John Roy Carlson's Under Cover - Archive of all posts in the series.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

John Roy Carlson is a name mostly forgotten, though it deserves to be remembered. In brief, Carlson was the pen name for a guy named Arthur Derounian, an Armenian from Alexandropolis, Greece who moved to the US as a young man with his family in 1921. Having experienced life in a region of war-torn ethnic strife, Carlson (for simplicity, I will refer to him by the name he wrote under) fell in love with America, with democracy, with all the nation stood for (and, as his later career would show, became a philosemite). He made good, worked hard, and attended the Columbia J-school (in the days before it turned you into the enemy, haha).

An incident in 1933 was formative. He witnessed the assassination of a beloved Armenian priest right there in the aisle of a New York church perpetrated by members of an Armenian political party. The incident hammered home to Carlson that two oceans were not enough to keep the political violence of the Old World away from his beloved new home. That home needed active protection on the part of those, like himself, who knew the dangers that were out there.

So Carlson was well prepared as the 1930's wound on, and Fascism arose, casting its choking vines westward. Under the assumed identity of "Italian-American" George Pagnanelli, Carlson spent the late 1930's and early '40s infiltrating American fascist organizations, culminating in his most well-known book, written in 1943, Under Cover; My Four Years in the Nazi Underworld of America -- The Amazing Revelation of How Axis Agents and Our Enemies Within Are Now Plotting to Destroy the United States. It reads like a mystery novel, and contains a history with so many rhymes with the present that the public square deserves a recitation.

In the same way that I did with Anne Applebaum's Gulag, I thought I'd blog a few of the passages as time allows. Our own Hillel Stavis will likely be favoring us with more about Carlson at some point in the near future as he has been doing some original research on him and turning up some extremely interesting material, so I am intentionally keeping my description of this extraordinarily colorful character brief for now.

Arthur Derounian passed away in 1991 at the age of 82 while doing research in the library of the American Jewish Committee in New York.

But 54 years earlier, in 1938, at the age of 29, Carlson had had his second life-changing experience, and this one put him on the trail of Fascism in America [p. 22]:

In the fall of 1938 while riding in a New York subway, I picked up a leaflet entitled Why Are Jews Persecuted for Their Religion? It was printed on cheap, gray newsprint and included four pages of bitterly anti-Semitic quotations and distorted passages from American History. The leaflet urged "American patriots" to "rise up as one man and clean house politically and economically." It bore the imprint of the Nationalist Press Association, 147 East 116th Street, New York. Pricked by curiosity I decided to look up these headquarters of "Americanism."

And that he did, which began his journey into the world of Fascist publishing houses, personalities and secret organizations waiting for the right time to launch, and help push along, the Rightist revolution that would sweep Democracy aside. As George Pagnanelli, Carlson even started publishing his own racist rag to earn street cred and help his infiltration efforts. He joined groups, marched and trained with them -- groups like the Christian Front -- that were aiming to copy the tactics the Nazis found go out on the street and look for trouble, then claim later they were victims [pp. 68-69]:

We moved along to Times Square and stopped in front of Nedick's orange drink stand at the corner of 42nd Street to watch five Social Justice salesmen in operation. [Social Justice was Father Coughlin's paper. -S] Pete Stahrenberg was there, waiting for Dan and me. After a while Dan displayed the National American and began to call out his slogans.

"I'll be watching you if anything happens," Pete told Dan.

Then it suddenly happened...

A Jewish youth with thin features and large eyes, goaded by the insults the hawkers were screaming, knocked down the pile of National American from Dan's hand. Dan swung with his free right hand and the blow caught the youth on the shoulder. A crowd gathered instantly and I saw the goon squad coming down on the run -- eyes blazing, fists ready to pummel the Jewish youth into a bloody pulp. I turned away my face.

"C'mon, c'mon, keep moving you. Break it up."

By the Grace of God the cops got there first, surrounded the Jewish youth, protectively backing him up against a taxi-cab fender, and pushed Dan away. More police stepped in and dispersed the crowd. Dan and the Jewish youth were then led away, followed by Pete.

When the salesmen for Social Justice resumed their hawking, the goon squads glared menacingly at Jewish passersby.

"Those Goddam cops beat us to it," they muttered. "We gotta get there first next time."

"Yeah. It ain't no fun if you don't do nuthin'."

I stood there alone, leaning against a building, stunned by the nightmarish scene. Again I had that curious feeling of unreality. I kept saying to myself: "This is New York. This isn't Berlin. This is the City of New York, in the United States. You are not in Turkey. You are in New York."

I looked up. The clock atop the Paramount Building pointed to midnight.

[All posts in this series are collected on this page.]

