The Smear Terror - John T. Flynn

VI. Defamation En Masse

The most comprehensive offensive in the field of mass defamation was the book "Under Cover," written by a native Armenian named Avedis Boghos Derounian, alias John Roy Carlson. Derounian is an employee of Birkhead and Stout. The book contained material collected by Derounian (alias Carlson) who was paid $50 a week while doing it by the Friends of Democracy.

This volume pretends to be an account of the adventures of a young American among the subversive groups in America. He tells how he penetrated the inner councils of the Bund, the Christian Mobilizers and other organizations. It is a long, dull catalogue of repetitious drivel. The serious culprits "exposed" by the author were thoroughly exposed before he took up the task. Few of them operated in secret. The newspapers were full of their antics. Some were shouting their stupid messages from the housetops.

The real object of the book was not to expose the genuine fascist enemies of this country but was to discredit the political opponents of the Roosevelt war policy.

The plan was to prove that they were in league with traitors. This was attempted by first holding up Pelley and the Bund and Joe McWilliams and numerous smaller fry as traitors and then connecting them with Senator Wheeler, Senator Nye, Colonel Lindbergh, Senator Robert Taft, Colonel Robert McCormick, General Robert E. Wood and others. Let me now give an illustration of how this was worked.

George Sylvester Viereck was convicted and sent to jail as an unregistered German agent. He had edited a paper called Today's Challenge. Viereck was now used to splash the reputation of an American gentleman, William R. Castle, former Ambassador to Japan and Under-Secretary of State under President Hoover. Derounian records in his book;

"In the summer of 1940 I came upon a copy of Today's Challenge, in the Germania bookstore. . . It was inspired by George Sylvester Viereck, registered as a Nazi agent with the German Library of Information."

Then the smearer proceeds;

"Viereck's prize catch was William R. Castle. . . . Castle swallowed Viereck's cunning propaganda at one gulp. He wrote several articles for Today's Challenge."

Then follows an excerpt from the article which Castle "is said to have written" for Todays Challenge. Here it is:

"Fascism is essentially nationalistic. It has no desire to create other fascist states except insofar as the spread of fascism seems to create a more sympathetic world in which to try to get the space and few raw materials which it needs. Let us at least be wholly honest with ourselves. . . . We must recognize that Hitler has kept the movement purely German, that his seizures of territories have been territories inhabited by Germans . . . That is why Hitler is so popular in Germany."

This was, of course, all true at that time. But actually Mr. Castle never wrote a word for Today's Challenge. He had made a speech before the American Bar Association. The magazine, without permission, printed parts of it, transposed sentences altering their meaning and completely omitted the parts of the speech criticizing Hitler.

Months later Mr. Castle's attention was called to these quotations. He wrote a letter of protest to Viereck and sent a copy to the British Embassy. Derounian makes no reference to this. Instead he mendaciously states that "Castle wrote several articles for Viereck," that he was a "prize catch," that "he swallowed Viereck's propaganda," and he artfully intimates that this piece was one of several in a series of articles written for a German propaganda paper. He invents words for Castle when he writes that "Castle was dominated by Viereck's syrupy assurances that Hitler was the friend of all and the enemy of none." Nowhere in Mr. Castle's speech itself was there anything remotely resembling such an idea.

As repetition is part of this technique, in another part of the book, Castle is referred to as the "friend of Viereck" which is a downright lie. Mr. Castle is as loyal and honorable an American citizen and public servant as breathes in America. But if you do not know him, if you do not understand the technique of calumny, you may well come away feeling that Castle has been too close to the Nazis and that you want none of him. Yet the whole incident is a downright lie from the beginning.

This Derounian (alias Carlson) by himself is not worth the space devoted to him. But as the tool of smarter men he became a force for evil of almost unbelievably malignity. He cannot be dismissed any more than one may dismiss some poisonous germ. As a specimen of the means used in this plague of smearing he is worth holding up between the forefinger and thumb for an inspection.

He was born in Alexandropolis, Greece in the Armenian colony there and came to this country with his parents as a youth. He has worked under at least a dozen different aliases. He says Carlson is just his pen name and admitted when first discovered, that his right name was Derounian—Arthur A. Derounian. But that was not his right name either. Under pressure he then admitted it was Avedis A. Derounian—and to this he still sticks. Actually he entered this country, went to Mineola (N.Y.) High School, through New York University and worked as a reporter and editor on an insignificant Armenian newspaper as Avedis Boghos Derounian. He has written that his family moved far away from the Armenian neighborhoods, and, in order to get away from "these racial islands," joined the Presbyterian Church. The truth is he went to work for an Armenian newspaper and plunged head over heels into the bitter quarrels which agitated the much troubled Armenian people here.

