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The McCarthey Era and Popular Culture:

In case you needed further evidence that the McCarthy era of popular culture bears little resemblance to the actual McCarthy era, I give you the following cartoonish view of the era, which, perhaps not surprisingly, comes from a recent comic book. Reed Richards of The Fantastic Four is telling Peter Parker the Amazing Spiderman about how failing to cooperate with HUAC ruined his Uncle Ted's career:

Uncle Ted was a writer. He found everyone interesting. He'd talk to strangers, wear the wrong colored socks, ate at strange little restaurants. My uncle Ted was eccentric. He was funny and colorful, and I loved him. But he was also stubborn, and didn't care for rules, and if you pushed him, he'd push back just as hard. Unfortunately, this is when Joe McCarthy and the House un-American activities committee was in full bloom looking for communists among the military, the government, and ... the arts. If you stood out, if you didn't conform, you had a better than even chance of being called before the committee. At my uncle Ted was all those things. So he was subpoenaed to appear before he lack and explain himself. To testify. To tell them he wasn't a communist, and to name the names of those who thought might be communists. [Uncle Ted told the committee to go to hell, was jailed for six months for contempt, and his life was ruined.]

Whatever one thinks about the McCarthy era, and some of my views (at least on the relevant First Amendment issues) can be found in this paper, you didn't get hauled before HUAC because you talked to strangers, wore the wrong colored socks, or ate at strange restaurants. And the idea that random nonconformists had a "better than even chance" of being called before HUAC is just laughable.

I understand this is "just a comic book," but serious Hollywood movies such Guilty By Supsicion and The Front also go astray in conveying the history of the era. Not to mention the grandaddy of all distortions, The Crucible, in which Arthur Miller manages to analogize witches (which didn't really exist) to American Communists who were loyal to the Soviet Union (who really did).

Alex Blackwell (mail):
I understand this is "just a comic book," but serious Hollywood movies such Guilty By Supsicion and The Front also go astray in conveying the history of the era. Not to mention the grandaddy of all distortions, The Crucible, in which Arthur Miller manages to analogize witches (which didn't really exist) to American Communists who were loyal to the Soviet Union (who really did).

I would add another "McCarthy movie" to the list: Good Night, and Good Luck. As Jack Shafer pointed out at Slate, the movie, which was critically well-received and nominated for several Academy Awards, was more Hollywood than history.
10.23.2007 8:54pm
grackle (mail):
Well, it's never too soon to rewrite the McCarthy era as the warm and fuzzy defense of liberty it so clearly was. No decency indeed, who was that masked man?
10.23.2007 8:58pm
Joe Marier:
HUAC was mostly about aliens from outer space, actually.

I know: I watched X-Files.
10.23.2007 9:10pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
"If you want to get rid of communists in government jobs; get rid of the government jobs." -- Frank Chodorov
10.23.2007 9:21pm
Dick King:
My father told me that the McCarthy Era affected peoples' behavior, perhaps irrationally but palpably [like people now let fear of radiation or mercury in vaccenes or part-per-trillion contaminants rule their lives].

Individuals had little chance of being hauled before the committee [how many people could they actually process, actually -- there was only one HUAC] but the remote possibility affected peoples' lives.

Now if the kind of person who correctly points out that the existence of something like that casts a shadow over what should be a free country far in excess of their ability to do direct harm would admit that bizairre lawsuit judgements or harassment suits / PC codes can have a similar effect, we would have common ground.

-dk
10.23.2007 9:26pm
Eric Muller (www):
David, the paper to which you cite is a review that you wrote of somebody else's book. The reviewed book is not itself a history of HUAC or any other loyalty-questioning government entity, but is instead largely the interpretive work of a First Amendment theorist. And your review reflects no archival research on the actual investigations of HUAC or of any other loyalty-questioning entity; you build your essay entirely around secondary sources. Neither does your paper (or this post) reflect that you've taken the oral histories of anyone investigated by HUAC or any other loyalty-questioning entity, or of anyone affected by such an investigation.

So how, then, is it possible for you to assert with such confidence that certain movies, plays, or comic books depict the work and effects of investigations by HUAC and other loyalty inquests so grossly inaccurately? How do you know that neither state nor federal governments investigated people whose perceived flamboyance or eccentricities or homosexuality or (most to the point) personal associations some government investigator found troublesome? My UNC law emeritus colleague Dan Pollitt, who worked with Joe Rauh defending people before HUAC and in other venues in the 1950s, tells chilling stories from his own personal experience of groundless investigations (and threatened investigations) and refusals to issue passports to people on account of their rumored associations with political undesirables, their lifestyles, their criticisms of U.S. policy, and so on.

We tussled a bit about this book review of yours a while ago when you posted about it here at the Conspiracy, and about the confidence with which you seem prepared to assert a revised and correct understanding of the McCarthy era without doing the countless hours of archival digging that would be necessary to make such an assertion.

It is one thing to note that recently revealed Soviet data confirm the existence of Soviet agents in the United States during the period we call the McCarthy era. It is quite another to bounce from that to a claim that you're in a position to revise and correct the history of the entire era.

One other thought: it has been years since I've read or seen "that granddaddy of all distortions The Crucible," but wasn't Miller's point to compare the methods and attitudes of a society identifying lots and lots of people as witches (of which there were none) with the methods and attitudes of a society identifying lots and lots of people as communists (of which there were a few)?
10.23.2007 9:28pm
Eric Muller (www):
One other thing, David: you continue to write about HUAC as though it were the primary locus of people's fear during the McCarthy Era. It was not, for the ordinary person. Many state governments had their own HUAC-type entities. Loyalty boards proliferated throughout state and federal government. Loyalty inquests and oaths touched the lives of many, many more Americans than ever got "hauled before" HUAC.

Any claim of expertise at "conveying the history of the era" would have to take all of that into account.
10.23.2007 9:33pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Comic books certainly should not be dismissed. While they are not "high art," they are, I would argue, on the same artistic and maturity level as prime time TV shows, or rock music. As typical of "pop" culture, most are mediocre. But, there are still more than a few well done, well written, well drawn works.

That said, it's a shame when they get overly politicized. Political themes are fine. And it's understandable if some writers slant left and some slant right. As a medium, overall, they should appeal to an intellectually diverse crowd (because after all that's what their target readership will be; they are not all lefties).

Kurt Busiek -- one of my favorite comic writers -- often interjects political themes into his work and did a good job presenting fair and balanced political views. Certain characters "fit" better with different political views. It would be nice to match those characters -- for instance, Green Arrow is a die hard leftist socialist, Iron Man is a pro-security, pro-business Republican, the Question is an Objectivist libertarian -- with writers who will fairly represent those views. Frank Miller and Alan Moore, both hard leftists (though Miller's politics seem to be changing rightward), did some highly politically charged stories. And whether they intended to or not, they made some conservative-libertarian characters coming out looking the good guys (although they slammed other conservative characters as well). In the 80s, both Miller and Moore sympathized with the Anarchist Right, while slamming the establishment Right. Miller, because of his hatred of Islamfascism, seems to have gone through the same change Christopher Hitchens has.
10.23.2007 9:44pm
byomtov (mail):
What Eric Muller said. McCarthyism was hardly restricted to McCarthy and HUAC. "Anti-Communist" hysteria was widespread and destructive. Maybe it's true that,

the idea that random nonconformists had a "better than even chance" of being called before HUAC is just laughable.

but that doesn't mean that random nonconformists didn't run into other problems as a result of McCarthyism.
10.23.2007 9:52pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
wasn't Miller's point to compare the methods and attitudes of a society identifying lots and lots of people as witches (of which there were none) with the methods and attitudes of a society identifying lots and lots of people as communists (of which there were a few)?

Thank you Eric. The fact that witches didn't exist is just about irrelevant to the quality of the analogy. Further, it is called literature David, and even if the analogy is not perfect, there is thing in literature called literary license. By taking such license, Miller was able to make a very good point about then contemporary America, and I would venture to guess that Miller knew a lot more than you about that era.
10.23.2007 9:52pm
MatthewM (mail):
Mr. Muller, you attack David Bernstein for his failure to extensively recount the history of the McCarthy era (in a short blogpost), but then support your points with anecdotal information taken from conversations with a colleague. I think David's meta-point is that the McCarthy era has been blown out of proportion -- for political reasons -- into a nightmare era where people who wore "wrong colored socks" and ate at "strange restaurants" were hauled before HUAC to testify. Obviously, there were millions of eccentrics in America during McCarthy's time, and few (if any) were forced to testify for that reason. It is the absurd overstatements about the McCarthy era that David is taking exception to, and your defense of those exaggerations is, to my mind, telling.
10.23.2007 9:53pm
OrinKerr:
I think it's clear that the line, "[i]f you stood out, if you didn't conform, you had a better than even chance of being called before the committee" wasn't meant literally. A lot of people stand out in the United States, and Congress doesn't have time for all of them (or even slightly more than half of them).
10.23.2007 9:57pm
Eric Muller (www):
MatthewM, do you really think the only support that exists for the proposition that the "McCarthy Era's" massive loyalty bureaucracy -- state and federal, executive and legislative -- affected many innocent outspoken or eccentric or "suspicious-seeming" people are the reminiscences of my colleague Dan Pollitt?

I cited his testimony to me because Pollitt is my own personal example of what David Bernstein is ignoring: primary source material, of which (in both the archival and oral history formats) there is a great deal.

Moreover, in this post and in the review essay to which he cites, David Bernstein is not simply correcting a few absurd overstatements. He is setting himself up as an expert who can accurately tell people when others are "going astray in conveying the history of the era."
10.23.2007 10:03pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
McCarthy was largely correct. There was a rational concern that communists were infiltrating positions of power in and out of government. Despite McCarth's and others efforts there are still afar too many communists in both the CIA and the State Department. Probbably the department of Justice as well.

Orin defends comic book PC inanity, but laughs at Yoda's optimimism and belief in the power of positive thinking. Now that was funny.

says Says the "Dog"
10.23.2007 10:19pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Once took a deposition of one of McCarthy's witnesses, a guy who started out as a member of CPUSA, testified against them, testified in a criminal trial (ended up as a Supreme Court case, I forget which one), recanted, and got charged with perjury, and wrote a book about it.

Off the record, he regaled the attorneys with war stories. McCarthy was a serious lush. Yeah, he (the witness) had made up the story about the commies infiltrating the boy scouts, but not the part about using girls and sex to lure in potential members -- that worked just great!
10.23.2007 10:35pm
OrinKerr:
Orin defends comic book PC inanity, but laughs at Yoda's optimimism and belief in the power of positive thinking. Now that was funny.

I'm afraid you lost me there, JYLD.
10.23.2007 10:49pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
First, what Matthew M said. Second, I give four specific examples, one play, two movies, and one comic. As for the play, yes, I think Miller was asserting that real disloyal Communists were as, or at least almost as, ephemeral, as witches. That was not an unusual position at the time, see, e.g., the defenders of Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs (and I think Navasky still maintains that Hiss was innocent!). As for the comics and movies, given that I read something like 30 books plus more articles on the McCarthy era, I think I can venture an opinion as to whether they represent reality well or not without going to the archives. As for whether HUAC was the main problem, ask the authors of those movies and comic, 'cause that is their focus. As I wrote in my review, "Contrary to the impression left by movies such as The Front, even [historian Ellen] Schrecker [who falls very far on the extreme of the anti-McCarthy and associated investigations side] acknowledges that "most of the men and women who lost their jobs or were otherwise victimized were not apolitical folks who had somehow gotten on the wrong mailing lists or signed the wrong petitions.... Whether or not they should have been victimized, they certainly were not misidentified."

If someone wants to defend those four artistic works on what they actually say, go ahead. But if your point is simply that there were real abuses, and these works just grossly exaggerate or distort those abuses in an ahistorical, but artistically compelling way, I'm not disagreeing with you.

Dick King, one reason many people were so worried that the government was out to get them was that the actual Communists who were investigated consistently maintained that they were really just liberals who were being singled out for their progressive views. Those inclined to believe them who were real non-Communist progressives thought they were thus in danger, too. Put that blame on the Communists, not the investigators.

Put it this way Eric: how would you feel about a book or movie that depicted U.S. government forces lining up Japanese Americans during WWII and shooting them by the thousands? Would I need to read the archives to condemn this as ahistorical?
10.23.2007 10:58pm
anonlawprof (mail):
I'd trust Prof. Bernstein's scholarly abilities a lot more if he hadn't just misread a comic book. The leader of the Fantastic Four is, of course, Reed Richards, not "Richard Reed."
10.23.2007 11:08pm
Seth Eagelfeld (mail) (www):
I don't think your statement on 'The Crucible' is fair. The analogy has very little to do with the investigation's targets, anymore then Animal Farm is a statement on species. The point is the inquisitors, their corruption and their cynicism (even in their own ideology). Unless you're saying that there was enough Communist Infiltration to warrant the hysteria (and if you're talking about Venona, the answer is no), and that the men carrying out the search were doing so because they had a genuine fact-based suspicion about such an infiltration, then why even bother with a distinction between Witches and Communists? Analogy, as I understand it, is only really effective when it takes extremes (absolutes), but that doesn't make it a "grandaddy of distortion".
10.23.2007 11:15pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
"Unless you're saying that there was enough Communist
Infiltration to warrant the hysteria"

Hysteria, no. Investigations of reasonable scope and conducted reasonably, yes.