Monday, June 16, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

Before Code Pink and the Raging Grannies, there was Elizabeth Dilling's thundering herd, the Mothers' Movement, We, the Mothers Mobilize, the Social Justice Unit of the National Legion of Mothers, the Mothers of the USA, the Mothers of Sons Forum, Mothers of America, United Mothers, Crusading Mothers and others... From pp. 211-214:

In February, 1941 through "chain" recommendations from one American Fascist to another, I was urged to go as a delegate with the Paul Revere Sentinels leaving for Washington to sabotage passage of the Lend-Lease Bill. When I phoned Sanctuary he urged me to come and pick up a "package of patriotic literature."

He loaded me down with a huge bundle containing a variety of anti-war, anti-Semitic leaflets, with instructions to give it to Charles Hudson. "If he's not there Mrs. Dilling will do," he said. About twenty-five of us from the Paul Revere Sentinels and the Christian Front arrived in Washington on the morning of February 26, 1941. Mrs. Dilling was in charge of the Mothers' Movement and the lobby of the Plaza Hotel was crowded with a wild, milling mob of women and some men.

"This is my thundering herd," Mrs. Dilling told me. "How do you like it?"

She was perfect in the role of a herd leader.

"Come on, mothers," she yelled. "Let's picket the Senate Building."

Sixty or more women rushed to the exits and took their places in line, carrying American flags. Round and round the Senate Building they went singing The Star-Spangled Banner and Battle Hymn of the Republic. Watching from the opposite sidewalk with other men, the demonstration struck me as pointless. Getting no attention from reporters Mrs. Dilling decided to storm the Capitol steps, hoping for publicity by violating Capitol ordinances. The cops promptly stopped the mob, which was just what Mrs. Dilling wanted. It broke into a howl.

"Don't you dare tell us we can't parade with our sacred American flags."

"These are the flags of our Republic, but wouldn't know that, you Jew stooges," one woman yelled.

"I'll bet it was the internationalists who made the laws."

"Is this America? Who runs this country, the Americans or the internationalist Jews?"

The cops laughed good-naturedly and gently pushed them back. I was amazed at their patience in the face of the abuse and clawing. There was a sentimental side to the scene. Some of the mothers began to cry over sons or husbands killed in the World War. I could sympathize with that and my heart went out to these sincere mothers, for I knew the tragedies that war can bring. But prominent among the mothers was a tall gawky woman who reminded me of the professional weepers the Nazis sent into France to weep in public places and lower morale. When this woman began to cry again, I asked who she was.

"Her name is Miss Rooney," I was told in confidence. "She always cries."

And whenever she cried the short, roly-poly Polish woman from South Bend, Indiana invariably followed. Both began to bawl in sight of reporters, several others began to take out handkerchiefs, and the thing gave signs of spreading through the mob when some of the more farsighted ones put a stop to the crying jag.

"Don't start that now," one of the women whispered to Miss Rooney. "Wait till Mrs. Dilling gets back."

Mrs. Dilling who had quietly gone off, came back panting with the announcement that Congressman Clare E. Hoffman had agreed to see them.

"There, now, there is a Christian man for you," came in a chorus.

The pack instantly fell into line to follow Mrs. Dilling. On the way over they knelt on the dirty sidewalk and committed the sacrilege of reciting the Lord's Prayer -- for the benefit of newspaper reporters and photographers. Anything which publicized their shameful conduct was deemed "patriotic." A man of fanatic leaning, Representative Hoffman received the herd, commended their "patriotism" and said:

"Apparently the Red flag of Communists and the flag of every other organization and country is today more welcome here in Washington than is the flag which carries the Stars and Stripes."

Led by Hoffman, the pack milled its way down to Roy O. Woodruff, Hoffman's colleague from Michigan. Here the Congressmen posed for photographers, while Mrs. Dilling held a placard "Kill Bill 1776 -- Not Our Boys" and Hoffman held the flag. So Mrs. Dilling finally got the publicity she craved.


Publicity became the mania of their leaders in order to create the impression that their stunts represented the majority of American mothers. This was far from true. "News crazy" reporters, however, provided wide publicity to such stunts as the hanging in effigy of Senator Claude "Benedict Arnold" Pepper and the "death watch" in which mothers dressed completely in black and sat in Senate and House galleries. They badgered officials hostile to appeasement, but were received with open arms by those who thought in like terms. And these Coughlinite Mothers' groups, noisy and discordant, later became another gear within the multiple-geared America First Committee of organized appeasement and defeatism.

The Chicago group -- We, the Mothers, Mobilize for America, Inc. -- reached the lowest ebb of unmotherly infamy when over the signature of Mrs. Grace Keefe, it sent a letter to a Louisiana mother mourning the death of her son on the high seas:

Legal experts advise that if any soldier, draftee, or otherwise, loses his life while executing orders which his superiors have no constitutional authority to give, then those official can be sued as private citizens. We owe it to our loved dead, to the country for which they died, to call to account those who violated our Constitution and heartlessly placed our men in the danger zone between two warring nations while we are at peace...

We, the mothers of American boys, beg you to place the blame for the death of your son where it belongs, and not be deceived by propaganda into blaming a foreign power. In the name of justice, we ask you to call to justice the real murderers of your loved one.

