They call themselves patriots 

31 July 2017

But in more than 10,000 broadcasts a week they voice gloom, doom, hatred and fear

From TV Guide for 15-21 April 1967

“Fear is essential to the salvation of the American republic,” says Clarence Manion, one of the strident voices of the so-called Radical Right which are now heard on more than 10,000 television and radio broadcasts each week in 50 states. Fear is indeed their most important product, as well as hatred, suspicion and a fine sense of conspiracy.

For the last decade, groups of self-appointed “superpatriots” have energetically been purchasing TV and radio time at an accelerated pace until, at this writing, whole sections of the Nation are awash with a brand of vitriol which is neither rational political dissent nor the constructive goading of responsible reformers.

The extremists of the airwaves are not to be confused with the honorable and loyal opposition of the great majority of American conservatives, nor with such protagonists as William F. Buckley and his National Review magazine, nor with such organizations as the Young Americans for Freedom, nor with such periodicals as Human Events — all of which offer a sincerely stated alternative to the prevailing political and economic climate.

For a number of obvious reasons, radicals of the Left have no voice on American TV and radio similar to that of their Rightist opponents. An avowed Communist has no access to tax-free foundation money nor to the contributions required for the purchase of air time. He cannot easily invoke religious fundamentalism nor patriotism as a cloak for his activities and precluded by the force of public opinion from openly advocating the tenets of Communism.

The airwave “superpatriots” are a comparatively small but egregiously vocal and influential cadre who have spun off the political centrifuge and are flailing in the void of a politico-religious outer space of their own design. In those rarefied regions, the slogans are: Abolish the United Nations, emasculate American labor unions, impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren, abrogate nuclear test-ban treaties, abolish all foreign aid and domestic social-welfare programs, repeal the 16th Amendment (income tax), clamp down on immigration, sell off the Tennessee Valley Authority to private interests, and invade Cuba.

More intemperate even than those positions are ones which generate suspicion about such basic American institutions as the Presidency and the churches: According to many extremist broadcasters, all Presidents since Hoover have been the willing or unwitting instruments of the world Communist conspiracy; the Protestant and Catholic Churches are deeply infiltrated by Communists; and Judaism and the civil-rights movement are attempting to wreck the Nation.

The Anti-Defamation League — one of the groups fighting such extremist propaganda — estimates that almost $20,000,000 a year is being spent by radicals to promote this platform, and that it is “financed by an impressive but comparatively small number of tax-exempt foundations, business corporations and wealthy individuals — plus the one- to five-dollar contributions of hundreds of thousands of average citizens who have been frightened by this propaganda barrage and who, to an alarming extent, have succumbed to it.”

The best-known extremist groups engaged in TV and radio are these:

  • Christian Crusade — operated by the Rev. Dr. Billy James Hargis of Tulsa, Okla., whose reputation as a “fiery evangelist of both religious and political fundamentalism,” according to the ADL, has won him large audiences on 250 radio stations. Contributions from his listeners total about $1,000,000 a year.
  • The Dan Smoot Report — a former FBI man, Smoot became a reporter for Texas oilman H. L. Hunt’s rightist Facts Forum programs (now defunct) on 80 TV and 350 radio stations. He now controls his own broadcast operation on 25 TV and 64 radio stations.
  • Twentieth Century Reformation Hour — brain child of the Rev. Carl Mclntire, who was expelled from the Presbyterian Church in 1936 for causing “dissension and strife” and generating “suspicion and ill will.” Five times a week he is heard on 635 radio stations, and he is a frequent TV guest.
  • The Manion Forum — Clarence Manion was once dean of Notre Dame law school and briefly a minor official in the Eisenhower Administration. He’s a member of the National Council of the John Birch Society, and broadcasts on 12 TV and 200 radio stations.

Other broadcast activists of the Radical Right include Richard Cotten, and his Conservative Viewpoint program; Edgar Bundy, of the Church League of America; Kent and Phoebe Courtney, with their Conservative Society of America; and H. L. Hunt, and his well-financed Life Line programs (successor to Facts Forum) on 440 radio stations.

Thus, the tidal wave of extremist propaganda is ever enlarging. As long ago as 1948, Reverend McIntire was attacking fair-employment-practices legislation (which prohibits employers from excluding prospective workers because of race or creed) on grounds that it promotes “class consciousness and inspires hate between peoples,” and is “a vital part of the Communist program.”

That same year, clerics in the American Council of Christian Churches, which he founded, suggested that for the U.S. “to have the atomic bomb and, in the name of a false morality born of a perverted sense of self-respect and pacifist propaganda, to await the hour when Russia has her bombs to precipitate an atomic war, is the height of insanity…. It is a betrayal of Christian principles….” He has condemned all UN activity, including the sale of UNICEF cards, the funds from which aid children.

His attacks on the Catholic Church have included such statements as: “Rome will sell her secret confessional system for political world power. But actually the Roman Catholic Church becomes a ‘spy system’ through the priests…” After John F. Kennedy’s nomination in 1960, the Democratic Party, in a statement on religious bigotry, called McIntire one of five “major anti-Catholic extremists operating in the current political campaign.”