"and that the men carrying out the search were doing so because they had a genuine fact-based suspicion about such an infiltration,"

Depends who you mean. Many officials did have such suspicion, based on Venona, plus we had the known examples of Hiss and the Rosenbergs.
10.23.2007 11:43pm
taney71:
Anyone have a good book that I could read on HUAC? Perhaps several on the period itself? I'm 30 so I didn't live through the era.
10.23.2007 11:56pm
lech tizdayen:
I wonder how Dave would feel if "Investigations of reasonable scope and conducted reasonably" be done on the "Israeli Lobby"?
10.24.2007 12:38am
Eric Muller (www):
David, there is no evidence whatsoever, anywhere, that the government lined up Japanese Americans and shot them. Nobody has ever maintained that. So no, you wouldn't need to consult the archives to know that a claim to that effect was false.

But there is considerable evidence that many innocent people were harassed in baseless investigations at various levels of government during the McCarthy era on the thinnest of grounds, including especially guilt-by-association. Plenty of people are still alive, in fact, who could tell you all about this from their own personal experience. So if you want to contradict that story, then yes, you're going to need some damned good primary source evidence, rather than your own interpretation of what you've read in a bunch of secondary sources.

Now, you might choose to trim your sails a bit and say, "but surely the specific claim that '[i]f you stood out, if you didn't conform, you had a better than even chance of being called before the committee' is hyperbolic and historically false." There, of course, I'd agree with you, though I think Orin is quite right that the statement can't be taken literally.

But in your book review and in this post you're up to something much bigger than that narrow trimmed-sails thing; you're advancing broad revisionist claims about the true merits of the loyalty inquests of the McCarthy period. That's an important project -- but I just don't think you've done the spadework that a historian would need to do in order to unsettle a current understanding, especially one that so many living people continue to testify to.
10.24.2007 12:54am
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Negative media and pop culture references to the McCarthy era are intended to reinforce one important point: that the bad guys (the anti-communists) won. A real understanding of the time is not desired because that would require confronting the inconvenient truth that there really was a worldwide communist conspiracy--and Hollywood was up to its armpits in it. Best to just keep the focus on the persecution of harmless non-conformists.
10.24.2007 1:50am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Eric,

The point of this blog post was not to overturn a settled HISTORICAL understanding of anything, but to question the settled popular culture understanding. Can you find me any documentation that people were just routinely being picked up for questioning by HUAC because they were eccentrics, which is the EXACT implication of Reed's speech, even if you choose not to take the "better than even" literally. If you can provide me a single example of someone who was asked to testify before HUAC because they exhibited the sort of harmless and apolitical eccentricities of Reed Richard's uncle, I will concede that the analogy to the Japanese I gave is not apt. If you can't, I'll stand by the analogy, that it's a distortion of history, exaggerating bad actions for political or other purposes.

And again, my post only dealt with HUAC, but you continue to conflate HUAC and state and local loyalty boards. The only discussion I have in my book review about sub-federal investigations is that I DISAGREE with Redish that it was generally appropriate to fire Communist social studies and other teachers. The four popular culture sources I mentioned in the blog post, meanwhile, all specifically deal with HUAC. Please explain why you are criticizing me for not agreeing with you (or for not having done archival research) on something I haven't addressed. If your point is that the real problem was not HUAC and McCarthy, but state loyalty boards, that's an intriguing perspective, but certainly is not reflected in the relative volume of either (and especially) popular culture products or historical scholarship.

More generally, do you agree or disagree with the following two propositions, which I think are the relevant revisionist points: (a) the McCarthy era investigations were not "witchhunts" in the sense that unlike Salem witches there were actual Communists out there who were loyal to Stalin and not to the U.S., and some of them were engageed in espionage against the U.S., others would have if given the chance, and that in the 1940s some of these individuals posed a significant threat to American security?; and (b) whatever abuses and overreactions occurred in federal investigations of suspected Communists in the 1950s, they didn't approach the level that, e.g., the Spiderman comic author attributes to them? If not, what is your basis for disagreeing?

And btw, FWIW, I ran my book review past a few of the leading scholars of American Communism (Klehr, Radosh, etc), and they gave it a nice kosher stamp.

BTW, I agree that many innocents were harmed by federal investigations, e.g., in the process of investigating someone for Communist ties, someone was found to be a homosexual and forced out of his position. But the idea that "guilt by association" is inherently a baseless way to go about an investigation strikes me as going way too far. If you are looking for Communist spies in the gov't, wouldn't the first people to check be those who were associated to one degree or another with the Communist Party, including its front groups?
10.24.2007 1:52am
Latinist:
I only vaguely remember this, but I'm pretty sure I read an introduction to The Crucible by Miller where he responded to the criticism you make. He makes the useful point that of course there WERE real people who considered themselves witches, and further claims that they "did real harm" to some other people -- I'm not sure what he meant by that, maybe that they used poisons or other mundane means, or just that their "spells" had some psychological effect on others.

Anyway, it does seem worthwhile to point out that the claim "there were no witches" isn't entirely true.
10.24.2007 2:18am
Latinist:
Alex Blackwell:
the movie, which was critically well-received and nominated for several Academy Awards, was more Hollywood than history.

Well, I certainly hope so! They're not supposed to give Oscars for history.
10.24.2007 2:20am
JPaulG (mail):
One things for certain, I'd have rather been charged with being a Communist by the HUAC than by being charged with being a kulak in the Ukraine in the 1930s.
10.24.2007 2:20am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Latinist, real people in Salem, MA who considered themselves witches in the late 17th century? Huh? And I can't imagine what "real harm" any such individuals, if they existed, did to anyone, unless they really had supernatural powers.
10.24.2007 2:26am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Orin,

Don't try to understand its not worth the effort. It was kind of a lame reach back to a prior exchange. Silly and not important.

It just struck me as funny that anyone, but especially a serious person like yourself, would attempt to explain the over the top generalization of a non-existant comic book character.

No bigge,

Says the "Dog"
10.24.2007 2:37am
Grover Gardner (mail):
David, I read all of your posts and rarely comment, but with all due respect--you seem like an excellent teacher and an eminently approachable person--this one is somewhat typical, and I'm frankly puzzled. You raise an issue of marginal validity, then spend a great deal of time and energy cavilling and splitting hairs over the responses.

I apologize in advance for the following comparison, but I'm reminded of a recent Michael Medved column in which he argues against slavery reparations payments by stating certain "facts" about slavery in a misguided attempt to make it appear less unsavory than it was. The point is, slavery was and is an abomination, and it deserves to remain so in the popular imagination, regardless of whether people have the "facts" right or not. The Holocaust was an abomination--quibbling about numbers or "facts" doesn't make it any less so. And while one would not wish to cheapen either of the above tragedies by comparing them to Joe McCarthy, the point remains the same. McCarthy was a brutal opportunist who lied about people he didn't know and destroyed lives and reputations for personal and political gain. It doesn't matter if it was ten or a hundred or a thousand. His name has become synonymous with reckless defamation of the undeserving, and became so for very real and regrettable reasons.

I'm not quite old enough to remember the McCarthy era, but I am old enough to be astonished than anyone would so much as lift a hair to defend Joe McCarthy. The fact that there were Communist spies in this country in no way excuses the tactics he employed and the terrible influence he exercised over this country for a brief period in the early 1950's.

As for "The Crucible," the play is not about the fact that there were no Communists or spies in America. It's a lesson in reckless persecution and mob hysteria, and how we unleash or encourage such forces at our own peril.
10.24.2007 3:01am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"One things for certain, I'd have rather been charged with being a Communist by the HUAC than by being charged with being a kulak in the Ukraine in the 1930s."

What a senseless, inane comment. Is this supposed to mean that, no matter how bad we are, we're still better than Stalin? That's a rather low bar to set, don't you think?
10.24.2007 3:03am
JPaulG (mail):
GG,

Actually it is a pretty fair comment because a lot of the defenders of the CPUSA seem to think that communism wasn't all that bad in and of tiself. The HUAC was fighting, albeit clumsily and ineffectually, an enemy that engaged in far worse behaviour. The CPUSA had a blacklist of people that they wouldn't employ in movies long before the hollywood establishment did the same to its members.

The other point I was making was that what the HUAC got up to was not as onerous in terms of government persecution of its own citizens as some of its critics would like to paint it.
10.24.2007 3:55am
Grover Gardner (mail):
Pardon my poor grammar above: "the fact that there were no Communists..." Of course there were, but that is not Miller's point.

I understand what you're saying, David--that witches aren't real but spies and traitors are. But it's the "imagined" threats that are the most dangerous of all. That is Miller's point.
10.24.2007 3:58am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"McCarthy was largely correct. There was a rational concern that communists were infiltrating positions of power in and out of government."

McCarthy was most certainly not correct. He was a coward and a bully who lied about himself and other people. "Rational concern" and "McCarthy" have nothing whatsoever to do with each other.
10.24.2007 4:04am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Actually it is a pretty fair comment because a lot of the defenders of the CPUSA seem to think that communism wasn't all that bad in and of tiself."

I don't know who you're talking about, or whether you're referring to "communism" or "Communism."

"The other point I was making was that what the HUAC got up to was not as onerous in terms of government persecution of its own citizens as some of its critics would like to paint it."

I think that very much depends on who you were and why you were there.
10.24.2007 4:22am
Murmur:
Actually it is a pretty fair comment because a lot of the defenders of the CPUSA seem to think that communism wasn't all that bad in and of tiself. The HUAC was fighting, albeit clumsily and ineffectually, an enemy that engaged in far worse behaviour.

Your line of reasoning--the enemy's actions are by definition bad, therefore whatever we do short of them is okay--justifies torture, extraordinary rendition, black site prisons, warrantless wiretapping. I'd certainly call that "bad in and of itself."
10.24.2007 4:29am
Roger Schlafly (www):
[Eric] But there is considerable evidence that many innocent people were harassed in baseless investigations at various levels of government during the McCarthy era on the thinnest of grounds, including especially guilt-by-association.
Eric, can you give some of that evidence, either here on on your own blog? I've never been able to find an example of an innocent person who was significantly injured by McCarthy or the HUAC.

I realize that there are people like Grover who wish to condemn McCarthyism, regardless of the facts. I'd like to see some actual facts.
10.24.2007 4:35am
John McCall (mail):
I've never been able to find an example of an innocent person who was significantly injured by McCarthy or the HUAC.

You, uh, must not have looked very hard.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Hands
10.24.2007 5:04am
Murmur:
Okay, Roger, what did Dalton Trumbo do? 11 months in the pen for refusing to name names to HUAC sure seems like "significant injury," but YMMV.
10.24.2007 5:06am
Justin Levine:
Grover Gardner -

McCarthy was most certainly not correct. He was a coward and a bully who lied about himself and other people. "Rational concern" and "McCarthy" have nothing whatsoever to do with each other.

Of course he was correct about Communist infiltration in America. AND he also happened to be a coward and a bully who lied about himself and other people. In other words, he is just like many typical politicians that you have found throughout the ages (including today) - those that are technically correct about an underlying political issue, but still manage to demagogue it to death (i.e., illegal immigration, children's health care, the war on terror, etc.).

Are you telling me that the Congressional leadership of both parties are somehow NOT bullies who lie about the other side?? McCarthy's worst sin was that he just happened to be the first major political demagogue of the electronic mass media era. As a result, his demogoguery stuck in some minds more than most other similar figures, and they didn't know how to respond to it at the time since televised hearings were such a new phenomenon.

But that is not to say that McCarthy was "wrong" on the underlying issue. I think David Bernstein's thoughts are spot on here.
10.24.2007 5:43am
longwalker (mail):
Grover Gardner - I am at a disadvantage. I lived through the "McCarthy Era." You did not. Therefore, my first hand experience must bow to your superior knowledge.

Also, I cannot match your assertions. Since the 1950's, I have requested factual confirmation about McCarthy's "lies" about people without receiving any hard evidence to back up the charges.
10.24.2007 7:48am
Eric Muller (www):
David, my basis for disagreeing with you is the one I opened with: here and in your book review, you are making broad claims about "the actual McCarthy era" and writing from the position of someone who can accurately discern when others are "going astray in conveying the history of the era."

Yet when you get down to specifics, you write only about HUAC, which was just one piece of the sprawling loyalty bureaucracy of the late 40s and the 50s, and you rely only on secondary sources, rather than tapping into the vast amount of primary source material that is available from living sources as well as from Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

My disagreement with you is chiefly a disagreement about the methods of doing careful legal history.
10.24.2007 8:49am
Eric Muller (www):
If you want a bit more of a sense of what I'm talking about when I talk about the methods of doing legal history, and the need to consult primary sources -- indeed, many primary sources, rather than just, say, the records of the FBI -- take a look at this Michael Belknap review of a leading book by Radosh and Klehr.
10.24.2007 8:55am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It appears, according to Ron Radosh, that Pete Seeger just cottoned to the fact that Stalin was a bad guy. Now, Seeger's getting old and some of the fire might be going out.
Yes, there were many, still are, who don't think communism is all that bad, and who supported Stalin until many years afterward when, tentatively, it became acceptable to say the Great Man may have gone a little overboard.

