The Original Social Justice Warrior: Father Charles Coughlin

The most notorious American anti-Semite of the 1930s was Father Charles Coughlin, the charismatic pastor of Shrine of the Little Flower in suburban Detroit.  In 1934, Father Coughlin founded the National Union for Social Justice, which published a weekly newspaper, "Social Justice."  Two hundred thousand people read the paper, and as many as 30 million tuned in to his Sunday broadcasts.  Tens of thousands joined the Social Justice Councils that were established nationwide.

Social Justice reprinted excerpts from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, discredited in the Anglo-American world for fifteen years.  Ten days after Kristallnacht, Coughlin blamed the Jews for the pogrom, citing statistics provided by Nazi publications.  Gentiles had finally wised up to the people who ran both Wall Street and the Kremlin.  The alliance between the "banksters" (Coughlin coined the term) and the Bolshies may have seemed unlikely, but it only demonstrated how devious and relentless the Jews were in their efforts to destroy Christianity and the West.

The Mirage of Social Justice was the title of what should have been the definitive book on the subject, published more than forty years ago by Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek (Vol. 2 of Law, Legislation, and Liberty).  The mirage everyone's familiar with is the strip of water shimmering on the road ahead during a summer day that vanishes as you approach.  So, too, Hayek, as he attempted to analyze the concept, found that it "was entirely empty and meaningless."  Unfortunately, "to demonstrate that a universally used expression which to many people embodies a quasi-religious belief has no content whatever and serves merely to insinuate that we ought to consent to a demand of a particular group, is much more difficult than to show that a conception is wrong."  (Hayek had originally set out to demonstrate that redistribution according to someone's conception of justice would be counterproductive.)

At the heart of the problem is a primitive anthropomorphism, applying to "society" moral precepts evolved to guide the behavior of individuals.  In one of the earliest uses of the term, John Stuart Mill declared, "Society should treat all equally well who have deserved equally well of it."  But "society" cannot "do" anything.  That power has to come from agents of the government – ultimately, from men carrying guns and subpoenas.  "Society" in modern Europe and North America includes a vast network of voluntary associations and individual transactions that have provided a far greater satisfaction of human desires than any deliberate organization could ever achieve. 

As Hayek points out, the impersonal process by which markets allocate goods and services and reward performance "can be neither just nor unjust, because the results are not intended or foreseen, and depend on a multitude of circumstances not known in their totality to anybody."

Laws originally attempted to make the process fair and efficient, though there would always be an element of luck.  "Social justice" means fixing the results. 

The criteria will always be arbitrary. 

Take affirmative action.  This was originally about spending money on the early childhood education of black Americans to improve their chances of competing for good jobs.  It quickly evolved into adjusting results.  Applicants less qualified by objective criteria were admitted to colleges and hired for jobs on the basis of their race.  This could still be justified on the grounds that African-Americans had been subjected to slavery and then a century of discrimination, for which this was a kind of recompense, though at the expense of the innocent.  But what about Hispanics?  Why should immigrants from Central and South America be given preferences?  Why not immigrants from former communist countries, like Russia and Poland, or those who fled communism, like the Vietnamese?  A good humanitarian case can be made for this.  And if it's minorities that are to go to the head of the queue, why not Asians?  Why not Jews?

This brings us back to Father Coughlin.

The pastor of the Shrine of the Little Flower, now a basilica, had just as much right to define what is meant by "social justice" as any leftist.  In fact, like most fascists and many anti-Semites, Coughlin was himself a leftist originally, a staunch supporter of the New Deal ("the New Deal is Christ's Deal") until he discovered that several of Roosevelt's close advisers were Jews.  He remained an avowed enemy of capitalism, and he urged the government to set wages and hours and factory outputs.  It was as an enemy of capitalism, and of communism, that he wanted to curtail the activities of Jews.  In the name of "social justice," Jews can be disenfranchised, deprived of civil rights, dispossessed, expelled, and murdered.  The social justice warriors of the BDS movement want to do precisely this for Jews living in Israel.  The slogan "Palestine from the river to the sea" means nothing else.

Given its genealogy, and its potential for havoc, it's ironic that the plea for "social justice" comes most passionately from Reform and Conservative Jews.  By a deft sleight of hand, they've substituted Tikkun Olam ("repairing the world," a tendentious interpretation of a line from the prayer Aleinu) for Tzedaka, the injunction to be charitable.  About thirty carefully selected and freely interpreted passages from the Prophets have been substituted for the laws and commentary of the Torah and Talmud.  "Repairing the world" could theoretically complement Tzedaka.  But volunteering your own time and energy to help others is denigrated as "direct service."  Tikkun Olam is all about political action – demonstrating in D.C., not peeling potatoes in a homeless shelter.

Finally, because of the presumptions to universalism of neo-Judaism, the demonstrations led by Reform and Conservative rabbis never seem to be on behalf of the Jewish people.  When was the last time you saw a demonstration at the U.N., the largest and most powerful anti-Semitic organization since the abolition of the Nazi Party?

The next time you run across the cant phrase "social justice," think about Father Coughlin, and remember that the rights for which SJWs demonstrate are paid for with other people's money and other people's blood.