Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Anti-communism of fools

Mondoweiss blog supports McCarthyism

Jack Ross has posted a bizarre column at the blog Mondoweiss in which he argues in favor of McCarthyism, the Hollywood blacklist and the imprisonment of the Hollywood Ten. His reasons are a bit confused. He writes that

the Hollywood 10 got exactly what they had coming: the Communists made Hollywood into the most ruthless war propaganda machine in history. A lot of readers will give me grief for that, I know, but consider how militantly Zionist those Popular Front Hollywood Jews were. Among the more memorable examples was Yip Harburg, who wrote "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", and later wrote a song for the Stalinoid presidential campaign of Henry Wallace about "fixing things in Palestine and Greece", that is, kicking the Arabs out of Palestine and standing in the way of the Marshall Plan.

Is the "most ruthless war propaganda machine in history" to which he refers the one which opposed fascism, or communism, or the one which favored the creation of Israel? He doesn't say. Whatever it was, Ross thinks it worse than Hitler's or Stalin's propaganda machines.

Ross's historical hysteria is just getting started. He goes on the condemn Kirk Douglas (a "shameless Zionist") for his hiring Dalton Trumbo ("the arch-Stalinist") to write the script for "Spartacus", thereby breaking the McCarthy era blacklist. Ross is a bit confused about who Trumbo was, writing that

"the same Dalton Trumbo ... around that same time directed the execrable Exodus."

The fact is that Trumbo coauthored the script for Exodus with Leon Uris. Otto Preminger directed it. With respect to the artistic merits of that film, they're debatable, but a critic's thumbs down shouldn't bar an artist from working. Neither should the political opinions of ideologues, be they of the left or of the right.

In the case of Jack Ross, the line between left and right seems a bit hazy when they come out against freedom of speech and political beliefs, and in favor of anti-communist witch hunts. Mondoweiss and Joseph McCarthy are strange bedfellows indeed.

What brought about this odd coupling? Ross' historical revisionist rationalization occurs in a throwaway line in the middle of the post:

"(O)ne can reduce the entire longevity of the myth of progressive Israel to the bizarre and insular world of the Hollywood Popular Front."

Ross's extreme views are rooted in a belief that a Zionism committed to social justice was an invention of Jewish communist propagandists in Hollywood, Ross apparently being completely unaware of Zionism's connection to radical ideas of social justice, and of the role it played in saving Jews from czarist and fascist oppression. (To further confuse his already misguided views, Ross has illustrated his column with a photograph of Dalton Trumbo and made him the centerpiece of it. Does Ross mistakenly believe Trumbo to have been Jewish?)

In case you have any doubt about just what Ross is saying, he makes clear in his last paragraph that he not only supports the blacklisting and imprisonment of those accused of supporting communism, he also idolizes figures from the primordial far-right who assisted in the witchhunt, such as John Birch Society member and friendly witness for HUAC Morrie Ryskind. Ross protests without any intentional irony that Ryskind, who testified about the purported subversiveness of his Hollywood associates, was thereafter "banished for his staunch anti-Communism". Apparently, Ross likes some blacklists better than others.

Jack Ross supports the silencing and even the imprisonment of Hollywood's Jewish leftists because some of them saw Zionism as a national liberation movement. As much as I oppose Ross's opinions, I support his right to express them. It seems that Ross, in his anti-Zionist zeal, does not believe very strongly in values such as freedom of speech and political association, or in the marketplace of ideas, or even in ideas themselves. He is happy to side with those who throw the innocent behind bars so long as it silences those who differ with him about Israel.

(Read the Mondoweiss post here: On blacklists)

File:Trumbo and Cleo 1947 HUAC hearings.jpg
Dalton Trumbo with Wife Cleo at House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, 1947

Trumbo being removed from the HUAC witness table.
Dalton Trumbo
Trumbo in prison

(Speaking of strange bedfellows, Jack Ross might be interested to know that Commentary magazine agrees with him about Trumbo. You know, if both of them hate Trumbo so much, Trumbo must have been doing something right.)

UPDATE 9/15/2009 4:20 pm

The editor of Mondoweiss, Philip Weiss, has issued a statement distancing himself from Ross's column, but not for the reason you might expect. While acknowledging that his readers found that Ross's support for McCarthyism made them say "yech" (in their words), Weiss was more interested in the fact that one of the Hollywood 10, Alvah Bessie, was actually anti-Zionist. In fact, Weiss' post is called "Hey! Heroic Hollywood 10 included anti-Zionist" (read here).

Here's a news flash for both Weiss and Ross: the Hollywood 10 were not imprisoned for being Zionists. Zionism per se had nothing to do with McCarthyism. Your problem is that you view every event through the lens of anti-Zionism, hardly a recipe for historically accuracy.

Weiss, as the blog's editor, owes it to his readers to drop the special pleading against Israel and explain why he publishes such slanderous drivel.

Afterthought: What does it say about our time that a purportedly leftist blog like Mondoweiss feels comfortable publishing right wing conspiracy drivel of the sort broadcast by Glenn Beck?


Anonymous said...

How do you feel about blacklists of Holocaust Deniers,Adam? As you say, it all depends on who is doing it.

Adam Holland said...

While I appreciate your commenting, I must say that what you wrote was very foolish. It seems to come from that school of thought on the neo-Nazi right which cites any opposition to their ideology as oppresion. Even you must admit that that is a grossly hypocritical tactic coming from those to whom advocacy oppression is their reason for being. This double standard convinces no one but those who already believe.

You compare opposition to Holocaust denial to the Hollywood blacklist. In the case of the Hollywood blacklist, hundreds of innocent people associated with the U.S. entertainment industry were unfairly and absurdly accused of subverting the government in the interests of a communist conspiracy. Those people were prevented from working, forced to testify before congressional investigators, and followed by government agents. Many were hounded from their careers and homes. Most of these individuals were not party members at the time of the witch hunts, many of them never had been. As is readily apparent, no such blacklist of Holocaust deniers exists or could exist.

Moreover, you compare people who currently deny the well-established historical truth of the Holocaust, with people who at some time in their lives supported some progressive cause later categorized by the government as "communist fronts". Those two acts are in no way comprable for reasons which are readily apparent.

Lastly, universities and publishers must be free to have standards with respect to the professional ethics of their historians. If a historian uses his position to promote demonstrable falsehoods as true, motivated by hate or extreme bias, then that person has violated the most basic ethical requirements of his position. Universities should not be forced to promote such ideas, and their students should not be taught them. A university which teaches Holocaust denial violates a sacred trust with its students.

As an afterthought: I can name tenured university professors in fields other than history who promote neo-Nazi ideology outside of their professional setting. One wrote a lauditory biography of the founder of largest neo-Nazi party in the U.S., and has written other racist material. He continues to work in an unrelated field in a state university. Some blacklist.


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