As to communist teachers somebody mentioned:
Is a communist teacher in a public school there to teach, and do the commie thing on his own time? Or would he be there intending to indoctrinate the students? In other words, is commieness a hobby, or is he an active agent?
My guess is liberals would insist on the former, whether there was evidence to the contrary or not. And the other question is whether the party would allow a member to be a member merely to pass the time, and not use his position to advance the party's work.

As many have said, McCarthy's primary sin was to discredit anti-communism.
10.24.2007 9:08am
Murmur:
It appears, according to Ron Radosh, that Pete Seeger just cottoned to the fact that Stalin was a bad guy.

Wrong: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/01/arts/music/01seeg.html
10.24.2007 9:35am
Eric Muller (www):
Take a look at this article from the NY Times, Aug. 31, 1947.

Look at HUAC's methods.

It's not that there were no Communists in the Civil Rights Congress. There were.

It's that HUAC, in a public report, was willing to smear dozens of innocent and prominent people (without actually "hauling them" to testify) by raising the inference that they were Communists and therefore dangerous to national security.

Consider just one name on the list in the NYTimes article: James H. Wolfe, a highly regarded Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court. What did the government actually have on him? In a 1943 FBI memorandum, it was alleged that "it has been reported that he is a member of the Board of Directors of the League for Industrial Democracy. It has also been alleged that Chief Justice Wolfe has been sympathetic with and possibly one of the leaders behind the local Communist party. Mrs. Wolfe, wife of the Chief Justice, is a local officer of the Russian War Relief Incorporated in Salt Lake City, Utah."

Wolfe lived under the pall of HUAC's innuendo-based accusation from 1947 until 1953, when he was cleared by a special investigative committee of the Utah House of Representatives.

These were the methods that Arthur Miller was writing about.
10.24.2007 9:39am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Eric, I think to say the least you have unrealistic expectations for a book review and a blog post. I don't think it's reasonable to expect a book review author, much less the author of a blog post, to both go way beyond the specific subject matter he is responding to, and to archival research as well! I wrote about topics that I know enough about to be competent, and didn't write about state loyalty boards, which weren't the subject of the book or the artistics works I comment on.

As for the comment "McCarthy was a brutal opportunist who lied about people he didn't know and destroyed lives and reputations for personal and political gain. It doesn't matter if it was ten or a hundred or a thousand."

That's a ridiculous statement. Of course it matters. We wouldn't talk about the Holocaust nearly as much if the victims were reduced by a factor of 100, nor should we. Then there's the little matter of historical accuracy. And, finally, the "Red Scare" and investigations of Communists both predated and postdated McCarthy, and was in fact started by the Truman Admnistration, after a series of embarassing lapses. McCarthy is a convenient uber-villain, and he had his time in the spotlight, but it's ahistorical to focus only on him.
10.24.2007 9:56am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Oh, and Eric, I'm still waiting for you to explain whether you disagree with the following statements, and if so, why:

(a) the McCarthy era investigations were not "witchhunts" in the sense that unlike Salem witches there were actual Communists out there who were loyal to Stalin and not to the U.S., and some of them were engageed in espionage against the U.S., others would have if given the chance, and that in the 1940s some of these individuals posed a significant threat to American security. and

(b) whatever abuses and overreactions occurred in federal investigations of suspected Communists in the 1950s, they didn't approach the level that, e.g., the Spiderman comic author attributes to them.

I'm also waiting for an example "of someone who was asked to testify before HUAC because they exhibited the sort of harmless and apolitical eccentricities of Reed Richard's uncle."

And for your explanation of why someone looking for Communist spies wouldn't naturally start with people with Communist connections.

Your latest post says that your disagreement is purely about legal history methods, but you also made normative comments about "guilt by association," the inaptness of my analogy to exaggerations of what happened to the Japanese, and implied that archival records may show that "Uncle Ted" was a legitimate archetype.
10.24.2007 10:01am
Zathras (mail):
The hunt for Communists in the 50s is one of those cases where both sides are right and both sides are wrong. The Venona files show that the American Communists were active in espionage, and the American Communist Party had an active part in this. However, this does not excuse the bullying done by HUAC and the atmosphere it created. If anything, MacCarthy probably torpedoed a lot of legitimate investigations by his bungling. He was more interested in the political capital, as can be seen by his attempts to focus on Communists in Hollywood, who had no connection with espionage. His inept efforts allowed Communist sympathizers to be perceived as martyrs, a perception which persists to this day.
10.24.2007 10:24am
concerning Salem (mail):
This isn't the main point of the thread, but the Salem witch trials have been mentioned, mainly because of the Crucible reference. It was suggested that a comparison between the witch trials and HUAC isn't apt because there were no real witches, compared to the real existence of Communists in the US during the McCarthy era.

Prof. Bernstein said, "Latinist, real people in Salem, MA who considered themselves witches in the late 17th century? Huh? And I can't imagine what "real harm" any such individuals, if they existed, did to anyone, unless they really had supernatural powers."

I can't recall the name or author, but there was a scholarly book, a historical analysis, published a few years ago about Salem and the witch trials. I never read it, but I read several reviews of it (most of which were complimentary).

In a nutshell, yes, there were real, genuine witches in Salem. That is, there were people who believed in witchcraft, and who endeavored to practice it. And there were numerous first-hand accounts of very strange phenomena occuring, that led to the hysteria that followed. You don't have to believe in the supernatural to have sympathy with the normal citizens of Salem, who were steeped in a religious culture, and who then saw strange and bizarre things happening around them which were associated with dark spiritual forces. I'm not justifying the overreaction, but it wasn't just hysteria without any foundation. There were "real" witches (whatever that means) who believed in and practiced witchcraft in Salem, and who were considered responsible for the strange happenings which were observed by numerous townspeople.
10.24.2007 11:03am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"We wouldn't talk about the Holocaust nearly as much if the victims were reduced by a factor of 100, nor should we."

Which is the pity, because the crime would have been no less.

"McCarthy is a convenient uber-villain, and he had his time in the spotlight, but it's ahistorical to focus only on him."

I disagree. McCarthy is a very appropriate villain--an example of how we do not wish to be defined as Americans--and I think it's partly because McCarthyism still inhabits the public imagination that we have maintained a reasonable degree of sanity in the current climate of fear and uncertainty over Islamic-inspired terrorism.
10.24.2007 11:05am
Wallace:
I think David's point about the amount of misinformation and distortion surrounding anti-communist movements was made when people use McCarthy and the HUAC interchangeably.

Joe McCarthy was a Senator. The House UnAmerican Activities Committee was a House of Representatives committee that pre-dated Tailgunner Joe's career, and existed long after he was washed up. Both were anti-communist, both were in the legislature, but otherwise there's no connection.
10.24.2007 11:12am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Murmur. Correct. I guess getting it right eventually is okay. Point is, anybody with an ounce of integrity would have spoken out IN REAL TIME. Not forty years later.
Seeger was a party hack from the get-go. Lousy voice, too.
You should read Radosh's accounts of Seeger's albums coming and going according to messages from Moscow.

Anyway, the fact is that a good many were and are far more sanguine about what happened to the kulaks than they are about what happened to the hollywood ten or whomever. The latter were eggs that didn't need to be broken.
10.24.2007 11:22am
question for John McCall (mail):
John McCall, you named the China Hands as an example of people victimized by McCarthyism. But aren't they also an example of some truth behind the hysteria? What is your understanding of them? For example, wasn't Owen Lattimore actually working with the Soviets, or is that accurate?
10.24.2007 11:23am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Anyway, the fact is that a good many were and are far more sanguine about what happened to the kulaks than they are about what happened to the hollywood ten or whomever."

Like who, for instance?
10.24.2007 11:38am
celebrim:
There are to things I think everyone ought to agree to.

1) McCarthy was an arrogant bungler driven more by personal ambition than anything else.

2) The Communist threat was very real.

I don't think there is anyone on the Right that would attack #1. If there is, I assure you that the rest of us will scoff them mercilessly.

The problem is that there remains to this day a bunch of people on the left that will attack #2.

My position is that in a war of spies and assassins, its undoubtable that ordinary innocent people risk getting squashed. The people most culpable for this harm are those that pretend to be ordinary people, who disguise themselves as ordinary people, who protest thier innocence and loyalty, but who in fact are spies, sabateurs, and traitors.

No one in Hollywood seems willing to blame the Hess's for what they were put through. Nor do they seem willing to blame the fact that they were actually harboring communists in thier midsts. It's easy to put all the blame on McCarthy because he was a scumbag. But Hollywood wants to not only let all thier own scumbags off the hook, but to pretend that they didn't exist or were merely harmless eccentrics.

That I think is David's point.
10.24.2007 11:41am
DustyR (mail) (www):
Well, maybe we should wait a bit to let this minor story line play out before concluding it isn't representative.

If J. Jonah Jameson doesn't pick up this scoop in the next Spidey issue and publish it touting Reed's absolute moral authority for some cock-eyed reason, and then subsequent issues of FF and Spidey don't include the arrival of a new team of superheroes -- The Pajama Men* -- to fact-check and post cynically mocking exposes of Richards' exaggerations and real family history, then I will agree with you.

* - Trade Mark, Copyright and Patent Pending
10.24.2007 11:44am
Ken Arromdee:
The Holocaust was an abomination--quibbling about numbers or "facts" doesn't make it any less so.

If someone started saying that the Germans ground up dead Jews to put in the metal used to make Volkswagens, I wouldn't expect that inaccuracy to go unnoticed simply because the Holocaust was bad anyway.
10.24.2007 11:46am
Zathras (mail):
celebrim:
There are to things I think everyone ought to agree to.

1) McCarthy was an arrogant bungler driven more by personal ambition than anything else.

2) The Communist threat was very real.

I don't think there is anyone on the Right that would attack #1. If there is, I assure you that the rest of us will scoff them mercilessly.


If this were true, Treason by Ann Coulter would not have sold so well.
10.24.2007 11:48am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"If someone started saying that the Germans ground up dead Jews to put in the metal used to make Volkswagens, I wouldn't expect that inaccuracy to go unnoticed simply because the Holocaust was bad anyway."

Neither would it be an excuse to rehabilitate the Nazis.
10.24.2007 11:53am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"But Hollywood wants to not only let all thier own scumbags off the hook, but to pretend that they didn't exist or were merely harmless eccentrics."

Who are these scumbags you refer to?
10.24.2007 12:01pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Grover. Dumb question. Really dumb. Start with most people in the democratic party from about the mid thirties up until Khruschev made it okay to speak differently. Add liberals. Journalists. Professors.
"duranty" should be a verb. Or an adjective. Like "fisk".
10.24.2007 12:17pm
Mongoose388:
Why does everyone always associate McCarthy and HUAC.
HUAC started in 1934, originally to look into Nazi influences. McCarthy was a senator in charge of the Senate Committee on Government Operations. The Committee on Government Operations included the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The famous television hearings were actually part of the Army-McCarthy hearings were not part of HUAC and occurred in 1952.
10.24.2007 12:21pm
Eli Rabett (www):
The ahistorical and propagandistic nature of this nonsense is affirmed by the usual mixing of McCarthy and the HUAC. McCarthy was a senator folks, and HUAC was a House committee, among whose chairs was Howard Smith, after whom the Smith Act was named which passed in the 40s. You could look it up. HUAC went about its ways from the late 30s and survived McCarthy's crack up.

Eric Muller is quite correct that there were all sorts of loyalty oaths imposed at all levels of government. People were constantly hassled about these and some prosecuted if a minor official got a jones for them. He is also correct that David Bernstein is trying to get a revisionist wedge in here.

Now as to 2) The communist threat was very real WHICH COMMUNIST THREAT PRAY TELL? 1) is quite specific. How about perfecting 2). Until you do it remains in the when did you stop beating your wife category.
10.24.2007 12:25pm
visitor (mail):
Professor Muller, did the CRC just have "communists in it" or was it controlled by the CPUSA? If the latter, I don't see why HUAC shouldn't publish the names of its sponsors, with the caveat, noted by the Times, that some of them might be unwitting dupes?

Did you notice that Robeson lied about his affinity for Communism in that same article?

Finally, would you be as agitated if an organization dominated by Nazis in 1940 had been subjected to the same treatement?
10.24.2007 12:30pm
visitor (mail):
I should say if they had been, because they were. Prof. Muller, are you as agitated by how HUAC and the Justice Dep't. treated pro-Nazi Americans circa 1940?
10.24.2007 12:33pm
markm (mail):
HUAC looked for real evidence and eliminated a number of real Communists from key positions in the federal government. McCarthy went in front of the press and waved "secret" lists of (varying daily) numbers of communists in government, but failed to follow up with evidence for at least 99% of those claims. HUAC may have painted with too broad a brush sometimes, but not like that. I may be mistaken, but my impression is that McCarthy was a cynical opportunist who tried to gain commie-hunter public credit after HUAC had done the real work - and ultimately was publicly humiliated for attacking good Army men without cause.

