Friday, March 17, 2017




Last year Tony Toccone and Lisa Petersen adapted Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel, It Can't Happen Here, into a play at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.  They avoided updating the setting to reflect the ongoing election, preferring to stay in the Depression era when fascism was a palpable threat.  Lewis had teamed up with John C. Moffitt to first stage the book in 1936.

Since the rise of Trump, many periodicals have called attention to the novel.  However, critics then saw Lewis' principal inspiration as being Huey Long, who was toying with the idea of a run for President before being assassinated the same year.  Lewis certainly gave "Buzz" Windrip a down-home feeling, but he was projecting the rise of autocratism in Europe on America.

Oddly enough it was Roosevelt who took on an authoritarian air after his victory in 1936, as he tried to stack the Supreme Court in 1937 to obtain favorable rulings on his New Deal legislation.   Congress blocked these efforts, dealing the President one of his biggest blows in office.

For these reasons and others, I thought it would be fun to revisit the book and draw our own conclusions.  All readers are welcome.  Please feel free to comment.

43 comments:

  1. The greatest thing about the book is its many quotable quotes such as:



    “Every man is a king so long as he has someone to look down on.”


    “The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his "ideas" almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store.
    Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his philosophy. His political platforms were only wings of a windmill.”


    “realized that this country has gone so flabby that any gang daring enough and unscrupulous enough, and smart enough not to seem illegal, can grab hold of the entire government and have all the power and applause and salutes, all the money and palaces and willin’ women they want.”



    “More and more, as I think about history,” he pondered, “I am convinced that everything that is worth while in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever. But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever.”




    ... and there are many more.

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  2. "Buzz" Windrip = '' make America a proud, rich land again ''


    Trump = "make America great again"


    Both xenophobic, hated to be criticized, distrusted news sources, made up lies about others, and bullied others. Definitely two of a kind.

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  3. Sinclair Lewis always takes a while to get into. I haven't gotten very far myself. Will read more this weekend. But, I imagine it is quite dated.

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  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hphgHi6FD8k

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdzAbxsjPRA




    Huey "King Fish" Long was said to have inspired the character of Windrip. This because of his supposed dictatorial rule over Louisiana and his many promises of great reform. Sadly, he was assassinated in 1936 and we never saw the major reforms that he was about to push for. You have to wonder how much better society would have been with greater reforms than those given by FDR.

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  5. Jack London's "The Iron Heel":

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Iron_Heel



    I may have mentioned this book when we posted on the old NY Times forum. It pre-dates Orwell's "1984" and accurately predicts much of the political nightmares that were to take place years, decades, (and even centuries) later. In his private letters (especially those to his protege' Cloudesley Johns) he claimed to have been part of a very elite group of socialists whose aim was to destroy the present order and to replace with a New World Order. This may surprise some but that order would be exclusively white as all other races were to be decimated. London coined the term "great white hope" and was a white supremacist. His book was said by some critics to be the biggest model for "It Can't Happen Here".

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  6. Interesting because London supported the Russian Revolution. I guess he had second thoughts.

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    1. ''What the Devil! I am first of all a White man and only then a Socialist!” And he wrote a friend, “Socialism is not an ideal system devised for the happiness of all men. It is devised so as to give more strength to these certain kindred favored races so that they may survive and inherit the earth to the extinction of the lesser, weaker races.” ''


      London wrote this to Johns. Among the so called inferior races were Blacks, Asians, Latins, and Slavics. By the way, he died in 1916 or one year before the Bolshevik revolution.

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    2. The Russian Revolution was in 1905. The Bolshevik Revolution came in 1917.

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    3. Anyway, the movement dates back to the mid to late 19th century in Alexander Herzen, who I imagine Jack was attracted to.

