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Unless you've been living in a cave, you have surely heard some of the Sturm and Drang that attended the awarding of Elia Kazan with an honorary Oscar for career achievement.  The hysteria that this produced was a result of his decision to testify truthfully before the House Un-American Activities Committee four decades ago.  One would think that folks could be a little less passionate about the events of a half century ago, but, largely because the period is so poorly understood and the subject of so much disinformation, the wounds from the Blacklist period are still open and fresh and like stigmata, mystically appear on even those who were not born then--Ed Harris, Nick Nolte, Steven Spielberg, etc.

What was it that Elia Kazan, and others, did that is so abhorrent to Left-Wing Hollywood?  Simply put, he willingly testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, about the practices and membership of the Communist Party of America (CPUSA), which he had left by then.  "Naming names" was his great sin.  You see, many members of CPUSA were pleading the 5th Amendment rather than admit that they were Communists and rather than testify about fellow members.  It was their action that the Left elevated to the moral high ground.  It became somehow virtuous to remain a part of the criminal conspiracy to overthrow our Constitutional Democracy and to protect your traitorous cohorts.  On the other hand, those, like Kazan, who sought to expose the conspiracy, were labeled as finks, rats, snitches & traitors.

You have to admire the beauty of what was accomplished here.  We would not see it's like again until the demonization of Linda Tripp and Ken Starr.  Only criminal conspiracies require the ethos that informing is evil.  There's no other segment of society where it's considered evil to tell the truth about wrongdoing.  But American's have a soft spot in their hearts for outlaws anyway, witness Butch & Sundance and the Godfather movies.  So if you cloak your illicit enterprise in some noble trappings you can get most folks to buy into the anti-informing dogma.  Since most of the Intelligentsia was anti-anti-communist, there was fertile ground for them to plant the idea that Communists & Fellow Travelers were well intentioned liberals, their opponents were close minded Neanderthals and anyone who would inform on the good Left to the evil Right, was a traitor.

Indulge me now in a brief thought experiment.  Let's just change one thing about our whole scenario & see how much different we think reactions would be now.  Let's say that there was a sizable percentage of folks in Hollywood in the 30's who were committed Nazis.  They truly believed in their socialist principles and acted out of the best intentions.  They sought to sneak party dogma into their films, raised money for the party, tithed part of their salaries, participated in marches and petition drives & what not.  Then suddenly, the Hitler/Stalin pact is announced, and many of them realize that they've been duped.   The ideology they were so devoted too, turns out to be capable of compromising with their sworn enemies.  But others are unfazed.  They stay in the party and remain devoted.  They turn on a dime and go from advocating isolation to demanding American entry into the war.  Then word starts to slip out that millions of people are being murdered by the State for their beliefs.  Murder on a scale previously unimaginable for mankind.  Many more leave the Party, their consciences finally singed.  But others stay on, still devoted to the Cause and the downfall of the U.S..  Finally, after W.W.II ends, the government begins to realize that this enormous conspiracy has been going on in it's midst.  Slowly and none too sure-footedly, the investigations begin.  An intrepid few risk the ire of their friends, coworkers and the bulk of the Intellectual class and when they are called to testify, they admit to their own participation in the conspiracy and warn that others remain involved.    They are vilified within their own milieu and when the scare dies down and those they sought to expose are accepted back into the industry, their own careers are destroyed.  But forty years later, one of their number is to be honored by the Academy.

Now here's where our thought experiment pays off.  Our Elia Kazan doppleganger exposed a Nazi plot to subvert the US government.  Those he informed on stayed in the Party despite the Holocaust & continued to support the Nazi regime.  They refused to cooperate with government investigations and covered up for friends and for the Party.

Can we still see hip Hollywood walking out of the ceremony or sitting on their hands?  No, we can't imagine that can we?  Suddenly, we imagine a heroes welcome for this brave soul.  Hell, they'd be fighting for the movie rights to his story.

And yet, at the Academy Awards we saw Hollywood's smart set side with the Gulag and the Show Trials and the Destruction of the Kulaks and the Iron Curtain as they spurned one little man who followed the dictates of conscience and tried to warn his beloved adopted country about the serpent at its bosom.  Even an industry with as much to be ashamed of as the Movie business, must have felt a special twinge of self loathing in the dark recesses of its miserable heart after this display.

Oh yeah, the book.  Well, it isn't terribly well written, sorta repeats itself in some places, and in its earnest desire to expose Communist hypocrisy, it ends up seeming a little over the top in some places, too polemical.  But it does present an overwhelming picture of how extensive and malicious the Communist infiltration of Hollywood was in the 30's and 40's.  That alone makes it worthwhile.


Grade: (C)


See also:

Book-related and General Links:
    -ESSAY : Crime of ìCrimesî : History Channel bloopers. (Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley, , September 2001, National Review)
    -ESSAY: Hollywood's Missing Movies : Why American films have ignored life under communism. (Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley, Reason)
    -ESSAY: After the Fall    (Charles Paul Freund, Reason)
    -What Hollywood May want You to Forget (review from APB)
    -Cold War International History Project
    -Cold War Policies (1945-1991)
    -The Literature and Culture of America in the 1950's
    -Venona Intercepts (from the NSA)
    -Busting heads and blaming Reds:  How movie producers used the blacklist to crack down on Hollywood unions.(William Triplett, Salon)
    -ESSAY : An Essay on Historical Writing on Domestic Communism  and Anti-Communism (John Earl Haynes)
    -ESSAY : Communism's atrocities detailed in 'Black Book'  (Robert Stacy McCain, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
    -ESSAY : When Did They Know?  The Truth About Stalinism (Ronald Radosh, | September 26, 2000)