"Impeach Roosevelt" became the cry...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

[From pp.233-234]:

I was also eager to interview Congressman John E. Rankin because of a tragic event which took place in the Hose on June 4, 1941. On that day Ranking delivered one of several blistering condemnations of American Jews as "war mongers." Rising to protest against the slander, Representative M. Michael Edelstein pointed out that the meeting of so-called "international bankers" which "took place yesterday on the steps of the Sub-Treasury [Building] was entirely controlled by persons other than Jewish bankers."

As Congressman Edelstein's closing words: "All men are created equal, regardless of race, creed or color" rang to the applause of his colleagues, he strode from the House to go to his chambers. Just outside the entrance he collapsed. He was carried, limp, to a couch in the adjacent House reading room. Congressman Edelstein was dead.

His tragic death was greeted by American Nazis with all the fanfare of a Nazi military victory. Fascist speakers turned down other topics to apostrophize the "patriotism" of the Congressman from Mississippi. Rankin's name became indelibly inscribed on the international fascist roll of honor and was lauded in the January 15, 1940, issue of World Service.

This was the man I arranged to see.

A sharp-eyed, shrewd, callous little man, with volatile and fanatic energy, Rankin asked me to leave my camera behind as we walked into his room. My first thought was that he was a Klansman. Peculiarly enough, during the ensuing conversation he brought up the subject and said that he had been charged with being a Klansman. He had answered: "I don't have to belong to any organization to be pro-American."

He had received my letter, he said, and read the inclosures, but could not find it at the moment. He asked for my name again and when I repeated it, he demanded:

"First tell me why you wanted to see me."

I wold him that we had read about Congressman Edelstein and I was eager to shake the hand of an "American." This obviously pleased Rankin because he burst into a smile. "Yeah, he keeled over," he said. Crossing his little legs, Rankin turned his face, cross-patched with wrinkles and advised:

"When you go back to New York, you tell them this. There is only one way to win this fight and that is to expose the international Jewish bankers as the war mongers. Tell the people that it is the Jews who want war. Do that and you've got half the battle won." Rankin then boasted that Senator Hiram W. Johnson had said of him: "This man has done more in one minute than any other man in the past six months."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

From p. 240:

A few nights later I went to Carnegie Hall. As George Pagnanelli, the "patriotic" editor, I was invited to grace the platform, but I sat there only long enough to ascertain that the corpulent fellow occupying a platform seat was John Cecil, speaker for the American Nationalist Party and the Christian Front. I saw a lot of ladies dressed in fine clothes, and I saw my rabble pals hobnobbing with Park Avenue. Thomas Malone, salesman for National American was distributing free copies of The American Vindicator, next to a salesman selling Social Justice...

...Was this, too, a "coalition" meeting of America First? Not quite. It was a meeting of Women United, an America First Committee subsidiary, and Senator Reynolds was the guest of honor. Deatherage took it upon himself to instruct Mrs. Geraldine Buchanan Parker, executive secretary, on the "respectable" way of disseminating anti-Semitism:

Your literature does not need to state the word -- Jew. All you have to do in order to place the blame where the people can understand it is to accuse the international bankers. The masses have now been educated to understand what is meant...Senator Holt can give you the information, you can quote from the Congressional Record -- it is there.

Friday, June 20, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

Discussing the America First Committee (pp. 242-243):

True, its leadership at first was as American as Plymouth Rock. But the rank and file following -- at first sincere and respectable -- was later polluted by the Pelleys, Coughlins, McWilliamses; the Vierecks, Kuhns and Deatherages; by Klansmen; by Japanese and Nazi agents. And its weak-kneed leadership, cowed and bullied by stories of Nazi might, swayed by Chamberlain sentimentality and Pollyanna smugness, took craven comfort in the delusion that they were "defending America." The surrender of a mighty nation in appeasement to Hitler might easily have been the outcome if the designs of its two most publicized spokesmen had been carried through.

Its national chairman, General Robert E. Wood, told Kenneth Crawford a reporter for PM, a New York newspaper, that in the event of an invasion of South America by a Nazi armada, he would defend our Latin Allies "only the part as far south as the bulge of Brazil." Without firing a shot in self-defense, the General indicated his willingness to let Hitler seize more than half of South America, plant his legions firmly on the Western Hemisphere and place the Panama Canal at the mercy of his Luftwaffe.

William R. Castle, another founder of the America First Committee, expressed amazing shortsightedness for a former official of the State Department. Apparently dominated by Viereck's syrupy assurances that Hitler was the friend of all and the enemy of none, Castle wrote in the Nazi organ Today's Challenge:

Let's mind our own business -- and keep our powder dry -- avoid all the ideologies which are contrary to our own good system. Let us so live our own lives in a world of neighbors that we shall be a power for good because we have the respect of all.

