Sunday, October 05, 2003

Black Lists as American as Apple Pie
Alexander Marriott September 29, 2003

It is always interesting when people from the “McCarthy Era” die and then the media starts in with how utterly horrible and scary that time in our country’s history was. The death of famous director Elia Kazan, who directed such films as On the Waterfront, Gentlemen’s Agreement, and A Streetcar Named Desire, is such a situation.

You see, in this period, when the House Un-American Activities Committee was in full swing trying to root out communists, Kazan, a one time member of the communist party voluntarily testified and named off other communists that he knew in the industry. Of course the popular myth is that the government, under Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, began harassing people who were named and forced them into giving up acting. This is not the case.

The importance of getting the names of communist party members, which was a very secretive organization after the Cold War started, was to make sure none of these people were spies. The black list that arose from these names was an initiative on the part of filmmakers and studios to not work with any known communists.

But, it is said, “This is not American and is one of the greatest evils of the twentieth century.” Why? The Soviet Union and the communist philosophy it was based on preached world revolution and, as we now know, after the release of many secret Soviet documents, there were many paid spies in the country. Among these were Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, and even Democratic New York Congressman Samuel Dickstein.

For a free country to be overthrown and replaced with a Soviet Union style dictatorship, which had been heralded in the 1930’s as a worker’s paradise, should have been of paramount importance to the American government and the American people. This is especially so after the theft of nuclear technology which Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were involved in and executed for. Their actions, in concert with those of other spies, prolonged the terror and mass slavery of the Soviet Union for nearly fifty years.

However, there is a fundamental blurring of issues on this point. The government cannot bar people from working here unless they are criminals (by imprisoning them) or persona non gratta diplomats. Private companies, such as movie studios, can bar whomever they want for whatever they want. If that happens to be for political views then so be it.
Part of being free is living with whatever consequences your physical and intellectual actions cause. If people don’t want to work with you when they find out you hate and despise individual rights and private property then that is your problem, not theirs.

No one restricted, by law, the ability of communists to start a movie company of their own, although given the tenets of communist philosophy this would have been highly hypocritical. No one said, “These people may never ever work anywhere or with anyone ever again!” People merely said, “I will never work with Actor/Director/Writer X ever again!” This is the right of everyone in this country to freely associate with whomever they choose.

Many of the named communists went on to friendlier climates in New York and some came back to Hollywood when the intellectual climate there became highly leftist. There were no mass killings or roundups of communists. The worst that HUAC could ever do was hold people in contempt of congress for not testifying which in the case of innocent people was unfortunate, just as it is unfortunate whenever innocent people are held in contempt of court.

HUAC’s holding people in contempt of congress garnered the everlasting anger of liberals, but the great socialistic liberal president Franklin Roosevelt had thousands of perfectly innocent people locked up for no reason whatsoever. Where was the outcry over that when it happened? Now it is recognized as a great error but no New Dealers were condemning Roosevelt when he did it, but these same people thought it utterly unacceptable to try to dismantle a network of spies who were selling or giving away vital secrets to the greatest foreign threat the United States has ever faced.

The ultimate aim of revisionist historians and actors, like most of the people in both political parties and most modern actors, is to prop up the idea that everyone should be hired no matter what, even if their employer despises them. Perhaps this explains why untalented hacks like Kevin Costner and Sean Penn keep getting roles in movies, which, SURPRISE!, fail to make money again and again.

Here we run into another myth, that filmmaking shouldn’t be about making money but about art. Perhaps before guys like Penn say such things they should try making some good art for once instead of unmitigated garbage like I Am Sam and Dead Man Walking.

Or we could just bring back the black list.

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