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The 1930s: Nazis Parading on Main Street
Part 4: The Press Sells Out to the Nazis

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Besides funding pro-fascists groups like the Silver Shirts, corporate America sponsored several other groups that maintained a speck of respectability. One such organization that figured prominently in spreading the propaganda was the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). The first president of NAM was Samuel Bush, father of Prescott and grandfather of George H. W. Bush. Such organizations as NAM would serve as bridge groups between the rich corporate owners and the public.

NAM along with the National Industrial Information Committee picked up the banner of du Pont's free enterprise dogma. It was Fulton Lewis Jr. a former employee of NAM, who became the mouthpiece for NAM. Using his radio program on the Mutual Network, Lewis spread the NAM propaganda to roughly three million people daily. Lewis denied the truth put forth by the La Follette and the Truman committees and instead aired NAM's propaganda under the guise of "Your Defense Reporter."21 At their 1942 convention, NAM went on record of supporting du Pont's Free Enterprise fully. The convention adopted a plank of full support for free enterprise, even if it hindered the war effort. In contrast, the 1942 CIO convention went on record for winning the war first, ahead of any union issues. 24 In other words labor was willing to make the sacrifices needed to win the war, while big business wasn't, and put profits ahead of the war effort.

NAM was only one group of many that was used to propagandize America. Another was the Chamber of Commerce. Both the Chamber of Commerce and the American Legion served as bridge groups breaching the gap between the workers and the American elite during the 1920s . NAM served a similar role in the 1930s and into the 1950s. The top officials of the John Birch Society in the 1950s were all former officials of NAM. The Birch Society also acted as a bridge group.

The 1930s media was overtly pro-fascist, especially the major chains of newspapers. Hearst admired Mussolini and even paid him to write articles for his upstart United Press wire services. Mussolini was paid $1,750 per article an amount that would be the equivalent of about $17,000 today. The articles were poorly written by Margherita Sarfatti, Mussolini's mistress.

Hearst also sought out Hitler to write for him. According to the US ambassador to Germany, Dodd Hearst met with Hanfstangel and Rosenberg, two of Hitler’s most trusted propagandists in September 1934 at Baden Baden. After leaving Baden Baden, Hearst traveled to Berlin where he met personally with Hitler. A deal was sealed between Hearst and Gobbels worth $400,000. After receiving the money, Hearst promptly ordered all of his writers for his International News Service to present all events in Germany in a friendly manner. Following the agreement Hearst papers printed uncensored propaganda from the Nazis throughout the 1930s.84 The Hearst press consisted of 25 daily newspapers, 24 weekly newspapers, 12 radio stations and 2 world news services.

The other major newspaper chains owned by McCormick and Scripps-Howard likewise presented a pro-fascist view.

Many of the members of the National Publishers Association were also members of NAM. William Warner publisher of McCall’s and Redbook was the head of NAM. P.S. Collins represented the Curtis Publishing Company, publisher of the Saturday Evening Post and the Ladies Home Journal. Collins was also a spokesman for W.D Fuller the president of NAM. The Luce family publications of Time, Life and Fortune were also closely associated with NAM.

The majority of the people can reach informed and just decisions if they are provided with a balanced view. However, the media has always been biased to the right and openly fascist during the 1930s when Hearst among others had his papers publish Gobbels propaganda. Seldes pointed out that during the 1930s that with only three or four exceptions of all the large newspaper columnists and radio commentators were right wing reactionaries. 22

In their effort to propagandize the American people, press omissions were more important that the pro-fascist views it expressed. For example, no mention was made of the Senate report investigating air power. The reported concluded as follows:

"It is apparent that American aviation companies did their part to assist Germany’s air armament. It seems apparent also that there was not an adequate check on the foreign shipments…86

Part of the evidence included a letter from the president of Curtiss-Wright to his salesmen as follows:

"We have been nosing around in the bureau in Washington and find that they hold as most strictly confidential their dive-bombing tactics and procedure, and they frown upon our even mentioning dive-bombing in connection with the Hawks, or any other airplanes to foreign powers.

It is also unwise and unethical at this time, and probably for some time to come, for us to indicate that we know anything about the technique and tactics of dive-bombing.