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    4. Here you go,
      http://sdonline.org/38/jack-london-burning-man-portrait-of-an-american-socialist/

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    5. Ah, for some reason I thought you were referencing the Bolsheviks rather than the 1905 Revolution led by socialists and social democrats which he did, indeed, support. As shown in his letters to Cloudesley Johns, he was looking for a way to exterminate rather than uplift the Russians and that violence was the way to achieve this. His only praise was for the Anglo-Saxon and Teuton peoples:

      https://www.counter-currents.com/2011/07/the-soul-of-jack-london-part-2/


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    6. Whatever the case, Jack had a change of heart in his later years because he always projected himself as an ardent socialist. I suppose book sales had started to decline.

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  7. Throughout the novel references were made to a League of Forgotten Men. This concept was recently resurrected by Trump in his campaign and it was found to be quite appealing by certain segments in society, notably the Farm Belt. Though it goes back to the 1870s, it was initially used in politics by FDR in 1932 as a reference to the grass roots or rank-and-file segment of the populace. This group was viewed as the principal victim of the unfair and self defeating practices of the Hoover regime and his party. (as I think about it, one of the Democrats biggest reasons for its continued losses is its failure to invoke this concept and utilization of the term in its campaigning)

    FDR's speech on Forgotten Man:


    http://newdeal.feri.org/speeches/1932c.htm




    In "It Can't Happen Here" the LOFM were the biggest amount of voters for candidate Windrip. They were largely spurred on by fiery preacher Paul Peter Prang who replaced Father Coughlin in his weekly radio broadcasts. These radio evangelists were the bogus tv evangelists of their time and exerted much influence over the day's politics. Interestingly, many of their speeches condemned Wall Street for its economic injustices. By contrast, for some inexplicable reason it is thought by many right wing delusionals that Wall Street and other capitalists need LESS regulation in order to make this a more prosperous society. A true illusion if ever I've seen one. The weekly speeches of that time also railed against Jews though they claimed to attacks the evil business practices of certain Jews and claimed they were not anti-Semitic.

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  8. "I know the press"

    Surely another Trumpism, right?

    Wrong - it is a line from ICHH. Future dictator Berzelius Windrip makes this assessment about the news media just like Trump does about the current media. Both view the media as their enemies because of the truth they present about these delusional pundits.

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  9. Much criticism of Trump was because of his pomposity during his campaign speeches. He presented few facts, made numerous distortions (a PolitiFACT report rated his claims largely as "liar liar, pants on fire*), used provocative hand/facial gestures, raved on about the media and liberals and his opponents, but offered no evidence to support his claims. The following quote is from ICHH and is remarkably similar to those facts:


    ''There were two things, they told Doremus [Jessup], that distinguished this prairie Demosthenes. He was an actor of genius. There was no more overwhelming actor on the stage, in the motion pictures, nor even in the pulpit. He would whirl arms, bang tables, glare from mad eyes, vomit Biblical wrath from a gaping mouth; but he would also coo like a nursing mother, beseech like an aching lover, and in between tricks would coldly and almost contemptuously jab his crowds with figures and facts—figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect.''




    This illustrates the tactics used by candidate Windrip who was said to wield "his power of bewitching large audiences" with the same type of hypnotic charisma displayed by Trump in his campaign. His words were nothing more than "His political platforms were only wings of a windmill." But they succeeded in fooling a great many people and won through a plurality of votes which caused a win due to gerrymandered districting in many Republican states.








    * http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/statements/byruling/pants-fire/





    I have now finished reading the book and all throughout I kept saying to myself, 'life imitates art'. Amazing!

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  10. Windrip's ardent loyalists were the Minute Men who spared no effort to intimidate or harass anyone who they perceived as a threat or who they felt disagreed with them in any way. Because of their fanaticism, they threatened and ultimately arrested journalist hero Jessup. Life imitates art today as fanatical Trump Chumps who blindly support their hero have threatened a federal judge who ruled against his illegal immigration order:



    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHjrvilz6bE&t=2s



    During the campaign, there was much violence in the pro Trump rallies. His cultish fanatical followers have no fear or respect for the law. In their twisted minds, the Constitution be damned. Just like in ICHH.

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  11. Windrip's 15 point program:


    https://www.reddit.com/r/DebateFascism/comments/3ppi67/buzz_windrips_policies_in_it_cant_happen_here/



    Hitler & Nazi Party's 25 point program:


    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/1708-ps.asp




    Remarkable similarities.




