Who Is John L. Perry and Why Isn’t He in Prison?

coupWho in his right mind would suggest that the time has come for a military coup (like the one in Honduras; photo at right) in the United States? Nobody. That is nobody in his right mind. But somebody is promoting this unthinkable scenario, and I know the man. He is John L. Perry, my long-ago boss at the Clearwater Sun. And from what I  know of him, I wouldn’t swear he’s in his right mind.

Back in the 1980s, Perry was the editor of the daily newspaper in Clearwater, a postcard-perfect seaside resort town that has been colonized – and ruined – by the cult of Scientology. For my sins, I was his managing editor, and it was my wretched job to implement his loony policies. One of his dictates was that all stories – even social notes – had to include the age and address of everyone mentioned. You can imagine the fuss that caused.

But that’s not why I suspected the man is nuts.  It was his sudden and inexplicable bouts of fury that made me wonder about his sanity. You would be having a normal conversation with this guy when – out of the blue – he would start fuming and shrieking at you. And almost every morning I would have to talk him out of firing one reporter or another for some imagined transgression.

The newsroom erupted in joyous celebration when Perry finally blew up at the publisher (a young man named Dick Cosgrove who died of a heart attack a few years later in Oregon) and got himself fired. Perry sued the Hearst Corporation, claiming he was wrongfully dismissed, but I understand his suit fizzled after the lawyers involved talked to the newsroom staff.

Perry managed to get another job, this time as editor of a newspaper in Rome, Georgia, and from time to time I would hear some bizarre story about his antics. Mostly, they involved capricious decisions concerning his employees, but one incident had wider implications. As I recall, it even made Time Magazine. That was the time Perry postulated at some seminar or other that newspapers had no obligation to be fair. Knowing the man, I figured he made the comment to attract attention. Attracting attention was what he lived for. For example, he would make outlandish claims to have been “on the bridge at Selma” during the famous civil rights march.

In his Clearwater Sun days Perry made himself out to be a liberal firebrand. Now, he is apparently a member of the radical right. He contributes a column called “Right Angles” to NewsMax.com, one of those propaganda mills that infest the web. Here’s how NewsMax describes itself:

NewsMax Media serves up the news with a conservative slant. The company publishes alternative news and opinion content through its monthly magazine “NewsMax” and corresponding Web site. Columnists include Reed Irvine (founder of conservative watchdog group Accuracy In Media) and national broadcasting hosts and analysts Bill O’Reilly, Ed Koch, and Dick Morris. The company generates sales from advertising, as well as from politically oriented merchandise (clothing, posters, books) showcasing stars of the Republican Party. Former “New York Post” reporter Christopher Ruddy, the company’s CEO, founded NewsMax Media in 1998.

From where I sit, that’s about as far right as you can get without falling off the edge of the earth. But Perry’s latest publicity stunt was too outrageous even for that gang of mischief makers. They pulled a column he wrote that argues in favor of military intervention to counteract Obama’s agenda. Here’s an excerpt:


Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

The absurd column was on the web long enough to draw fire from “liberal” bloggers, some of whom have reproduced it to give their readers an example of manic right-wing rhetoric to tut-tut over. You can read the whole column here:


MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann commented on the column last night. Olbermann naturally found its premise horrific. He warned that this kind of vitriol sometimes triggers violence and chided the author for displaying such blatant irresponsibility.

Perry must have reveled in the attention. Imagine being mentioned by Keith Olbermann! He will probably add that to his resume. But what I want to know is where does the constitutional right to free speech end? How can people like Perry get away with inciting the violent overthrow of the United States government? Shouldn’t he be in prison?