This sample of infantile trust after years of relentless Nazi aggression during which Democracies crumbled one by one because they, too, believed in Hitler's promises, remained dominant with the "new leadership." Faith in Hitler but an unreasoning lack of faith in the Administration -- these were the cornerstones of the Committee's policy of appeasement and defeatism which corroded our democratic fibre. It delighted Nazi commentators, who crooned from Berlin: "The America First Committee is known as true Americanism and true patriotism, as opposed to the synthetic brand."

"Patriotic" meetings of the Mobilizers and the Bund fell down in attendance, while most of the other fascistic groups were suspended altogether as their members flocked to America First rallies...

Were all America Firsters fascists? Certainly not. But it's just as certain that all fascists were America Firsters, and it only takes a small number of like-minded and dedicated people to control a very large organization constituted of diverse but less motivated individuals. The fascists understood that as the Communists still do.

And I love the call for respect for world opinion by a former State Department official. They must have crowed over the plaudits they received in Nazi opinion papers as our own obsess about public opinion overseas now.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

From pp. 248-249:

Into the America First offices poured a daily stream of my "friends" I knew or personally recognized seeing at subversive meetings. There was no partiality. Anyone who asked for literature got it -- free of charge.

The office [of the America First Committee] at 515 Madison Avenue, where I worked as volunteer was a bedlam. Volunteers stayed till the early morning hours, energized by a hot revivalist fever. Mothers stayed away from their homes and family life was disrupted in a crusade for peace at any sell-out price. Sitting at the volunteers' table, I heard a great deal of intimate talk. This sort of thing:

"I haven't cooked supper in three weeks and my husband is sore."

"Well, we've all got to sacrifice to save our country. After all, it's Roosevelt who wants war, not Hitler."

"Roosevelt and the internationalists."

"You mean the Jews. Don't be afraid to say it, sister."

"They ain't all bad. There's a Rabbi Charles Fleischer who speaks for the Committee, and that fellow doing the publicity for us..."

"Sydney Hertzberg, that's his name."

"Yeah, and Mrs. Paul palmer on the Committee. She's wealthy and she's Jewish, you know."

"These are good Jews, but most of them are bad."

I had been watching a small, kindly-faced grandmother with white hair and a wrinkled face. She worked quietly and rarely spoke. Once or twice we had exchanged smiles and I had taken a fancy to her. I felt she had something on her mind and had noticed her leave the table several times when the discussion was hottest. Suddenly she froze the volunteers by saying in a thin, clear voice:

"I don't think it's fair of you to talk that way about the Jews. We're not fighting this war against the Jews and I can't understand why you are always talking against them. I'm here because I don't want to see my grandchildren go to war, but I'm not going to speak against any race of people. I don't think you ladies are being Christian at all."

I felt like rushing over and hugging grandma, but it would have been my suicide as investigator.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

P. 260:

The America First Committee had become the voice of American Fascism and the spearhead aimed at the heart of Democracy, carrying to their doom many who were innocent and would have resigned in disgust had they known what went on behind the scenes. An official of the Committee, Judge Mildred Dugan confirmed my convictions by saying candidly:

"Eighty per cent of the membership is Coughlinite, and there isn't the least doubt in my mind that at the present rate the anti-Semites and the Coughlinites will come out on top eventually."

The Monday after Pearl Harbor I received the December 6 issue of the America First Bulletin and read the headline: "Blame for Rift with Japan Rests on Administration." It was the same old cry of denouncing our own family of Americans and, by implication, exonerating the Axis of all evil. And by an irony of fate, a typical letter from William R. Castle appeared in the New York Sunday Herald Tribune on the morning of Pearl Harbor, and it read:

Why should we go to war with Japan? To that question I have never received a reasonable answer, except the answer always made by those who feel we should interfere anywhere in the world. People like our bellicose Secretery of the Navy announce that trouble is inevitable...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

Body counts as anti-war morale killers, Hitler kept alive as an excuse to continue the war, Polish Jews instigated the war...echoes, echoes...

pp. 309-311:

President of the Mothers of the United States of America, [Mrs. Rosa M. Farber], she had known as early as May, 1941, she confessed, that Laura Ingalls was on the Nazi pay roll. "There was a lot more about her than appeared in the newspapers," she said mysteriously. "What was printed was only half the story."

How did she know that?

And why had she continued to associate with her?

It was nearly ten o'clock. So far I had learned little from Mrs. Farber that was worth while. Then, as the hour hand on the living room clock pointed to ten, Mrs. Farber suddenly came out with: "There is no other way out for us than through a revolution."

"You mean a revolution with bloodshed?" I asked, surprised at her sudden remark.

She nodded: "It's the only way."

"I was going to start an underground organization last fall," she explained, "but they [meaning gossipy women] would not have been able to keep it secret and I gave up the idea. It's the only thing left to do now -- start an underground movement." Mrs. Farber wasn't holding meetings of any kind now. "You only make yourself a target," she said. "They'll shut you down. The only way to work now is through conversation."

