Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Alternative Facts of Yore

  I recently reread The Quest for the Dream by John P. Roche, which made a big impact on me when it was published in 1963. It’s a social justice history of America from 1910 to 1963, during which time Catholics and Jews won the right to dream the American dream. African-Americans made gains, but still lagged; the Civil Rights Movement was about to come into full flower as Roche was writing. And German-Americans lost some of their rights.
  LGBT and handicapped rights were inconceivable.
  I want to discuss one section of the book at some depth later, after Holy Week. But I noted something else that, in this post-factual era, I simply have to share.


 For background, Roche was an adviser to both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, and he was co-founder of Americans for Democratic Action, which was a liberal anti-communist and anti-witch hunt organization. But he was mostly an academic; he was emeritus professor at Tufts when he died in 1994. The Quest was commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith for its 50th anniversary. (The ADL was a civil rights organization, like the NAACP, before it was an apologist for Israel.)
 Kellyanne Conway, presidential advisor and sometime spokesbabbler for Donald Trump, was hailed for giving the world something new when she presented Chuck Todd with “alternative facts” on Meet the Press. But the Yahoos were marinated already with that kind of propaganda sauce when Trump was 17 years old and Steve Bannon only 10. In reverse order of appearance on Roche’s pages:
 In the 1950s Americans raising money for the United National Childrens Fund (UNICEF) were bombarded with letters from superpatriots alleging that the organization was a communist front. The letters had what Roche calls “an impressive body of pseudo facts.” Such a “fact” would be that the money went to “Red China,” which wasn’t a member of the UN nor did it cooperate with UNICEF.
 So, pseudo facts in the ‘50s.
  In the 1940s, hysterics in uniform and the ink-stained reporters who covered them alleged a string of Japanese treacheries and iterated and reiterated the same ones, none of which happened.  Roche asks, “How was the public to know that every ‘factual’ account of the Japanese “fifth column’ in Hawaii was a mendacious fabrication?”
  So, mendacious fabrications in the ‘40s.
  But the phrase I really want to pass on, the one that proves that not even Comrade Trump is something new under the sun, comes from the “radio priest,” Fr. Charles Coughlin of Detroit, whose syrupy tones filled Sunday afternoons across the country in the 1930s. After promising beginnings, the priest put all his chips on anti-Semitism, rediscovering the incredible “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” When it was pointed out to him that not only was the document incredible, it was a forgery of a work of fiction that had been debunked many times.
 Noting the critics, and anticipating by more than 70 years Trump with the birth certificate, Coughlin said (here it comes): “I emphasize once more that I am not interested in the authenticity the Protocols. I am interested in their factuality.”


  1. Authenticity? Factuality? There's a distinction we haven't heard of from Trumptydumpty & Co. Would they dare? Is Authenticity an active concept in those quarters?

  2. Interesting historical background, especially the Fr. Coughlin quote. Everything comes back around if you wait long enough.

  3. I remember Solzhenitsyn quoting the Russian proverb, "Learn the truth, lose an eye; Ignore the truth, lose both eyes." How much does all this nonsense cost us? Economically and socially.

  4. Daily quandries: Was Sean Spicer's observation that Hitler did not use chemical weapons on his own people in WW2, a misspeaking, false news, authentic bone-headed stupidity, or a mixed metaphor? How will we ever know?

  5. Worth taking a look at:


    How Soviet Dissidents Ended 70 Years of Fake News

    Gal Beckerman

  6. Margaret, We have to cut poor Sean some slack. Donald J. Trump is producing miracles at a rate that makes the head spin. Just yesterday there were two: NATO went from obsolete to not obsolete, and the first Hundred Days haven't ended yet. Even more amazing, China, which was "raping" us and eating our lunch with its currency manipulations a few months ago, has not only stopped manipulating its currency, but has stopped as of three years ago. Show me a president besides Donald J. Trump who could produce a result like that!

    All I'm saying is that poor Sean has to try to explain all that without losing track of the greatness of his principal. So he forgot to say "in 1933," that's all. I am sure he will make bigger mistakes than that as he tries to keep up with the most amazing 100 days in history.

    1. TB: Yes, poor Sean Spicer trying to get his brain in synch with his mouth and his master. But wherever did "Holocaust Centers" come from?