of Scott, First National Bank of Montgomery v. Daly, 12/9/1968 ; State of Minnesota, County of Scott, First National Bank of Montgomery v. Daly, 1/12/1969 ; US District Court for the District of Utah, 10/28/2008; Minnesota State Law Library, 5/27/2010]
Deputy Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, discussing the “subversion” of the antiwar and civil rights protest movements, says: “When you see an epidemic like this cropping up all over the country—the same kind of people saying the same kind of things—you begin to get a picture that it is a national subversive activity.… All of these student protesters should be rounded up and put into detention camps.” [Hunt, 9/1/2009, pp. 17]
The logo of the Posse Comitatus. [Source: Underground News Network]The Posse Comitatus, an anti-Semitic, right-wing “Christian Identity” organization (see 1960s and After), is founded by retired dry-cleaning executive Henry L. Beach in Portland, Oregon, who calls his organization the Sherriff’s Posse Comitatus (SPC) or Citizen’s Law Enforcement Research Committee (CLERC). Beach has supported Nazism since the 1930s, and formerly led a neo-Nazi organization called the Silver Shirts (see January 31, 1933). The Posse Comitatus is quickly taken over by William Potter Gale, a retired Army colonel who founded a similar organization called the US Christian Posse Association in Glendale, California, and manages to roll the two groups, and a few other loosely organized entities, into one. The Posse Comitatus dedicates itself to survivalism, vigilantism, and anti-government activities; its bylaws state that no federal or state governmental entity has any legal standing, and only county and town governments are legitimate. Furthermore, the organization believes that the entire federal government is controlled by Jews, and as such has no authority over whites. Beach’s original Posse manual states, “[O]fficials of government who commit criminal acts or who violate their oath of office… shall be removed by the posse to the most populated intersection of streets in the township and, at high noon, be hung by the neck, the body remaining until sundown as an example to those who would subvert the law.” According to a 1986 advisory published by the IRS, “members associated with some of the Posse groups wear tiny gold hangmen’s nooses on their lapels.” Posse members refuse to pay taxes whenever they can get away with it, and ignore laws that they feel cannot be enforced by “the enemy.” Instead, they claim to abide by a “common law,” defined as a set of principles that they themselves create and change at will. The organization begins making inroads into the farm communities of the Northwest and Upper Midwest after federal mismanagement of agricultural policies threatens the livelihood of many area farmers; the Posse tells them, “Farmers are victims of a Jewish-controlled government and banking system, federal taxes are illegal and loans need not be repaid.” Some area farmers embrace the message, and the Posse begins heavily recruiting in Michigan. [Ian Geldard, 2/19/1995; Nicole Nichols, 2003]
Anti-Government, Anti-Tax Ideology - The Posse Comitatus believes that the federal and state governments are inherently illegal and have no authority whatsoever; the highest elected official of the land, it says, is the county sheriff, who can form juries and call out “posses” of citizens to enforce the law as necessary. The movement strongly opposes paying taxes, particularly to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and considers money issued by the Federal Reserve System as illegal. It says that the Constitution’s 16th Amendment, which gave Congress the right to tax citizens’ incomes, was illegally ratified and therefore unconstitutional; moreover, it says, careful examination of federal law tells it that income taxes are entirely voluntary. The Federal Reserve System is, as one Posse publication puts it, “a private monopoly which neither the people nor the states authorized in the Constitution.” The Federal Reserve’s printed money violates the Constitution. Some, but not all, Posse Comitatus members also express racist and separatist views similar to those of Christian Identity believers (see 1960s and After); these members say that the Federal Reserve is controlled by a small cabal of international Jewish bankers who intend to destroy the American economy. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; US Constitution: Sixteenth Amendment, 2011; Anti-Defamation League, 2011] Posse Comitatus members use the threat of violence, and sometimes actual violence, to express their anti-tax and anti-government ideologies (see 1972 and 1974).
Township Movement - The Posse spawns a directly related ideology, the “township movement,” led in part by Utah resident Walt P. Mann. Township advocates advocate setting up small sovereign communities that are answerable only to themselves. The Posse will set up a “constitutional township” on a 1,400-acre plot in Wisconsin and name it “Tigerton Dells,” posting signs that say, “Federal Agents Keep out; Survivors will be Prosecuted.” Tigerton Dells will appoint its own judges and foreign ambassadors before federal authorities seize the property (see 1984).
Movement Spreads throughout Northwest, Plains States - By 1976, an FBI report says that the Posse Comitatus movement will consist of up to 50,000 adherents throughout the Northwest and Great Plains states. The center of the movement is at Tigerton Dells; Posse members there will disrupt local government meetings and assault public officials. The farm crisis of the early 1980s will allow the Posse to begin converting angry, frightened farmers throughout the region. In 1996, the Anti-Defamation League’s Mark Pitcavage will write, “The Posse offered up targets for people to blame: the courts, the money system, the federal government, the Jews.”
Waging Legal Battles - While some Posse members offer violence to law enforcement and public officials (see February 13, 1983 and After), most of their battles with the government take place in court. Posse members most frequently use two common legal strategems: filing frivolous liens on the properties of public officials who oppose or anger them, particularly IRS agents, and flooding the courts with a barrage of legal documents, filings, motions, and appeals. The liens carry no legal weight but sometimes damage the recipients’ credit scores and interfere with the recipients’ ability to buy or sell property. The court documents, often written in arcane, archaic, and contradictory legal language, clog the court system and frustate judges and prosecutors. A related tactic is the establishment of “common law courts,” vigilante courts that often threaten public officials. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]
Inspiration to Other Groups - The Posse Comitatus’s ideology will inspire other anti-government groups, such as the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994).