So, the biggest problem is that somehow the communists got to name the era, and of course they named it after the least creditable character possible. It's like calling fundamentalist Christianity "Jonesism" (after the reverend in Guyana), long-haired hippy Californians "Mansonites", or mild socialists "Stalinists". That the "McCarthyism" label stuck might be the best proof there is of the corruption of the American mass media by the left.
10.24.2007 12:44pm
geesh (mail):
It's just a comic book, people.
10.24.2007 12:49pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Okay, Roger, what did Dalton Trumbo do?
Trumbo was a Communist and a criminal. He took propaganda orders from Moscow and he refused a lawful subpoena. He was not innocent. He was lucky that he did not serve time for treason.

The China Hands were US govt officials who supported Mao and other Communists. For that, they were criticized.

Where's the harm?

No one has posted anything bad that McCarthy did. If he were really so bad, it would not be hard to cite some evidence.
10.24.2007 12:59pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Start with most people in the democratic party from about the mid thirties up until Khruschev made it okay to speak differently. Add liberals. Journalists. Professors."

That's a very long list indeed, Richard--virtually half the population of the United States, it seems, and all of them in Hollywood, slaving away for Uncle Joe. But you're right, it was a dumb question, if only because the response was so predictable.
10.24.2007 1:01pm
Dan Hamilton:
Today there is the question - Should a Muslem who attends a Wahabi Radical Mosque get a Top Secret Security Clearance??

Should he/she be cleaning the Army code room in the Pentagon?

Same question in the 50's - Should a member of the CPUSA be cleaning the Army code room in the Pentagon?

Does anyone NOT see the connection!!!

Moslems (CAIR) are already screaming McCarthyism.

Where are the lines drawn? What risk is not worth taking?

And don't bring up BS about Christians. When was the FIRST time a Christian strapped on a bomb and blew up some children?

These are real questions that have to be answered. If they are not, if PC is maintained and we start having things go BOOM then the backlash will not be fun. Reasonable actions for understandable reasons are FAR FAR better then Frighted people reacting after an attack. The PS BS stops reasonable actions for understandable reasons. They are going to get a LOT of people killed and make thing far worse.

Remember the CPUSA was being used by the USSR. Spies were being planted. And McCarthy DIDN'T WIN the Communists did. You don't believe it? Look at how the Media treated the USSR and Stalin from the 60's until AFTER THE USSR fell.

Remember as bad as the Commies were they didn't think blowing up random childre was a good idea.
10.24.2007 1:03pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"No one has posted anything bad that McCarthy did. If he were really so bad, it would not be hard to cite some evidence."

Jesus, Mary...and Joseph. Here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_McCarthy

If you want to dispute the factualness of that article, be my guest.

"Finally, would you be as agitated if an organization dominated by Nazis in 1940 had been subjected to the same treatement?"

Joe McCarthy had no problem with that.
10.24.2007 1:08pm
Eric Muller (www):
Is "Dan Hamilton" a joke?
10.24.2007 1:39pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
The Wikipedia article on Joe McCarthy lists 15 people in the US govt who were correctly identified as communists by McCarthy. The Senate censure of McCarthy actually acquitted him of all the substantive charges.
10.24.2007 1:59pm
Dan Hamilton:
No, I am not.

What do you find so strange or out of place?

You don't see the connections?

You don't believe that the PC crowd will not bring up McCarthy when any actions are talked about against radical moslems?
10.24.2007 2:05pm
Bruce:
Eric, I'm with you on the merits here, but not on admissibility. In other words, I don't think one can only qualify as having a competent opinion on the McCarthy era by doing primary source research, even if one is attempting to refute the conventional (scholarly) wisdom. Just a few well-researched (or even one!) secondary sources, plus some plausible theory for why those sources are better, are all someone not writing a formal piece on the subject needs to do. So I think the pertinent question here is whether the books David relies on are themselves reliable and relevant. Just judging from their titles, they look rather tendentious.
10.24.2007 2:06pm
visitor (mail):
Professor Muller is acting, thus far, like the fellow travelers of the 50s: attack the anti-Communists for "going too far and smearing innocents," never acknowledge that there were any real Communists with espionage intentions to worry about, and never criticize the Communists, because opposing anti-Communism is more important than criticizing Communism.
10.24.2007 2:20pm
Mark Field (mail):

Professor Muller is acting, thus far, like the fellow travelers of the 50s: attack the anti-Communists for "going too far and smearing innocents," never acknowledge that there were any real Communists with espionage intentions to worry about, and never criticize the Communists, because opposing anti-Communism is more important than criticizing Communism.


Nothing like reading a post like this in a thread about Joe McCarthy to hammer home the point that irony truly is dead.
10.24.2007 2:36pm
visitor (mail):
There is nothing McCarhtyistic about it. Why doesn't Prof. Muller directly answer any of the questions put to him, instead of changing the subject? He's not obligated to answer them, but if he's criticizing someone else, and that someone else challenges him to actually disagree in print with his perspective, he should either do so, or withdraw his original criticism.
10.24.2007 2:49pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Mr. Schlafly, after the 15 names (out of God knows how many!) of persons McCarthy "correctly" identified as Communists in that Wikipedia article comes the following paragraph:

Below are listed the names that various authors have alleged were "correctly identified by McCarthy." As the footnotes show, in almost all cases this assessment is questionable or demonstrably incorrect.
I'm not an expert at reading Wikipedia history diffs. It is possible this was not in the entry when you last read it. But there are footnotes there attempting to rebut most of the accusations.

Of course, McCarthy accused a lot more than 15 people. Even conceding that several he named were Communists (including even one or two who were incorrectly exonerated at the time) scarcely excuses his recklessness.

Perhaps one reason liberals were not in a great rush to join McCarthy in condemning Communism is that they were spending so much of their time defending themselves from his accusations.

You know, McCarthyite anti-communism (incidentally, the word McCarthyism originated with McCarthy acolyte Bill Buckley, not the communists) was a greater immediate danger to American freedom than Soviet militarism or even Soviet espionage. The CPUSA was not going to win the election and the USSR wasn't going to invade via Alaska.
10.24.2007 2:51pm
Roundhead (mail) (www):
Let us all agree that Joseph McCarthy was an absolute disgrace -- he not only adopted the tactics of smear and character assassination from his leftist opponents, he did this with such demagoguery that he discredited the epithet "communist" even before his death in 1957.

McCarthy could probably not tell between a Communist and a columnist; nevertheless, his Stalinist tactics eventually gave the moral high road to those who had once fellow-travelled or actively supported Stalin and his henchmen throughout the world.

For decades, the epithet of choice directed against one's opponent has not been "Communist", but "fascist", used to smear and assassinate any democratic conservative (even democratic liberal!) that does not do the left's bidding. This same left now quibbles about the use of the term "fascist" in reference to a millenarian, mass-murdering, mass-movement which actually has its roots in Nazi fascism -- the Islamic fascists.

Fancy that.
10.24.2007 2:51pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
The hunt for Communists in the 50s is one of those cases where both sides are right and both sides are wrong. The Venona files show that the American Communists were active in espionage, and the American Communist Party had an active part in this. However, this does not excuse the bullying done by HUAC and the atmosphere it created. If anything, MacCarthy probably torpedoed a lot of legitimate investigations by his bungling. He was more interested in the political capital, as can be seen by his attempts to focus on Communists in Hollywood, who had no connection with espionage. His inept efforts allowed Communist sympathizers to be perceived as martyrs, a perception which persists to this day.


I agree with everything Zathras wrote in the preceding paragraph.

I would just like to point out that in a later issue of the Civil War series (Fantastic Four #542), Reed admits that he made up the story he told to Peter and revealed his real motivation for supporting the Superhuman Registration Act. Reed had apparently invented a working version of Asimov's psychohistory and predicted that unless Superhumans were controlled through registration and mandatory training, it would lead to a catastrophe that would kill billions (as opposed to the 600 or so who died in Stamford which lead to the Act).
10.24.2007 3:13pm
Terry Karney (mail) (www):
One of the interesting things of the period was the insistence on loyalty oaths. Calif. passed on in 1953, which required that any non-profit organisation had to swear an oath that they weren't didn't have any interest in the violent overthrow of the US.

So that the Religious Society of Friends was suddenly a subversive organisation, and lost it's tax-exempt status, which smacked it with a property tax bill in excess of it's annual revenues, because it was religiously opposed (and had been for 300 years) to taking any oath.

Eason Monoroe was fired from his position at San Francisco State University for the same reason.

And to what purpose? An oath under duress cannot be valid. Those who would actually be prone to the things they are to swear, will forswear; if someone was devoted to the "violent overthrow" of something, why would they refuse the oath?

The Levering Oath was still in effect in Calif. until the early '70s, which was how long it took for Monroe to be allowed to return to SFSU.

So the "trickle-down" effect of the HUAC was certainly something which affected lots of people, both at the gross level (e.g. Monroe) and the petty level (e.g. all those who chose not to speak out, lest they be accused of/suffer for being, "disloyal").
10.24.2007 3:32pm
Terry Karney (mail) (www):
I find it amusing you accuse Eric Muller of conflating one thing (HUAC paralleling behavior, from local to national bodies) and condemn him for it, but you specifically say that you are conflating items, and charge him with meaning what you interpret (which gets into literary theory, and is beyond the; general, scope of this conversation).

As for the play, yes, I think Miller was asserting that real disloyal Communists were as, or at least almost as, ephemeral, as witches.

So you are upset that Muller juxtaposes what you said, with how it reads, yet you reserve the right to take how you read his statements, and then explicate them.

Not the best piece of evidence for the quality of your other interpretations.

Richard AubreyAs to communist teachers somebody mentioned:
Is a communist teacher in a public school there to teach, and do the commie thing on his own time? Or would he be there intending to indoctrinate the students? In other words, is commieness a hobby, or is he an active agent?
My guess is liberals would insist on the former, whether there was evidence to the contrary or not. And the other question is whether the party would allow a member to be a member merely to pass the time, and not use his position to advance the party's work.


That is a recipe, if it were to be enacted as policy, for a level of "political correctness" on a national scale (in the intent the phrase was originally used; i.e. the thoughts one expresses are correct, per the political doctrine of the state/party). Who, under that regime, gets to set the policies/ideas/facts/relationships, are correct to teach. Is Zinn's "People's History of the United States" too socialist/progressive/communist to be read by high school students? What about Animal Farm, or the, aforementioned, Crucible?

Elizabeth I said she wouldn't make a window into men's souls; it still seems a pretty good idea. In the marketplace of ideas, there ought not be a class of them which can't be discussed. If they really are that bad, they will lose, so long as the skills of critical thinking have been taught.

And those Democrats you allude to... the one's like Truman (Korea), and Kennedy (or do you think that The Thaw, under Khrushchev made it possible for him to attack Fidel, and kept him from withdrawing from Indochina)? The Dems who were hawkish against the "commies". Those Dems?

Oddly enough, I (who studied Russian at DLI, and Russia both before and after) think that the struggle of the Cold War was overblown (there was no bomber gap, there was no missile gap). It was serious, but the odds of the Soviets overthrowing the US was nil. It would have been (as it still is) foolish for a nation which had the means to spy on the US to refrain.
10.24.2007 4:10pm
John McCall (mail):
Owen Lattimore probably was working for the Soviets, yes; even if he wasn't, his apologism for everything Soviet was disgraceful. John Service, John Carter, John Davies, and Edmund Clubb have been to various degrees vindicated: they were simply claiming that the KMT was corrupt, bloodthirsty, and unlikely to win to Civil War, and, well, they were right on all three counts. Misguided U.S. support for the KMT certainly alienated the Chinese communists; whether we would have been able to curb Mao's rampages of the '50s if we'd still had diplomatic capital with the Chinese — well, that's a hard question. But I think it's the consensus view among historians that the McCarthy era gutted the State Department's expertise in East Asia, which eventually brought on both of our later wars in the region.
10.24.2007 4:14pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
This has been debated to death, but if I may, a couple of points:

1. I vehemently disagree with Professor Bernstein that the Holocaust wouldn't have been nearly as bad if the numbers were smaller. That, to me, concedes one of the key arguments of the deniers and revisionists, which is that the 6 million number may be inaccurate and that therefore there's too much talk about the Holocaust. In fact, the Holocaust would have been just as bad in many ways if it were 1 million. Indeed, it would have been just as bad in certain ways if it simply consisted of the Germans gassing Jews at Auschwitz (i.e., if the other concentration camps, Kristalnacht, etc., never happened).

What makes the Holocaust different from any other event that caused millions of people to die is the intentions behind it and the methods used to carry it out. That, and not the 6 million figure (which really is an estimate and might well be off in one direction or the other), is the important point.