In World War I, the Armenians, who had been oppressed for centuries by the Turks, joined the Allies, liberated Armenia and set up a republic patterned on our own. After the war the Soviets rode roughshod over Armenia, extinguished the republic and incorporated Armenia in the Soviet Union. They suppressed the Armenian Church, jailed its head, hunted bishops and priests out of Armenia and murdered many. By 1929 the Bolshevists altered their policy. Gabrillian, the Armenian Quisling, said: "We are enemies of the church and religion." But he added that they must abandon force and violence and use other means to "emancipate the workers, from the influence of religion." The plan was to "indoctrinate the workers in atheism," and "prevent the ordination of young priests," until the church came "into the hands of a few enfeebled and easily managed old men."

Great numbers of Armenians were outside Russia—in Greece, Syria, Britain, America. The secret police were put to work among them. Bishops outside Armenia were bribed to act as secret agents. The church was reestablished but as a Soviet agency. No one could be made a bishop without doing business with the secret police (the OGPU). Armenians abroad were bewildered. They did not know what priest or bishop to trust. All this was revealed in a book written by George Agabedov, head of the Russian secret police, after his break with Stalin in 1931.

The Red Bishop

As a result of these revelations, when a new bishop—Leon Tourian—arrived in New York around this time, Armenian Catholics were disturbed. Could they trust him? They knew he had contributed to a pro-Communist magazine in England. They felt he could not come here without the goodwill of the Russian secret police. On Armenia Bay at the Chicago Fair in 1933 he refused to enter the grounds until the old flag of free Armenia was hauled down. He used the flag of Soviet Armenia in his church.

The church here was split asunder. A new congregation was formed. We have the same situation in the Russian Orthodox Church, now following the Armenian experiment. Stalin has reestablished the Russian Church—which he hates. He has sent a bishop here to demand possession of all the Russian churches. The head of that church in New York, unlike Tourian, has refused to submit and has called on all Russian Catholics to resist. He knows Stalin is using the church as an instrument of propaganda. However, I do not doubt Tourian was a Soviet agent, any more than I doubt this new Russian bishop now trying to get the Russian churches here is a Soviet agent.

However, the Armenian feud boiled to a crisis here on Christmas morning, 1933. Bishop Tourian was assassinated in his New York cathedral by six Armenians who believed he was a Russian agent. They were convicted and sentenced to prison. This stupid assassination played into the hands of the Communists. It deepened and inflamed the division between the Armenians. They remained split into bitterly hostile camps. One is dominated by the Communists, the other by the anti-Communists who still fight against Soviet despotism in their homeland. In between are a considerable number of bewildered people, who would like to enjoy their religious life in peace. I have related all this because it is in the murky waters of this Armenian feud that the stool pigeon Derounian (alias Carlson) makes his debut in the art of smearing.

Derounian (alias Carlson), after a collection of small jobs, went to work as a reporter for a small Armenian paper called the Mirror Spectator in New York and later became its editor. The Armenian Communists took the well-known line that every Armenian opposed to Communist aggression in Armenia was a fascist. The murder of Tourian was fastened upon every member of the anticommunist group. They were therefore called the Bloody Dashnag fascists. Dashnag refers to the Armenian Revolutionary federation—Dashnag means federation.

Derounian in the Mirror-Spectator proceeded to unloose upon the groups opposed to Communism the same kind of smearing that, under the sponsorship of Birkhead and Stout, he later used upon perfectly good American citizens. When I exposed his defense of the Reds following the Tourian murder, he was shocked that I condoned a murder or suspected the "holy Tourian" of being a Soviet agent. Of course in this Derounian was putting on an act, since the murder of scores of bishops and priests in Armenia by the Reds did not stop him from glorifying them. And of course I did not condone the murder.

The Mirror-Spectator, while he was an editor, sponsored a delegation to Russia to pay homage to the Soviet conqueror of Armenia on the 35th anniversary of the conquest. On that day the Mirror-Spectator printed an editorial which read:

"Armenians throughout the world, particularly those of the fatherland, today joyously celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of Soviet rule in Armenia. . . .