Entity Tags: US Federal Reserve, William Potter Gale, Walt P. Mann, Internal Revenue Service, Posse Comitatus, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Henry L. Beach, Mark Pitcavage, Sherriff’s Posse Comitatus, US Christian Posse Association
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
Life Magazine cover featuring Agnew. [Source: Southern Methodist University]Vice President Spiro Agnew, fresh from helping Richard Nixon win the 1968 election by viciously attacking their Democratic opponents, wins a reputation as a tough-talking, intensely negative public presence in Washington. Much of Agnew’s tirades are crafted by White House speechwriters Pat Buchanan and William Safire. In 1969, Agnew derides antiwar protesters, saying, “A spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.” [Time, 9/30/1996] Student war protesters “have never done a productive thing in their lives,” and, “They take their tactics from Fidel Castro and their money from daddy.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 10/11/1998] In 1970, he attacks the American media and critics of the Nixon administration alike, telling a San Diego audience that “we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism.” Agnew attacks enemies of the administration as “pusillanimous pussyfooters,” “vicars of vacillation,” and “the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.” Democrats are “radic-libs” and “ideological eunuchs.” In Des Moines, reading a speech written by Buchanan, Agnew slams the US media industry, saying it is dominated by a “tiny and closed fraternity of privileged men, elected by no one.” Agnew’s unrelenting attacks on the press raise, reporter Lance Morrow writes in 1996, “issues of media bias, arrogance and unaccountability that are still banging around in the American mind.” Agnew is undone by his own negativity, earning a barrage of critical press coverage for, among other things, calling an Asian-American reporter a “fat Jap,” referring to a group of Polish-Americans as “Polacks,” and dismissing the plight of America’s poor by saying, “To some extent, if you’ve seen one city slum, you’ve seen them all.” Many political observers feel that Agnew’s heated rhetoric is the precursor to the wave of personal, negative attack politics practiced by the GOP in the decades to come. [New York Times, 9/19/1996; Time, 9/30/1996] Interestingly, while many Americans celebrate Agnew’s rhetoric, few want him as a successor to the presidency. One Baltimore bar patron says, “I don’t want the president of the United States to sound like I do after I’ve had a few beers.” [Economist, 9/28/1996]
Pat Buchanan, June 1969. [Source: Bettmann / Corbis]President Nixon’s speechwriter, Pat Buchanan, writes a memo urging Nixon not to visit “the Widow King”—his term for civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s wife Coretta Scott King—on the first anniversary of her husband’s assassination. Buchanan writes that a visit would “outrage many, many people who believe Dr. King was a fraud and a demagogue and perhaps worse.… Others consider him the Devil incarnate. Dr. King is one of the most divisive men in contemporary history.” The memo will be publicly revealed in the 1980s. [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 2/26/1996]
A number of small, loosely affiliated “ecoterrorist” groups begin to form, mostly in California and West Coast areas of the United States, though their operations are evident throughout the nation. Some of the more prominent groups include: the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976); Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997); and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC—see 1998). Generally, the groups’ ideology embraces the concept of using property damage to hinder or stop the exploitation of animals and the destruction of the environment. These organizations usually target the operations of companies in related industries, or sometimes terrorize executives and employees of these firms. The companies usually targeted include automobile dealerships, housing developments, forestry companies, corporate and university-based medical research laboratories, restaurants, and fur farms. As of 2005, no one will have been injured in these attacks, though the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will predict that the steady escalation of violence from the groups may result in injury or even death. The groups will cause millions of dollars in damage to property and items, usually through arson, bombings, and vandalism. The “ecoterrorist” groups tend to be small, and made up of environmental and animal rights activists on the “fringes” of the mainstream movements who have become frustrated with the slow pace of change. Some members are also affiliated with one or another of the various “anarchist” groups. The ADL will contrast the typical “ecoterrorist” group with racist and white supremacist groups, noting that their organizational structure tends to be extremely egalitarian and sometimes almost nonexistent: “Unlike racial hate groups with established hierarchies and membership requirements, for example, an activist can become a member of the ecoterror movement simply by carrying out an illegal action on its behalf.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005] The term “ecoterrorism” does not gain widespread usage until after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will note that “members of Congress, conservative commentators, and the FBI [will join] in a chorus decrying the acts as ‘ecoterrorism.’” Charles Muscoplat, the dean of agriculture at the University of Minnesota—a targeted site—says: “These are clearly terroristic acts. Someone could get hurt or killed in a big fire like we had.” ALF spokesman David Barbarash (see 1998) says in response: “I mean, what was the Boston Tea Party if not a massive act of property destruction?… Property damage is a legitimate political tool called economic sabotage, and it’s meant to attack businesses and corporations who are profiting from the exploitation, murder, and torture of either humans or animals, or the planet.… [T]o call those acts terrorism is ludicrous.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002]
Vice President Spiro Agnew (see 1969-1971, April 10, 1973, and October 10, 1973) gives the following advice: “We must look to the university that receives our children. Is it prepared to deal with the challenge of the non-democratic left? One modest suggestion for my friends in the academic community: the next time a mob of students, waving their non-negotiable demands, starts pitching bricks and rocks at the Student Union—just imagine they are wearing brown shirts or white sheets and act accordingly.” [Hunt, 9/1/2009, pp. 18]
Arizona tax protester Marvin Cooley writes a best-selling book, The Big Bluff, documenting the struggles of his fellow anti-tax protester, W. Vaughn Ellsworth. Cooley, whose gruff tirades against the IRS and the federal government make him popular on the far-right speaking circuit—in 1971, he wrote to the IRS: “I will no longer pay for the destruction of my country, family, and self. Damn tyranny! Damn the Federal Reserve liars and thieves! Damn all pettifogging, oath-breaking US attorneys and judges.… I will see you all in Hell and shed my blood before I will be robbed of one more dollar to finance a national policy of treason, plunder, and corruption”—includes sample letters and copies of his own tax returns in his book. Among Cooley’s adherents is Robert Jay Mathews, who will go on to found the violent neo-Nazi group The Order (see Late September 1983). In 1970, the 17-year-old Mathews, still living with his parents in Phoenix, becomes a sergeant-at-arms for some of Cooley’s meetings. In 1973, Mathews will use Cooley’s income tax theories to fraudulently list 10 dependents on his W-4 tax form, a common protest tactic that winds up with Mathews convicted of tax fraud (see 1973). Cooley, a vocal proponent of tax protester Arthur Porth (see 1951-1967)‘s “Fifth Amendment Return” strategy (refusing to pay taxes on Fifth Amendment grounds) will go to jail for tax evasion in 1973 and again in 1989. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2001; Anti-Defamation League, 2011]