She called it that. What she actually did was to outline a whispering campaign. She gave me her formula as she practiced it day by day. She recounted how she had spread defeatism at the local school. One of the teachers giving out ration cards had said that rationing was necessary for psychological reasons. But Mrs. Farber had argued back: "If the want us to know that we are in the war then let them publish the casualty lists and also send the bodies back." One of the teachers had commented, "Yes, come to think of it, those lists haven't been published, have they."

Mrs. Farber boasted, "You see? I planted an idea in her head, now she'll think of it again."

Thoroughly warmed up to her subject, she went on: "I just plant seeds like that every day. They are little ideas which I put in my conversations day by day. I do it all the time. That is all I do. That is all you can do now. Here, let me show you something." She got up from her chair and went over to the bureau. From it she pulled out a large pocketbook and drew out a newspaper picture of Attorney General Francis Biddle. "Look at that face," she said. "It's one hundred per cent Jewish." (footnote: Attorney General Biddle is a member of the famous non-Jewish Philadelphia family.)

From another folder in her pocketbook she took out a picture of a child whose grand-uncle was captioned as being General MacArthur. She said that his face, too, was Jewish. And then this statement from Mrs. Farber: "People say that MacArthur's little son looks like a little kike."

"Should we, in these conversations you suggest, use anti-Semitism?" I asked innocently.

"What do you think I'm doing when I show Biddle's picture and tell people he looks like a Jew?" she exploded. "Preach anti-Semitism all you can, the more the better."

After this Mrs. Farber lost all self-composure and all reason. Having controlled herself all through the early evening, she now let go and subjected me to a half hour of fantastic delusions. One of these was the amazing statement that Polish Jews had willingly and wantonly encouraged Hitler's attack on Poland. The Sanhedrin, or a mythical world Jewish Council (existing only in the imagination of Jew-baiters) had decreed this in order that Hitler devastate all of Europe.

"How would the Jews benefit from this?" I asked incredulously.

Mrs. Farber explained that it was to further a plot of world ruin so that Communist elements might be in a position to offer Communism as the only antidote for National-Socialism. "Hitler," Mrs. Farber said, out of all reason, "is being kept alive as a hate object by those who want our civilization destroyed in order to set up an international world order."

I could hardly believe my ears, for here was a woman, hitherto rational, whose blind hatreds and fanaticisms led her to believe and propagate the most fantastic lies. She became just like the crackpots I had met on countless occasions. In her defamation of Jewry, in her attempt to lay the blame of the war at the feet of persecuted Polish Jews, Mrs. Farber may have been attempting to absolve Hitler of all blame. In her lumping together of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Churchill and Roosevelt Mrs. Farber followed another favorite Nazi device used to discredit the national leadership, and sow mistrust toward the national war effort. On leaving, she loaded me down with a huge stack of pre-Pearl Harbor isolationist literature.

I learned from Mrs. Farber that Mrs. Beatrice Knowles, president of American Mothers, was holding underground meeting. Phoning, I told her of my visits to Mrs. Farber, Vietig and Parker Sage. "Come right over," she invited...

No need for a whispering campaign today, just a big budget and web site.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

pp. 396-398:

...I sensed Chicago was the hotbed of a native fascism which was truly alarming in proportion and intensity. I had never had this feeling before. As I analyze Chicago, I can readily understand why. In addition to the Dillings, Jungs, Van Hynings, Willards, the America First Committee which had first festered there, there was the factor of the "Washington-New York-Chicago newspaper Axis," with the Chicago Tribune as the cornerstone.

Its publisher was a remarkable and profound man. He himself said so -- and who should know better than Colonel Robert R. McCormick, "Bertie" for short...

...Whereas the influence of the Dillings and Jungs extended among thousands only, "Bertie" reached millions (average daily circulation of the Tribune was 1,076,866) with a daily barrage of obstructionism and defeatism of the war effort, carping at the national leadership, berating Democracy and denouncing our military allies under the guise of "patriotism" and "freedom of the press."...

...Other partners of the "newspaper Axis" were the New York Daily News, published by McCormick's cousin, Captain Joseph Medill Patterson; and the Washington Times-Herald, published by Patterson's sister, Eleanor "Cissy" Patterson. Their combined audience was estimated at five million readers daily. The party line was the same for all three.

On December 14, 1938 under the by-line of its Washington correspondent, John O'Donnell, the Daily News honored an American Nazi, Pelley, by publishing in its entirety the contents of one of his booklets purporting to show the number of "Jews in Washington." Pelley's picture was inserted and the cover of his vicious booklet reproduced. The story was featured on page two under a screaming three-column headline and continued for nearly two and a half pages...

..."Hardly a day goes by," wrote William Shirer, "that they [these three papers] are not cited by Goebbels to prove one of his points." And as I stood on the Chicago sidewalk and looked at the impressive office building of the Tribune, with McCormick sitting high up in his ivory tower I recalled the righteous indignation of Congressman Elmer J. Holland which he expressed so eloquently in the Congressional Record.