2. I don't think one can view HUAC or McCarthy in isolation. The fact is, even if there was a legitimate need to investigate whether Communists were doing the USSR's bidding in the US government, it nonetheless TURNED into a hysteria where communists, suspected communists, and people who had nothing to do with communism, all of whom were NOT doing the USSR's bidding, were not only fired from the federal government, but were fired from state and local governments and private businesses, and in some cases imprisoned.

To put this in terms that conservatives here might relate to-- it is as if the government reacted to a series of school shootings by hauling in gun owners before committees at all levels of government, successfully getting gun owners fired and in some cases imprisoned, etc. The fact that the school shootings might be a perfectly good subject of a limited governmental investigation doesn't provide any justification for what actually happened.

3. I don't think that Professor Bernstein can historically separate HUAC and the other anti-communist hysteria, either. A little Eugene Volokh slippery slope analysis might be useful here-- HUAC set a tone. It whipped up public sentiment about the threat of communist infriltration. Certainly few in the federal government tried to stop any of the state, local, and private investigations or make the point that they should be limited to finding people who are actually assisting the USSR or anything else. Indeed, HUAC itself overreached, as did McCarthy.
10.24.2007 4:19pm
David Drake:

Andrew J. Lazarus statement:

You know, McCarthyite anti-communism (incidentally, the word McCarthyism originated with McCarthy acolyte Bill Buckley, not the communists) was a greater immediate danger to American freedom than Soviet militarism or even Soviet espionage. The CPUSA was not going to win the election and the USSR wasn't going to invade via Alaska.


is evidence that at least some those on the left do not think that the Communists were a real threat.

BTW I read the Wikipedia article cited. Mr. Lazarus did not read it very carefully, as the article states that Herbert Block, political cartoonist for the Washington Post, coined the phrase "McCarthyism."
10.24.2007 4:22pm
Eric Muller (www):
visitor, I've been doing things like teaching classes and driving children all over creation today. I will respond to the pending questions when I have time to write something that will make sense.
10.24.2007 4:30pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Terry Karney.

The question of whether a communist agent should be allowed to indoctrinate students who are in his classroom as a matter of state mandate seems more serious to me than it does to you. I wonder if the same insouciance would be appropriate wrt, say, creationism.

The USSR wasn't going to overthrow the US. Now we know. The problem was, from my point of view, how much it would cost if they tried and failed.

You don't need a gap in anything to cause a couple of dozen million dead. Win or lose.

And the motivation to try would come from an incorrect picture of how easy it would be. The authors of "A War to Be Won" explain that Hitler's logistics guys told him he'd lose on the Eastern Front (I simplify their point) but he went ahead anyway. Never, ever diss the logistics guys.

Thus, it is prudent to be so strong as to overcome the most powerful and ill-advised wishful thinking. If I found we'd won the Cold War with $1.98 to spare, I'd probably start losing sleep all over again. I'd rather find we wasted trillions.
10.24.2007 4:31pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Dilan, can you give me an example of someone who was not doing the Soviets' bidding was imprisoned?
10.24.2007 4:32pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Andrew, many of those Wikipedia footnotes support what McCarthy said. Yes, there are some Wikipedia editors who hate McCarthy. I expect that. I am just looking for facts.

Why is it that no one can give me a name of some innocent person who was recklessly accused by McCarthy?

No, we don't all agree that Joseph McCarthy was an absolute disgrace. If he were really so bad, then there would be some specific factual allegations against him.
10.24.2007 4:34pm
ChrisLeeroy (mail):
Grover Gardener's orginal arguments (from his first posts) stand out to me.

It seemed to me that he was saying: So what if Hollywood and other media sources exagerate somewhat the despicableness of McCarthy and associated organizations. If the overall effect is to villify McCarthy's methods and make us a lot less reluctact to use them, that is a whole lot better than trying to minimize the influence he had by pointing out everything he (and others) didn't do.

DB's argument is pretty simple: Hollywood and the media consistanty exagerate the influence and civil rights violations occassioned by the actions of McCarthy and HUAC.

In light of the argument Gardener makes, why do these exagerations even register on DB's radar? Read my next post and I will explain.
10.24.2007 5:01pm
ChrisLeeroy (mail):
Let me explain why they probably register on his radar. DB probably thinks that Hollywood and the media focus way too much on what we as Americans have done wrong and not enough of the good things we have done. I agree with him. I'm sick and tired of virtually every movie being about the big bad evil government. From Good Night and Good Luck, to V for Vendetta, to Bourne Supremacy, its the same old tired theme again and again. If all this were simply annoying, I wouldn't care so much. However, I've interacted with too many people (both Americans and foriegners), who soak this stuff up, start hating their own country (and by association, a lot of their own countrymen) and buy into ridiculous conspiracy theories to believe that these Hollywood and media exagerations have no negative impact. Questioning authority is good. Hating half your countrymen and embracing cynicism are bad. Heros, especially heros from your own heritage instill in a person a sense of, "I am good and can do good things because I come from these good people". Despising your country and countryment simply instills in a person a sense of, "This world sucks and is full of stupid people," which does not provide alot of motivation to change things. People need to be educated to know what needs to change, but people like me are tired of hearing the same old, "Look what horrible thing your governement did" played over and over again, espeically when they are willing to lie and exagerate for dramatic effect or out of ignorance.
10.24.2007 5:02pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan, can you give me an example of someone who was not doing the Soviets' bidding was imprisoned?

Sure. How about the Hollywood Ten? They were privately-employed screenwriters (well 9 of them were; the other one was a director). Not KGB agents. Not Communists in the State Department. SCREENWRITERS.

And they were convicted of contempt of Congress and thrown in jail.

There is no justification for that unless one believes that it is within the powers of the federal government to control the content of privately-financed motion pictures.
10.24.2007 5:08pm
John McCall (mail):
Why is it that no one can give me a name of some innocent person who was recklessly accused by McCarthy?

Because you systematically discard all evidence in favor of any name we propose. But hey, I'm a masochist: please, tell me why John Davies was a communist agent.
10.24.2007 5:08pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
OK, Roger, let's start with John P. Davies and John Stewart Service.

I'll concede that they were not sufficiently enthusiastic for your taste about the prospects of Chiang Kai-Shek. (Of course, some of the Americans who were enthusiastic were on Chiang's secret payroll.)

Communists, though? Any evidence? Anywhere in those VENONA decrypts?

You don't see serious people like Klehr and Radosh embracing McCarthy, only buffoons like Ann Coulter. Whose side are you on?
10.24.2007 5:26pm
PLR:
I've been heeding the advice of Professor Kerr (I think it was his) by staying out of a debate on a topic I am not that familiar with.

I was interested to see this topic, as I have a some affection for arguments that go against the conventional wisdom. Senator McCarthy has a mythic presence in American politics, but how far has myth taken us away from historical reality?

Professor Muller's comments seem right on to me (along with the always reliable Dilan). Taking into account the responses to Muller from Professor Bernstein and others, I think the charge that this is designed as a wedge issue sticks in this case.
10.24.2007 5:27pm
cold warrior:
The anti-commie role was open for McCarthy to fill only because the FDR/Truman people were NOT willing to do the job and clean house internally. Some noble Cold War liberals existed, and helped to steer our foreign policy in good ways. But the soft-on-commie Left, and the openly pro-commie harder left, ran defense for Alger Hiss and other actual spies long before McCarthy got going.

And for those who want to attack my statement, I ask you to answer the following yes/no Qs:

1. Was Alger Hiss a spy or not?

2. Did the mainstream Democrats at the time defend him or kick him to the curb as a traitor?
10.24.2007 5:52pm
visitor (mail):
Dilan, you are changing your criteria. The Hollywood Ten were indeed in the service of the Soviet Union (or "doing the Soviets' bidding," if you will).
10.24.2007 6:03pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I address the Hollywood Ten in my book review. They wound up in jail because they were ordered by the CPUSA to raise a bogus First Amendment argument, and then refuse to testify. Congress asked Frank Sinatra to testify about his ties to the mafia, it had the same right to ask the Hollywood Ten about their ties to another criminal conspiracy. (For that matter, Congress holds hearings all the time about the content of the media, see eg Tipper Gore).
10.24.2007 6:25pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Why is it that no one can give me a name of some innocent person who was recklessly accused by McCarthy?

OK, Roger, let's start with John P. Davies and John Stewart Service.
These were State Dept officials who supported Mao's Communist revolution in China. Service had a roommate who was a Soviet spy. McCarthy accused them of being Communist sympathizers. McCarthy advocated having non-Commies making State Dept policy.

I really don't know much about this case, but what exactly is the accusation? Are you saying that McCarthy was wrong to hold State Dept officials accountable for their policies? Mao was a disaster for China and for American interests. If they promoted Mao, then maybe they should have been fired so that they don't make any more bad State Dept policies. What did McCarthy do wrong?
10.24.2007 6:38pm
MarkField (mail):
Cue Twilight Zone music....
10.24.2007 7:49pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan, you are changing your criteria. The Hollywood Ten were indeed in the service of the Soviet Union (or "doing the Soviets' bidding," if you will).

I address the Hollywood Ten in my book review. They wound up in jail because they were ordered by the CPUSA to raise a bogus First Amendment argument, and then refuse to testify. Congress asked Frank Sinatra to testify about his ties to the mafia, it had the same right to ask the Hollywood Ten about their ties to another criminal conspiracy. (For that matter, Congress holds hearings all the time about the content of the media, see eg Tipper Gore).

Oh, my, do we have some bad arguments here! First, there's a HUGE difference between Communists in the State Department (the ostensible purpose of Joe McCarthy's inquiries) and Communists in the motion picture industry. Essentially, one involves espionage by an asserted enemy of the United States in the highest reaches of policymaking and policy implementation. The other involves THE FILM INDUSTRY! Not being able to see the difference between these two things is a terrible lack of perspective.

Second, I don't see how the Hollywood Ten's First Amendment argument is bogus. It is true that Congress can hold hearings relating to the film industry. But that's a lot different than saying that Congress can ask you about your intimate associations and expressive activities on the grounds tha these might be relevant to a claim by Congress that the motion picture industry is filled with people with an objectionable ideology.

The analogy to Tipper Gore would be if HUAC held a hearing about how the movies were too leftist or not patriotic enough. I wouldn't think that this would be a good use of a Congressional committee's time, but if they want to fulminate about political ideology, I suppose that is their right. But Al Gore and the other members of that committee never asked Frank Zappa and Dee Snider what the political ideologies of their friends and relatives were and what political events they attended.

Finally, let's assume the CPUSA "ordered" the Hollywood Ten to take the stand they did. Exactly how is that relevant? Was the stand not principled? Is standing up for a principled limit as to what Congress can ask you about your political activities and intimate associations when you are hauled before the government under the Klieg lights and pursuant to the awesome power of force that the federal government controls not a perfectly legitimate thing to do, whether or not the Communist Party put them up to it?

This is classic guilt by association-- because the Communists were behind the protests, they were irrevocably tainted and cannot be evaluated on their own merit.

I will say it again-- these people went to jail not because they were doing the USSR's bidding in the federal government, but because a runaway investigation that was ostensibly about rooting out Communist spies in the government turned into a culture war against allegedly leftist Hollywood in which Congressional subpoenas were misused to haul people in and ask them about their political activities.

Again, many of the people in this thread are conservatives. Can't you imagine the same thing being done to the right? What would happen if the Democrats decided to investigate conservative dominance of Fox News and talk radio, and its connections to the Republican Party, and started bringing in Brit Hume and Rush Limbaugh and asking them if they attemded meetings and who else was at the meetings and what they discussed?

The fundamental error here is in conflating an investigation of espionage in the government with an investigation of ideology in the populace. If no line is drawn between the two, the First Amendment freedoms of all of us can be at risk.
10.24.2007 8:04pm
John McCall (mail):
They didn't support Mao; they just recognized that 1) the KMT was massively corrupt and autocratic and 2) the Communists were going to win the Civil War anyway, and they advised reconciliation with the Communists because, well, they were going to be in charge soon enough. After 1949, McCarthy and the rest of the so-called "China Lobby" blamed the State Department for the KMT's defeat, and they went after pretty much anyone who'd ever complained about the KMT. Naturally, when you fire people for providing the "wrong" advice, you tend to get drastically inferior advice, which may have contributed to the two bloody, pointless wars we fought in the region over the next twenty-five years.
10.24.2007 8:24pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Finally, let's assume the CPUSA "ordered" the Hollywood Ten to take the stand they did. Exactly how is that relevant? Was the stand not principled?
No. They were spineless traitors who refused to stand up for their anti-American beliefs.
What would happen if the Democrats decided to investigate conservative dominance of Fox News and talk radio, and its connections to the Republican Party, and started bringing in Brit Hume and Rush Limbaugh and asking them if they attemded meetings and who else was at the meetings and what they discussed?
If they were taking orders from alQaeda or some other enemy of the USA, then I certainly hope that they would be questioned about it.
10.24.2007 8:48pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Rupert Murdoch?
10.24.2007 9:09pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Rupert Murdoch?
10.24.2007 9:09pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Oh, "The USSR's bidding in the federal government." That is, indeed a different standard. You don't seem to realize that the Hollywood Ten were subject to orders from the Communist Party because they were members of the Party and subject to its discipline. The First Amendment argument was "bogus" because their lawyers knew it would lose, and WANTED them to go to jail, so they could serve as martyrs (which naive folks like you still believe), while avoiding having to testify that yes, they are members of the CPUSA, and yes, there is a large coterie of Party members in Hollywood, and yes, they are under orders to put Communist propaganda in the movies to the extent they could get away with it. I agree that it was somewhat pointless to bother investigating these people, and the investigations should have focused on the real security threats. But don't make these Stalinists out to be heroes.