It may be alright…to put on a dive-bombing show to show the strength of the airplanes—but to refer in contracts to dive-bombing or endeavor to teach dive-bombing is what I am cautioning against doing...87

Curtiss-Wright did demonstrate their dive-bombing planes in air shows in Europe helping the Nazis to develop the Stuka. In the first six months of 1933, Pratt & Whitney’s sales jumped to almost a million and half dollars as the Nye report exposed the company as one of the largest smugglers of planes to Hitler. Other suppliers of aircraft parts to Hitler in the early years included Curtiss-Wright and Douglas.

Another scandal left unreported was the sale of defective wire by Anaconda. One notable newscaster of the time who failed to report the story was Lowell Thomas. Thomas’ broadcast was sponsored by the Pews and Thomas had done work for NAM.

The St Louis Star-Times accused the U.S. Cartridge Co of producing defective cartridges and had submitted their findings to the Office of Censorship receiving no objects. The AP wire failed to pick up the story and the story went unreported outside of the St Louis area.

The capitalist's strike to delay and reduce the production of war munitions was blamed on labor in the press. No mention was made in the press of the Tolan Committee. Testifying before the committee the United Autoworkers president stated that of 1577 machine tools 337 were idle and he urged coordination of the unused tools. The Autoworkers secretary reported 64% machine tool idleness and labeled it a crime against civilization and democracy. These idled tools could have been turning out war material. Any shortage of war material was not the result of a shortage in labor or equipment; rather it was the result of corporate fraud.

Nor did the press report on the profiteering by corporate America. James Hayes, general counsel for the ILWU Dispatcher testified before the Congressional Merchant Marine subcommittee giving proof of the obscene profiteering in shipping.

Due to the sit down strike by corporate America, the government was forced to lease private ships. The American Foreign Steamship Corp. made a profit of $895,974 on two trips. The American Export Line made a profit of $1,572,144 on ships worth only $232,350.The American President Line made a profit of $814,242 on ships worth $307,828 in three trips.

The situation remains unchanged in the 21st Century. The columnists and the radio mouthpieces are almost fully hard right in their views. The news fails to report on the health risks and costs of on the job injuries and disease. Whenever new regulations are proposed, the media coverage comes from the Chamber of Commerce or another pro-business organization. The only costs discussed are the costs to the corporation, and no mention is ever made of the costs to the worker.

Today the media is even more consolidated than the media in the 1940s, less than ten corporations control over eighty percent of the airwaves and press. The Republicans have repeated the lie that the media is biased to the left so many times that many people buy into it---even though the reverse is true. The corporations in fact censor the media. Two thirds of the editors when questioned have reported that their advertisers have threatened to withdraw advertising because of the content of news stories. Seventy five percent report that large advertisers have tried to influence the content of news stories in a 1992 survey.

A Procter & Gamble executive testifying before a Federal Communications Commission in 1965, made it clear that his company would only sponsor programs meeting the companies strict standards.

" There will be no material in any of our programs which could in any way further the concept of business as cold, ruthless and lacking all sentiment or spiritual motivation." 23

The anti-union coverage of some of the major strikes in the late 1990s should come as no surprise. Coverage of the UPS strike only focused only on how the strike was hurting various businesses. No mention was made of the cause of the strike, the use of excess part-time workers and the attempted money grab of the union’s pension fund. No mention was made of how corporations have raided pension funds and left retired workers holding an empty bag.

During the GM strike, coverage focused on how the strike was hurting car sales. No mention was made of the fact that GM had violated the terms of the union contract by sneaking the stamping dies out of the plant during the middle of the night over the Memorial Day holiday like a thief in the night.

It was because of the pro-fascist press and trade organizations that du Pont was successful in creating the illusion of free enterprise as a freedom to be upheld. Bennet and others within the Ford empire openly boasted to Rimar, a former member of the Ford Gestapo that no newspaper would print his version of the truth during his trial. Indeed none did and no publisher would publish his book "Heil Henry!—The Confession of a Ford Spy," which contained these statements.

"For years I have been one of the key men in the Ford Gestapo. Within the Ford’s domain I soon found there was no liberty, no free speech, no human dignity… the vast power of Ford extended into the courts, schools, prisons, clubs, banks, even into the national capital, enveloping us all in a black cloud of suppression and fear.

Our Gestapo covered Dearborn with a thick web of corruption, intimidation and intrigue. The spy net was all embracing. My own agents reported back to me conversations in grocery stores, meat markets and restaurants, gambling joints, beer gardens, social groups, boys’ clubs, and even churches." 20

The quote serves to point out the extent of Ford’s anti-union activities and the willingness of corporations to use any means available to spy on and intimidate their workers.