William Pierce. [Source: Qbitblog (.com)]William Pierce, a white supremacist and a senior research scientist at Pratt and Whitney Advanced Materials Research and Development Laboratory in New Haven, Connecticut, quits the National Socialist White People’s Party (NSWPP), the remnants of the American Nazi Party (ANP), which had begun to collapse after the August 1967 assassination of its leader, George Lincoln Rockwell, Pierce’s mentor. Pierce leaves the organization after a violent argument with its leadership and joins the National Youth Alliance (NYA). This group formed from what was Youth for Wallace, a 1968 organization founded by Willis Carto to garner support on college campuses for segregationist George Wallace (D-AL)‘s third-party presidential campaign (see 1964 and May 15, 1972). After the 1968 election, the group renamed itself and continued its work on university campuses. In 1974, after a bitter power struggle between Carto and Pierce, the organization splinters. Pierce calls his burgeoning organization the National Alliance, incorporating it in February 1974. In 2002, Carto will tell a reporter: “I started the Youth for Wallace. After the election, the Youth for Wallace head Louis Byers, he took the mailing list and went to Pierce and made a deal. That’s where the National Youth Alliance came from, then Pierce changed the name.” Carto will form the Liberty Lobby, which will publish a prominent white supremacist tabloid, The Spotlight, and will found the Institute for Historical Review, which will specialize in “proving” the Holocaust never happened. Pierce and Carto will remain bitter rivals. Pierce will write The Turner Diaries, an inflammatory “future history” of a white revolution in America that leads to the overthrow of the government and the extermination of minorities (see 1978), which Pierce will serialize in the Alliance’s newsletter, “Attack!” (later renamed “National Vanguard”). [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ] Pierce is joined in creating the National Alliance by former John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011) co-founder Revilo P. Oliver. Pierce and Oliver will soon name Adolf Hitler “the greatest man of our era.” [NewsOne, 2/24/2010]
Entity Tags: William Luther Pierce, Revilo P. Oliver, Willis Carto, National Youth Alliance, Louis Byers, National Alliance, George Lincoln Rockwell, George C. Wallace, John Birch Society, Liberty Lobby, American Nazi Party, National Socialist White People’s Party, Institute for Historical Review
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The Aryan Nations logo. [Source: Southern Poverty Law Center]Aerospace engineer and white racist Richard Butler, who departed California in the early 1970s and moved into a rural farmhouse in Hayden Lake, Idaho, founds and develops one of the nation’s most notorious and violent white separatist groups, the Aryan Nations. Butler’s 20-acre farmhouse becomes the compound for the group and its affiliated church, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian; Butler and his nascent organization envision a “whites-only” “homeland” in the Pacific Northwest. At age 11, Butler read a serialized novel in Liberty Magazine, depicting the takeover of the US by “race-mixing Bolsheviks” that deeply impressed him. As a young man, he worked as an aeronautical engineer in India, where he was fascinated by the Indian caste structure and the concept of racial purity. In 1941 he left a Los Angeles church after concluding that the preacher was spreading Communist doctrine. During World War II, as an Army engineer, he became fascinated by the German military, and later recalls that he “was thrilled to see the movies of the marching Germans.… In those days, all we knew was that Hitler hated communists, and so did my folks—as we did as teenagers.” In the 1950s, Butler was enthralled by radio broadcasts of then-Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) and his “Red scare” accusations, and sent money to support McCarthy’s political campaigns. During that time, Butler met William Potter Gale, another white supremacist who went on to found the Posse Comitatus (see 1969). Butler held a high position in the Christian Defense League, an organization founded by the Reverend Wesley Swift and described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as “virulently anti-Semitic,” until 1965, and shortly thereafter became a mail-order “ordained minister” of Christian Identity, a white supremacist offshoot of the Christian church (see 1960s and After). Butler buys the farmhouse in Hayden Lake and founds his own “Christian Posse Comitatus,” and thereafter founds the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. The two groups merge into what later becomes known as Aryan Nations. [Washington Post, 6/2/2003; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]
James A. Rhodes. [Source: Ohio History Central (.org)]James A. Rhodes (R-OH), the governor of Ohio, says of student protesters at Kent State University: “They’re worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes (see 1970). They’re the worst kind of people we harbor in America. I think that we’re up against the strongest, well-trained, militant revolutionary group that has ever assembled in Ameica.… We’re going to eradicate the problem, we’re not going to treat the symptoms.” Two days later, National Guardsmen following Rhodes’s orders kill four unarmed students on the Kent State campus and wound nine others (see May 4-5, 1970). [Hunt, 9/1/2009, pp. 19]
Governor Ronald Reagan listens to a statement by an antiwar protester, 1970. [Source: Not in Kansas (.com)]Speaking in support of the Kent State shootings, in which National Guardsmen slew four unarmed students and wounded nine others (see May 2, 1970 and May 4-5, 1970), Governor Ronald Reagan (R-CA) says of efforts to stop student protests on university campuses, “If it takes a bloodbath, then let’s get it over with.” [Hunt, 9/1/2009, pp. 19]
Roger Ailes, the senior media consultant for the Nixon administration (see 1968), writes, or helps write, a secret memo for President Nixon and fellow Republicans outlining a plan for conservatives to “infiltrate and neutralize” the mainstream American media. The document will not be released until 2011; experts will call it the “intellectual forerunner” to Fox News, which Ailes will launch as a “fair and balanced” news network in 1996 (see October 7, 1996). John Cook, the editor of the online news and commentary magazine Gawker, will call the document the outline of a “nakedly partisan… plot by Ailes and other Nixon aides to circumvent the ‘prejudices of network news’ and deliver ‘pro-administration’ stories to heartland television viewers.” The document is entitled “A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News.” Ailes, currently the owner of REA Productions and Ailes Communications Inc., works for the Nixon White House as a media consultant; he will serve the same function for President George H.W. Bush during his term. Ailes is a forceful advocate for using television to shape the message of the Nixon administration and of Republican policies in general. He frequently suggests launching elaborately staged events to entice favorable coverage from television reporters, and uses his contacts at the news networks to head off negative publicity. Ailes writes that the Nixon White House should run a partisan, pro-Republican media operation—essentially a self-contained news production organization—out of the White House itself. He complains that the “liberal media” “censors” the news to portray Nixon and his administration in a negative light. Cook will say the plan “reads today like a detailed precis for a Fox News prototype.” The initial idea may have originated with Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, but if so, Ailes expands and details the plan far beyond Haldeman’s initial seed of an idea. [Roger Ailes, 1970; Gawker, 6/30/2011] In 2011, Rolling Stone journalist Tim Dickinson will write: “This is an astounding find. It underscores Ailes’s early preoccupation with providing the GOP with a way to do an end run around skeptical journalists.” [Rolling Stone, 7/1/2011]
Focus on Television - Ailes insists that any such media plan should focus on television and not print. Americans are “lazy,” he writes, and want their thinking done for them: “Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you.” Ailes says the Nixon administration should create its own news network “to provide pro-administration, videotape, hard news actualities to the major cities of the United States.” Other television news outlets such as NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, and PBS News, are “the enemy,” he writes, and suggests going around them by creating packaged, edited news stories and interviews directly to local television stations. (Years later, these kinds of “news reports” will be called “video news releases,” or VNRs, and will routinely be used by the George W. Bush administration and others—see March 15, 2004, May 19, 2004, March 2005, and March 13, 2005. They will be outlawed in 2005—see May 2005.) “This is a plan that places news of importance to localities (senators and representatives are newsmakers of importance to their localities) on local television news programs while it is still news. It avoids the censorship, the priorities, and the prejudices of network news selectors and disseminators.” Ailes and his colleagues include detailed cost analyses and production plans for such news releases. In a side note on the document, Ailes writes: “Basically a very good idea. It should be expanded to include other members of the administration such as cabinet involved in activity with regional or local interest. Also could involve GOP governors when in DC. Who would purchase equipment and run operation—White House? RNC [Republican National Committee]? Congressional caucus? Will get some flap about news management.”