As soon as you tell me you are at least as disturbed by the government's persecution of American Nazi supporters before WWII, who were not, unlike the Communists, acting under orders of a foreign power, and were not engaged in espionage like the CPUSA, then I'll grant you that you are a consistent civil libertarian, and not someone who has been duped by the popular media's portrayal of the Hollywood Ten as heroes.
10.24.2007 10:07pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Oh, "The USSR's bidding in the federal government." That is, indeed a different standard. You don't seem to realize that the Hollywood Ten were subject to orders from the Communist Party because they were members of the Party and subject to its discipline. The First Amendment argument was "bogus" because their lawyers knew it would lose, and WANTED them to go to jail, so they could serve as martyrs (which naive folks like you still believe), while avoiding having to testify that yes, they are members of the CPUSA, and yes, there is a large coterie of Party members in Hollywood, and yes, they are under orders to put Communist propaganda in the movies to the extent they could get away with it. I agree that it was somewhat pointless to bother investigating these people, and the investigations should have focused on the real security threats. But don't make these Stalinists out to be heroes.

The only really telling question was already asked above: are you equally disturbed about the use of HUAC and the Smith Act against supporters of Germany before WWII? Is so, you get points as a consistent civil libertarian. If not, this reflects that your substantive view is that being a Stalinist in the late 1940s was significantly less immoral than being a Nazi in the late 1930s. I should note that Geoff Stone's recent book is a very, very rare example of a critic of the 1950s Red Scare acknowledging and criticizing its antecedents in the government's fight against potential Nazi subversion in before WWII.
10.24.2007 10:12pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
That is, indeed a different standard. You don't seem to realize that the Hollywood Ten were subject to orders from the Communist Party because they were members of the Party and subject to its discipline. The First Amendment argument was "bogus" because their lawyers knew it would lose, and WANTED them to go to jail, so they could serve as martyrs (which naive folks like you still believe), while avoiding having to testify that yes, they are members of the CPUSA, and yes, there is a large coterie of Party members in Hollywood, and yes, they are under orders to put Communist propaganda in the movies to the extent they could get away with it. I agree that it was somewhat pointless to bother investigating these people, and the investigations should have focused on the real security threats. But don't make these Stalinists out to be heroes.

As soon as you tell me you are at least as disturbed by the government's persecution of American Nazi supporters before WWII, who were not, unlike the Communists, acting under orders of a foreign power, and were not engaged in espionage like the CPUSA, then I'll grant you that you are a consistent civil libertarian, and not someone who has been duped by the popular media's portrayal of the Hollywood Ten as heroes.

Professor Bernstein, for some reason, on this issue, you are not responding with your usual academic sobriety. First of all, since you include an ad hominem attack, I will just let you know that my civil liberties credentials are not seriously in question. I worked for the local chapter of the ACLU while in law school and was co-counsel or amicus counsel for them on several cases after becoming a member of the bar, including Keenan v. Superior Court (challenging the constitutionality of California's "Son of Sam" law), Alvarez-Machain v. United States (making various tort claims against US government in connection with extraordinary rendition of criminal suspect who was ultimately acquitted), and People v. Olson (challenging overbroad gag rule against defendant and lawyers in criminal case).

I don't know specifically about the use of HUAC and the Smith Act against Nazi sympathizers. But I did support the ACLU's representation of Nazis in Skokie, Illinois and elsewhere. In any event, whatever the government may or may not have done to Nazi sympathizers really doesn't determine whether the Hollywood Ten should have been asked the questions that they were asked or whether Communists in Hollywood were a threat that merited the expansion of an investigation that was originally concerned with espionage and Soviet agents in the government.

Now, let's get to your substantive points. You are simply repeating yourself when it comes to the whether the Hollywood Ten was under orders from the CPUSA. You really didn't answer my point, which is that really doesn't matter if the stance was justified on its merits.

You say that the lawyers wanted the Hollywood Ten to go to jail and become martyrs. Again, even if we assume this is true, that proves nothing. The principle that you shouldn't be dragged before Congress and asked about meetings of political groups that you attended and who else was at those meetings is a perfectly good one. Indeed, the whole thing about martyrdom is that it only takes hold when the public feels that someone was treated unfairly, and the best way to avoid the condition is to not treat people unfairly. David Koresh, an abominable human being, became a martyr to some people because Janet Reno used vastly excessive force against his compound, leading to the deaths of a lot of children.

If HUAC didn't want the Hollywood Ten to become martyrs, HUAC shouldn't have been hauling Hollywood screenwriters before a Congressional committee in a heavily promoted hearing with extensive media coverage to testify about political affiliations and rat on their friends that allegedly attended the meetings. If there is false martyrdom here, it is entirely the fault of HUAC.

Nonetheless, in the end, what is most curious about your response is that you actually agree with me. Even if these guys were a bunch of Communists pumping propaganda into the movies, this was a dumb thing for Congress to be investigating. Your only point, you indicate, is that these people were not heroes. But you can search my prior posts to where I ever called them heroes. I simply said that they were thrown in jail despite the fact that they weren't government officials doing the bidding of the USSR, which was the ostensible purpose of the investigation that was being conducted (a purpose that I conceded was valid if the investigation had been properly limited).

I get the feeling that you get so infuriated with what other people have said about the Hollywood Ten (i.e., people who do argue explicitly that these people were heroes and moral innocents) that you can't recognize that they were unjustly imprisoned or that there really is a legitimate ground for private citizens refusing to answer questions from Congress about their political affiliations.
10.24.2007 10:40pm
Eric Muller (www):
I'm finally back to the computer.

Now to the two questions that David has asked of me. He wants to know whether I agree that
(a) the McCarthy era investigations were not "witchhunts" in the sense that unlike Salem witches there were actual Communists out there who were loyal to Stalin and not to the U.S., and some of them were engageed in espionage against the U.S., others would have if given the chance, and that in the 1940s some of these individuals posed a significant threat to American security.
The question's a little convoluted, but I think it's asking whether I agree that the "McCarthy Era" witch-hunts for communists differed from the Salem witch hunts in the sense that there were no real and dangerous witches, whereas there were in fact real and dangerous communists.

Yes, I do agree that the two episodes differed in that way. There were, I have to assume, no real witches with supernatural powers, and there were real communists.

I really don't know for sure whether there were people who didn't engage in espionage against the United States but would have done so "if given the chance." Seems like a safe assumption, I guess, but I'm really not certain, and I don't know how anyone could know for sure if in fact these spies-in-waiting didn't actually take the plunge.

David also wants to know whether I agree that

(b) whatever abuses and overreactions occurred in federal investigations of suspected Communists in the 1950s, they didn't approach the level that, e.g., the Spiderman comic author attributes to them.
There was no need for David to wait for my answer to this one, because I'd already answered it: as Orin Kerr said in this thread, I don't think the cartoonist actually intended this to be taken literally, and it is certainly not literally true, in the same way as when I frustratedly say to my wife after a longer-than-normal commute, "the whole goddamn town of Chapel Hill was on MLK Boulevard tonight!", I don't actually mean that the whole goddamn town of Chapel Hill was actually on MLK Boulevard tonight.

In another spot, David says that "the idea that 'guilt by association' is inherently a baseless way to go about an investigation strikes me as going way too far. If you are looking for Communist spies in the gov't, wouldn't the first people to check be those who were associated to one degree or another with the Communist Party, including its front groups?"

Well, yes, I would imagine so. But you'll note that the NY Times article I linked to was not a story about a private HUAC investigation. It was a story about a public HUAC report. It is that difference, and your inability to perceive it (and its real-world consequences for real people), that represents a big chunk of what I think your efforts to redraw "the McCarthy Era" are missing.

Think of it this way. Let's say that you were the faculty adviser to the George Mason Law School Scuba Diving Club. And let's say that one of the members of that club, or two, were suspected of embezzling the law school's funds for a scuba trip to Bermuda. If the dean, investigating the embezzlement, were to wonder whether other members of the Scuba Diving Club were involved, and maybe even its faculty adviser, and if he were to investigate to see if this were true, I'd say he was doing his job. On the other hand, if the dean were to issue a press release to the DC media saying "Law School Scuba Diving Club Are Embezzlers; their Faculty Adviser is David Bernstein," I guess I would want to say to the dean something like, "Have you, sir, at long last, no sense of decency?"

I'm guessing you would too.
10.24.2007 10:54pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
cold warrior, in answer to your questions:

1. Alger Hiss was a spy.

2. Even as far back as WWII, Hiss was being eased out of the loop because he was recognized as a security risk. Whether his friends or even other liberals who weren't privy to this information stood up for him isn't so important.

The Truman Administration did a lot of work towards removing echt covert Communists from government. McCarthy just slandered a lot of people whose opinions he didn't like (e.g., Davies and Service).
10.24.2007 11:07pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Eric, thanks for the response. I assume that you don't know of anyone who was call before HUAC for having apolitical eccentricities like "Uncle Ted."

Dilan, I think we're actually pretty much in agreement, with the exception of the following: First, you seem to think that active, longstanding members of the Communist Party, USA, should be thought to have had the status of any other political activist. I think they were properly seen as potential members of a criminal conspiracy, given that at this time high-level government officials knew (from Venona) that the CPUSA was in fact a criminal conspiracy, actively recruiting spies on behalf of a hostile foreign power. (The fact that the CPUSA was not illegal, as such, is not relevant; the mafia, as such, is not illegal, but that doesn't mean that its members are not engaged in a criminal conspiracy). Not every active longstanding member of the CPUSA was aware of the criminal actions that were going on, but if the government was serious about investigating this criminal conspiracy, they would have to question both people who knew and people who didn't knew. Unfortunately, Congress being Congress, they focused on high-profile grandstanding, as with the Hollywood Ten, instead of focusing on breaking up the CPUSA's espionage ring (though it's not like Congress would likely be very good at that, anyway; as an investigative body, Congress is really only good at grandstanding).

Second, you think the Hollywood Ten were unjustly imprisoned. I think they were lawfully called before Congress to testify about their possible ties to and knowledge of a criminal conspiracy. They refused to testify because they didn't want to admit that they had these ties, and because they wanted to go to jail so they could become First Amendment martyrs. They were nothing unjust legally about their jail time. In a more cosmic sense, they were disgusting Stalinists, and there is nothing cosmically unjust about them doing time; in fact, cosmically, they got off rather easily. If they had to suffer the fate of those caught up in, say, the Doctors' Plot, well, that would be cosmic justice.

BTW, the fact that you are unaware of what was done to American Nazis in the late '30s and early 40s is indicative that the history has been written by one side, and only one side. To point out that the Nazis were persecuted under the exact same laws as the Communists, and that the Communists strongly supported these laws when they were used against Nazis (and Trotskyists) would not exactly help the Stalinists as First Amendment Martyrs line. The main difference is that the Nazis generally had little if any direct connection to the actual Nazi Party and Nazi Germany, and so were not tied to a criminal conspiracy against their government, and they didn't refuse subpoenas. Cosmic justice is certainly against them, but from a legal perspective the case for prosecuting them was much weaker than, say, the Hollywood Ten.

Finally, the reason I asked you about the Nazis is that most historians and writers who are aware of the history, and are extremely sympathetic to the Communists, have nothing to say about the treatment the Nazis received, which sure makes it seem like civil liberties, as such, is not their primary motivation.
10.24.2007 11:14pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"You don't seem to realize that the Hollywood Ten were subject to orders from the Communist Party because they were members of the Party and subject to its discipline."

David, can you point me to a source that details how Dalton Trumbo, Ring Lardner, Jr. and other members of the Ten acted under orders from the CPUSA or Moscow, and/or actively undermined the American government? I've seen such accusations before but I would be interested to know the specifics.
10.24.2007 11:26pm
Bruce:
Grover, as David makes clear in his book review, CPUSA members were mindless automatons. Ergo, all decisions must have emanated from Moscow. Any regret we feel over HUAC and the Hollywood Ten is the result of being duped by historians who have "(at least) covert sympathy with the ideological goals of Communism."
10.25.2007 12:47am
DavidBernstein (mail):
They weren't mindless automatons, but if they didn't want to obey Party discipline, they either left or were expelled. Those who stayed for long periods of time accepted Party discipline.
10.25.2007 12:57am
wuzzagrunt (mail):
BTW, the fact that you are unaware of what was done to American Nazis in the late '30s and early 40s is indicative that the history has been written by one side, and only one side.