Despite their cloak of prosperity, their fine building...these three papers are in spirit and in conduct members of the "vermin press." Separate their editorials from the trappings of a large city newspaper, publish them as a separate book, and read them as a continuous theme. You will see their net effect is to preach defeatism among our civilians and mutiny among our soldiers, to spread dismay among out allies, and to create joy in the hearts of our enemies...

This is no small matter...This means that approximately 5% of the total population of these United States is being daily exposed to the virus of Fascist philosophy -- to the direct assault of the enemy propaganda campaign. No propaganda broadcast of the Axis radio -- no enemy leaflets -- can reach so many Americans as do these Fascists of the native brand.

With deadly effect the corrupt Parisian press poisoned and paralyzed the spirit and morale of the French. And -- when we recall that the total circulation of the most powerful members of this venal press reached less than one half of one percent of the total population of France -- we can clearly judge the danger with which we are faced.

It is not necessary to be in contact with the enemy in order to bring him aid and comfort. It is only necessary to share a common hatred; to desire the same results; to think in the same patterns...This is a foreign war, yet it is also a war of ideas...To the end that this group consists of Americans, Mr. Speaker, this war is a civil war as well as a foreign war. It cannot be won until our enemies at home are conquered and rendered harmless.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

pp. 404-408:

Asher's friend, Carl H. Mote, is president and general manager of the Northern Indiana Telephone Company, th Commonwealth Telephone Corporation and has other utility business connections. He is an attorney and a former newspaper editor. Mote wrote at least three articles for Pelley's Roll-Call which appeared in the February 17, March 3 and March 24, 1941 issues. All were true to the Pelley pattern and one was so "good" that Pelley placed it on the front cover. Mote branded the President's message to Hitler at the time of the Munich appeasement as "an impudent telegram." [Hello Columbia U. -S] And his apology for Hitler in Roll-Call was far from subtle:

Whatever may be said against the morals of Adold HItler, no one has ever dated accuse him of having had any part in the destruction of Germany which began with the Versailles Treaty and continued to the first months of 1933. [Hello Pat Buchanan. -S]

Judged purely by the amount of abuse and vindictiveness in his writing for Pelley's magazine, Mote hated the President and the Administration infinitely more than Hitler and National-Socialism. This note was implicit during my talk with him as we sat at the Antlers Bar in Indianapolis...

...Doubtless Mote thought himself on the right side when he objected to peace-time conscription as a measure of national defense. Whether he realized it at the time or not, Mote was actually paraphrasing the Nazi short wave broadcasts when he wrote in Pelley's Role-Call:

We are spending billions for peace-time conscription, for airplanes and for ships, when most everybody suspects, though few will dare say, that the "defense program," including peace-time conscription, is the master hoax of the New Deal. It takes rare impertinence and bold hypocrisy...

Mote claimed he was not anti-Semitic, and yet he spoke constantly of the "Jewish League of Nations," referred to "money changers" and "internationalists" -- popular Park Avenue terms for "Jew"; harped on Jewish surnames to the exclusion of others, and indulged in such cheap Pelley devices as ridiculing Willkie by calling him Vendell L. Villkie [Hello BBC. -S]. Mote further insulted Mr. Willkie by calling him "more alien than American" and branded his repudiation of Father Coughlin's support (which Coughlin offered voluntarily during the 1940 elections) as "asinine," because Willkie had said: "I consider anti-Semitism in America as a possible criminal movement and every anti-Semite as a possible traitor to America."...

...In a vicious booklet he circulated after Pearl Harbor, Mote quoted Mrs. Dilling, fascist Lawrence Dennis and even the discredited Protocols to support his contentions. Mote looked upon all Jews as "war mongers," but he said nothing about Hitler's gigantic preparations for total war, or his extensive conspiracies for territorial and world ideological conquest.

And in the booklet quoting Dennis and the Protocols as authorities, Mote made "predictions" of violence and a military dictator I have heard a hundred times at Nazi meetings:

Unless there is a shortage of rope, at the end of five years human necks will be more talked about than bottlenecks...If and when a Caesar appears, he is likely to come from the Army. the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines...

If you had been there with me at the Antlers Bar, you would have found it hard to believe that these threatening and vengeful utterances could have been voiced by the mild-mannered man who faced me. It became all too apparent to me that Mote was the sad victim of a complex: the hate-Roosevelt complex. Hate the President at any cost. Hate everything he does, hate them even before he does them. Hate him more than you hate Hitler and Stalin. Hate the very ground he walks on and curse the very bed he sleeps in. Hate till you blind your own reason and reduce yourself to the level of a Bundist who knows nothing but hate and sees nothing but revolution and pogroms ahead.