Dirty Tricks - Ailes suggests planting “volunteers” within the Wallace campaign, referring to segregationist George Wallace (D-AL), whose third-party candidacy in 1968 almost cost Nixon the presidency. Ailes knows Wallace is planning a 1972 run as well, and is apparently suggesting a “mole” to either gather intelligence, carry out sabotage, or both. (Wallace’s plans for another run will be cut short by an assassination attempt—see May 15, 1972.) Ailes also suggests having his firm film interviews with Democrats who support Nixon’s Vietnam policies, such as Senators John Stennis (D-MS) and John McClellan (D-AR). Though Stennis and McClellan would believe that the interviews were for actual news shows, they would actually be carried out by Ailes operatives and financed by a Nixon campaign front group, the “Tell it to Hanoi Committee.” In June 1970, someone in the Nixon administration scuttles the plan, writing: “[T]he fact that this presentation is White House directed, unbeknownst to the Democrats on the show, presents the possibility of a leak that could severely embarrass the White House and damage significantly its already precarious relationship with the Congress. Should two powerful factors like Stennis and McClellan discover they are dupes for the administration the scandal could damage the White House for a long time to come.”
Volunteers to Head Program - Ailes writes that he wants to head any such “news network,” telling Haldeman: “Bob—if you decide to go ahead we would as a production company like to bid on packaging the entire project. I know what has to be done and we could test the feasibility for 90 days without making a commitment beyond that point.” Haldeman will grant Ailes’s request in November 1970, and will give the project a name: “Capitol News Service.” Haldeman will write: “With regard to the news programming effort as proposed last summer, Ailes feels this is a good idea and that we should be going ahead with it. Haldeman suggested the name ‘Capitol News Service’ and Ailes will probably be doing more work in this area.” Documents fail to show whether the “Capitol News Service” is ever actually implemented. [Roger Ailes, 1970; Gawker, 6/30/2011]
Television News Incorporated - Ailes will be fired from the Nixon administration in 1971; he will go on to start a similar private concern, “Television News Incorporated” (TVN—see 1971-1975), an ideological and practical predecessor to Fox News. Dickinson will write: “More important, [the document] links the plot to create what would become Television News Incorporated—the Ailes-helmed ‘fair and balanced’ mid-1970s precursor to Fox News—to the Nixon White House itself.” [Gawker, 6/30/2011; Rolling Stone, 7/1/2011] A former business colleague of Ailes’s will say in 2011: “Everything Roger wanted to do when he started out in politics, he’s now doing 24/7 with his network [Fox News]. It’s come full circle.” [Rolling Stone, 5/25/2011]
Entity Tags: John Cook, George C. Wallace, Fox News, Bush administration (43), Ailes Communications, H.R. Haldeman, George Herbert Walker Bush, Tim Dickinson, Television News Incorporated, Tell it to Hanoi Committee, REA Productions, John Stennis, John Little McClellan, Nixon administration, Roger Ailes
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Two of the airliners detonated by the hijackers at Dawson’s Field on September 12, 1970. [Source: Rolls Press / Popperfoto / Getty Images]The first major act of Middle East terrorism on a global scale plays out in Jordan. Militant Palestinian nationalists hijack four Western commercial airliners and fly the planes and their passengers—now hostages—to a desert airfield near Amman. After negotiations, they release the hostages and blow up the empty airliners for the news cameras. Jordan’s King Hussein responds by mobilizing his military for a showdown with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), a guerrilla organization based in his country. Hussein worries that Iraq or Syria might intervene on behalf of the PLO, and lets the US know that he would like US support in that event. Instead, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger makes the unlikely suggestion that Israel, not the US, step in to help Jordan if need be. President Nixon uses the incident to challenge the Soviet Union, warning the Soviets not to intervene if the US moves to prevent Syrian tanks from entering Jordan. Nixon often lets the Soviets and other adversaries think that he is capable of the most irrational acts—the “madman theory,” both Nixon and his critics call it—but Kissinger eventually convinces Nixon to support the idea of Israeli intervention. King Hussein secretly cables the British government to request an Israeli air strike, a cable routed to Washington via Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. Nixon gives his approval and Israel moves in. 3,000 Palestinians and Jordanians die in the subsequent conflict, dubbed “Black September” in the Arab world. Hussein loses influence and prestige among his fellow Arab leaders, and the PLO, energized by the conflict, moves into Lebanon. PLO leader Yasser Arafat takes undisputed control of the organization. Oil-supplying nations rally behind the Palestinian cause, and international terrorist incidents begin to escalate. [Werth, 2006, pp. 90-91]
President Nixon gives antiwar demonstrators a chance to physically protest the Vietnam War during a campaign rally in Michigan, hoping for favorable press coverage that would denigrate the protesters. According to notes taken by chief of staff H. R. Haldeman, when the demonstrators “tried to storm the door” of the auditorium “after we were in,” they “really hit the motorcade on the way out.” The notes also say: “We wanted some confrontation and there were no hecklers in the hall, so we stalled departure a little so they could zero in outside, and they sure did. Before getting in car, P [Nixon] stood up and gave the ‘V’ sign, which made them mad. They threw rocks, flags, candles, etc, as we drove out, after a terrifying flying wedge of cops opened up the road. Rock hit my car, driver hit brakes, car stalled, car behind hit us, rather scary as rocks were flying, etc, but we all caught up and got out. Bus windows smashed, etc. Made a huge incident and we worked hard to crank it up, should make a really major story and might be effective.” The local police chief says only “an act of God” allows Nixon to escape; the Secret Service goes into an assassination alert. Nixon is so excited and pleased by the events that he nearly burns down his house in San Clemente, California, trying to light a fire in the fireplace. Laughing, Nixon refuses to leave the house, saying he likes the smell of smoke, and retells the story of the rally over and over to his aides. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 270-271]
After spending the afternoon and evening preparing for his historic outreach to the Communist government of mainland China, President Nixon stays up late penning letters to various newspaper editors, letters purportedly from average citizens, and asks chief of staff H. R. Haldeman to find ordinary people to sign and send them. One letter, to columnist John Osborne of the New Republic, should be signed by a graduate student from Yale or Georgetown Universities, Nixon suggests. It reads in part, “Your scathing attacks on President Nixon have delighted me beyond belief…. I don’t know when I looked forward more to a television program than the press conference…. I thought this was really the time the press would get to this S.O.B.… It was a shocking disappointment. Can’t you do something to get smarter people in the press corps?” Another letter, to be sent to Washington Star reporter James Doyle, begins, “I write this letter, not in any sense of anger but simply out of sorrow… that you and your colleagues had utterly struck out when you tried to take the president on in his press conference.” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 285]
