Blogs > Liberty and Power > FDR's Witch-hunt Against Foreign Policy Critics

Jul 21, 2007 7:51 pm


FDR's Witch-hunt Against Foreign Policy Critics



As we debate the impact of foreign policy on domestic liberty, it might be a good time to remember FDR's efforts to silence his non-interventionist critics. Probably the most blatant example was a letter he wrote to the editor of the Yale Review in 1939 targeting one of the leading opponents of his foreign policy, journalist John T. Flynn:

"I have watched John T. Flynn during these many years and the net anwer in my mind is that he has always, with practically no exception, been a destructive rather than a constructive force. Therefore, Q.E.D., John T. Flynn should be barred hereafter from the columns of any presentable daily paper, monthly magazine or national quarterly, such as the Yale Review.

Source: John E. Moser, Right Turn: John T. Flynn and the Transformation of American Liberalism New York: New York University Press, 2005), l04.


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David T. Beito - 7/26/2007

I agree that historians have barely touched on this. I suspect many more examples await to be discovered. In additon to the sources you mention, a must read is the Old Christian Right by Leo Ribuffo which has a thoughtful chapter on the brown scare including much discussion of the Great Sedition Case.


David T. Beito - 7/26/2007

I agree that historians have barely touched on this. I suspect many more examples await to be discovered. In additon to the sources you mention, a must read is the Old Christian Right by Leo Ribuffo which has a thoughtful chapter on the brown scare including much discussion of the Great Sedition Case.


Tim Sydney - 7/23/2007

The Sedition Trial indictment against Lawrence Dennis would seem to have been an even worse example.

Dennis to a certain extent courted disaster by describing himself as a "fascist" although, from what I can tell, he was not connected to any party or movement. Yet in his main pre-war book Dennis actually described his vision of a replacement system for capitalism as "socialism". He did apparently accept a guest seat at the 1936 "Nazi" Olympics and during that period would gush over Hitler.

Of course he wasn't the only one to do that. There's quite a list of people who have made that mistake, including Churchill. (See article here). (BTW There is a recent story saying Churchill is being "dropped" from UK history classes. See here)

Justus Doenecke, a leading academic scholar of the isolationist movement, in his (online) paper "The Isolationist as Collectivist: Lawrence Dennis and the Coming of World War II" deals with the question of whether Dennis was a fascist or not.

"If fascism combines a one-party state with strident nationalism, continental autarchy, and centralized economic controls that mould private ownership to public will,-in short, a truly corporatist and organic society transcending localized interests-then Dennis's system might be fascistic. If, however, one defines fascism as involving a clear-cut Fuhrerprinzip, a terror system, and permanent purge so often associated with Nazi Germany, then Dennis was not a fascist. He adhered neither to the racism of an Alfred Rosenberg or a Vidkin Quisling; rather his politics centered on the twin poles of economic corporatism and rigid isolationism."

The Sedition Trial ultimately collapsed in farce but the charges that Dennis was 'subverting the Army' were certainly made from nothing more than hot air.

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