    I can certainly agree with Windrip's proposed "Profit shall be taken out of War" but absolutely cringe at some of these other hideous proposals. On reflection, I wonder how large a segment of the USA population bought into this or similar ideas. It is well established that some Americans succumbed to the idea of political extremism at that time (just like today). Indeed, KKK membership was quite high during the 1930s and early 40s. But exactly how many advocated any of this extremism - that's an answer I'd like to know. How I wish our dear old buddy Robert Whelan was here - he probably read multiple books on the subject and could supply a knowledgeable answer.

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  12. "You and people of your religion are responsible for evils in our land. You and the like need to go to South America - get out of here, you menace to society!"


    Sounds just like today as people of a certain religion/ethnicity (in the book it was Jews and Blacks) were targeted as menaces to society. Today it is a Trump and his followers attacking Mexicans and Muslims. The target in this instance was a Dr Schmidt and the attacker being a Windrip crony with the ominous name of Macgoblin. The latter criticizes Dr Schmidt (who was not actually Jewish) and Rabbi De Verez for their lack of political correctness and shoots at them killing one, wounding the other. The culprits acting under color of law go off scot free much like the Mark Fuhrmans and other police criminal who attack minorities in this society. It is this action which stimulates our hero journalist Jessup to undertake his campaign ("Last straw—plenty last," he raged.") against the evils of dictator Windrip and ultimately leads to the crusade which causes the latter's downfall .


    This violence because Windrip's Corpo Minute Men ''had only the unprejudiced, impersonal pleasure in violence natural''. An inclination that parallel's Trump chumps:

    http://americasvoice.org/trumphatemap/



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  13. Ever the politician, one of Windrip's campaign strategies was to eat ethnic foods when in certain ethnic enclaves and referring to himself as a "common man". While his roots were considerably more humble than Trump, the latter tried this same routine when he was campaigning:


    http://www.rawstory.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/a13-800x430.jpg


    Windrip walked around using a cowboy hat as did Trump:


    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CKcvET8UAAEjGhq.jpg





    Windrip had a ruddy face:


    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CbJGfFzUAAEg0GK.jpg




    Windrip's wife did not at first move into the White House. Same with Melania:



    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4180236/Melania-Trump-NEVER-White-House.html




    The parallels between Trump and Windrip are uncanny.

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  14. "Bring Out the Old Muskets"


    Song praising militarism used by Windrip in his campaign. He used many WW I vets as inspiration for impressionable youths and said they would inspire young people to be strong.


    Trump never was in the military and dodged the draft via 5 exemptions due to supposed ankle difficulties. This despite his claim to be in great condition and his professed toughness. He made great praise of the military in his campaign, posted many photos of himself in cadet uniforms, and spared no effort to portray himself in military attire to impress vets and military people:


    http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2017/03/02/20/3DE3DEC500000578-4274294-The_president_praised_the_builders_of_the_USS_Gerald_R_Ford_on_T-a-100_1488487843872.jpg





    Windrip also said he would mold the world into shape as he saw fit when he assumed dictatorial power. Interestingly, Trump is taking such a step through his military attack in Syria even though he was not authorized by Congress and the attack served no vital USA interest. Indeed, life imitates art.

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  15. Sorry to be so far behind, Trip, but am enjoying your posts. A lot of parallels as you note. The scariest part about this Syrian strike is the way the media and even foreign leaders have accepted, despite it being no more than a cynical ploy to deflect attention away from his ongoing scandals. In fact, it is scandalous the way he took action, informing Putin first of his strikes before Congress, much less ask permission. But, I suppose he wanted the element of surprise to rock everyone out of their boots. Will get back to the book so that I can respond to your posts.

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    1. How I wish we could get others to join us! The book is VERY worth while. The more you read it, the more parallels one can draw between it and the Trump regime.