Roger Ailes, a former media consultant to the Nixon administration (see Summer 1970) who proposed a White House-run “news network” that would promote Republican-generated propaganda over what he calls “liberal” news reporting (see Summer 1970), moves on to try the idea in the private venue. Ailes works with a project called Television News Incorporated (TVN), a propaganda venue funded by right-wing beer magnate Joseph Coors. Conservative activist and Coors confidant Paul Weyrich will later call Ailes “the godfather behind the scenes” of TVN. To cloak the “news” outlet’s far-right slant, Ailes coins the slogan “Fair and Balanced” for TVN. In 2011, Rolling Stone reporter Tim Dickinson will write: “TVN made no sense as a business. The… news service was designed to inject a far-right slant into local news broadcasts by providing news clips that stations could use without credit—and for a fraction of the true costs of production. Once the affiliates got hooked on the discounted clips, its president explained, TVN would ‘gradually, subtly, slowly’ inject ‘our philosophy in the news.’ The network was, in the words of a news director who quit in protest, a ‘propaganda machine.’” Within weeks of TVN’s inception, its staff of professional journalists eventually has enough of the overt propaganda of their employer and begin defying management orders; Coors and TVN’s top management fire 16 staffers and bring in Ailes to run the operation. The operation is never successful, but during his tenure at TVN, Ailes begins plotting the development of a right-wing news network very similar in concept to the as-yet-unborn Fox News. TVN plans to invest millions in satellite distribution that would allow it not only to distribute news clips to other broadcasters, but to provide a full newscast with its own anchors and crew (a model soon used by CNN). Dickinson will write, “For Ailes, it was a way to extend the kind of fake news that he was regularly using as a political strategist.” Ailes tells a Washington Post reporter in 1972: “I know certain techniques, such as a press release that looks like a newscast. So you use it because you want your man to win.” Ailes contracts with Ford administration officials to produce propaganda for the federal government, providing news clips and scripts to the US Information Agency. Ailes insists that the relationship is not a conflict of interest. Unfortunately for Ailes and Coors, TVN collapses in 1975. One of its biggest problems is the recalcitrance of its journalists, who continue to resist taking part in what they see as propaganda operations. Ailes biographer Kerwin Swint will later say, “They were losing money and they weren’t able to control their journalists.” In a 2011 article for the online news and commentary magazine Gawker, John Cook will write: “Though it died in 1975, TVN was obviously an early trial run for the powerhouse Fox News would become. The ideas were the same—to route Republican-friendly stories around the gatekeepers at the network news divisions.” Dickinson will write that one of the lessons Ailes learns from TVN, and will employ at Fox, is to hire journalists who put ideological committment ahead of journalistic ethics—journalists who will “toe the line.” [Rolling Stone, 5/25/2011; Gawker, 6/30/2011] Ailes will go on to found Fox News, using the “fair and balanced” slogan to great effect (see October 7, 1996 and 1995).
Entity Tags: Paul Weyrich, John Cook, Fox News, Ford administration, Joseph Coors, Nixon administration, Television News Incorporated, Tim Dickinson, Roger Ailes, United States Information Agency, Kerwin Swint
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan, one of the most conservative members of the Nixon administration, is appalled at the president’s priorities for the upcoming year, which features increased human resource spending, education and health care reform, wage guarantees, and plans to withdraw US troops from Vietnam. Buchanan writes: “Neither liberal nor conservative, neither fish nor fowl, the Nixon administration… is a hybrid, whose zigging and zagging has succeeded in winning the enthusiasm and loyalty of neither the left nor the right, but the suspicion and distrust of both…. Truly, the liberals went swimming and President Nixon stole their clothes—but in the process we left our old conservative suit lying by the swimming hole for someone to pick up… . Conservatives are the n_ggers of the Nixon administration.” Nixon responds by scrawling in the margin of Buchanan’s memo, “You overlook RN’s consistent hard line on foreign policy.” What Buchanan either fails to grasp or ignores, according to historian Richard Reeves, is that Nixon feels he has enough support among hardline Republican conservatives like Buchanan; he now wants to win the loyalty of conservative Democrats and mainstream Republicans, and drive the Democratic Party ever farther to the left. Reeves will also note: “He also had a secret: he did not much care whether or not this new agenda passed. The idea was to make it look and sound good enough to keep Congress and the press busy so that he could concentrate on his own driving dreams: the realignment of American politics and of world power structures.” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 294-295]
Nixon aide Charles Colson and Colson’s aide George Bell begin working on an “enemies list,” people and organizations the White House believes are inimical to President Nixon and his agenda (see June 27, 1973). The initial list includes a group of reporters who may have written favorably about Nixon and his actions in the past, but who cannot be trusted to continue, and a second group of reporters who are considered “definitely hostile.” A second list, from White House aide Tom Charles Huston, is staggeringly long, and includes, in historian Richard Reeves’s words, “most every man or woman who had ever said a discouraging word about Nixon.” A third list is made up of “enemy” organizations, including several left-of-center think tanks and foundations, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the AFL-CIO. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 297-298]
President Nixon tries to come up with ways to use the recently leaked “Pentagon Papers” (see June 13, 1971) to his own advantage. If the papers contain anything about former president John F. Kennedy’s supposed role in the 1963 assassination of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem, “I want that out,” he tells aide Charles Colson. “I said that [Diem] was murdered.… I know what those b_stards were up to.” Did former President Lyndon B. Johnson stop the US bombings of Vietnamese targets just before the 1968 elections to try to prevent Nixon from being elected? “You can blackmail Johnson on this stuff and it might be worth doing,” chief of staff H. R. Haldeman suggests (see June 17, 1972). [Reeves, 2001, pp. 334-335]
A 1979 portrait of Justice Lewis Powell. [Source: Public domain.]Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer who sits on the boards of 11 corporations, writes a memo to his friend Eugene Sydnor Jr., the director of the US Chamber of Commerce. The memo, titled “Attack of American Free Enterprise System,” posits that the US business culture “is under broad attack” from a number of venues. [Reclaim Democracy, 4/3/2004] Powell is a conservative Southern Democrat and former American Bar Association president who turned down a 1969 offer to sit on the Supreme Court. [Media Transparency, 8/20/2002]
Corporate Capitalism under Broad Attack - Powell is worried about “attacks” from left-wing political and social interests and organizations, whom he says want to institutionalize “socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism)” in the stead of US capitalism, but is more concerned with a few “extremist” critics who strive for many of the same goals as the “statists.” “We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre,” he writes. “Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.” Powell points to a “varied and diffused” number of attackers, including “not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists, and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority and are not yet the principal cause for concern. The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.” Television gives these voices a prominence that their numbers and ideologies should not have, he says. Powell cites university campuses and the national news media as the most troublesome and “dangerous” sources of anti-business sentiment. He cites consumer advocate Ralph Nader as “[p]erhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business,” a “legend in his own time” who, Powell writes, wants to “smash… utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power.” Nader and his colleagues want to radically revamp the corporate tax system, Powell says, to gut tax loopholes and “incentives” that keep corporate profits high and tax burdens relatively low; the same tax revisions would harshly impact America’s wealthy. Powell calls these effots “either political demagoguery or economic illiteracy,” and warns, “This setting of the ‘rich’ against the ‘poor,’ of business against the people, is the cheapest and most dangerous kind of politics.” Most corporate entities and personnel have paid little to no attention to these attacks, Powell says; he acknowledges that “businessmen have not been trained or equipped to conduct guerrilla warfare with those who propagandize against the system, seeking insidiously and constantly to sabotage it.” But, he says, this training must commence, for the survival of America’s corporate business culture.
