What is the significance today of the Hollywood Blacklist?
Some might reason that the Hollywood Blacklist is little more than an historical wonder nearing its sixtieth day of remembrance, a quaint relic and reminder of the mostly cockamamie and indefensible paranoia that accompanied the Cold War outlook in the United States in the old ages following World War II. But in world, the lessons of the Hollywood Blacklist are as germane and relevant in 2006 as they were those sixty old ages ago. Human history, full with rhythms as it unfortunately is, has brought the United States full circle back into a political and cultural clime where many soi-disant nationalists and guardians of liberty perceive enemies of the province to be skulking everyplace among the people. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 onslaughts on the United States, the disposal of President George W. Bush has presided over a polarized and simplistic position of the universe that mirrors the ‘us versus them’ attitude of the Cold War. But alternatively of Communists, America’s enemies today are fundamentalist Muslims, generically lumped into the class of ‘terrorists, ’ and the weak-principled progressives who tolerate them. President Bush ( in ) famously stated, “you’re either with us, or you’re against us, ” ( CNN, 2001 ) pulling conflict lines within both planetary and domestic civilization. Criticism, even if constructive, of the government’s policies refering the alleged war on panic, or any authorities policies for that affair, is labeled by the narrow conservative political and cultural bulk and its mouthpieces to be disloyal, unpatriotic, and in some instances incendiary. Those who hold the power over the creative activity dad civilization and coverage of the intelligence, dubbed “Hollywood” in a deliberate simplism, have been under an progressively grim onslaught in the past five old ages by these same conservative forces in a manner that spookily mirrors the moral force of the late fortiess, an intolerant, moralistic environment from which the Hollywood Blacklist arose. “As America finds itself beleaguered in the universe against – literally surrounded by – enemies who seek to destruct it, we can non let treasonists privileged position in the amusement industry.” ( Farah, 2003 ) Is this a quotation mark from a Congressional research worker sing the suspected Communist sympathisers working as film writers in Hollywood? No. It is a 2003 quotation mark from a conservative rightist initiate who opined, “It ‘s clip to convey back the Hollywood blacklist… You ‘ve heard the Hollywood black book of the 1940s and 1950s was a atrocious thing – a great unfairness. Nonsense. It was a good thing. It was the right thing to make at the right clip in history.” ( Farah, 2003 )
In order to to the full understand how and why the United States has recreated a civilization in which such an attempt like the Hollywood Blacklist might one time once more flourish, it is first of import to understand the fortunes and context of the original Blacklist itself and supply some historical analysis. Simply put, the Blacklist was an attempt by film studios to censor authors and other originative forces who had any association with the Communist Party from executing any work in show concern. Under force per unit area from the studios, the clubs and trade brotherhoods stand foring originative forces demanded curses of commitment from their members. Worse, those who refused to collaborate or who criticized attempts to root out suspected Communists or Communist sympathisers were besides blacklisted. The callings of 100s of authors, histrions, managers, etc. were ruined either temporarily or for good in the craze that captured the attending of the United States public during the late fortiess and early 1950s, in tandem with the ill-famed jokes of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the deliberately public spectacle of his anti-Communist hearings.
