The Charlotte News

Friday, August 11, 1939


Site Ed. Note: To show that organized moral crusades, even after Prohibition formally ended in the country, continued to thrive, and apart from the Fascist-tending groups, such as the Coughlinites and the Vindicators, with single-issue agendas running on straight tracks regarding stirring alien-hate propaganda, we offer this piece from Heywood Broun regarding another type of agenda-driven group. They all run on straight tracks of course.

The "self-criticism" and the group therapy mentioned are merely palatable forms of brainwashing by groupthink, affirmation of the worst forms of survival techniques, anti-individualism, surrendering to the group the will to think, leading on to each individual so subject to the groupthink going back into society to feel threatened by individualism, the founding principle of our democracy, and thus, in accordance with the impetus and confidence engendered by the group dynamic, without which the individual, especially this individual with an insufficient sense of identity to begin with, would not act thusly, nevertheless take their first step down the road to fascism, seeking to destroy the rights of individualists as threatening to their groupthink dynamic, by attempting to rope the individual to their groupthink.

Mr. Broun's syndicated column, regularly titled "It Seems To Me", was a mainstay to the News editorial page. (He should not be confused with his son, Heywood Hale Broun, the mustachioed syndicated sports columnist and commentator of the 1960's and 70's.)

It Seems To Me

By Heywood Broun

San Francisco--I'm up to my neck in Moral Re-Armament. Dr. Buchman himself and hundreds of his followers buzz about the hotel lobby. All the young men look precisely like Bunny Austin, and the outsider has a fear and a foreboding that the whole lot may suddenly appear in shorts and begin to volley. And the Oxford accent is extremely thick, and it is difficult to get past the desk without a punt or a canoe. I must admit that the sight of the dedicated young men has in no way improved my own morals. On the contrary, I am much tempted to rush out and do something horrendous to make my protest against the smuggest aggregation with which I've ever come into casual contact.

Of course, it would be an excellent thing if all the peoples of the world were to become men and women of good will. I would be for spiritual and religious revival, but it is a little tough to take morals from men who wear them across their stomachs like gold watch chains. I am for the good and true in this world, but do they need to clank as they pass by with the feeble tinkle of fabricated cymbals?


Down in Los Angeles they told me a story about a prominent motion picture producer. He has gone in for Moral Re-Armament. Indeed, he made a speech in which he said that his company had been haggling for weeks with a famous screen star about the renewal of her contract. "And then," he said, "both of us suddenly went into Moral Re-Armament and the contract was signed within five minutes." I'll warrant the arrangement was not altogether to the advantage of the young lady in question.

A young man went up to the show window of the MRA group here in the hotel and said, "I have a wife and two children. I get $13 a week. We can hardly survive on this. Is there anything in Moral Re-Armament which would help me?" And the bright and beaming young man at the window answered, "If you join MRA you would be much better off, because you will cease to worry."

As I see it, the whole fantastic enterprise is an endeavor to prove that a camel can pass through the eye of a needle if only he is sufficiently buttered. And Heaven knows the oil of sanctity and the grease of phony pretension flows through the hotel lobby with all the volume of the waters which rush in past the Golden Gate.


It seems to me that essentially MRA is attempting to rewrite the famous story of a certain rich young man who went to a great Teacher almost two thousand years ago. Dr. Buchman's precept seems to be that the poor should give their goods to the rich and let them be administered by the benevolent.

I have a certain amount of respect for various aberrant forms of spiritual enthusiasm, even when the fervor leads to absurd and curious antics. But I prefer to take my Holy Rollers straight rather than in the streamlined form which has been set by the Oxford Movement. The adage that confession is good for the soul has been accepted by men and women of various beliefs, and there may be a certain profit in self-criticism, even aside from the religious angle. And yet I cannot be convinced that the house party method of the Buchmanites, in which experiences are swapped within the group, can be a healthful process.

Every starry-eyed young man I see about the lobby seems intent upon finding six or seven others so that he may say, "And now let me tell you all what happened to me." Certainly there must be some line between confession and sheer exhibitionism. The flanneled fervents seem ready to tell all at the drop of Dr. Buchman's right eyebrow.

Cop Complex*

Only The Stout-Hearted Will Park As They Please

Here's a pretty howdy-do. Councilman (and Mayor pro-tem) Clovis went to court and got out of a charge of parking in a restricted zone. He contended, in all amiability, that he had violated an ordinance but only a police regulation, and therefore that he was guilty of no punishable offense. The Court sustained his position.

So it follows that to regulate parking, the City Council must pass an ordinance or ordinances specifically designing restricted zones, manner of parking, time of parking, etc., and the penalties of violation thereof. He cannot delegate this power to the Police Department.

And from this it follows that, in this void, you may pretty well park as you jolly well please. The part of caution, however, would be to engage a lawyer to search the City Code and determine which parking restrictions have been formally adopted by the Council and which merely ordered by the Police Department.

And since that would involve some risk and more expense, and would hardly be worth the trouble in any case, chances are that most of us will go on parking illegally with a weather eye for the bluecoats on the beat and an acute feeling of humility and remorse when he catches us.

