The Charlotte News

Tuesday, June 13, 1939


Site Ed. Note: While isolationist General Hugh Johnson usually exhibited less than historically demonstrated truth in his views on Hitler and the war, we include the following editorial by the General, appearing on The News editorial page this date, providing an interesting view from the time on an FCC edict which apparently limited freedom of speech on radio to that which would "reflect the culture of this country". Since such absurd notions--which only serve as prelude to fascism in fact in any time--sound sadly familiar to us to this day, it is a notion constantly worth revisiting.

It also affords the General some equality of time between his, more often than not, improvident views and those which bear themselves out as wise.

As to the instant case he mentions, however, we venture no opinion, not having it before us, except to say that we suspect the General may have raised an undue alarum, given his bias generally against the Administration's policies. Indeed, one would think, with Cash's long-standing, tenaciously liberal views on freedom of speech, and lack of reticence about critiquing the Administration when he saw the need, that had there been quite the threat the General suggests, Cash would have made comment; he didn't. Nevertheless, the general principle laid down by Johnson, for any time and any administration, is salutary, ensuring the sustenance of a vibrant democracy, one which thrives on airing unlimited diversity of opinion and mode of expression of that opinion.

A Hitler Gag For Radio

By Hugh S. Johnson

Washington--Sufficient attention has not been given to a recent regulation by the Federal Communications Commission on American radio broadcasting to other countries, and the resulting protest of the American Association of Broadcasters. The latter is one of the most compelling briefs I have read. If there were space, it would be copied here word for word.

The regulation prohibits any but such broadcasts as will "reflect the culture of this country and which will promote international good will, understanding and co-operation." This prohibits any utterance which the commission thinks does not reflect the "culture" of this country and it commands utterances which will "promote international good will," or at least prohibits any other kind. This is censorship on the one hand and propaganda on the other. In either case, it commands something less than "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," and in both cases bureaucratic regimentation of free speech in violation of both the Constitution guarantee and the commission's own enabling act.


The latter says, "nothing in this act shall be understood or construed to give the commission the power of censorship over radio communication--and no regulation or condition shall be promulgated or fixed by the commission which shall interfere with the right of free speech by means of radio communication."

American or any other national "culture" is simply an instantaneous flashlight of the whole picture of custom, thought, action, hope and fear at any particular moment of time. In any democracy it is essentially a picture of constantly changing conflicts of opinion even as to what the "culture" is or ought to be. If there be power in any small group of politicians--not even very well-informed or educated and dominated by an existing political government--to decree what it is, it may still be a "culture" but it has been completely changed from the "culture" of democracy to the "culture" of Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin.


As the association points out, the very essence of our culture is freedom of speech and opinion and therefore this regulation is a contradiction in terms violating itself, not to mention the Constitution and the law, before a word is broadcast under it.

Almost alone on the international ether, the people of the world are turning to American broadcasting for both views and opinion because, before the regulation, they knew that, almost alone in the world, there was here no attempt to torture into lies or self-serving half-truths for the purposes of political government. Now they are warned that they can't even expect truth here.

It is one of the most cynical, impudent and dangerous attempts to seize unconstitutional and unlawful power, that we have yet seen. It is usual to hold hearings before decreeing these bureaucratic laws. None was held here. It was just a Hitler manifesto.

The purpose here is to restrict international broadcasting to Administration policy. That is the purpose of Hitler and Mussolini. If it can legally be done in international broadcasting, it can be done in domestic broadcasting. If it can be done to radio it can be done to the press or even to you and me, speaking and writing as private citizens.

A Dear Stenog

$650 A Day Is A Bit Steep If She Got It, And Anyhow--

F. H. Fowler of Foote Brothers Gear and Machine Co., Chicago industrialist, couldn't remember the names of the stenographer or her employer. And so perhaps it is best to take with a grain of salt his story at the Wagner Act hearing that he had to pay her $1 a page for a 3,250 page record--$3,250 for five days' work--because the NLRB's examiner refused to consider a transcript made by any other reporter. Still, it may well be strictly accurate; in any case probably contains a good deal of truth, and so serves to point one of the most certain causes for complaint against the New Deal.

The reforms may be all right and necessary, in general. But that is no excuse for the bureaucratic and high-handed way in which they have been and are administered--for giving men in Governmental offices and boards the power, not only to demand that the employee chosen to do a piece of work shall be reasonably acceptable from the standpoint of proven integrity and efficiency but to designate a single candidate and refuse to accept any other. They do have such powers, regardless of the accuracy of Mr. Fowler's story, and its possession does enable them to engage in just such abuses as he describes. Nor is there any excuse for saddling business men with so much red tape that the cost of keeping records and making reports to the Government become a major item of overhead. Much of the opposition to Social Security proceeds precisely from that source.

We cannot, however, leave the theme without returning to wonder at Mr. Fowler's memory. If he had been soaked like that, that stenog's name would have been etched in our brain in flame and fire until we were six feet under--nay, until the place had frozen over.