In the 1930s, Communism was a slightly well-thought-of and tolerated political orientation within the United States, at least among younger, liberal-minded intellectuals – including creative persons, authors, and film makers — who viewed it as a feasible option to capitalist economy, peculiarly the kind of unregulated capitalist economy that had led to the widespread and flooring economic agony, both domestically and globally, due to the Great Depression. The sweeping economic reforms initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt ( 1933-1945 ) had injected many socialist elements into the American economic system, peculiarly province controls, and authorities subsidies for the hapless, and guaranteed retirement security for the aged. The American Communist Party ( Communist Party of the United States of America, or CPUSA ) , was a feasible, though minority political force. It collaborated with and supported many workers’ brotherhoods and advocated civil rights for African-Americans. Many Americans believed it was inevitable that the United States would germinate into a hybridized socialist/capitalist state. However, by the terminal of World War II, it became clear that the opposite number to the United States’ great experiment in democracy, the Soviet Union’s great experiment in Communism, was little more than viciously inhibitory dictatorship masquerading in the superficial facade of Marxist idealism. Worse, the Soviet Union, one time America’s ally of necessity against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, rapidly attained both atomic arms and a pathological ill will towards the United States and its involvements worldwide. In the ensuing reactionist paranoia that swept across America, it was no longer either stylish or rational to publically or in private show much understanding for Communist political orientation, much less be an active member of the Communist party. Ideological conservativists who had been marginalized, if non rendered outright irrelevant, by the huge popularity of Franklin Roosevelt’s societal plans and behavior of World War II, eventually had their chance to strike back against what they perceived to be the unsafe invasion of Marxist thoughts into the United States and their anti-Communist ardor was enabled even by many progressives who had been caught up in the Cold War outlook.
In 1947, Democratic President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order necessitating an curse of trueness to be taken by all federal employees. The definition of ‘loyalty’ was obscure at best, and the order empowered the authorities to look into and root out anyone suspected of “totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive” ( Code of Federal Regulations, 1947 ) propensities. Congress, talking for the legislative subdivision of authorities, made copiously clear it did non see the Communist Party a political organisation whose presence was tolerable on the American landscape:
Although supposedly a political party, is in fact an instrumentality of a confederacy… prescribed for it by the foreign leaders… to transport into action slavishly the assignments given… acknowledges no constitutional or statutory restrictions… its dedication to the proposition that the present constitutional Government of the United States finally must be brought to destroy by any available agencies, including resort to force and force… as the bureau of a hostile foreign power renders its being a clear nowadays and go oning danger. ( Congress of the United States, 1950 )
Though the Soviet menace can non be persuasively argued in historical retrospect to be negligible, there was surely no grounds of widespread Communist infiltration into the comfy vicinities of the huge American in-between category. The mean American citizen was barely likely to see the Communist Party more dimensionally than as the propaganda tool of Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, the black in the black vs. white, the immorality in the good vs. evil binary resistance paradigm that defined the American perceptual experience of itself in the universe. Nonetheless, a figure of really ambitious politicians, including the aforesaid Joseph McCarthy, every bit good as future president Richard M. Nixon, exploited and magnified the public fright of Communism in a manner that distorted the existent range of the menace. The easiest manner for them to make so was to prosecute in a time-honoured fascist maneuver, which is to assail intellectuals and creative persons, oppugning their nationalism and trueness to their state.
In 1947, a subcommittee of Congress’ lower organic structure the House of Representatives, the spookily titled House Committee on Un-american Activities ( whose members included Mr. Nixon ) summoned legion outstanding members of the Hollywood originative community, whose Communist associations were known, to attest under curse sing their ideological propensities and alleged insurgent activities. Ten of these people, who possibly unwisely allowed themselves to be represented by lawyers from the CPUSA, refused to give testimony or supply names of any other members of the party. The House of Representatives voted overpoweringly to convict them of the charge of ‘contempt of Congress, ’ and the group, dubbed “The Hollywood Ten, ” were sentenced to gaol footings in 1948. Following the Congressional hearings, the leading of Hollywood stampeded in lemming-like manner off the drop of entry. On November 17, 1947, The Screen Actors Guild, the apparently powerful brotherhood stand foring histrions, announced it would necessitate a pledge of non-Communist association. The caputs of the assorted movie studios jointly issued a statement ( which became known as the Waldorf Statement ) on November 25, 1947, from the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City, where they had gathered:
[ We ] deplore the action of the 10 Hollywood work forces who have been cited for disdain by the House of Representatives…
We will forthwith discharge or suspend without compensation those in our employ, and we will non re-employ any of the 10 until such clip as he is acquitted or has purged himself of disdain and declares under curse that he is non a Communist…
…We will non knowingly use a Communist or a member of any party or group which advocates the overthrow of the authorities of the United States by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional methods.
