Ralph Ingersoll and Father Coughlin

Fr. Coughlin, Ralph Ingersoll & the War Against Social Justice, as originally “printed” at Counter-Currents in late 2018, and more handsomely reproduced at Euro-Synergies, is right here.

Many men, women, boys & girls might prefer to read the whole thing. However, as we deliberately detoured into a talk about Ingersoll and his time at The New Yorker, Fortune, Time, and PM, some key paragraphs might sum it all up for the casual reader:

The public career of Rev. Charles E. Coughlin during the 1930s and early ‘40s is massively documented. Newsreels, publications, speeches, and broadcast recordings are all at your fingertips online. Yet the historical significance of this Canadian-American prelate (1891-1979) is maddeningly elusive. You may have read that he was an immensely popular but controversial “radio priest” with a decidedly populist-nationalist bent, or that he published a weekly magazine called Social Justice (1936-1942), whose contributors included future architect Philip Johnson and philosopher-to-be Francis Parker Yockey.

You may also know that his broadcasting and publishing endeavors were suspended in 1942, soon after American entry into the Second World War. Knowing nothing else, one would assume this was part of the same anti-sedition roundup that netted Lawrence Dennis, George Sylvester Viereck, and others. But in fact the anti-Coughlin campaign was much more focused and sustained, and it originated not from the Justice Department or any other government agency, but from an oddball Left-wing New York newspaper led by one of the most notable editors of the era: Ralph Ingersoll.

Ingersoll

The paper was PM, and for the first two years of its existence (1940-42), it exulted in damning Father Coughlin as a seditionist, a yellow-journalist, a Nazi mouthpiece, and an impious opponent of democracy. PM began with a long series of articles in the summer of 1940. “Nazi Propagandist Coughlin Faithless to Church and Country: Hatred and Bigotry Spread Throughout the Nation by Priest,” screamed one headline.

After American entry into the war, histrionic, full-page editorials by Editor Ingersoll became a regular feature; e.g., one titled “Has Charles Coughlin Lied Again?”

“Time and our mental institutions will take care of his unhappy and misguided followers. But these leaders who have served the purpose of the murderous Adolf Hitler must go . . . Hitler and Coughlin – their lies have been the same . . .” (PM, May 7, 1942)

In March ’42, PM started to print tear-out-and-mail questionnaires addressed to Attorney General Biddle, demanding that the government immediately investigate Coughlin and ban Social Justice from the US postal system. Forty-three thousand of these were mailed in by loyal readers, the paper reported, and soon enough Biddle lowered the boom. PM was cock-a-hoop:

“The Post Office Dept. invoked the 1917 Sedition Act last night to ban from the mail Social Justice, founded in 1936 by Charles E. Coughlin. . . Postmaster General Walker acted on a recommendation from Attorney General Biddle, who informed him that since the war [sic] Social Justice ‘has made a substantial contribution to a systematic and unscrupulous attack upon the war effort of our Nation, both civilian and military.’ ” (PM, April 15, 1942)

Coughlin was threatened with a Grand Jury investigation for sending “seditious propaganda” to military personnel and munitions workers! Eventually, an agreement was reached between Justice and the bishop of Detroit, whereby Coughlin would cease publishing and public speaking and slip off quietly to his rectory.

Which, as it happens, he did.

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