Today's topic? William Joyce. Born 24th of April, 1906, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to an Englishwoman and an Irish Catholic father.
Joyce's familial ties brought him to his mother's homeland when he was a young adult. There, in College, the young Joyce developed a rather consuming passion for two things: fascism and anti-Semitism.
"This Machine Kills Fascists," declared Woody Guthrie's guitar, in a hand-scrawled message that Guthrie had written on the guitar's face. Fascism, particularly in the 1920s and 1930s, was the name of a political ideology grounded in extreme nationalism and that held, as no less august a capitalist publication than Fortune magazine gushed in July of 1934 that:
"The Corporative State -- Which is not yet the be-all but is certainly the end-all of the Fascist conception of Statehood. ... the capitalist is bound to the State through organizations of capitalists which are also part of the State ... This sounds like something fresh and vital in modern Statecraft. It is."
What Fortune was talking about was the explicit co-joining of the interests of Italy's corporations with the interests of the Italian state, orchestrated through the Ministry of Corporations. That ministry would ensure that Italy's labor, every laborer, was bound by a set of rules of industry made perfect for industry. In turn, Italy's corporations would integrate themselves into the state where they would enjoy access to capital, access to transportation infrastructure and access to power.
In other words, a political economy consisting of the sum total of an oligarchy of corporations with one chairman of every subsidiary: Benito Mussolini and the creation of The Corporative State.
Joyce's predilection for fascism, his anti-Semitism, and his virulent anti-communism naturally drove his politics, and they drove them hard to the right. He joined the British Union of Fascists where he quickly rose due, in large part, to his impressive ability as a public speaker where, with spittle flying, audiences were, according to journalist Cecil Roberts, "electrified by this man ... so terrifying in its dynamic force, so vituperative, so vitriolic."
At the British Union of Fascists, Joyce advocated for (and won) pressing a message of economic revival (the world was then still in the grip of the Great Depression) through Corporatism, allowing the world's corporations to band together in great syndicates that drove national and global policies towards the interests of the corporations and thus naturally in the interests of all.
Or so was the idea.
On the eve of World War II, Joyce and his wife fled to Germany, where he became a naturalized citizen. His voice and speaking ability helped him find a job doing announcements for Germany's English radio service where, before long, Joyce was putting his talents to work with daily radio programs in which he ridiculed, criticized and lampooned his former countrymen and spoke often of how they would fail in their quest against fascism.
His program was exceedingly popular in Britain -- though not so much because the British agreed with his positions but because they found his cartoonish tone entertaining in a love-to-hate him way. They referred to him by the name "Lord Haw-Haw," which was generally applied to all German propaganda broadcasters but especially Joyce.
History is written by the victorious, and we all know that Germany was not victorious in World War II, nor with her the ideology of Corporatism. Joyce was captured by the British, convicted of treason, and died on the gallows on the third of January 1946.
The conviction and execution were both not without controversy. Joyce had not actually taken up arms against Britain, he had merely used his radio programs to advocate for the rich and for the corporations and to openly wish for the failure of the British government in its quest to defend the country and rebuild its economy during wartime. His right-wing ideology had found him a large and loyal base of listeners who tuned in to hear what he would say, every day.
A popular radio entertainer who used his "golden microphone" to advocate for the failure of a people's government to protect them in times of great economic and military threat. A radio entertainer who exploited his position, and his microphone, to push forward a radical right-wing agenda against the interests of those who formed his audience. A radio entertainer known for his vituperative style, which gained him a large base of listeners.
Convicted of treason against a people and their government and hanged for his crimes.
Can anyone imagine something like that happening, today? If there were someone, broadcasting right-wing propaganda into the United States, advocating for the interests of capital and the powerful corporations, and hoping for the failure of the people's representative government to address their economic and military woes, what would we say about that person?
And what would we do?
Gregory Travis can be reached at email@example.com.