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Architect Philip Johnson's Troubling Past

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This is a lengthy, but sobering article from Vanity Fair, about Philip Johnson, the celebrated architect of many iconic buildings around the globe, including our beloved New York State Pavilion and Tent of Tomorrow from the 64-65 New York World's Fair.  Johnson's controversial status as a Nazi sympathizer and supporter is something I knew nothing about before reading it. 

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2016/04/philip-johnson-nazi-architect-marc-wortman

 

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That is the single most disturbing article I've ever seen posted on this site.  I had heard of his "admiration" for all things Nazi but Johnson's tight bond with Long and then with Coughlin are shocking.  I did not know this.  Long was  thug and a murderer.  Coughlin, wrapped in his clerical garb,  was as dangerous a demagogue as this nation has ever seen.  The Catholic hierarchy had a very difficult time reining him in but it's a good thing they finally did.  Coughlin's anti-semitic comments were quoted by Hitler.  What is always most complicated about these sorts of revelations is how Johnson, who did not make any effort to hide his sexuality, could even think of supporting a regime that made homosexuality a crime with an attached death sentence.  Other than some form of self-loathing, it's difficult to fully understand such a point of view. Johnson's admiration of Albert Speer is also disturbing and the description of his design for Coughlin's speaking venue is just as grotesque.  I also dislike the thought that Nelson Rockefeller may have run interference for Johnson but I have read this idea before and this article adds more weight to that theory.  I am glad that you posted this but its revelations are vile on so many levels.  It's unfortunate Johnson was able to simply erase his own biography for all those years after the War.

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Agreed on all fronts, Jim-- though as an Administrator and lover of WFC for a long time, now-- I'm not sure how proud I am of the distinction of posting the "single most disturbing article you've ever seen posted on the site." 

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Oh, I certainly don't mean that as a reflection on you.  I meant that statement as a way to express my shock at the depth of Johnson's involvement with the Nazis and with those two American demagogues.  Your post is illuminating and thought provoking even if the information is disturbing.  This is why we are all a part of this site--to learn even if it is not an easy lesson.

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Hmm. Kind of like the film "Spirit of St. Louis" - Jimmy Stewart's cinematic creation and then the rather different reality of Charles Lindbergh.

Eric

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The 1930s was a decade where a lot of people we would consider intellectuals allowed themselves to be blinded by totalitarian regimes, whether Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin.      For a lot of these people, they looked at the miseries of Depression era America and then figured that some strong "efficient" government could bring more miraculous results and it has to be admitted that the 1930s was the heyday where all of those regimes through their propaganda networks was championing the notiont that they were more efficiently combating the problems of the time than America seemingly was.    This was the decade where it wasn't just Johnson and Lindbergh with a blind spot toward Hitler, but you even had the NY Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty purposefully covering up knowledge of Stalin's forced starvation of several million Ukranians (and he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage).        Their own troubled personas contributed to their attitudes but the broader context of how the world seemed in the pre-war 1930s is a hard thing for us to connect with.     

Johnson at least to his credit seemed genuinely ashamed of his earlier positions.     Others didn't always do that even when there was no longer any excuse for being naive.    When Lindbergh went through a rehabilitation in the post-war period it was mostly because he stopped talking about politics and because he wrote his book about his flight which was popular (and which led to the movie)  and the public wanted to embrace him as the pioneering hero of the 1920s again, especially during the "space age" buildup that was seen as the natural heir to what Lindbergh had done.

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1 hour ago, Eric Paddon said:

The 1930s was a decade where a lot of people we would consider intellectuals allowed themselves to be blinded by totalitarian regimes, whether Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin.      For a lot of these people, they looked at the miseries of Depression era America and then figured that some strong "efficient" government could bring more miraculous results and it has to be admitted that the 1930s was the heyday where all of those regimes through their propaganda networks was championing the notiont that they were more efficiently combating the problems of the time than America seemingly was.    This was the decade where it wasn't just Johnson and Lindbergh with a blind spot toward Hitler, but you even had the NY Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty purposefully covering up knowledge of Stalin's forced starvation of several million Ukranians (and he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage).        Their own troubled personas contributed to their attitudes but the broader context of how the world seemed in the pre-war 1930s is a hard thing for us to connect with.     

 

Hey, a lot of people are liking Trump for President.

No, not me. lol

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The article really does not indicate that Johnson was "genuinely ashamed" of his past support of the Nazi regime in Germany.  In fact, it states he hid from it and may have used the influence of Nelson Rockefeller to erase the facts relating to his fondness and support for the Third Reich and for Long and Coughlin.  What is most disturbing about Johnson is that he was more than a bit player.   He was an active and outspoken supporter of fascism both in Germany and in the United States.  He provided an actual means for the bitter, anti-semitic Coughlin to rise to political power.  It always stuns me to learn that someone who has never seen war, first hand, someone who has never put on a uniform to serve in the military, can so enthusiastically support war as Johnson did in 1939.  He celebrated war.  He was thrilled when Germany invaded Poland and it was easy for him to feel as he did considering that invasion was never going to interrupt his life.  It is as equally confounding as his support for a fascist dictatorship where, had he been a citizen of Germany in the 1930s, he would have been in violation of the laws due to his sexual orientation and subject to imprisonment and possible execution.  What is it that he was celebrating?

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"...seen as the natural heir to what Lindbergh had done..."

 

Well said, especially as I was thinking of all the "little" Lindbergh's running around Germany from the 1950's on.

Eric

 

 

 

 

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