      Jessup and many journalists rightfully complained that they could not make a livelihood because of the supressive actions of Windrip and his cronies. Guess what - reporters on channels in YOUTUBE are making the same complaint such as the "Secular Talk" channel. Some channels which make political commentary (especially of a liberal slant) say YT has taken away their revenue as they have been forced to do so by advertisers who support right wing causes. I did not post the link to that channel as the frustrated reporter used foul language and we don't need that to make a point or to lessen the exchange here.

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    2. Re the Syrian air strike, it may be a FALSE FLAG which is used so often by repressive governments:


      https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=US+%E2%80%98backed+plan+to+launch+chemical+weapon+attack+on+Syria,+blame+it+on+Assad+govt%E2%80%99+%E2%80%93&start=10



      Note how the sources range from both sides of the political spectrum. So that, yes, even conservatives believe the air strike was planned several years ago in order to create yet another war. Wars create profits for wealthy elites. Trump is a wealthy elitist whose regime is loaded with others billionaire types. All stand to profit from his war. His popularity ratings had taken a tremendous fall. No sooner did that happen than he launched his war to prop those ratings upwards.

      This is why I am not surprised in the least that he made this wicked and unpatriotic attack.

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    3. In doing some background research/reading into the book, I have seen where the expression ''it can't happen here'' was widely used in the USA back in the 1930s. Fascism arose in Italy, Germany, Spain, and in Portugal among other European nations. It was feared by many that it would eventually find its way into the States as well. Many commentators were not so fearful and asserted that fascism could never develop here. The book was obviously a cautionary tale which attempted to dispel that belief.

      Of course, the critics were wrong as it has always been in existence in USA ghettos. If someone makes the mistake of challenging corrupt police as Jessup's son-in-law did, he could get arrested, beaten up, murdered, with the corrupt cops pretending that he assaulted them like they did with that character. Later on, the cops planted evidence on their victim in order to "justify" their arrest and attack. This is precisely what that SOB Mark Fuhrmann and other crooks like him routinely did. Cases like that have been documented here for decades especially through the criminal actions of the FBI's COINTELPRO. Thus, while it may not be fashionable nor politically to say, the fascist state has always existed in some form or another all throughout the USA. The fear was as to whether all of society, not just the ghettos, would be affected. For the most part it wasn't thanks to FDR and others like him.

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  16. One thing that stands out to me is the fact that dictator Windrip is a Democrat while he political opponent during the campaign (and later during the underground efforts) is Walt Trowbridge who is “a Republican candidate for President, suffering from the deficiency of being honest and disinclined to promise that he could work miracles, was insisting that we live in the United States of America and not on a golden highway to Utopia.”

    Windrip's private army of political thugs are also Dems while Trowbridge's underground forces are also Republican. Among the Minute Men are a bunch of disciples of the homosexual Sarason who is inclined towards surrounding himself with good looking guys. Ironically, today it is the GOP which has its Log Cabin Republicans and its supporters from the alternate lifestyle community. In this respect, the writer Sinclair Lewis got it wrong as it is the GOP that produced the evildoers while the Dems produced the heroes.

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    1. {Slightly off topic}


      As I mentioned above, radical theorist Sarason is clearly a homosexual fascist. What is striking to me (and I will approach this subject with some degree of delicacy) is Lewis's awareness of the fact that the ideology is or can be appealing to those of this lifestyle orientation. My research skills have just about disappeared and I could not find any background data that would show who or what precisely is the source or inspiration for the creation of this character (I would venture to guess it was Nazi homosexual Ernst Roehm but don't know for sure). Lewis was not alone in this awareness as Major Strasser is clearly effeminate in Michael Curtiz's classic "Casablanca" (starring Humphrey Bogart), while Rossellini in his movie "Rome, Open City" created two such characters in Major Bergmann and his mannish female assistant:



      http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-zL495B2zmwE/UU507kpYFjI/AAAAAAAADYM/RhksidxnM9s/s1600/Nazi+perverts.jpg



      Log Cabinites today endorse the radical ideology as do others such as Michael Savage and Peter Thiel (of PayPal) among others.


      further reading on this subject:


      http://tinyurl.com/khutq7e





      Just one final note - Roehm, Strasser, and Sarason all met the same unhappy fate. Little did they realize that they were being exploited by the powers that be. This should give the Log Cabinites some grounds to pause and consider why they continue to support the very same forces that hate and abuse them.