… In prosecuting this policy, we are non traveling to be swayed by craze or bullying from any beginning. Creative work at its best can non be carried on in an ambiance of fright. We will guard against this danger, this hazard, this fear…
… To this terminal we will ask for the Hollywood endowment clubs to work with us to extinguish any revolutionists: to protect the inexperienced person ; and to safeguard free address and a free screen wherever threatened. ( Association of Motion Picture Producers, 1947 )
Despite the caution expressed in the 3rd paragraph, this Orwellian dictate caused the loss of occupations and/or callings of between 300 and 500 people, who were banned from working in the amusement industry, and non merely those who were members of the Communist Party. Even those who dared inquiry the purging were madecharacter non grata,including film star Marsha Hunt, who:
had ne’er been a Communist or a sympathiser. She was, nevertheless, a committed and vocal broad. At a 1947 Screen Actors Guild board meeting she contradicted president Robert Montgomery… on a affair refering the viability of officially excepting Communists from all the clubs. “ I was listened to, but the board moved on to other concern, ” Hunt recalls. “ No 1 said anything, no 1 commented, I was wholly erased. ” Shortly thenceforth, her calling ended. ( Triplett, 2000 )
One of the lawyers who had represented the Hollywood Ten, Bartley Crum, besides had his calling ruined, thanks in portion to torment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI ) . He committed self-destruction in 1959.
The Blacklist was possibly officially broken in 1961, when President-elect John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy attended a public showing ofSpartacus, which manager Otto Preminger had hired screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of the original Hollywood Ten, to compose.
The Cold War ended in 1989, depriving political and cultural conservativists of the ‘evil’ component of their binary Cold War paradigm. Without an obvious enemy around which to unify and animate fright among the American people, the conservatives’ power ebbed. The 1990s were a clip of unprecedented peace, prosperity, and open-mindedness in the United States, and a comfy, amicable relationship between the American authorities and American creative persons and intellectuals in Hollywood and the intelligence media. However, the events of September 11 provided the perfect scene for the conservativists to one time once more reframe the corporate American consciousness around another binary paradigm – American vs. terrorists. In the haste of blind, chauvinistic nationalism following the successful American invasion of Afghanistan in autumn 2001, even the most broad members of the American Congress gave President Bush’s disposal a practical menu blanche to make as it pleased. This led straight to the unadvised and doomed war in Iraq, the principle for which has mostly been discredited by a bulk of Americans and their primary Alliess, the British. After several old ages of blithe conformity, most of the mainstream American intelligence media, every bit good as prima intellectuals and creative persons in Hollywood eventually started to talk their heads and knock the administration’s policies, in peculiar assailing the propaganda and fiction used to sell the American populace on the pressing demand to travel to war against Iraq. Reacting in a rage, the Bush Administration has attacked the intelligence media and Hollywood either straight, or through sympathetic alternates such as the Fox News Channel, whose CEO is former George Bush, Sr. run director Roger Ailes, and conservative web sites purporting to be accurate intelligence mercantile establishments to counter an alleged ‘liberal media bias’ within mainstream intelligence. When histrion Danny Glover criticized the war in Iraq, conservative web site FrontPageMag.com remarked bizarrely “Danny Glover sees his state as the enemy and Marxism as the reply, ” ( Johnson, 2004 ) and advanced as fact during the summer of the 2004 presidential run that “ [ Democratic presidential campaigner and Senator ] John Kerry endorsed the barbarous onslaught of Hollywood drudges on the Commander-in-Chief… Leftist hatred group MoveOn.org announced last hebdomad that it has enlisted the aid of the Hollywood elite in its partizan run to smear the president and stigmatise America’s War on Terror.” ( Johnson, 2004 )
