George Will’s column on Thursday recounted the end of liberalism in how The New York Times began blaming John F. Kennedy’s assassination on the “far right,” in complete denial that Oswald was a communist. James Reston wrote in a front-page story that Kennedy was a victim of a “streak of violence in the American character,” noting especially “the violence of the extremists on the right.”
That attempt to deny reality is still happening. On Wednesday night’s All Things Considered, NPR put on Bush-bashing author Bill Minutaglio, who strenuously tries in a new book to blame the “far right” in Dallas for somehow manipulating Lee Harvey Oswald’s crime:
MELISSA BLOCK, NPR: Bill, what do you make of the fact that in the end, JFK is assassinated in Dallas, not at the hands of a right wing extremist, which is what they were fearing, but a self-described Marxist who had defected to the Soviet Union before coming to Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald.
MINUTAGLIO: Oswald was living in this hothouse environment, this overheated, increasingly vitriolic environment. Most people who have studied Oswald have suggested that he was somewhat of a malleable figure and an impressionable figure, and someone who wanted to make a statement. I believe now that as we look at him, that he had to be shaped by this almost civic hysteria in Dallas. And it was just perfect for someone like Lee Harvey Oswald to well up and become, as he perceived himself, an agent of change.
Listen to the aggressive leftist wishful thinking: Oswald the Marxist just “had to be shaped by far-right hysteria.” Why would NPR choose this factually unsupportable claim and hype it for book sales?
This interview only underlines the central lie of National Public Radio: that it’s a voice for civic calm in a radio spectrum full of opinionated hysteria. Just as Minatuglio claims his book is about “how radical, polarizing ideologies can poison a city-and a nation,” he and NPR have a radical, polarizing ideology of their own.
The ripping into so-called "right-wing fanaticism" began right away:
BLOCK: As we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, a new book dives deep into the city where the murder took place. "Dallas, 1963" explores the swirling forces of right wing fanaticism at work in the city during the three years leading up to JFK's assassination. By this account, Dallas in the early '60s was a stew of super-patriotism, fueled by anti-communist paranoia, fierce racism and anti-Semitism. Longtime Texas journalist Minutaglio wrote the book with Steven L. Davis, and he joins me now. Welcome to the program, Bill.
BILL MINUTAGLIO: It's great to be here.
BLOCK: I want to ask you about your description of Dallas in the early '60s. You call it the most promising right-wing citadel in America, it's a city of hate. So describe the fury and the strength of the far right wing and what drove them at the time.
MINUTAGLIO: It was an amazing confederacy. People were lured to Dallas, they were marching to Dallas. There was just this rising sense of anger and distrust toward Kennedy, toward perceived socialism, religion. People feared him as a Catholic. And I found that Dallas became really one of the most singular cities on planet Earth.
Really powerful people coalesced around this notion that Kennedy was a traitor and, in fact, was guilty of treason. And these weren't just folks who, you know, were idly thinking these thoughts. They were acting on them and forming organizations and movements to essentially overthrow Kennedy.
BLOCK: And these are not people outside the mainstream. These were many of the rich and powerful characters in Dallas who were behind this movement, right?
MINUTAGLIO: These were the city fathers from every perspective. The leading preachers in town, the leading businessmen, the leading elected officials; the people who held the microphones, in a sense, on broadcasts and in print media. So it was folks who lived above the cloud line, who really were the citizen-kings of the city.
BLOCK: One of the other themes that runs through the book is that a lot what's fueling this right wing anger is deep and ardent segregationism.
MINUTAGLIO: The back-story of Dallas was the fact that Dallas remained the largest American city to yet integrate its public schools. And what welled up in the story was this unbelievable sense of unease and distrust, and yet, some really heroic elements. There are figures in our book who really worked against these powerful citizen-kings, were brave enough to invite Martin Luther King to the city. Emblematic of the sense of hatred and distrust in the city, there was a bomb threat lodged against King, who came to speaking in Dallas just a few months before Kennedy got there.
NPR’s segment was a broadcast triumph for “punitive liberalism,” as Will described it:
Punitive liberalism preached the necessity of national repentance for a history of crimes and misdeeds that had produced a present so poisonous that it murdered a president. To be a liberal would mean being a scold. Liberalism would become the doctrine of grievance groups owed redress for cumulative inherited injuries inflicted by the nation’s tawdry history, toxic present and ominous future.
America killed JFK. America killed Matthew Shepard. America even killed its own in 9/11 when the “chickens came home to roost,” to borrow from Reverend Wright. Guess who's a fan? Dan Rather. Among the book blurbs for Minutaglio is one of the liberal media’s favorite historians/hysterians, Douglas Brinkley:
"Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis's DALLAS 1963 is a brilliantly written, haunting eulogy to John F. Kennedy. By exposing the hatred aimed at our 35th president, the authors demonstrates that America--not just Lee Harvey Oswald--was ultimately responsible for his death. Every page is an eye opener. Highly recommended!"
It's quite easy from there to tie the "right-wing fanaticism" of 1963 to the Tea Party in 2013. The authors love the review from Lucas Wittman at The Daily Beast. There are many new JFK books coming, but “the only one, for my money, that really distinguishes itself is this terrifying account of the potent blend of right-wing hysteria, subversive reactionaries, and violence that bubbled over in Dallas in the years before Oswald pulled the trigger. The scariest part: the paranoid right was as freaked out then as they are now.”
The Hachette speakers bureau promoting the authors suggest the speech topic “Kennedy, Obama and America’s Extremist Opposition.”
ADDENDUM: On Thursday night’s ATC, they read from listener mail, and both letters agreed Dallas was a fetid stew of right-wing fanaticism. Except one was upset the word “superpatriotism” was used:
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: The interview struck a chord with Eleanor Cowan (ph) of Georgetown, Texas. She was teaching in Dallas 50 years ago and she says she wrote a letter to Time magazine, saying Dallas set the stage for the assassination. She tells us, I had not mentioned I was a Dallas teacher, only a teacher. Someone saw it and contacted the superintendent. As a result, I almost lost my job had it not been for a caring lawyer who came to my defense. Yes, Dallas was a pit of vultures at the time, and that's what children were hearing. Is it not the same today with all the hateful rhetoric flying around?
MELISSA BLOCK: And Kevin Haroff(ph) of Burbank, California, took issue with a line in my introduction to that interview. I said Dallas in the early '60s was a stew of super-patriotism, fueled by anti-communist paranoia, fierce racism and anti-Semitism. Mr. Haroff writes: "These people were in no way patriots, and I deeply resent the suggestion that they love America more than liberals or Democrats. The words you wanted are reactionaries or jingoists or atavists, but they do not deserve any suggestion of being patriots."