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  17. In doing some background reading, I could not find any historical literary criticism or commentary that drew parallels between ICHH and the Woodrow Wilson regime. Frankly, I find it strange that Wilson was not cited as some form of source for the politics and injustices that appear in the novel. Up to 1935, 1936, nothing FDR did was "fascist". And, from all appearances, it did not seem that Huey Long would have represented some form of fascism had he ascended into the White House. Yet, historically, it can be shown that Wilson was closer to being a fascist than either of those two pols.

    Wilson professed to be in favor of liberty, freedom, equality, justice, and whatever (as did Windrip). And like his fictional parallel, he was a hard core segregationist whose barbaric and archaic notions of racial division were in tune with Antebellum days. He was only too eager to conscript black men into his military and exploit them in combat. But he insured that they would still be second class citizens. When racial troubles occurred in Missouri and Texas, he sided with racialist trouble makers, stood by and did nothing to bring justice for innocent blacks who were persecuted by police (some of those innocents were executed and were not allowed to appeal the unjust convictions imposed on them). Wilson imposed unjust detention on German-Americans despite not proving any allegations of disloyalty to them. Wilson also despised feminists and ignored all calls to give full voting rights to women. Recall where earlier I wrote that Windrip threatened to mold the world into shape as he saw fit. Wilson was an internationalist and tried to change the world into his ideal view as well. With all these facts historically proven, some could make a good case that in reality it was Wilson who was the real inspiration for ICHH.

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    1. In my earlier post,

      https://am-perspectives.blogspot.com/2017/03/last-year-tony-toccone-and-lisa.html?showComment=1491457382473#c5608272410661852125



      I mentioned the 15 point manifesto adhered to by Windrip and his cronies. With special reference to the racialist aspects of this listing, I am reminded of Wilson's special friendship with racist hater Thomas Dixon (a Baptist minister, no less!) who authored "The Clansman". Racism and segregation "justified" by mythic teaching and archaic notions which, in turn, lead to social division social stratification. All the more reason to equate Wilson with Windrip or to view him as a possible source for the latter.

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    2. Geez, I forgot to mention Wilson's Palmer Raids and other repressive actions. All these appear in ICHH.

      Wilson - no civil liberties in his world view.

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  18. I imagine Lewis drew from a lot of sources, although Huey Long is often cited as his principal reference. It is kind of how small town politics takes over a nation, which is pretty much what has happened now. Lewis has long been a critic of parochial attitudes, which he skewered unmercifully in Main Street.

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    1. Ironically, the evil action in ICHH is centered in Vermont (land of progressive Bernie Sanders) and New York (home of Hillary) but the heroic underground movement which liberates Jessup is centered in Minnesota, Missouri, and other parts of Trumpville.



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  19. As Gintaras mentioned in the initial post, ICHH was rendered into a play at the time the book was written. But it was not made into a movie despite the fact that over $200K was invested into the production of a movie by Louis B Mayer according to a video discussion that I watched on youtube. Evidently, Mayer was afraid of offending Italian fascists (and possibly German Nazis) as the book was a clear attack on the former and appears to be attacking the latter as well.

    About a year later the great British comedian Charles Chaplin went into the production of his sensational movie "The Great Dictator". It took him about 2 years to complete as he was subjected to studio pressures not to make that movie on the grounds that it, too, would offend Nazis. The idea being that American film makers would be boycotted overseas thereby causing those studios to lose money. Chaplin was slowed but not deterred. Eventually he made his great movie whose ending is considered one of the greatest of all time:



    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xms8iV8ae-c

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    1. Hitchcock got into a lot of trouble over Lifeboat. You really had to be careful how you portrayed the situation at the time. Today, there is such hero worship of our soldiers that is difficult to make any movie critical of the military. So, you get these ridiculous propaganda films much like in the 30s and 40s. I suppose that is part of "making America great again?"