Corporations are now privy to more information than ever about their employees. The information age has allowed for new means for corporations to pry into the private lives of their employees. In this country, corporations are allowed to read the private email of their employees and to search employee lockers. Some corporations even maintain the right to search employee's cars if they are parked in a company parking lot. In effect in America workers must give up all of their constitutional rights including the right to privacy, free speech and the right to assemble the minute they walk though the corporate door seeking a job.

It is the media held subservient to their advertisers---or in some cases with defense contractors owning a media division outright---that has helped to promote public anti-union sentiment. This is readily apparent in the newscasts, as when OSHA sought to set new workplace standards to prevent repetitive stress injuries the media aired the views of the Camber of Commerce. No information from doctors or unions was presented on the topic. No union data was presented to reveal the extent of the problem or the debilitating effects of this menace to workers forced to work at ungodly speed.

In the sixty years that have followed WWII the Republican Party and the far right wing extremists have adopted the philosophy at the heart of fascism, corporate rule. It is the basis for the intense hatred of unions and working people. In the entire eight years of the Reagan administration the minimum wage was not raised once although inflation still raged through the early 80s. Reagan himself sent a signal to corporate America that he would not seek prosecution of union busters when he fired the striking PATCO workers. The situation improved slightly under President Clinton. However, under the administration of George W. Bush the plight of workers has became acute. He has threatened injunctions against unions threatening to strike.

Perhaps the best way to convey to the reader the plight labor faced in the thirties is to present the data from the Robert La Follette committee.

"The committee found that purchasing and storing arsenals of firearms and tear- and sickening gas weapons is a common practice of large employers of labor who refuse to bargain collectively with legitimate labor unions and that their exists a large business of supplying gas weapons to industry… During the years 1933-through June 1937, $1,255,392.55 worth of tear and sickening gas was purchase by employers and law enforcement agencies, chiefly during or in anticipation of strikes…all of the largest individual purchasers are corporations and that their totals far surpass those of large law-enforcement purchases. In fact the largest purchaser of gas equipment in the country, the Republic Steel Corp, bought four times as much as the largest law-enforcement purchaser."61

Just to add some perspective to those figures, this was during the depression when a new car still sold for less than one thousand dollars and all the materials for a new catalogue home could be bought for less than ten thousand dollars.


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Failing to physically beat labor into submission, the fascist turned to legal tactics such as the anti-union right to work law. Those laws are still highly regarded in right wing circles today, but few know that the fascist group, Christian America, first sponsored it in the early 1940s.69 The forces behind the Christian American group were wealthy Texans tied to the Kirby family. Vance Muse formed Christian America after the death of Kirby. Both Kirby and Muse had a long history of opposing the New Deal and supporting racism, Muse was an associate of Gerald Smith.

Another member of the Christian America was Lewis Ulrey who took over the distribution of Gerald Winrod’s propaganda, in which he openly advocated a 12-hour workday. Ulrey penned the following quotation for Gerald Winrod’s Defender.

"Into this bedlam and chaos in Germany Adolf Hitler injected himself as a new… messiah to lead ORDELY GERMAN from political confusion to

SYSTEMATIC UNITY.

Hitler put it up to the Germans to decide between the Jewish ownership and domination of the country or DOMINATION AND OWNERSHIP BY

THE NINETY NINE PERCENT OF THE GERMAN POPULATION.

HUMAN NATURE BEING WHAT IT IS, IT IS NOT STRANGE THAT THE GERMANS DECIDED AGAINST THE JEWS AND IN FAVOR OF HITLER.

OUR PRESIDENT HAS SENT TWO INSULTING MESSAGES TO HITLER AND A NUMBER OF HIS PINK CABINETEERS HAVE

MOST BLANTANTLY AND VIOLENTLY BROADCAST SILLY INSULTS TO THE GERMAN GOVERNMENT."70

The Christian America group was the leading lobbyist for the right to work laws throughout the south and midwest in the early 1940s. Their organization was well funded and prone to use heavy handed lobbying tactics on members of the various state houses. Perhaps the best summery of their tactics comes from a remark by Arkansas Representative Chambers from Columbia Ark. On the day of voting for the right to work law in that state he turned to Val Sherman, the Associate Director of Christian America and pointed to him remarking.

