Early-1966, celebrated journalist Alex Haley bravely entered the headquarters of the American Nazi Party in Virginia and proceeded to interview its founder – retired U.S. Navy Commander, George Lincoln Rockwell – for Playboy Magazine; to further intensify the situation, Rockwell, until then unaware of his interviewer’s African roots, sat through the entire meeting within reach of a gun. Unsurprisingly, the resulting interview – available to read here – was published in April of that year to much debate.
One vocal supporter of the magazine’s decision to grant Rockwell such an audience was Rod Serling, creator of, most notably, The Twilight Zone. He wrote the following fantastic congratulatory letter to the publication’s offices soon after. Its message still rings true.
Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.
Recommended reading: Roots: The Saga of an American Family, by Alex Haley.
April 15, 1966
232 East Ohio
Chicago, Illinois 60611
I anticipate that you people shall probably be roundly roasted for the recent Rockwell interview. There is a breed of layman social scientist who will forever cling to a concept of “defeating by ignoring”. Hence, when out of the muck of their own neurosis rises these self-proclaimed fuehrers, there is this well-meaning body who tell us that if we turn both eyes and cheeks the nutsies will disappear simply by lack of exposure.
My guess is that in this case exposure is tantamount to education and education, here, is a most salutary instruction into the mentalities, the motives and the modus operandi of an animal pack who are discounted by the one aged maxim that “it can’t happen here.” So might have said the Goethes and the Einsteins of a pre-war Germany who thought then, as we do now, that civilization by itself protects against a public acceptance of the uncivilized. Eleven years of national genocide and ten million lives later, we have learned to realize that even the most sophisticated society can still fall prey to an invasion of monsters. It is not public exposure that helps these perverters of human dignity. Rather, it is apathy. Laughter and derision might momentarily embarrass them but in the long run prove no deterrents whatsoever. What is desperately needed to combat any “ism” is precisely what PLAYBOY has done — an interview in depth that shows us the facets of the enemy. Yes, gentlemen, you may be knocked for supposedly lending some kind of credence to a brand of lunacy. But my guess is you should be given a commendation for a public service of infinite value.
(Signed, ‘Rod Serling’)
Pacific Palisades, California