As I left Mote I experienced a sadness which is difficult to put into words. Sleep was out of the question. I had met personally a fine man who doubtless loved his family and country. What a shame, I thought, that a man of Mote's calibre and interests would reduce himself to the level of a vile Pelley. What a blow to Democracy to have Mote on Pelley's side. What a blow to Democracy to have Mote on Pelley's side, rather than on the side of those who were fighting for a world of decency and equality and justice for all men. I regarded Mote as a tragic victim of the most ruthless, hateful, soul-searing propaganda machinery the world has ever seen!

Monday, June 30, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

pp. 410-411:

Not long after leaving Stahrenberg's I had become aware of the common methods used by Nazis and their American transmission belters. I knew that their sources of inspiration were the same. Their methods were basically the same, and the mediums to which they resorted to bring about the discontent and defeatism and revolution were essentially common to all twenty-eight [indicted for sedition on July 22, 1943]. Although not all knew each other well enough to work together, I had found that they were engaged in doing and saying the same things in slightly different ways, and on varying level of society. Whether they knew it or not, they were all heading in one direction.

In addition, I had been acutely aware that many among them exchanged information, and met frequently in "Christian" conventions or co-ordinated their "patriotic" plans during informal visitations. Many exchanged mailing lists so that placement on the list of one resulted, in due time, in placement on the lists of many of the others. Most of them recommended each other, distributed one another's literature and kept in constant touch through intimate correspondence. The indictment expressed it in the vigorous language of the law:

It being the plan and purpose of said defendants, and divers other persons to the Grand Jurors unknown, to destroy the morale and faith and confidence of the members of the military and naval forces of the United States and the people of the United States in their public officials and Republican form of government...

...the said defendants...planning and intending to seize upon and use and misuse the right of freedom of speech and of the press to spread their disloyal doctrines, intending and believing that any nation allowing to its people the right of freedom of speech and of the press is powerless to defend itself against enemies masquerading as patriots and seeking to obstruct, impede, break down and destroy the proper functioning of its republican form of government under the guise of honest criticism...

...the said defendants...knowing full well and intending that a government bereft of the faith and confidence of the members of the military and naval forces and of the people is powerless to defend the nation or the people against armed attack from without or treachery from within and cannot long survive.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

pp. 481-484:

Late in the fall of 1942, I interviewed Edward Atwell, an important official of the America First Committee who was "on the inside" at the New York offices. He answered the question which had been repeatedly put to me: "Is the America First movement dead?"

Atwell was having supper with his wife and daughter when I visited him. A powerfully built man, with pink and white complexion, Atwell impressed me as sincere even though he had spoken four times with Nazi agent Laura Ingalls, written numerous speeches, worked sixteen hours a day for the America First cause and shared the innermost secrets of the A.F.C. Atwell impressed me as a sincere, anti-fascist isolationist...

...I asked the blunt and outspoken Atwell whether leadership by America First would have been a good thing for the nation.

"I'm not sure. It may have turned out okay, then again, it may have become a Frankenstein of our own creation. That office I worked in was a madhouse. There were Bundists and Silver Shirters and Christian Mobilizers..."

"Don't forget the German secret service men," Mrs. Atwell put in, She had worked in the A.F.C. office with her husband, and I turned to her for information when Atwell seemed hesitant.

"To tell you the truth," she said, "I never thought that Laura Ingalls was the only German agent we had. You can call Germany anything you want, but you can't call her dumb. If she had one agent in such a biog organization, she might have had a hundred. There was a fellow named Riepel whose brother was arrested by the F.B.I. as a spy. We always thought Riepel was a Nazi agent."

"There were also the White Russians," Atwell put in.

"Yes, that Czarist woman, the Countess. She told me she supported the Committee and wanted to keep America out of war in order to give Hitler a chance to clean up Russia so she could get back her property," Mrs. Atwell said.

"The office was full of men and women with selfish motives," Atwell resumed. "The Committee grew too fast. It took in everybody. It had no time to check up. It could have got out of control easily. There were many sincere ones, but there were a lot of people who had an axe to grind. Like the Bund fellows."

"What interest could the Bund have?" I asked naively.

"Plenty!" Atwell burst out. "It was to Germany's advantage to have us stay out of war. It was perfectly possible that in due time German agents might have got control of the whole thing by working in the background and using other people to front for them! A strong, well-knit minority can always put it over on the unorganized majority. And I wouldn't be surprised," Atwell said softly, "if some of the money we got in was German money."

"How do you know that?" I asked.

"I know that a lot of money came in anonymously. You just opened the sealed envelope and the money dropped out. I wouldn't be surprised if some of that money was German money. Yep, the Committee might have become a very dangerous thing."

Atwell looked me over speculatively.

"I did a lot of talking for the Committee. A tour of eleven states was mapped out for me, and I was all set to go when I got the notion to look at the Bundists and Christian Front-ers about me. I asked myself 'Where am I going! Where is this Committee going with all these guys on board?'" Atwell resumed, "I'm loyal to my country and I didn't go on that speaking tour."...

[snip discussion of Lindbergh]

..."Then you don't think America First is through forever?"