Fighting Back - Individual businesses must designate senior executives “whose responsibility is to counter—on the broadest front—the attack on the enterprise system,” perhaps through the various corporations’ public relations departments. The Chamber of Commerce, both the national entity and its local affiliates, must take a leadership role in organizing, streamlining, and effecting these countering activities.
Countering University Opposition - American college campuses must be targeted, Powell writes, with a particular eye to social science departments, whose members “tend to be liberally oriented, even when leftists are not present. This is not a criticism per se, as the need for liberal thought is essential to a balanced viewpoint. The difficulty is that ‘balance’ is conspicuous by its absence on many campuses, with relatively few members being of conservatives or moderate persuasion and even the relatively few often being less articulate and aggressive than their crusading colleagues.” Attacking academic freedom itself would be a “fatal” mistake, Powell notes, but the “liberal” and “anti-business” voices on university faculties must be “balanced” by Chamber of Commerce speakers and scholars who challenge the rhetoric coming from the universities. College textbooks must be “evaluated” by these Chamber-employed scholars to ensure that they reflect “balance,” in many instances challenging what Powell calls the rewriting of textbooks by scholars affiliated with the civil rights movement. “If the authors, publishers, and users of textbooks know that they will be subjected—honestly, fairly, and thoroughly—to review and critique by eminent scholars who believe in the American system, a return to a more rational balance can be expected,” he writes. Powell says that “avowed Communists” make a large number of speeches and presentations on college campuses every year—over 100 in 1970 alone—and are augmented by “many hundreds of appearances by leftists and ultra-liberals who urge the types of viewpoints indicated earlier in this memorandum.” Such presentations must be “balanced” by pro-business, pro-conservative speakers, put forth “aggressively” by the Chamber and other organizations. College faculties must be “balanced” by the hiring of pro-business professors. One venue that entities such as the Chamber could successfully work through is a university’s graduate school of business. And the Chamber scholars must publish in academic journals and consumer publications such as Life and Reader’s Digest.
High School Efforts - Such efforts must be tailored and implemented on a high school level also, Powell writes.
Public Outreach - The public must be reeducated, Powell writes, to see business and corporate interests as inherently good for America. The obvious and most effective venue, he says, should be through the means of television, using educational programs, paid news analysts, and advertising as much as possible—“[i]f American business devoted only 10 percent of its total annual advertising budget to this overall purpose, it would be a statesman-like expenditure,” he writes. News forums such as Meet the Press should be constantly urged to provide “equal time” for pro-business analysts. Radio and newspaper outlets are also important for promulgating the message. Books and pamphlets made widely available are quite necessary, Powell notes.
Political Arena - Only “Marxists” insist that “capitalist” countries such as the US are controlled by big business. Indeed, Powell says, “leftist” and “socialist” interests control much of American politics, particularly in the area of messaging. “One does not exaggerate to say that, in terms of political influence with respect to the course of legislation and government action, the American business executive is truly the ‘forgotten man,’” he writes. Advocates of “consumerism” or the “environment” dominate the political discussion, Powell states. This dominance must be challenged, and Americans must be “enlightened” as to the positive role of a powerful business culture in US politics. Business must adopt some of the more direct tactics now used by US labor groups.
The Judiciary - The US judicial system, he writes, “may be the most important instrument for social, economic, and political change.” Left-wing groups have long “exploited” the judiciary for their own ends, he says; it is time for business to exert some of the same influence in the courts and fight for its own prerogatives. “This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds,” he says. A large and competent cadre of lawyers is necessary to this end, trained to argue pro-business viewpoints in front of “activist” judges, and carefully selected cases should be advanced in the judicial system.
Neglected Stockholder Power - Powell continues: “The average member of the public thinks of ‘business’ as an impersonal corporate entity, owned by the very rich and managed by over-paid executives. There is an almost total failure to appreciate that ‘business’ actually embraces—in one way or another—most Americans. Those for whom business provides jobs, constitute a fairly obvious class. But the 20 million stockholders—most of whom are of modest means—are the real owners, the real entrepreneurs, the real capitalists under our system. They provide the capital which fuels the economic system which has produced the highest standard of living in all history. Yet, stockholders have been as ineffectual as business executives in promoting a genuine understanding of our system or in exercising political influence.”
The Influence of the Stockholder - Twenty million voters are stockholders, Powell says. These people can be a powerful force for pro-business change, if educated and mobilized. Individual corporations can reach out to their stockholders through their stock reports and news publications.
A New Aggression - Corporate interests must, Powell says, “attack [those] who openly seek destruction of the system. There should not be the slightest hesitation to press vigorously in all political arenas for support of the enterprise system. Nor should there be reluctance to penalize politically those who oppose it.” The AFL-CIO labor union is a past master of using this kind of political pressure, Powell writes. Its practices and techniques can be adapted to serve business ends.
Relationship to Freedom - All of this must be characterized as an essential “return” to the fundamental tenets of American freedom, Powell writes. “The threat to the enterprise system is not merely a matter of economics. It also is a threat to individual freedom. It is this great truth—now so submerged by the rhetoric of the New Left and of many liberals—that must be re-affirmed if this program is to be meaningful. There seems to be little awareness that the only alternatives to free enterprise are varying degrees of bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom—ranging from that under moderate socialism to the iron heel of the leftist or rightist dictatorship.” America is well on its way to institutionalized socialism, Powell warns. It is up to American business interests to counter that shift. [Powell, 8/23/1971]
Effects - Powell’s memo triggers a seismic shift in the way business and corporate interests function, though the Chamber of Commerce proceeds more cautiously than Powell may hope. As a result of Powell’s memo and other influences, the Chamber, wealthy businessmen such as beer magnate Joseph Coors and Richard Mellon Scaife, and an array of corporate activists create, among other entities: the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Analysis and Research Association (ARA), Accuracy in Academe, the Pacific Legal Foundation, and other powerful organizations. When Ronald Reagan takes the presidency in 1981, they will begin to solidfy and extend the reach of their efforts. In 2002, progressive journalist Jerry Landay will write that Powell’s memo will spawn “a well-paid activist apparatus of idea merchants and marketeers—scholars, writers, journalists, publishers, and critics—to sell policies whose intent was to ratchet wealth upward. They have intimidated the mainstream media, and filled the vacuum with editors, columnists, talk-show hosts, and pundits who have turned conservatism into a career tool. They have waged a culture war to reduce the rich social heritage of liberalism to a pejorative. And they have propagated a mythic set of faux-economic values that have largely served those who financed the movement in the first place.” Landay calls Powell’s language and proposals “baldly militant” with “authoritarian overtones.”