Bingo!
10.25.2007 1:17am
pierre menard (mail):
Reading Bernstein's argument, it seems that he goes wrong in two points:

i. The onus to provide evidence for his proposition rests on HIM. Bernstein wants to argue that no one got called before various loyalty boards during the McCarthy era due to personal eccentricities. He provides no evidence at all to back this up, and when challenged on this, he challenges the commenters to find examples where he is wrong!

To the extent that Bernstein appeals to any evidence, he appeals to his own authority as someone who has read around 30 books on the McCarthy era. This is not very convincing - who knows if the authors he has read were interested in the specific issue of whether anyone was suspected based solely on traits that could be classified as eccentricities?

2. Bernstein argues that the witch hunt comparison is a distortion because witches don't exist, but communists do. This is true, but the conventional understanding is that there was no large-scale communist infiltration of the federal government, and thus McCarthy et al were looking for something that did not exist.

Bernstein's argument does not work even given his own assumptions - sure there were some communists, but my understanding is that the overwhelming majority of the people maligned were innocent. I don't see that it matters that in one case (witches) all those accused were innocent, and in another case (communists) nearly all were. The analogy works fine.
10.25.2007 4:01am
Montie:

The onus to provide evidence for his proposition rests on HIM. Bernstein wants to argue that no one got called before various loyalty boards during the McCarthy era due to personal eccentricities. He provides no evidence at all to back this up, and when challenged on this, he challenges the commenters to find examples where he is wrong!


That position is absurd and reflects an enormous logical error on your part. It is impossible to prove a negative. Therefore, the onus is not on David, it is on the other side. By your logic, I cannot say that there is no such thing as the tooth fairy because I have not shown any evidence that one does not exist.
10.25.2007 10:20am
wfjag:
Dear taney71:
I noted that no one responded to your request for citations to any good histories about the HUAC and McCarthy hearings. I'm not responding to that directly, since there are others who can probably do a better job. I recommend, however, that you read any "histories" with skepticism. Frequently "histories" reflect the author's ideology more than the facts, especially when the events or personalities take on a mythology of their own. You should also look for factual omissions, which frequently are significant.

For background, I recommend Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS by Elizabeth P. McIntosh, and American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. Neither book deals with the HUAC or SEN McCarthy. However, both explain the rise in influence of the Communist Party in the US in the 1930's-'40's, and so provide background for the "Red Scare" of the late 1940's- early 1950's.

Quick summary: In the 1930's, Nazism/Fascism/Japanese Militarism were on the rise. The US and European democracies did little to nothing to oppose that, and, in fact, within the US and European democracies there were many who were sympathetic or who supported the Nazis and Fascists. The USSR and Communist Parties were seen as the one of the few set of groups that actively opposed the Nazis and Fascists, particularly in the Spanish Civil War. Many leftist and idealistic persons became CP members, or supported causes supported by the CP and its Front Groups. There is scan evidence that Prof. Oppenheimer was a CP member, although his wife, brother and sister-in-law definitely were. He supported many causes supported by the CP. As he was ethnically Jewish and had cousins in Germany who were persecuted by the Nazis, and knew many scientists who had fled Europe due to such persecution, today his support of those causes is understandable. War makes strange bed fellows. Those willing to fight Germany, Italy and Japan were accepted into the US military and government service. After WWII the Cold War began, and so loyalties were questioned. Oppenheimer's security clearance was revoked by the US Atomic Energy Commission, which effectively ended his status as the US's premier theoretical physicist.

When looking into McCarthy and the HUAC, always keep in mind that there's a lot of re-writing of the history. "Tail Gunner Joe" was a made for TV movie released in 1977. It was nominated for six Emmy awards and won two: best writing and best supporting actor for Burgess Meredith's portrayal of Army counsel, Joseph Welch.

There are some interesting aspects to the movie. One is the famous statement "Have you no decency, sir" to by Special Counsel for the Army Joseph N. Welch, Counselor for the Army John G. Adams. See "Have You No Sense of Decency": The Army-McCarthy Hearings at http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6444/, for a transcript of the hearing.

The irony is that in the movie, Welch is played by Meredith, who was blacklisted as a result of the House Committee on Un-American Activities investigation into Communist influence in Hollywood. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgess_Meredith. There is certainly reason to ask whether Meredith's acting was so good, or whether the Emmy was related to his black listing.

An interesting omission from the movie is the lack of any reference to the fact that Robert F. Kennedy worked for McCarthy, and served as Counsel with Roy Cohn to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations during the McCarthy Hearings of 1953-54. See www.cassiopedia.org/wiki/index.php?title=Robert_F._Kennedy

Other facts that are not recounted are that McCarthy became a US Senator after defeating U.S. Senator Robert La Follette in the 1946 Wisconsin Republican primary. See The Real McCarthy Record, by James J. Drummey, www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Senate/1777/mccarthy.htm. LaFollette was a progressive/liberal icon. Additionally, McCarthy also investigated the execution of a German Soldier during the Battle of the Bulge. The persons responsible for that execution were Jewish. See The Destruction of Joe McCarthy, by Scott Speidel, Florida State University,
www.natvan.com/national-vanguard/114/mccarthy.html (which casts the matter in conspiratorial terms -- so while it reports facts not usually recounted elsewhere, view the article's assertions with suspicion). In any event, McCarthy wasn't making any friends on the left, and after the election of Eisenhower as President, McCarthy's attacks on the Army resulted in his alienating even those who might have otherwise been willing to defend him. The Army -- McCarthy hearing were broadcast by ABC, and one of the first national TV broadcasts of an investigation that had national attention. Welch, in my opinion, really got the best of McCarthy, and there were no edits of such matters in those days.

I think that the important lesson to be taken from all this is that what you probably were taught as "history" is likely largely false. This isn't the first or last time you'll find that.

As a current events example, look over the Jena 6 reporting, and then read MEDIA MYTHS ABOUT THE JENA 6, by Craig Franklin, Christian Science Monitor (OCT 24, 2007) at www.csmonitor.com/2007/1024/p09s01-coop.html. While I can't vouch for Franklin, the CSM tends to have higher journalistic standards than many other "news" publications, and tends to do a better job of fact checking its articles.
10.25.2007 2:04pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan, I think we're actually pretty much in agreement, with the exception of the following: First, you seem to think that active, longstanding members of the Communist Party, USA, should be thought to have had the status of any other political activist. I think they were properly seen as potential members of a criminal conspiracy, given that at this time high-level government officials knew (from Venona) that the CPUSA was in fact a criminal conspiracy, actively recruiting spies on behalf of a hostile foreign power. (The fact that the CPUSA was not illegal, as such, is not relevant; the mafia, as such, is not illegal, but that doesn't mean that its members are not engaged in a criminal conspiracy). Not every active longstanding member of the CPUSA was aware of the criminal actions that were going on, but if the government was serious about investigating this criminal conspiracy, they would have to question both people who knew and people who didn't knew. Unfortunately, Congress being Congress, they focused on high-profile grandstanding, as with the Hollywood Ten, instead of focusing on breaking up the CPUSA's espionage ring (though it's not like Congress would likely be very good at that, anyway; as an investigative body, Congress is really only good at grandstanding).

But that's really the whole ballgame when it comes to HUAC, Professor Bernstein. They weren't able to conduct a serious investigation of Communist espionage. All they were able to do was haul ideological sympathizers before Congress.

And I should add that there is a big point of difference between the CPUSA and a standard "criminal conspiracy". Even if the ends of the CPUSA were criminal (i.e., overthrowing the US government), many of its members were simply ideological marxists who did not join to further the criminal aims of the organization. And this goes double for people who didn't join but merely attended meetings.

Because of that fact, analogies to organizations like the Mafia aren't really very helpful. Nobody joins the Mafia just because the spaghetti tastes good. And I would suggest that when you have this sort of, for lack of a better term, "dual purpose" organization, there is a danger that investigations will migrate from investigating people's actions against the US government to investigating people's political beliefs and associations. And that is exactly what happened.

Second, you think the Hollywood Ten were unjustly imprisoned. I think they were lawfully called before Congress to testify about their possible ties to and knowledge of a criminal conspiracy. They refused to testify because they didn't want to admit that they had these ties, and because they wanted to go to jail so they could become First Amendment martyrs. They were nothing unjust legally about their jail time. In a more cosmic sense, they were disgusting Stalinists, and there is nothing cosmically unjust about them doing time; in fact, cosmically, they got off rather easily.

That's a quite amazing thing to say, especially from someone who is usually as supportive of First Amendment rights as you are.

I understand that the Hollywood Ten were lawfully convicted, in the narrow sense that they were definitely in contempt of Congress. However, (1) there is a serious First Amendment argument, especially post NAACP v. Alabama and Scales v. United States (which hadn't been decided as of the time of the Hollywood Ten) as to whether Congress' investigative power extends to asking people about their political affiliations, and (2) even if Congress has that power, they shouldn't have been asking these questions and thus the Hollywood Ten should not have been placed in a position where they were faced with a choice of betraying their friends (who would then, let's remember, be subject to harassment by the committee) and revealing their intimate associations. So they were thrown in jail because Congress forced them to answer questions that never should have been asked.

As for the fact that they were Stalinists, so what? Eugene Debs was a Communist; I think most people who know about the case would say that his 20 year prison sentence was unjust. Plenty of pornographers, who are utterly nasty people, have nonetheless been unjustly thrown in jail over the years.

The entire point of the First Amendment is that even nasty people with nasty beliefs should not be thrown in jail merely for holding those beliefs. And this is a principle that, as you better than anyone knows, is important to protect conservatives who dissent from orthodoxy on racial issues or feminism or gay rights.

One other thing about this. You need to remember that many, many people were Stalinist in that era. That doesn't make it right, but you should further remember that Stalin was our ally in World War II. We even put out propaganda about the "gentle Russian bear".

It looks so beyond the pale now, but it happens that many people sympathized with Communism back then because of many factors, including not the least the fact that our own government promoted the Soviet line for awhile. Remember how many people voted for Wallace in 1948.

So if your position is that anyone who ever entertained a belief in Soviet communism deserves the gulag, you are talking about a heck of a lot of Americans, including many who moderated their beliefs as they got older and wiser. If taken seriously, your ideas would mean we would have no First Amendment.

Finally, the reason I asked you about the Nazis is that most historians and writers who are aware of the history, and are extremely sympathetic to the Communists, have nothing to say about the treatment the Nazis received, which sure makes it seem like civil liberties, as such, is not their primary motivation.

I have no idea about the motivations of other people. I do know that I care about the First Amendment, even to the point of defending things I find very distasteful as a liberal-- not only the rights of Nazis and Stalinists, but also such things as big money in politics and some forms of sexual speech in the workplace.
10.25.2007 2:38pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
While I generally agree with what Dilan Esper has written on this thread, I believe he is mistaken in describing Eugene V. Debs as a Communist. As far as I know, he was a member of the Socialist Party, which was quite different.
10.25.2007 3:59pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
While I generally agree with what Dilan Esper has written on this thread, I believe he is mistaken in describing Eugene V. Debs as a Communist. As far as I know, he was a member of the Socialist Party, which was quite different.

It depends on the definition of Communist. As far as I know, Debs was never a member of the Communist Party and condemned it on some occasions. However, most of his political activities came before the Boshevik revolution and the formation of the CPUSA. He was certainly a radical socialist; he came to the ideology by reading the works of Marx and supported the Industrial Workers of the World, which was on the left-wing of the socialist movement.

Thus, he was probably ideologically close to what we would now call a Communist, though he was not a Communist by party affiliation.

In any event, my point stands-- even many people who think his political ideology was way beyond the pale nonetheless recognize that he was unjustly convicted and imprisoned.
10.25.2007 5:19pm
pierre menard (mail):
"It is impossible to prove a negative. Therefore, the onus is not on David, it is on the other side."

Its impossible to prove anything in the social sciences. But one can provide evidence for things. I generally believe that people should, you know, provide evidence for the things they say. In this case, such evidence might look like:

"I analyze the records of X loyalty boards operating between 194X and 195Y. In particular, I investigate the characteristics of people who were imprisoned as a result of their testimony. I classify the evidence available on these people at the time of their testimony. I find that only a small percentage of these people did not have direct evidence of their complicity available to the committee... "

"By your logic, I cannot say that there is no such thing as the tooth fairy because I have not shown any evidence that one does not exist."

Indeed, one should give evidence and reasons for things. For the tooth fairy, such evidence would consist in pointing out that anything you can explain with the tooth fairy you can explain in an easier way without it.
10.25.2007 7:02pm
Montie:
Pierre,

Do you really know anything about loyalty boards? I say this because you apparently appear to think that the imprisoned people. They didn't. People were blacklisted certainly, but very, very few were ever imprisioned.