Jersey Liberty

But The Real Intentions Of Boss Hague Still Are To Be Proved

Boss Hague took it on the chin last night. For Norman Thomas came back to Jersey City to hold a mass meeting, attended by 15,000 people, in Journal Square. The cops stood by smiling, save when they stepped into shut up a heckler. Police Commissioner Casey, Hague's chief stooge, was on hand, smiling also and politely inquiring if everything was okay. It was, said Mr. Thomas and Arthur Garfield Hays, chief lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. Some young hoodlums followed Mr. Thomas and party when they left the scene, and jeered. But that was all. Casey even moved some buses which were making too much noise for those on the fringes of the crowd to hear the speakers.

Well, maybe Boss Hague has seen the light and in good faith is setting out to obey the letter and the spirit of the law, now that the Supreme Court has ruled that his satrapy is still a part of the United States. Maybe. It would be pleasant to think so. But it would be perhaps a little precipitate. The real test, as Mr. Thomas pointed out, is still to come. There were cameras all over that square last night, and the spotlight of the nation's curiosity was fixed upon it. Such will not be the case when the CIO sets down to organizing labor in the place, or when little-known speakers rise to address small audiences here and there. And one part of the Boss's methods all along has been in the use of agents provocateurs. It will be easy to let the mob make trouble and then to step in under the plea of maintaining order. There is one good reason, however, to suspect that it may not be so: in view of Frank Murphy's widely advertised interest in his income tax returns, the Boss may decide that it is the more discreet thing to stay out of the public prints and out of all controversies for a while.

Small Potatoes

The Drive On Crime Takes A Lilliputian Turn

It seems unavoidable that this town's efforts to be rid of rackets and to cut down big shots to their size shall bear fruit in gooseberries. Look, now, at the attack the City police are staging on the gambling front. With a butter 'n' eggs lottery that takes thousands of dollars out of general circulation every week and transfers them to the bank account of known operators, the cops debouch from headquarters and descend on--pin tables. Yeh, pin tables.

And not, mind you, pin tables that are paying off in cash in violation of the law. But on pin tables that pay off in free games, which "lure" a player to play again for nothing. And, oh yes, we nearly forgot. They ran in a couple of small town sports who were alleged to have been betting on the side. And besides that big game, the cops have brought down a few punch-boards and baseball pools, which is to say the more or less harmless means by which venturesome souls relieve their yen to take a flyer and to be relieved of their silver.

It's all wrong, mates, that the big shots and the big games should continue to flourish virtually without interference from the local gendarmes and that the drive should be aimed against the small fry. The only excuse we can think of is that our cops are just practising.

Nazi Justice

The Same Rule Does Not Hold For The Goose And Gander

Last Thursday a German police sergeant, set to play master over the Czechs in the town of Kladno, was found shot to death in the street. Mr. Hitler's Government, which is irritated by the resistance of the Czechs and perhaps looking for an excuse to abolish the last vestige of independence for the erstwhile republic, took very vigorous steps--laid down a deadline before which the people of the town and the district had either to solve the crime and turn over the culprit or find themselves subjected to mass arrest and penalties. The deadline passed without the condition being fulfilled, but the penalties were largely withheld by Von Neurath, Protector (sic) of Bohemia and Moravia, who plainly is a man who knows trouble when he sees it in front of him. But the threat still holds.

Saturday the shoes shifted to the other foot. This time, according to the story from Prague, several Czech policemen encountered some drunk German policemen in the streets of Nachod. The Germans tried to pick a fight. The Czechs, themselves outnumbered, retired to a police station and locked themselves in. The Germans forced their way into the building, however, and began shooting. One of the Czechs, named Mueller, was killed.

And so, of course, the Nazi Government is up in arms about that one, too? Is moving heaven and earth to bring the guilty men to quick justice? Not so. "An investigation is being made," and that's all. The chances are that in the end the official Nazi version will be that Mueller was killed in self-defense, or at least that it was the result of a "regrettable chain of circumstances," for which nobody can be held accountable. For it is a cardinal principle of the Nazi philosophy that what is sauce for the goose is emphatically not sauce for the gander--that a German is not to be held accountable under the same laws as "inferior" people, i.e., all non-German people.

361 To 2

The House Licks Its Chops And Passes An Ideal Bill

When the House of Representatives, with 261 Democrats, 169 Republicans and a few assorted lone wolves, votes 361 to 2 on any bill, it is astonishing. Yet 361 to 2 was the vote last week on a bill that could have been controversial and undoubtedly was consequential, since it increased Social Security benefits and postponed the scheduled hike in the S.S. tax rate.

But it went through with almost no debate or audible objection. It was, you see, the painless variety of legislation, the kind that Congressmen dream about, that helps Peter and doesn't cost Paul a penny. But, even so, it was welcome legislation, and it together with other pending tax legislation may stir up a breeze in the business doldrums through which the country has been drifting these last two or three years.

The Administration has tried high taxes and higher expenditures, but to no great gain, least of all any enduring gain. The Administration is wedded to its theories and swore not to compromise with reaction. The Congress is under the restraint of no such vow. It looks, indeed, as though Congress might now essay to increase expenditures somewhat and to reduce taxes generally, especially as they fall on business. If so, it will be interesting to see if (a) this has its advertised effect on business, and (b) if that has any effect in reducing the volume of expenditures.


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