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Father Charles E. Coughlin

Overview

As Americans moved from farms and small towns to large cities, they tended to lose a hallmark of their earlier life: comparatively direct participation in the discourse of pragmatic affairs. The ubiquitous radio, which became a primary medium of communication during the Great Depression, tended to make Americans listeners more than speakers about important issues. Nevertheless, as the economic catastrophe of the time evoked desires in people to express their hopes and fears for the future, Americans nevertheless ...

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Overview

As Americans moved from farms and small towns to large cities, they tended to lose a hallmark of their earlier life: comparatively direct participation in the discourse of pragmatic affairs. The ubiquitous radio, which became a primary medium of communication during the Great Depression, tended to make Americans listeners more than speakers about important issues. Nevertheless, as the economic catastrophe of the time evoked desires in people to express their hopes and fears for the future, Americans nevertheless tended to be reticent. They instead bestowed leadership on speakers who articulated those hopes and fears on their behalf—particularly orators who effectively utilized radio. Possessed with the ability to deliver speeches exceptionally well and to phrase ideas so eloquently as to be admired by listeners, Father Charles E. Coughlin emerged as that surrogate spokesperson for many Americans. Moreover, because the medium of radio endowed his discourse with a credibility enhanced by his own ethos, he emerged as a persuader who fulfilled the mass media role known as opinion leadership. He also capitalized on the inherent advantages of orality as a significant factor that influenced how people responded to the myriad messages of the vast communication mosaic in which Americans lived at the onset of the electronic age. Father Coughlin exemplifies that speaker who achieves the role of an opinion leader in contemporary society.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Canadian-born Coughlin rose to fame as a radio priest in the early 1930s by endorsing Franklin D. Roosevelt's election with the slogan "Roosevelt or Ruin." As a historical figure, he has been duly treated by historians. Other scholars have studied him as a propaganda-spewing demagogue. Carpenter (English, U. of Florida) provides a long-overdue rhetorical analysis of the radio persuasion of the Royal Oak Priest. He blends rhetorical and persuasion theory with the findings of social science, skillfully weaving an analytical account of one of the nation's most masterful persuaders. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313290404
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/30/1998
  • Series: Great American Orators Series
  • Pages: 220
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

RONALD H. CARPENTER is Professor of English and Communication Studies at the University of Florida.

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Table of Contents

Series Foreword
Foreword
Preface
I Critical Analysis
1 Radio, "Orality," and Surrogate Spokespersons 3
2 The Pious Persona and "Roosevelt or Ruin" 25
3 The Political Priest, Competence, and "Roosevelt and Ruin" 51
4 Testing the Political Waters with "The Menace of the World Court" 77
5 Surrogate Spokespersons: Then and Now, "Hot" and "Cool" 105
II Collected Speeches
"The Great Betrayal," 22 March 1931 135
"The National Union for Social Justice," 11 November 1934 145
"The Menace of the World Court," 27 January 1935 157
"A Third Party," 19 June 1936 171
"It Is What We Do - Not What We Say," 31 March 1938 179
"The Spirit of the Reorganization Bill," 3 April 1938 187
Bibliography 195
Index 201
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