Powell Joins Supreme Court - In January 1972, Powell will join the Supreme Court, where he will become regarded as a moderate-to-conservative justice, sympathetic to business interests but not unwilling to consider other points of view. (Though the press will subsequently publish leaked copies of the memo, no senator will ask Powell about his memo or his business interests in his confirmation hearings.) One of his most pro-business decisions is his majority opinion in 1978’s First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, in which Powell will create a First Amendment “right” for corporations to influence ballot questions. [Media Transparency, 8/20/2002; Reclaim Democracy, 4/3/2004]
Entity Tags: Citizens for a Sound Economy, AFL-CIO, Analysis and Research Association, Accuracy in Academe, Cato Institute, Ronald Reagan, Richard Mellon Scaife, US Chamber of Commerce, Pacific Legal Foundation, Eugene Sydnor, Jr, Ralph Nader, Jerry Landay, Heritage Foundation, Lewis Powell, Joseph Coors, Manhattan Institute
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
President Nixon’s aides have diligently tried to find evidence linking former President John F. Kennedy to the 1963 assassinations of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu (see June 17, 1971), but have been unsuccessful. “Plumber” E. Howard Hunt (see July 7, 1971) has collected 240 diplomatic cables between Washington, DC, and Saigon from the time period surrounding the assassinations, none of which hint at any US involvement in them. White House aide Charles Colson, therefore, decides to fabricate his own evidence. Using a razor blade, glue, and a photocopier, Colson creates a fake “cable” dated October 29, 1963, sent to the US embassy in Saigon from the Kennedy White House. It reads in part, “At highest level meeting today, decision reluctantly made that neither you nor Harkin [apparently a reference to General Paul Harkins, the commander of US forces in Vietnam at the time] should intervene on behalf of Diem or Nhu in event they seek asylum.” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 371]
Gemstone file envelope. [Source: MedLibrary.org]“Plumber” G. Gordon Liddy lays out an elaborate $1 million proposal for a plan for political espionage and campaign “dirty tricks” he calls “Operation Gemstone” to Attorney General John Mitchell. Mitchell is preparing to leave his post to head the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP—see March 1, 1972). “Gemstone” is a response to pressure from President Nixon to compile intelligence on Democratic candidates and party officials, particularly Democratic National Committee chairman Lawrence O’Brien. Liddy gives his presentation with one hand bandaged—he had recently charred it in a candle flame to demonstrate the pain he was willing to endure in the name of will and loyalty. Sub-operations such as “Diamond,” “Ruby,” and “Sapphire” engender the following, among other proposed activities:
disrupt antiwar demonstrators before television and press cameras can arrive on the scene, using “men who have worked successfully as street-fighting squads for the CIA” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 429-430] or what White House counsel John Dean, also at the meeting, will later testify to be “mugging squads;” [Time, 7/9/1973]
kidnap, or “surgically relocate,” prominent antiwar and civil rights leaders by “drug[ging” them and taking them “across the border;”
use a pleasure yacht as a floating brothel to entice Democrats and other undesirables into compromising positions, where they can be tape-recorded and photographed with what Liddy calls “the finest call girls in the country… not dumb broads but girls who can be trained and photographed;”
deploy an array of electronic and physical surveillance, including chase planes to intercept messages from airplanes carrying prominent Democrats. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 429-430]
Dean, as he later testifies, is horrified at the ideas. [Time, 7/9/1973] Mitchell seems more amused than anything else at Liddy’s excesses, he merely says that “Gemstone” is “not quite what I had in mind.” He tells Liddy and Liddy’s boss, CREEP deputy director Jeb Stuart Magruder, to come back with a cheaper and more realistic proposal. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 429-430]
Edmund Muskie. [Source: Bettmann / Corbis]Less than two weeks before the New Hampshire presidential primary, the Manchester Union-Leader publishes a letter to the editor alleging that leading Democratic candidate and Maine senator Edmund Muskie approved a racial slur of Americans of French-Canadian descent (an important voting bloc in New Hampshire), and notes: “We have always known that Senator Muskie was a hypocrite. But we never expected to have it so clearly revealed as in this letter sent to us from Florida.” The crudely written letter becomes widely known as the “Canuck letter.” The next day, the paper’s publisher, William Loeb, publishes an attack on Muskie’s wife. An angry Muskie denounces the letter and the editorial, calling Loeb a “gutless coward,” and in the process apparently bursts into tears. The media focuses on Muskie’s tears, and the “weakness” it implies. As a result, Muskie’s standing in the polls begins to slip, and when votes are cast in New Hampshire, Muskie receives only 48% of the vote, far less than predicted. The letter is later found to have been a “dirty trick” of the Nixon campaign committee (see October 10, 1972), with White House communications official Ken Clawson admitting to actually writing the letter (see October 10, 1972). [Washington Post, 10/10/1972; Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007]
View from 1987 - In 1987, David Broder, the author of the Washington Post story on the incident, recalls: “In retrospect, though, there were a few problems with the Muskie story. First, it is unclear whether Muskie did cry.… Melting snow from his hatless head filled his eyes, he said, and made him wipe his face… the senator believes that he was damaged more by the press and television coverage of the event than by his own actions… it is now clear that the incident should have been placed in a different context: Muskie was victimized by the classic dirty trick that had been engineered by agents of the distant and detached President Nixon. The Loeb editorial that had brought Muskie out in the snowstorm had been based on a letter forged by a White House staff member intent on destroying Muskie’s credibility. But we didn’t know that and we didn’t work hard enough to find out.… Had those facts been known, I might have described Muskie in different terms: not as a victim of his over-ambitious campaign strategy and his too-human temperament, but as the victim of a fraud, managed by operatives of a frightened and unscrupulous president. That story surely would have had a different impact…. Unwittingly, I did my part in the work of the Nixon operatives in helping destroy the credibility of the Muskie candidacy.”