"This seemingly radical step of our Fatherland, subscribing to a new political theory and forming a link in the mighty chain of the Union of Soviet Republics despite the agitation of long-distance politicians in Europe and America dedicated to policies to suit themselves, proved to be the sanest move that could be made. The present era of progress denoting the vigorous growth of our tiny government under the sheltering wings of the fraternizing Soviet Union is a guarantee that Armenia is on the right highway to prosperity and new attainments in the cultural and industrial sphere. . : .

"It is with this spirit (of pride and gratitude) that the Armenian Spectator raises its voice with sincerity to shout 'Many, many happy returns of this glorious day.'"

The day when the Bolshevist horde overran his homeland, suppressed its republic and gave it to the tender mercies of Communist tyranny, he looked upon as the "glorious day" in its history. Like all of this gang of smearers, he occasionally insists he is not a Communist. However, he edited a paper that glorified Communism, hailed its glories in his own country, and attacked savagely every Armenian who opposed Communism in Armenia. Who cares what he calls himself? It is what he does that counts.

In November 1936, the organ of the Friends of Soviet Russia called Soviet Russia Today published an article by Avedis Derounian. It pictured the magnificent progress of Armenia under Soviet rule. It paid tribute to the civilization which Communism had brought to Armenia. It ended by saying:

"Sixteen years of loyal cooperation with the program of the Union have infused the Armenians with a boundless energy of a grateful people, nor is the debt paid. It has just begun payment. Future years will show the lengths to which a grateful people will go to show its gratitude toward a workers' government which saved it from extinction in 1920."

Derounian says he did not write this article. I feel sure he did not. It is written in a style altogether too literate for his clumsy sophomoric hand. But he doesn't deny his name is signed to it and he has admitted under oath that he supplied much of the material.

After leaving the Armenian paper he shifted around from one small magazine to another. Then he got a job with the Anti-Defamation League. About 1938 he went to work for the 'Council Against Intolerance', headed by James Waterman Wise, treasurer of the 'League for Peace and Democracy' which Earl Browder testified was a Communist-front organization. Then he transferred to Birkhead and Stout's 'Friends of Democracy' as a stool pigeon and informer. He lived a kind of triple life. As Avedis Roghos Derounian and Arthur Derounian he posed as an Armenian patriot and wrote for the Armenian papers. He wrote for certain American papers under the name of John Roy Carlson, Thomas L. Decker, George Paige. As George Pagnanelli he posed as an Italian and published a frightful little anti-semitic smear sheet. His name record runs as follows: Avedis Boghos Derounian, alias Arthur A. Derounian, alias Avedis Arthur Derounian, alias John Roy Carlson, alias George Pagnanelli, alias Thomas L. Decker, alias George Paige, alias John Correa, alias Rudolph Eilers, alias Donald Brady, alias George Alexander, alias Henry Renard, alias Robert Thompson Jr. and Sr., alias Charles Roberts, alias Lawrence H. Wayne; alias Mrs. and Miss Roberta Thompson. The fellow is name crazy.

It is a waste of time to speculate on this stool pigeon's opinions. He probably is neither Communist, Fascist, Democrat or Republican. He is merely an eternal juvenile, an exhibitionist playing at cops and robbers to get with his "underground" clowning the public notice he could never command with his clumsy pen. Some peep into his character may be gleaned from a letter he wrote a friend when he was looking for a publisher for his book. It is a document of unprintable filth. I choose, therefore, a few of the milder sentences:

"If that book ("Under Cover") was out now—If some cockeyed publisher had had the vision a few months ago, he'd been rolling in wealth this very minute. But no, the God-damned bastards were too busy thinking of the few dollars they have in the bank, they chose to sit on their cans. , . .

"Those bastards that turned down the book, those sons of bitches who sip their cocktails and minimize things are the real fifth column. They are the ones spreading the poison of complacency. These bastards ought to be shot at sunrise, maybe well have some action against the Nazi fifth column. . . .

"God damn it! I wish I had those publishers in front of me now. I'd punch off their noses one by one, and good riddance. The book could have been making a fortune now, Son-of-a-bitch!"

The "bastards," as he called them, he identifies as such publishers as Harpers, Reynal, Viking and a dozen or more who rejected his book. Those who refused to print his libelous book he called "fifth columnists" who ought to be "shot at sunrise."