Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe: Political Extremism in America

By John George; Laird Wilcox | Go to book overview

23 "Life Line"

Life Line, a far-right radio program reflecting the views of Texas billionaire H. L. (Haroldson Lafayette) Hunt, could be heard in the sixties and early seventies almost around the clock anywhere in the United States and in much of Mexico and Canada. Its fifteen-minute programs, called "Life Line Freedom Talks," emanated from more than five hundred radio stations, dispensing the commentary of one Melvin Munn, speaking from a studio on North Central Expressway in Dallas, Texas.

Back in 1958, "Life Line," a property of Life Line Foundation, Inc., replaced an earlier Hunt program known as "Facts Forum." The foundation originally received tax exemption as a religious organization, but this status was later revoked by the Internal Revenue Service following complaints by critics of the program. Tax exemption for the foundation as an educational institution was subsequently obtained, but it was revoked in 1963 because of complaints that the broadcasts were totally one-sided. The revocation was appealed unsuccessfully.

Melvin Munn, whose voice was heard on all broadcasts, joined "Life Line" in 1965. A native Texan with a lengthy background in journalism, he was apparently a deeply religious man. In the early 1930s he was the director of religious education for the First Methodist Church of Longview, Texas. He had no formal college education, but his well-modulated voice, forceful delivery, and effective microphone "presence" bespoke a capability that easily outstripped most radio commentators.

When he spoke at a church in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1965 he was very well received. His sermon was an eloquent exposition of Christian religious values and the American credo. In the 1960s a considerable percentage of the American population was sympathetic to his values, opinions, and beliefs. In this context it is difficult to consider him an "extremist." Still, the general moralizing tone of his commentary and the implied intolerance of opposing views are strong points of the extremist "style."

Nevertheless, when two radical student activists from the University of Kansas challenged him on several issues, he dealt with them fairly. He asked them to come up and make their point and then sit down so he could reply, which met with the approval of the audience. Although it was clear that the disagreements were too great to breach, and the arrangement was more-or-less implicitly "authoritarian," it is doubtful that Munn would have been treated as well had he similarly challenged a radical student audience on the university campus.

"Life Line" broadcasts generally hewed to the standard far-right dogma, but usually were couched in much more subtle language. The crude name-calling and

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