Like the anti-Communist propagandists of the Hollywood Blacklist epoch, the Bush Administration and its alternates perpetuate fright by overstating menaces, by propagating hyperboles or outright falsities about the nature of the menaces to the United States, and by demonising the ‘enemy’ to let for no nicety in the argument of how the authorities is carry oning its personal businesss. This scheme is barely without case in point — it was used to brilliant consequence by none other than Adolf Hitler, harmonizing to none other than the American Office of Strategic Services during World War II:
[ Hitler’s ] primary regulations were: ne’er let the populace to chill off ; ne’er admit a mistake or incorrect ; ne’er concede that there may be some good in your enemy ; ne’er leave room for options ; ne’er accept incrimination ; concentrate on one enemy at a clip and fault him for everything that goes incorrect ; people will believe a large prevarication Oklahoman than a small one ; and if you repeat it often adequate people will sooner or subsequently believe it. ( Langer, 1943, p. 52 )
To the extent that artists within the Hollywood community recognize and knock any component of this caustic and unsettling paradigm, which has been recycled for usage in the ‘war on panic, ’ the conservative machine moves into onslaught manner and dismissed them as disloyal, or worse, treasonists. Their right to self-expression under the First Amendment is even dismissed, as they are compiled into a list:
Martin Sheen, Mike Farrell, Sheryl Crow, Janeane Garofalo and the Dixie Chicks. There ‘s Richard Gere and Sean Penn, Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover. George Looney – I mean, Clooney… It’s clip to hush these people… Real Communists may be few and far between in Hollywood today. But there ‘s a new strain of anti-Americanism deserving of penalty. ( Farah, 2003 )
True, the Bush Administration has yet to subpoena histrions, authors, and managers to attest before Congressional commissions, or direct them to imprison for their allegedly insurgent activities. But their propaganda run is much more insidious than the extraordinary eyeglassess of the 1940s and 1950s. In add-on to the onslaughts on the alleged broad media and the broad prejudice of Hollywood, the insidiousness of the propaganda finds its manner into more elusive topographic points, like – for illustration – the ordinances regulating where an American soldier is out to have on his uniform, for illustration, “…at any meeting or presentation that is a map of, or sponsored by an organisation, association, motion, group … that the Attorney General of the United States has designated as totalitarian, fascist, communist, or subversive…” ( Department of Defense, 2004 ) This should sound spookily familiar.
So while the Hollywood Blacklist may look like an historical wonder today, there are profound lessons to be learned from it. The artful tactics employed by politically expedient rabble-rousers of the 1940s and 1950s have been honed, perfected, and employed in a more elusive manner by the Bush Administration. And while straight-out censoring and loss of callings may non yet have happened, watchfulness is desperately needed, lest history repetition itself.
CNN.com, “Bush Says It Is Time for Action, ” November 6, 2001. Available from:
hypertext transfer protocol: //archives.cnn.com/2001/US/11/06/ret.bush.coalition/index.html
Farah, Joseph. “Bring Back Hollywood Blacklist, ”Between the LinesColumn, WorldNet Daily, September 4, 2003.
“Prescribing Procedures for the Administration of An Employees Loyalty Program in the Executive Branch of the Government, “Code of Federal Regulations, Title 3 — The President 1943-1948 Compilationor 3 CFR, 1943-1948 Comp.
Insurgent Activities Control Act of 1950 ( 50 U.S.C. Chap. 23 Sub. IV Sec. 841 ) .
Joint Statement of the Association of Motion Picture Producers, November 25, 1947.
Triplett, William. “Busting Heads and Blaming Reds, ”SalonMagazine, January 11, 2000.
Johnson, Ben. “Hollywood Hate Group Assaults Bush, ”FrontPageMagazine.com, July 12, 2004, available from:
hypertext transfer protocol: //www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp? ID=14174
Langer, Walter.A Psychological Profile of Adolph Hitler: His Life and Legend. United States Office of Strategic Services, 1943. Available from:
hypertext transfer protocol: //www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/documents/osstitle.htm
United States Department of Defense, DIRECTIVE NUMBER 1334.1, May 17, 2004.
Rosenfeld, Stephen. “Hollywood Blacklist 50 Old ages Subsequently: “ Looking Back on the Blacklisted, ”Washington Post, November 28, 1997, p. A27.