Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis open access


Senator Huey P. Long and radio priest Father Charles E. Coughlin were powerful forces in the public sphere of the United States in 1930. Often accused of being demagogues and Fascists, both men brought to the American people a message designed to relieve the suffering that had taken the country during the Depression. This message was rooted in the tradition of American Populism in which they had both grown up. The rhetoric of both men espoused faith in simple solutions and blamed Wall Street financiers, wealthy industrialists, and corrupt politicians for the hard times that had come. Just as interesting as the substantive content of their message and more essential to an understanding of Long and Coughlin as demagogues is the rhetorical style both men utilized throughout their discourse. Inherently anti-intellectual, Long and Coughlin s rhetorical style sought the submission of the audience to the rhetor by undermining the individual auditor s capacity for free thought and individual expression. Seeking to isolate and explain this rhetorical style in terms of it political function within the public sphere, this thesis examines Long and Coughlin s discourse through close-textual analysis. The two texts considered are Long s speech announcing the founding of the Share Our Wealth Society, Every Man a King, and Coughlin s speech announcing the founding of the National Union for Social Justice. Both speeches exemplify the anti-intellectual style in that they function to over-identify with the audience, capture the audience in a cult of unthinking affirmation, and to systematically incapacitate the audience s intellect so as to disable their ability to question. Delivered over radio, Long and Coughlin s discourse is the antithesis to free dialogue in an interactive public sphere. Engaging people on a seemingly individual level, Long and Coughlin created a mass public that they ultimately rendered unable to think. In doing so, both men posed a threat to democracy.