This wasn't the Stalin's Teror for goodness sake.
10.25.2007 9:20pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I think this thread has run its course, but in case Dilan checks back, I wanted to point out that (1) a Communist, in the context of this discussion, is a member of the CPUSA, and clearly excludes someone like Debs; (2) plenty of people have mafia-related jobs that don't involve illegal activity; the mafia owns lots of lawful business, which they use as a cover for their criminal activity, just as the CPUSA used legitimate political activism as a cover of its illegal activity; (3) given that Congress was investigating a criminal conspiracy, I don't see how the theory of NAACP v. Alabama would apply. If Americans who belonged to an Al Qaeda affiliate were called to testify today, could they rely on NAACP? In any event, the point was that the Communists knew they were going to lose that argument, that was the whole purpose of the exeercise. They could have pleaded the Fifth instead, which would have avoided contempt sentences but prevented their martyrdom; (4) most of the most prominent "victims" of HUAC were not just ideological Communists who didn't join the party, or people who wandered into the party briefly and left, but hardcore, longtime Stalinists. Your excuse for them was "everyone was doing it." A good excuse for brownshirts throughout Europe in the 30s and 40s, too.
10.26.2007 12:11am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I think this thread has run its course, but in case Dilan checks back, I wanted to point out that (1) a Communist, in the context of this discussion, is a member of the CPUSA, and clearly excludes someone like Debs; (2) plenty of people have mafia-related jobs that don't involve illegal activity; the mafia owns lots of lawful business, which they use as a cover for their criminal activity, just as the CPUSA used legitimate political activism as a cover of its illegal activity; (3) given that Congress was investigating a criminal conspiracy, I don't see how the theory of NAACP v. Alabama would apply. If Americans who belonged to an Al Qaeda affiliate were called to testify today, could they rely on NAACP? In any event, the point was that the Communists knew they were going to lose that argument, that was the whole purpose of the exeercise. They could have pleaded the Fifth instead, which would have avoided contempt sentences but prevented their martyrdom; (4) most of the most prominent "victims" of HUAC were not just ideological Communists who didn't join the party, or people who wandered into the party briefly and left, but hardcore, longtime Stalinists. Your excuse for them was "everyone was doing it." A good excuse for brownshirts throughout Europe in the 30s and 40s, too.

(1) If you want to exclude Debs, fine, exclude Debs. Nonetheless, it was possible to be a member of CPUSA and be unjustly accused or persecuted or even jailed, just as many other distasteful people were nonetheless First Amendment martyrs. The larger point still stands.

(2) I don't know what you mean by "mafia related jobs that don't involve illegal activity". You were talking about MEMBERS of the mafia. Sure, it's possible to work at the Fulton Fish Market or as a teamster in a mafia related job, but as far as I know, the the people who JOIN the mafia are joining to further their criminal purposes. Many people joined the CPUSA who didn't have any desire to overthrow the government by force.

(3) You are ignoring that it isn't just NAACP v. Alabama; under Scales v. US, to prosecute you merely as a member of an "illegal" organization, the government must show that you joined with a specific intent to further the group's illegal activities. In other words, associational activity is protected under the First Amendment unless you specific intend to further a group's illegal activity. Combine that with NAACP v. Alabama (and by the way, the NAACP did plenty of things that southern states deemed "illegal"), and it is quite questionable whether the HUAC hearings would be constitutionally permissible today.

As for the Fifth Amendment point, it is entirely true that the Hollywood Ten decided not to invoke a constitutional provision that makes them look guilty. But that proves nothing, because their First Amendment claim was quite plausible (though about 15 years ahead of its time). Indeed, if Congress is really violating your First Amendment rights by questioning you, you don't want to invoke the Fifth Amendment because that is seen as an admission of guilt.

I am not saying that they shouldn't or couldn't have taken the Fifth; only that doing so would have given HUAC-- which you have conceded was running off the rails-- a propaganda victory it shouldn't have been entitled to. There's nothing wrong with claiming that a governmental investigation that was an outrageous imposition on political freedoms was, in fact, an outrageous imposition on political freedoms.

And you come back to this question of "martyrdom". Again, Professor, if you hate the fact that a bunch of Communists became martyrs, blame HUAC, not the Communists. If HUAC had left these people alone, they wouldn't have been martyrs.

(4) Even if most of the victims of HUAC were longtime Stalinists, they were still being jailed, hounded by the government, forced out of their jobs, etc., because of their political beliefs. Again, turn this around, Professor. The sort of theory you are advocating can very easily be used against conservatives.

There isn't an exception to the First Amenmdemnt, or the principle of free speech that underlies it, for Stalinists.

Further, you misconstrued my observation about the popularity of Stalinism. It isn't an "excuse" that everyone was doing it. Rather, it points out that if one took your expressed beliefs seriously, we wouldn't be talking about an exception to free speech principles for a few extremists, but for millions of Americans, including many patriots who later saw the error of their ways. And the fact of the matter is that in the very recent past before the HUAC investigation, our government was allied with Josef Stalin and was propagandizing on his behalf. You are basically saying that anyone who espoused the position that had been taken by the President of the United States and his administration during the war is potentially subject to an exception to the First Amendment-- or at least should be the object of no sympathy or understanding whatsoever. That's a breathtaking claim, and my point is that while "Stalinism" certainly looks beyond the pale here in 2007, viewing this with a little historical context would reveal that within the time period we are talking about, we are not just referring to a few loony leftists in Hollywood but huge numbers of people who were potentially affected by the ideas that you advocate. It should give you more pause about this entire issue.
10.26.2007 2:22am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Dick King sez: 'My father told me that the McCarthy Era affected peoples' behavior, perhaps irrationally but palpably'

I actually saw this happen to my father when I was a kid.

He was a New Deal liberal who joined the Navy before Pearl Harbor because he saw what was coming.

I can remember people physically edging away from him at social gatherings because of his dangerous opinions.


'Alien Ink: The Fbi's War on Freedom of Expression' by Natalie Robins has hundreds of examples of people being singled out for nothing more serious than the color of their socks, few of them Stalinists, all taken from FOIA releases.

I'll agree that popular understanding of 'McCarthyism' is shaky, although not nearly as shaky as popular understanding of, say, FDR's court-packing plan. What's your point?

McCarthyism was worse than it is presented in the comic book.
10.26.2007 2:26am
Fub:
Dilan Esper wrote at 0.26.2007 1:22am:
Many people joined the CPUSA who didn't have any desire to overthrow the government by force.
At least one.

I had a close friend, now deceased, who had been a CPUSA member a while in the 1950s, years before I met him. That was one of many reasons he had left the party.

They didn't meet him at the door and say "if you want to join you must endorse overthrowing the government by force". They just took his dues payment.

He joined believing that he could be a member without endorsing the entire party line. He left when he found there was no opposing faction of the party with which to associate.
10.26.2007 4:12am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Dilan, you keep confusing "joiners" on the periphery with the hard-core membership. Also, if you can someone who was jailed for his political beliefs, as such, I'd be curious to know who that is. Finally, I agree that Stalin and the Party over time seemed attractive for many reasons to many people. Almost all of these people left the CPUSA, some because they realized the inherent totalitarian nature of Stalin and/or the Party, some because of the Hitler-Stalin pact, some because of the Doctors' Plot, some because of how the Soviets acted in Eastern Europe after WWII, some because they handn't realized that the Party was not independent of the USSR, and so forth. Those who remained, over time, were either hard-core Stalinists, or wilfully blind. They have no more excuse than hard-core Nazis, and you shouldn't be apologizing for them, unless you show equal understanding for, say, long-time members of the Swiss Nazi Party.
10.26.2007 8:48am
DavidBernstein (mail):
PS, at the time, the Hollywood Ten hearings turned out to be disaster for the Party. Lots of Hollywood leftists (e.g., Bogart) turned out to support them, but when they realized that the whole thing was a show meant to aggrandize the Party and Communism, and had little to do with a fight civil liberties, they packed up and went home in disgust.
10.26.2007 8:51am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Lots of Hollywood leftists (e.g., Bogart) turned out to support them, but when they realized that the whole thing was a show meant to aggrandize the Party and Communism, and had little to do with a fight civil liberties, they packed up and went home in disgust."

Do you have a cite for that interpretation of events? It's not supported by anything I've read. I don't suppose it's possible that Bogart and others misjudged the level of public support for their trip and retreated in fear. Here's Bogie's disclaimer, six months after his trip to DC:

http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dg6n6657_103f7bsqj

It begins, "No, sir, I'll never forget the lesson that was taught to me in the year 1947...[T]he roof fell in on us."

Indeed he distances himself from the Hollywood Ten, but is that any surprise? At any rate, I don't see a trace of "disgust" in the article—only a plea for sanity.

By making the Hollywood Ten the "villains" and Bogart and others the "heroes," you're engaging in a level of distortion that supercedes anything you've criticized.
10.26.2007 11:39am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
There were definitely people in both England and America that fancied themselves witches, and thought that they were doing harm to others with their spells. This is part of why a surprising number of people charged with witchcraft in England and America ended up pleading guilty. (Not so much with the Salem Witchcraft Trials, however, which were only the most concentrated example of such trials.) I've read that America's last witchcraft trial was in New Jersey in 1812--at a time when Poland was still hanging witches. England's last witchcraft trial was about a century earlier, and ended with the judges finding the accused innocent--and writing an opinion that basically said, "We know intellectually that there are witches, but we aren't much inclined to believe it."

Communists obviously did exist. If McCarthy's blind ambition and recklessness meant that some people were falsely accused, it is pretty apparent that the Hollywood Ten weren't in that category.
10.26.2007 4:17pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan, you keep confusing "joiners" on the periphery with the hard-core membership. Also, if you can someone who was jailed for his political beliefs, as such, I'd be curious to know who that is. Finally, I agree that Stalin and the Party over time seemed attractive for many reasons to many people. Almost all of these people left the CPUSA, some because they realized the inherent totalitarian nature of Stalin and/or the Party, some because of the Hitler-Stalin pact, some because of the Doctors' Plot, some because of how the Soviets acted in Eastern Europe after WWII, some because they handn't realized that the Party was not independent of the USSR, and so forth. Those who remained, over time, were either hard-core Stalinists, or wilfully blind. They have no more excuse than hard-core Nazis, and you shouldn't be apologizing for them, unless you show equal understanding for, say, long-time members of the Swiss Nazi Party.

1. The point isn't that hard core Stalinists don't have something to be accountable for; it's that hard core Stalinists who weren't in the government nonetheless had the same right as the rest of the population not to be hauled in before public Congressional committee hearings and asked about their associational and political activities. There is not a "hard core Stalinist" exception to either the First Amendment or the principle of free expression and association.

2. The Hollywood Ten were jailed for their political beliefs. They were dragged into Congress and asked inappropriate questions, and then thrown in jail for not answering them. Indeed, you have basically conceded this even though you think very little of the Hollywood Ten.

As for people who were more "innocent" CPUSA members, no I can't name any of them who were jailed. But many did lose their jobs, and many were hauled before Congress and put before the same dog and pony show that the Hollywood Ten were. Indeed, even many who were never members of the CPUSA were. That, it seems to me, is plenty bad.

3. Where do I apologize for the Hollywood Ten? I simply observed that they were unjustly imprisoned-- which you conceded in fact, if not in characterization-- and that the principles you are advocating would, if taken to their logical conclusion, extend to a great many people, because so many people-- including some who merely followed the lead of our own government during the Second World War-- flirted with the "Stalinist" Soviet Communist line.

Look, you are right that we have argued this to a fare-thee-well. What I don't understand is that you want to impute to me a position I don't take and argue against that position instead. My goal here is not to defend Stalinism or Communism-- they were awful-- or to trumpet the Hollywood Ten or other Communists who resisted the federal government as some kind of heroes. It is only to observe that the tactics of HUAC were indeed quite scary and that a legitimate investigation into whether our ostensible enemy had infiltrated the government turned into a public spectacle in which leftists in Hollywood who couldn't have orchestrated an overthrow of the Burbank City Council let alone the US government were being dragged before Congress to rat out their friends so that they could get similar treatment. It just looks like you dislike the Communists so much that you are unable to really bring yourself to admit without qualification that HUAC overreached and shouldn't have done what it did and that even a Stalinist has basic human rights. I can understand what motivates such a position-- Communism, after all, has plenty to answer for-- but it isn't the way our system works. It is unpopular speakers who secure the rights for all of us, and what will stop some crusading Congressman from harassing the religious right in the future is precisely that he or she will not want to draw an unfavorable comparison with the tactics of the Red Scare.
10.26.2007 8:44pm
Eli Rabett (www):
All right, I don't know what was done to American Nazis (mostly I read this as the Bund with maybe Coughlin, Lindbergh, et al. thrown in) in the '30s. Maybe the best you could do would be the Dies committee investigation in 1939 which barely makes it. Care to provide some facts.

By '41 the US was at war with Germany, with the Soviet Union as it's ally. There were a couple of unsuccessful prosecutions of American Nazi's under the Smith Act which was passed in 1940, in the early 40's, and obviously it was not a popular thing to be an American Nazi during the war and the Bund was outlawed and leaders interned. But that is a very different thing than the argument you are trying to make.

Moreover you have not dealt with the issue of loyalty oaths which cost a whole lot of people their careers and jobs.
10.28.2007 2:27am