Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Then and Now: The Far Right


Today, I noticed an article from LIFE magazine archives named "Who's Who in the Tumult of the Far Right," dated Feb. 9, 1962. This article makes interesting reading if only because it shows how comparatively little has actually changed in the last forty eight years. Here is the original article.

Of the various categories within the ultra-right wing movement, the article includes a group called "The Pushers."

The Pushers are made up of leaders, generally self-appointed who make a profession of right wing extremism. One of the better known is the Rev. Billy James Hargis of Tulsa, who has an organization called the Christian Crusade. Hargis freely admits that his appeal is emotional and that he manipulates his audiences but says, "Yes, people are uninformed and ignorant, but I believe this is generally true and not just in my audiences. Besides, I think it is the ignorant people who are going to save this country."

The Hargis Crusade

So who was this man? Arkansas- native Hargis was in his day one of the top fundamentalist Christian evangelist, whose ministry programs were broadcast on more than 500 radio station and 250 television stations in the 1950s. His diatribes included the Communist Beatles conspiracy and he denounced Martin Luther King as a Marxist. He demanded that America leave the United Nations and urged his listeners to write their representatives about this and a variety of conservative issues.

His Christian Crusade, founded in 1950, promoted the far-right political agenda and was the tea-party of its day. He referred to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as revolutionary foundations of Marxism. Hargis was also a member of the John Birch Society, and, at a time of civil unrest, made his pro-segregation stance clear. Interestingly, Hargis also played an indirect part in a United States Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the Fairness Doctrine in American broadcasting.

All's Fair

The Fairness Doctrine? I should explain a bit about this FCC policy. In order to prevent the broadcasting from being used as a tool for propaganda, the Federal Communications Commission attempted to establish a policy that ensured fair and balanced reporting. In order to obtain licensing, broadcasting channels had an obligation to provide contrasting points of views on controversial issues. According to the mandate, broadcasters were prohibited from using their stations simply as advocates with a singular perspective or a certain political viewpoint.

It was a case involving Hargis that led to a Supreme Court challenge of this doctrine. After Hargis had denounced an author on one of his weekly broadcasts, the radio station refused to allow the author equal time. In 1969, the Supreme Court upheld the lower courts decision that the radio station was in violation of the Fairness doctrine.

Under Reagan, the FCC appointee, Mark Fowler, made a special point of killing the fairness doctrine, citing the free market and the abundant number of channels available on cable TV. It was also claimed that the Fairness doctrine had a "chilling effect" on reporting of controversial issues. From that point on, new stations no longer had to provide a contrasting view and could present the news in any manner they decided. This is turn open the doors for people like Murdoch to form Fox News- "fair and balanced."

"Genes and Chromosomes"

Now back to the Hargis story. Scandals involving rabble-rousing politicians and preachers are fairly common. However the scandal that centered around Hargis in1976, topped all expectation. After preaching in favor of morality and denouncing sexual sin, Time magazine reporters learned that a few of his students were charging him with sexual misconduct. In one case, a honeymoon was ruined when the groom and the bride learned that they both had lost their virginity to Hargis. When confronted by officials from his college and their lawyers, he confessed but blamed his behavior on "genes and chromosomes." Two days later he was forced to step down as president of his college. In 1978, the college itself filed for bankruptcy.beck-glenn-2

As reporter Ken Edelstein points out in his article, Media Mayhem, the Hargis story, his rise and fall, seems familiar to the phenomena known as Glenn Beck. One of Fox News latest and scariest creations, Beck uses many of the same techniques as your average televangelist, from the melodrama, the on-air crying to the blackboard diagrams showing alleged connections. Unlike Hargis, Beck has little interest in the religious aspect of saving America but in terms of outrageous technique there's very little difference between them.

Closing the Books

Lo, and Behold. This very same article has another interesting coincidence.

In the category of Crackpots, it would be difficult to outdo the destructive mischief of an organization called Texans for America. This is the invention of a wealthy west Texas rancher named J. Evetts Haley, who frankly advocates the lynching of Chief Justice Warren. Haley and his group specialize in snooping out Red subversion in Texas textbooks and have been so successful in their demands for a change that every history textbook adopted by the State Education Agency this year was altered to meet the demands. Of his campaign and the idea of academic freedom, Haley observes: "The stressing of both sides of a controversy only confuses the young and encourages them to make snap judgments.. Until they are old enough to understand.. they should be taught only the American side."

Does that sound familiar?

On March 2010, the Texas Board of Education dominated by a far-right faction were able to inject their conservative agenda into the curriculum of millions of Texas students. Among the topics teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation's Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state. In addition to learning the Bill of Rights, the board specified a reference to the Second Amendment right to bear arms in a section about citizenship in a U.S. government class. Students must be taught about the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 90s including the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.

1 comment:

  1. Nice piece, scary, but nice. Amazing how soon we forget, and repeat, our own history.


Always great to hear from visitors to Nomadic View. What's on your mind?


Related Posts with Thumbnails