The Color of Fascism: Lawrence Dennis, Racial Passing, and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in the United States

By Gerald Horne | Go to book overview
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8

Fascism on Trial

Dennis was to pay a costly price for his outspokenness, his “prediction” of fascism's imminence, and his pointed analyses of race. But, for all that, it was a book that helped to bring him to the brink of imprisonment. Ironically, the author, John Roy Carlson, was “passing” in a sense, since he was of Armenian descent and later in life adopted his authorial name that echoed Britain,1 not to mention the fact that in the irony of ironies, he posed—or “passed”—as a fascist in order to gain Dennis's confidence. Perhaps this ethnic plasticity provided Carlson with insight for one of the points he highlighted in his best-seller—though, curiously, this tabloid-like assertion gained little traction—was that Dennis was probably a “Negro.” It was almost as if Dennis's critics were reluctant to confront the fact that his roots were among a persecuted minority for that might involve unwanted soul-searching about racism—which many would prefer to “normalize,” take for granted, assume as Godgiven, and certainly not engage in the bruising battle with the Dixiecrats to force this phenomenon into retreat—and might provide succor to Dennis's now officially scorned ideology and why he might have turned toward it to strike back at a society that had wounded him.

In fact, this was one of the many curious aspects of a book that the wildly popular journalist, Walter Winchell, touted as “the number one best-seller in nearly every leading city”;2 Winchell was the “biggest booster” of this work and used his foothold in radio to extol its glories, where he was joined by other airwave stars and celebrated writers such as Max Lerner, Victor Riesel, and Rex Stout.3

Carlson's lurid exposé also received a gigantic boost from the government. Apparently, the author made a “promise” to the authorities that he “would submit the proof sheets” of the book “for review” by Washington “before it is set in type.”4 Carlson was a “confidential informant” for the authorities, who knew that for whatever reason he had multiple

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