A Tartar

Dictator Franco Finds His Troubles Piling Up

The news that comes out of Spain bears out what was prophesied by those familiar with the background of the Spanish war. Franco's troubles, far from being over, are just beginning. Indeed, it is doubtful if Franco himself can any longer be described as the master of Spain, even without regard to his always-present Italian and German masters. For, virtually at pistol's point, he the other day signed an order placing the Falange Espanola (the Fascist Party) in full command in the country. And with that decree, he alienated nearly the whole body of the Spanish Army. Hundreds of visitors to Gibraltar are reported as saying that the order hasn't the support of a single army officer. Which is to say that Franco has deprived himself of the backing of the man who made him to begin with.

And the prospect grows that Franco is going to need these officers and the army badly. For unrest is reported as very strong in Andalusia, the original stronghold of the Franco forces--and in Catalonia, where the Franco Government is trying to put it down by executing large numbers of men daily but without success.

Butcher Franco, in sum, has caught himself a tartar. This Spain is no docile Italy or Germany, but a land of passion and violence. And lording over it by the iron heel isn't likely to be long feasible.

An Afterthought

Witness In Police Hearing Grabbed Up And Sent To Jail

The law and the ethics of it are not quite clear to us. The man Medlin was subpoenaed in to appear before the Civil Service Board and testify in the case of one of the officers. Questioning by Commissioner Garrison brought out the probability that he had been driving a car during a period in which his license stood revoked for a drunken driving conviction.

A State Patrol officer in the crowd pricked up his ears, made a note and had a rural policeman swear out a warrant. Medlin was tried in County Court and, on evidence of a mixed nature, sentenced to ten days in jail.

The man had a lawyer to represent him, so the assumption is that his constitutional or statutory rights were not violated. He could have refused to testify in the police case on the grounds that he might incriminate himself, but he did not refuse. Or he might have pleaded double jeopardy or something like that, having previously come clear of the same charge.

The evidence did appear to show, we must admit, that he had driven a car in violation of the court's injunction not to drive for twelve months. But they were the twelve months between May, 1937 and May, 1938, and this is August, 1939.

We don't like drunken drivers and have no defense for de-licensed drivers to drive anyhow. At the same time, to go back fifteen months to hang a sentence on a fellow because of something that came out in an extraneous hearing--is that fair? We are open to conviction either way.

That Walk

The President Leaves No Room for Moderates

The President was thoroughly in character last night when he told the Young Democrats at Pittsburgh that he would take a walk if a conservative were nominated by the party in 1940. He is nothing if not compromising. And that trait has cost him a great deal of unnecessary trouble.

As a matter of fact, of course, what the conservative Democrats wish fervently is that he would walk far, far away and never come back. But in 1940 they won't. His personal popularity has fallen off a good deal, but there is no doubt that he will command an enormous following in the next election--the following which would take its cue wholly from him, and without which no Democrat can hope to win. If he walks out, therefore, it probably will be tantamount to insuring election of the Republican candidate.

What is more, it is quite likely that the ultimatum he laid down last night involved the acceptance of either himself or his hand-picked man as the candidate--or defeat. He said nothing about a third term, but that very fact suggests strongly that he means to hold it over the heads of his ill-wishers.

The reasonable thing in the case would be for the opposing sides in the Democratic Party to agree on some good middle-of-the-roader like Cordell Hull. Mr. Roosevelt has clearly turned thumbs down on the Garners and so pretty well smashed their hopes. On the other hand, it is more than likely that if the anti-New Deal Democrats stick my their guns, the President or his hand-picked candidate couldn't win either. And some such candidate as Mr. Hull would have the best chance of appealing to both sides. But such a compromise is unlikely, for the President's enemies are about as rigid in their outlook as he himself he is.

And perhaps in the end it is just as well. Perhaps, that is, the very best thing that can happen to the country would be the election of a Republican--not some such reactionary as Hoover might pick, who would be apt to wreck everything in short order, but some conservative fellow of the stamp of Bob Taft or Vandenburg, who admits that the President's motives are generally desirable, but who questions the methods used to achieve them. For there is a fundamental disagreement in the land now which needs to be resolved as quickly as possible.

The President has maintained all along that what we are facing is a major dislocation of our economic system, not a mere extended depression. Business, on the other hand, maintains that all that is wrong is just that a depression extended by the New Deal spending and taxation policies, and their discouraging effect on investment. Change these politics, it says, and money will go back to work, jobs will be provided for the unemployed so that relief will not be necessary on any great scale, and markets will be provided for the farmers products so that he won't have to be subsidized indefinitely.

Four years ought to be a fair test of that. And a Republican would have his hands freer to make it than a Democrat would. If it turns out to be right, then everybody will be satisfied, and our major troubles will be over. If it proves to be wrong, then all the country will understand clearly that the trouble is fundamental, and that something must be done to remedy it at the base.

Certainly, no system can long exist that keeps twelve million unemployed in its farm population impoverished. And on the other hand, certainly none can long exist, either, which rides straight to national bankruptcy by attempting to provide for those unemployed and farmers.

The great charge against Mr. Roosevelt is that his spending at best has only been a stop-gap. We need to prove conclusively that the prevailing system will work satisfactorily, else we have got to find one that will work. At present, all we have got is claim and counterclaim.


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