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    2. True. Nazis made a number of pro war or other propaganda movies in their time, notably the works of Leni Reifenstahl.

      In ICHH, Lewis prophesied that the American fascists would invade Mexico (just like Italy did with Ethiopia and Germany with Europe). The regime claimed that Mexico attacked the USA {a false flag} just like traitor Bush using a false flag as well in order to "justify" his stupid wars. Both, obviously, sought to increase their social standing and popularity ratings while increasing profits for the rich. Among other tactics used to strengthen themselves they closed down schools, blacklisted nonconformists, and engaged in a form of gerrymandering by dividing the USA into sections. Today, Republicans are responsible for the invasion of the ME, harass Mexico, and perpetuate their power through gerrymandered districts in many states.




      One last thought that occurs to me re ICHH is the rather abrupt ending of the story. The USA is in a civil war and the abrupt ending suggests to me that there is no solution to the mess. On that basis, I suppose the writer was suggesting that we needed to get the country back into order before irremediable chaos would ensue. Thankfully, we had FDR, the New Deal, and the USA's greatest generation (most being Progressive Democrats) to save the day and to avert domestic disaster.

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    3. The Three Stooges were not afraid of taking on Hitler and his cronies:


      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9La6fxTeYY


      this was done before Chaplin created his movie - pay very careful attention to the opening dialog as it reflects everything said by peace advocates in the USA both in the 1930s, the 1960s, and during the Bush regime

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    4. Actually, I was referring to American war films, which were overtly patriotic in nature.

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    5. "war films"


      In times of war overt patriotism would, I suppose, be expected.

      But more to the point would be all the movies made during the 1930s which extolled the ameliorating policies of the FDR administration such as "The Devil and Daniel Webster", "Grapes of Wrath", "My Man Godfrey", "Come and Get It", "We Work Again", and others. It was these effective policies which averted any chance of totalitarianism in the USA. Many became informed of these successes thanks to those and many other movies.


      By the way, the Three Stooges also addressed this:


      http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x59kb70_the-three-stooges-cash-and-carry_fun

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  20. more info on Father Coughlin & Huey Long:


    http://www.fathercoughlin.org/

    http://www.hueylong.com/



    fascinating characters - you have to wonder as to how/what the political landscape of the USA would have changed if Coughlin had not said such virulently antiSemitic comments and if Long had not been assassinated


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  21. Father Coughlin was probably the most visible one, but so many religious leaders expressed similar views at the time and many still do so today. It really amazes me how persons have used religion to defend their bigotry and racism. I guess they prefer to think of themselves as "Old Testament Christians."

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    1. The Bible refers to them as ''antichrists'' because they teach and practice the precise opposite of what the Bible teaches. The Bible speaks of doing justice and taking care of the poor - that failure to do so imperils a country with economic disaster, war, and pestilence {Book of Amos}. It teaches to be at peace with ALL men {Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14}. LOVE, not hate, your enemies {Matt 5:43-48}.


      Right wing delusionals believe that the expression "no justice, no peace" is a matter of left wing political correctness. But little do these ignorant buffoons, these antichrists, know that the epxression comes directly from the Bible which they claim to use as their principle means of worship. See Isaiah 59:8. If these Christ haters only troubled themselves to read and practice what their Bible teaches, this would be a FAR better society and world.

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    2. The problem is that many of these persons, including Father Coughlin, saw themselves as righteous. They had no problem reconciling their views with the Bible.

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  22. A long while ago, Robert Whelan and I discussed the possibility of having the book "All the King's Men" by Robert Penn Warren as a monthly topic of discussion. Sadly we never got around to doing so as it appears to be a major work of great relevancy.


    Wiki:


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_the_King%27s_Men


    movie:


    https://ocdviewer.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/all-the-kings-men.jpg




    quote from the book:


    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/fa/26/e5/fa26e560955422ec350dfc8fec99749e.jpg



    further discussion:



    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/29/100-best-novels-all-the-kings-men-robert-penn-warren





    This work was said to be based on the life of Huey Long and is even more highly regarded than ICHH.

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