"I'm not branding Mr. Sherman as a disciple of Hitler, but he’s a graduate of his school. Hitler would be glad to charter a submarine to Texas and solicit his services." 71

The quotes above clearly provide a direct link between fascist and the anti-union right to work laws in this country. Others associated with the Christian America were Alfred Sloan, CEO of GM, the du Ponts, bankers George and Joseph Widener, and Wall Street lawyer Odgen Mills.

This visceral hatred of unions and support for corporate rule is but one of the common threads linking today’s far right wing groups to those of the pro-fascist groups of the 1930s and illustrates the use of destructive divisiveness as a fascist trait.

It's a common misconception that after the bombing of Pearl harbor, that the pro-fascists folded their tent and went home quietly. Nothing could be further from the truth. They simply went underground. In fact, Archibald MacLeish, Librarian of Congress, accused the pro-fascist press represented primarily by Hearst, Scripts-Howard, McCormick and Patterson of treason in a speech before the American Society of newspapers. This speech was broadcast at the time. However, the newspapers failed to cover it or when they did, they censored it heavily. Although MacLeish did not name names he mentioned treason twice. Curiously in the follow up in TheNew York Times those two paragraphs were deleted, as was the case in many of the other follow-ups that were buried in the back pages.19

This was not the only charge of treason that some major newspapers faced. The 1942 American Newspaper Publishers Association’s convention voted for a "second front now" and went on to denounce the fascist appeasement forces in America naming the McCormick-Patterson chain, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Daily News, The Washington Times-Herald and the Hearst chain. It accused the American press of an anti-unionism, suppressing and slanting the news to fit the publisher’s views. 24 The following quote from William Green, president of the AFL confirms how deep this support for fascism was.

"Recently a bitter campaign of malicious propaganda to poison the public’s mind against organized labor has been carried on by the subsidized press which is composed of reactionary daily newspapers controlled, through ownership and advertising, by exploiting profiteers and union haters. Together with the bourbon politicians, idle rich and anti-labor columnists, they are the real parasites of our country… By peddling falsehoods about labor, the subsidized press is creating factionalism, disunity and class hatred. If Hitler were not so busy running away from a victorious Russian army he would take time to pin medals on the editors and columnist who are misleading the public.  The reactionary editors of the newspapers are doing just what Hitler predicted he could accomplish here through his agents." 25

The use of destructive divisiveness by the pro-fascist forces is again readily apparent in the quote. The character of the press has not changed.
In 1942 The Chicago Tribune and part of the McCormick chain was on trial for betraying secrets to the Japanese in publishing the names and location of the ships in the Battle of the Midway. McCormick was a vicious Roosevelt hater and sought out ways to embarrass or discredit him. The Chicago Tribune also published Rainbow 5, the top secret battle plans before the war had broken out. In the case of Midway, publishing the names and locations of the ships involved was clearly treasonous. The Tribune had obtained that information through one of its war correspondents, Stanely Johnson. Johnson was sailing aboard the New Orleans en route to Hawaii and had seen a JN25 decrypt (JN25 was a Japanese Naval code) on the captain's desk and stole a look. The decrypt revealed what the US Navy knew of the Japanese fleet deployment and strategy. The Headline in the Chicago Tribune published three days after the battle read "Navy Had Word of Jap Plan to Strike at Sea."

The Tribune avoided convictions by claiming that part of the article was false and much of it had been faked. Roosevelt and the Justice department were hamstrung and could not prosecute the case fully. In a rigorous trial the government would have had to reveal that it had broken the Japanese Naval code. Protecting that secret and protecting the lives of American GIs was worth far more than bringing the traitors to justice.112

This is the same Chicago Tribune that after the war began propagating the lie that Roosevelt had a forewarning of the attack on Pearl Harbor. 27 Congressmen, Elmer Holland of Pennsylvania went further in charging that Joseph Patterson owner of the New York Daily News and Eleanor Patterson owner of the Washington Times-Herald were America’s number 1 and number 2 exponents of the Nazi propaganda line. 26

Perhaps one of the biggest misunderstandings about Roosevelt and the 1930s is the lack of knowledge about his opposition. Many Americans believe FDR stood virtually unopposed. Nothing could be further from the truth, while he enjoyed tremendous popularity among the electorate he had many powerful and influential enemies both within and outside of the government.