"Hell, no!" Atwell said spiritedly. "Lindbergh will come back and America First will come back whenever the time is ripe. All you have to do is to call a meeting, bring the old faces together again, give them a hero they can look up to, and they'll start over.

"There are a lot of neurotics and frustrated people in the world. Old maids, missionary types, people who have to get a release for their hates, neglected people," Atwell continued, "they all want to become somebody by joining a movement. They'll all come back as soon as they get the signal."

My talk with Atwell late in 1942 was one of the most enlightening I had had, I quizzed Atwell on his personal anti-Semitism and found that the little he had was of the "harmless" type; social, rather than the sinister political anti-Semitism -- the spearhead against Democracy. Atwell feared mass anti-Semitism as a revolutionary device. He feared the "mob element" and he dreaded the consequences.

"I've seen the mob in action. Back in 1939 it was the Christian Front that went around beating up people. First it's the fist, then clubs, then knives, then firearms, then...I don't want to see innocent people killed. Mass anti-Semitism is bad business. It can end up in revolution as sure as you're sitting there."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

As I mentioned earlier, our friend Hillel Stavis has been doing research in the original John Roy Carlson archives, unearthing some very interesting stuff. In a file marked "Hate Mail," he found the following post card, received after publication of Under Cover [click photos for larger versions]:

Addressed to E.P. Dutton in Jew Jork:

postcard front.JPG

JRC Hate Mail.JPG

A publicity photo of Carlson at his typewriter:

JRC with cigarette at typewriter.JPG

Finally, in a preview of things to come, here is a poster for one of Carlson's speaking engagements discussing his adventures leading up to the publication of Cairo to Damascus:


[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]


pp. 496-499:

On the table of [Congressman] Dewer Short's reception desk were copies of Kullgren's America Speaks and the Reverend Harvey H. Springer's (who was a staunch Winrod-Fundamentalist) Western Voice. Both publications shrieked the "Jewish Gestapo" theme used in smearing the Department of Justice. Short, whom I had already heard at a Brooklyn America First meeting, proved to be a chubby fellow with twinkling blue eyes and a disarming smile. But he was an America First nationalist to the core.

"The America First spirit is not dead," he said. "Lindbergh is still the hero. Every once in a while," Short confessed, "some of us with the America First viewpoint still meet to talk things over -- Congressmen, Senators, and men like William R. Castle and Samuel Pettengil," who was spokesman for Rumely's Committee for Constitutional Government...

..."I don't think we had to get into this war," Short continued, "and we wouldn't have if we had not called everybody dirty names and insulted them, if we had built our home defenses and minded our own business."

Short summed up all the deceptive arguments advanced by the ignorant sector of the so-called isolationists. In the first place, Short had voted against all twelve national defense measures introduced in the House by the Administration, including the bill to arm the Guam Naval Base, and he also voted "Nay" on the Military Appropriation Act and Conscription Bill.

Continue reading "Under Cover: Liberty's Hangmen"

Friday, July 4, 2008

[A continuation of blogging from John Roy Carlson's Under Cover. (All posts in the series are collected on this page.)]

This will be the concluding post in the Under Cover series. I expect to be doing a similar series of posts from Carlson's Cairo to Damascus shortly.

pp. 513-514:

So you see, fascism in America is not dead. It has been pretending sleep. And I wish I could say that the America First spirit, and the threat of an American Fascist Third Party movement were over. I recall the evening I spent with James Banahan at the German-American Athletic Club. Hunched over a glass of beer he finished telling me how the Nazi consulate had helped finance the Phalanx, and added:

"Y'know, George, there aren't many of us right now, but we can sure raise plenty of hell. A pinch of salt isn't much, but throw it in your coffee and regardless of how much sugar you put in you'll still taste the salt. We are that salt and we're here to sour up this Democracy. We are the salt of American nationalism!"

I have indicated the salts which threaten to overflow at the "right time" at the peace table after we have won the military war. For if America's fascists who are psychologically courting America's defeat and fear most a democratic victory, cannot "win the war" their way -- the fascist way -- they are determined to "win the peace" at any cost.

At the same time they are determined to prolong the conflict in order to intensify their work of dissension and distrust and justify their proposed leadership at the peace conference. I am convinced that American Fascists do not want to see, and are sabotaging with every means at their command, a quick Allied victory. Such a decisive victory would completely shatter their time table and give Democracy a permanent victory. The keynote of the fascist strategy was set by Father Coughlin only a few weeks after Pearl Harbor in Social Justice:

First things come first. It is necessary, first in time, to win the war. But, first in importance, it is necessary to win the peace which follows the war...To win the war and lose the peace would be a worse defeat for us [Coughlinites] than if we fought the war to a draw...Americans, Social Justice advises you to get into every patriotic organization in America. Join up. Be neither a slacker for war nor a slacker for peace.

Win the peace. Smart words. Don't let the MSM or craven politicians lose it for us. The truth lost in Vietnam, and if it's up to the MSM, it'll lose in Iraq, too, not matter how things play out.

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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