Media Expectations - Broder will admit that the story falls neatly into a storyline many in the media want to report: “the unraveling of a presidential front-runner’s campaign.” Muskie has shown frequent bouts of anger; according to Broder, many reporters are just waiting for something to trigger Muskie into an outburst that will damage his candidacy. For himself, Muskie will describe his emotional reaction: “I was just g_ddamned mad and choked up over my anger.… [I]t was a bad scene, whatever it was.” [Washington Monthly, 2/1987]
The Nixon administration spends $8,400 on fake telegrams and advertisements to create a false impression of public support for the US mining of Vietnam’s Haiphong harbor. This will not come to light until March 1973, when a disaffected official of the Nixon campaign (CREEP) tells Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward of the operation. The false telegrams are sent to the White House and publicly presented by press secretary Ron Ziegler and other Nixon officials. In addition, CREEP purchases an advertisement in the New York Times purporting to be from a group of “concerned citizens” that attacks the Times for its opposition to the mining operation. “The [Times] ad was paid for by CREEP with 40 of those $100 bills in [CREEP finance director Maurice] Stans’s safe,” the official will say (see Before April 7, 1972). Another CREEP official will tell Woodward that the Haiphong public relations offensive “put the entire staff in overdrive for two weeks,” between creating false telegrams, busing supporters to Washington, organizing petition drives and phone campaigns, and getting supporters to call Congress. After the Post prints the story, Woodward learns that CREEP also rigged a poll conducted by Washington television station WTTG. The poll was based on sample ballots printed in the local newspapers. CREEP has ten people working for days purchasing newspapers, filling out ballots in different handwriting, and mailing them in. The fake ballots radically skew the poll in favor of the mining operation. A CREEP spokesman will confirm the ballot-stuffing operation and say, “We assumed the other side would do it also.” Frank Mankiewicz, a senior campaign aide for the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate George McGovern, will respond incredulously: “It didn’t occur to us, believe me. Those guys are something. They assume we have the same sleazy ethics as them.” [Bernstein and Woodward, 1974, pp. 265-267; GlobalSecurity (.org), 2008]
After an Oval Office discussion about having Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy take the entire blame for the Watergate bugging (see June 21, 1972), President Nixon and his aide Charles Colson have another idea—blame the operation on the CIA. “I think we could develop a theory as to the CIA if we wanted to,” Colson says. “We know that [burglar E. Howard] Hunt has all those ties with these people [referring to the other Watergate burglars]. He was their boss, and they were all CIA. You take the cash, you go down to Latin America.… We’re in great shape with the Cubans, and they’re proud of it. There’s a lot of muscle in that gang.” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 506]
In an early-morning meeting between Nixon campaign director John Mitchell and White House aides H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, the three agree that their first priority in the aftermath of the Watergate burglary (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972) is to protect President Nixon. To that end, the Watergate investigations must be stopped before they lead to other unsavory political operations—campaign “horrors,” Mitchell calls them.
PR 'Counter-Attack' Discussed - Later this morning, Nixon and Haldeman discuss the need to keep the FBI’s Watergate investigation on a tight leash. They discuss “counter-attack” and “public relations” offensives to distract the media by attacking the Democrats. The White House needs a “PR offensive to top” Watergate, they say, and they “need to be on the attack—for diversion.” One suggestion is to dismiss the burglary as nothing but a prank. Most White House staffers, including Haldeman, seem to believe that fellow aide Charles Colson concocted the idea of the burglary; Haldeman says that Colson does not seem to know “specifically that this was underway. He seems to take all the blame himself.” Nixon replies, “Good.” Nixon worries that his secret taping system (see February 1971 and July 13-16, 1973) “complicates things all over.” Nixon closes the conversation by saying: “My God, the [Democratic National C]ommittee isn’t worth bugging, in my opinion. That’s my public line.” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 503-505; Reston, 2007, pp. 33]
Nixon, Colson Plan Delays - Later the same day, Nixon meets with senior aide Charles Colson. Several items from the conversation are damning in their specificity. Nixon tells Colson in regard of the Watergate burglary (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972), “If we didn’t know better, we would have thought it was deliberately botched.” This statement shows that Nixon has some detailed knowledge of the burglary, contrary to his later claims. Colson later says: “Bob [Haldeman] is pulling it all together. Thus far, I think we’ve done the right things.” Colson could well be referring to the White House’s attempts to distance itself from the break-in. Nixon says, referring to the burglars, “Basically, they are pretty hard-line guys,” and Colson interrupts, “You mean Hunt?” referring to the burglars’ leader, E. Howard Hunt. Nixon replies: “Of course, we are just going to leave this where it is, with the Cubans.… At time, uh, I just stonewall it.” Nixon then says, regarding the future of the Watergate investigation: “Oh sure, you know who the hell is going to keep it alive. We’re gonna have a court case and indeed… the difficulty we’ll have ahead, we have got to have lawyers smart enough to have our people delay, avoiding depositions, of course.” [Reston, 2007, pp. 46-47]
President Nixon and chief of staff H. R. Haldeman discuss a suggestion by Nixon campaign chief John Mitchell regarding the Watergate burglary and bugging (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972). Mitchell believes that burglar G. Gordon Liddy should take the entire blame for the burglary, and confess to being the operation’s “mastermind.” “You mean you’d have Liddy confess and say he did it unauthorized?” Nixon asks. Haldeman affirms the question. After further discussion, Nixon says: “The reaction is going to be primarily Washington and not the country, because I think the country doesn’t give much of a sh_t about it other than the ones we’ve already bugged.… Everybody around here is all mortified by it. It’s a horrible thing to rebut [whereas] most people around the country think this is routine, that everybody’s trying to bug everybody else, it’s politics.” Nixon is struck with a new idea during the conversation—use every accusation of the Watergate bugging to claim that it only proves the Democrats were bugging the Nixon campaign. Maybe they should plant a bug on themselves and claim the Democrats planted it, Nixon suggests. Haldeman circles the conversation back to Liddy, and Nixon asks, “Is Liddy willing?” Haldeman replies: “He says he is. Apparently he is a little bit nuts… apparently he’s sort of a Tom Huston-type guy (see June 5, 1970).… He sort of likes the dramatic. He’s said, ‘If you want to put me before a firing squad and shoot me, that’s fine. I’d kind of like to be like Nathan Hale.’” [Reeves, 2001, pp. 505-506]
Clark MacGregor, the new head of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP), meets with a select group of White House reporters. In the press conference, MacGregor tries to pin the entire blame for the Watergate conspiracy—burglary and financial shenanigans alike—on burglar and CREEP lawyer G. Gordon Liddy. (Inside sources had predicted MacGregor would do just that (see August 1-2, 1972).) Liddy, MacGregor says, had spent campaign money on his own initiative “for the purpose of determining what to do if the crazies made an attack on the president” at the upcoming Republican National Convention. After the conference, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward tries to elicit more information from an obviously exasperated MacGregor. MacGregor shouts: “I have no idea why the departed Gordon Liddy wanted cash.… It’s impossible for me to tell. I never met Liddy. I don’t know what’s going on.” [Bernstein and Woodward, 1974, pp. 47]
Robert Jay Mathews, a young conservative and resistance-movement organizer living in Phoenix, Arizona, is arrested for submitting fraudulent income tax returns. Mathews, who has read a recently published book, The Big Bluff by anti-tax protester Marvin Cooley (see 1970-1972) and served as sergeant-at arms for some of Cooley’s meetings in Phoenix, does not believe the US government has the right to compel him to pay taxes. Mathews uses Cooley’s income-tax theories to fraudulently list ten dependents on his W-4 tax form, a common protest tactic that backfires when tax assessors realize that a 20-year old unmarried man is unlikely to have so many dependents. Mathews is convicted of misdemeanor tax fraud; he is given six months’ probation and warned if he commits tax fraud again, he will be charged with felony tax evasion. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2001; HistoryLink, 12/6/2006; Anti-Defamation League, 2011] Mathews will go on to found The Order, one of the most violent anti-government organizations in modern US history (see Late September 1983). He will die during a 1984 standoff with FBI agents (see December 8, 1984).
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