Milner Library Site Voices of Extremism
 



Walter Mead


Voices of Extremism: Conflicting Ideologies in United States Politics in the Decades Following WWII
by Walter B. Mead


In order for one to adequately comprehend the nature of extremism, audio recordings of the leading figures of extremist organizations are invaluable. For they convey to the listener not only the words and the content of the espoused ideologies (these are readily conveyed in the extensive printed material generated by most of these organizations) but also the emotions that play a major role in attracting and inspiring those who become adherents of these ideologies and movements.


It was for this reason that, during the 1960s and 1970s, in the course of conducting research, writing a book, and teaching seminars on American Political Extremism, Professor Mead compiled what probably constitutes today the most extensive audio documentation of the individuals and movements that characterized the full range — both left and right — of extremist politics in the United States in the decades immediately following the Second World War, from 1946 to 1980.


A majority of the recordings are of skilled interviews that Mead obtained and tape-transcribed from the late Gordon D. Hall, a Boston-based freelance investigator, speaker, and writer who devoted his entire career to gaining access — both personally and through confederates — to the most colorful fringe figures and groups of this period in American history.


Other recordings in the present collection are of interviews by professional journalists. There are also recordings — some clandestinely made — of speeches from political rallies. And there are a number of probing commentaries on the three and a half post-war decades of political turbulence — from Senator Joseph McCarthy's blacklisting in the 1940s and 1950s to the revival of the Ku Klux Klan at the end of the 1970s — by astute observers of the period.


All together, the recordings represent well over one hundred hours of oral history that probe into the rationales and styles of thinking of some of the most bizarre and interesting figures of mid-twentieth century American social and political history. In 2004, Walter Mead donated this collection to Illinois State University with the understanding that it would be made known and available to anyone, from the general public or from academic institutions, who is interested in making use of them.


Voices of Extremism: Conflicting Ideologies in United States Politics in the Decades Following WWII is a unique audio documentation of the individuals and movements that characterized the Extremist politics in the United States in the decades following the Second World War from 1946 to 1980. The collection also includes a documentary on Industrial Union from 1904, recorded in 1964.


Several of the movements represented in these recordings illustrate both the Far Left and the Far Right. They probe the rationales and styles of thinking of some of the most bizarre and interesting figures of mid-twentieth century American social and political history.




About the author: Walter B. Mead is Professor Emeritus, Department of Politics & Government, Illinois State University, Normal, IL, where he taught courses in Political Philosophy, Constitutionalism, Totalitarian Systems, and Political Extremism. He received a B.A. degree from Carleton College where he majored in Philosophy, his M.Div. degree in Theology at Yale University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Political Philosophy from Duke University.


During his graduate studies in North Carolina (1960-63), he clandestinely attended meetings of the KKK and the White Citizens Councils, was actively involved in the civil rights movement, and served a sentence working, in the summer of 1962, on a prisoner chain gang in North Carolina for this involvement. His Ph.D. dissertation on Extremism and Cognition: Styles of Irresponsibility in American Society was published as a book by that title in 1971, and he has subsequently lectured extensively at the National War College and on numerous campuses in the United States and abroad on this subject.


His book, The United States Constitution: Personalities, Principles, and Issues, was published in 1987. He is also the author of dozens of articles that have appeared in The Journal of Politics, The Review of Politics, The Political Science Reviewer, Tradition and Discovery, Judicature, Interpretation, Modern Age, Transaction/Society, and The Intercollegiate Review. His current research and writing is in the field of epistemology. Professor Mead served as President of the Michael Polanyi Society from 2006 to 2009 and is currently on the Society's Board of Directors. He can be reached at wbmead@ilstu.edu.

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