In the wake of World War II, radio’s fictional journalists were defenders of immigrants and religious and ethnic minorities. A Big Town Christmas episode about a Polish refugee newspaper editor, and Superman and The Daily Planet’s fight against “The Klan of the Fiery Cross” are examples I’ve written about before. Here’s another, with the refugee from planet Krypton taking on “The Hate Monger Organization” in 1946.
This story of Superman’s battle against intolerance took 25 days to tell in 15-minute weekday episodes, April 16 to May 20, but they are all in the Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/Superman_page09
It takes a couple of episodes to reveal the evil force at work, starting with arson and an assault on an Irish newsboy, a friend of Jimmy Olsen’s, who witnessed the fire. Superman has support from a Catholic priest, who tells Clark Kent about an interfaith meeting to launch a “Unity House” open to youngsters of all races and backgrounds. The hate campaign seems to be targeting the community brotherhood movement.
“Why, it’s the Nazi method,” Jimmy observes in episode two, after the priest warns him and Kent of a group trying to pit people of different nationalities and religions against one another.
By episode ten, Kent has Jimmy risking his life working undercover — risky journalistic practice — to find the evil mastermind manipulating a youth street gang in its campaign of bigotry and intolerance. Meanwhile, even the opening commercial warned children not to waste any of their breakfast cereal because America needed grain to send to European war refugees.
While the message is one of racial tolerance, today’s listeners may get a chuckle out of an episode ten actor’s stereotypical “Irish cop on the beat” accent, which was also a staple of “The Green Hornet.” You also get to hear an Italian organ-grinder before long, another part of the cavalcade of radio stereotypes.
By episode fifteen, a rabbi has been assaulted, a Methodist minister has been threatened, and Kent has gotten other newspapers to keep quiet until Jimmy gets the goods on the evil mastermind manipulating a gang of pool room street toughs.
As in many of these stories, Clark Kent and his pals at The Daily Planet are the heroes. Superman’s muscle isn’t the right weapon to use against hatred. That’s mostly a job for a mild-mannered reporter or two, who eventually uncover a hate group calling itself “The Guardians of America.”
“I was only trying to protect Americans from foreigners!” the penthouse-dwelling chief hate-monger says when Superman is about to turn him over to the police. It’s a liars excuse, of course, and the evil manipulator’s true identity is revealed in the end. (Hint: That Jimmy Olsen was a pretty sharp kid. See his quote near the top of this article.)
O.K., so Bud Collyer, who played Clark and Superman, does get to drop his voice into Superman’s lower register and take to the air before the end of the story, rescuing Jimmy from what looks like certain death at the hands of “the so-called Guardians of America.” But you have to give the fans what they came for!
Note: Superman set the tone for these post-war peace, tolerance and brotherhood messages a few months earlier in a speech at the start of the Christmas Day 1945 broadcast.
The theme of Superman fighting intolerance and hatred continued in other media, including a poster that resurfaces frequently on the World Wide Web, Facebook and even sites that sell reprint posters.