Clarence Manion purveys such orthodoxies as opposition to “the murderously oppressive Marxist Federal Income Tax; gigantic and unnecessary subsidies of tax money for fantastic highway and housing projects; Federal aid to Education which would be followed by Federal Socialist control… ”

Manion had advocated atomic war to preclude Communist territorial incursions. “I am tired of hearing an old man like [Nobel Prize chemist] Linus Pauling cry his fear of death in a nuclear war.. . How long does he want to live anyway? If we must fall to Communism, I would rather it be over the remains of 10,000,000 charred bodies of which I would be proud to be one.”

When Dan Smoot took to denouncing integration as “an American tragedy” created by Communist infiltration in the South, the Dallas News attacked “the professionals for profit who have found a remunerative field” in opposition to Communism. “Patriotism is a justly venerated human quality,” editorialized the News. “Patriotism for profit is just suspect. . . . If Mr. Smoot has not yet been around long enough to encounter it, the News has. When your daily mail includes such tripe as defining Communism as a Jewish conspiracy, a Catholic conspiracy, and an NAACP conspiracy, you can discern the hand of the patrioteer for profit…. The … question is whether a man is out to make a fast buck or to serve the country.”

That thought has occurred to other opponents of the airwave extremis The Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker, spokesman for the United Church Christ, says many radicals are “involved in no crusade for anything except their own self-support. They go into a community using scare tactics to exploit money from it. They’ll try to get some local civic group to put up the money for air time, then use part of that time to solicit contributions — which they keep.”

In the last several years, a number of national groups such as the AFL-CIO, the National Council of Churches, the Anti-Defamation League and the United Church of Christ have begun the arduous task of fighting back against broadcast extremists. Similarly, two Washington-based organizations have undertaken to serve as clearing houses for information and complaints about the radical programs: the Institute for American Democracy, headed by Dr. Franklin H. Littell, President of Iowa Wesleyan College; and Group Research, Inc.

Last Dec. 16, AFL-CIO president George Meany alerted his union to “the continued flooding of the airwaves” with radical-right propaganda, and asked all locals to request equal time whenever a station in their area broadcasted one-sided attacks on the goals of trade unionism.

The basis for such equal-time demands is the Federal Communications Commission’s“Fairness Doctrine,” which says that stations must grant free time for reply to any individual or organization attacked on the air. In the case of controversial issues, the stations are required to seek out opposing views in order to set a proper balance.

But the Fairness Doctrine has proved difficult of enforcement vis-a-vis the airwave extremists and thus is rarely invoked. [The Doctrine was abandoned under pressure from President Ronald Reagan in 1987 – Ed] Not a single TV or radio station has ever had its license revoked by the FCC because of unbalanced extremist propaganda.

“The FCC does nothing at all to enforce the law,” Dr. Parker told TV Guide. The Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ monitored television station WLBT in Jackson, Miss., for a week in 1964, then filed charges with the FCC that the station was unfair in its treatment of Negroes.

Dr. Parker feels that such public action on the part of individuals or groups will eventually force that agency to more vigorous enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine with regard to extremists of every stripe.

Station owners would be less willing to sell time to extremists if they knew they’d be required — as the law provides — to make free time available for rebuttal. But the task of monitoring thousands of TV and radio stations is simply more than the FCC is equipped to do.

“We process thousands of complaints,” says a highly placed FCC spokesman. “However, we have no jurisdiction to prevent Manion or Smoot or anybody else from broadcasting.” He emphasizes that the FCC acts only after it receives complaints. “If a citizen complains to us that a station has refused to offer equal time, then we take it up.” The Fairness Doctrine doesn’t say that a licensee has to air both sides of a question. He is obliged to make an announcement inviting the expression of opposing views. “But,” says the man from the FCC, “if nobody comes in to take him up on it, he’s in the clear.”

The Senate Communications Subcommittee last November sent an elaborate questionnaire to 700 TV and radio stations soliciting information about the makeup of their weekly schedules, and their practices with regard to the airing of controversial issues. It contains such questions as:

  • Does the station write, telephone or otherwise communicate offers of time for reply to recognized spokesmen for opposing views?
  • During [the first half of] 1966, did this station broadcast any locally originated replies dealing with controversial issues of public importance or arising from “personal attacks”?
  • When personal attacks are involved, does this station automatically provide those attacked with a transcript or summary of the attack?

The computerized results of the questionnaire (so far not made public) reportedly have given the most complete picture to date of extremist broadcasting activities in the United States. Anti-extremist organizations hope that the committee will use this data as the basis for hearings which would bring extremists into the full glare of public scrutiny.

Broadcast extremists customarily cry “Censorship!” at the moment their enemies rise from the foxholes and commence to give battle. But what is at stake is not an infringement of free speech or the right to express unpopular opinions, but the fair use of a natural resource — the broadcast spectrum — and the public’s right to full, open and balanced discussion of the day’s most pertinent issues.

The radical broadcasters create for their opponents the laborious task of sorting out the untruths, innuendo and cant which an imperfect democratic process guarantees them the right to purvey on the air — clothed, frequently, in religiosity and the American flag. Dr. Samuel Johnson may have been exaggerating when he suggested that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” but America’s self-appointed patrioteers are giving that aphorism a special new currency.



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1 response to this article

Paul Mason 1 August 2017 at 11:15 pm

Nothing changes then in the USA!

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