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The Forgotten Media Purges of the Great Depression

Republican Hoover built the federal broadcasting shield in 1927. Roosevelt fashioned it into a weapon in 1934 and Democrats have never put it down since. One might consider the elaborate FCC speech barriers: A Poll Tax on Public Debate

By Steve Penfield | 27 October 2019

THE UNZ REVIEW — One of the more enduring myths accepted as reality in our modern society is that America has a relatively free press. The ruling authorities and their entrenched accomplices promote that lie as diligently as they work to ensure that it never again becomes true.

America did have a mostly free and independent press until the rise of broadcasting in the 1920s. Within a few years, a small group of Republicans, progressives and corporate interests successfully nationalized the airwaves with restrictive licensing that blocked competition, rewarded insiders and squelched dissent.

Over the next few decades, the increasingly powerful medium of radio and then television drowned out the previously broad spectrum of information and ideas—with often three or more diverse choices of daily newspapers in many U.S. cities—and turned free speech into carefully rationed federal broadcasting privileges, their anointed urban newspaper monopolies and a few approved magazines.

One of the more ironic parts of this forgotten history is that a Republican, Herbert Hoover, led the initial charge to politicize the press. When the more authoritarian FDR took the reins in 1933—holding onto power until his death in 1945—he would ultimately purge the airwaves as well as the newspaper and magazine stands of the nation’s greatest commentators, publishers, editors and writers. In their absence, only pro-war / pro-welfare state neo-liberals and neo-conservatives would survive in mainstream media for generations to come. […]

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