Re: Hollywood Ten as Villains - was Berliner article wrong?

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.past-films
Date: Tuesday, November 18, 1997 10:52 PM

This is part of a series of mine which in turn are my contribution to a thread which elicited numerous responses over the course of one month.  I began the thread when I supplied the link to a page of the Los Angeles Times website when that newspaper ran an op-ed titled "The Hollywood Ten Were Villains, Not Victims," by Michael S. Berliner, Ph.D.  That article can -- as of March 20, 1999 -- can be read online at  Please realize that this link supercedes those mentioned in the original posts.

FilmGene <> wrote in article
> Berliner's article is deficient in many ways. First, he lumps everyone who was
> a Communist, was a Socialist or sympathized in any way with liberal causes as
> equally threatening to the United States.

Berliner's fourth paragraph differentiates between members and those who give orders, then indicates that those who accepted membership were also agreeing to take orders--which does tighten the gap between the two groups.

> The reasons Hollywood was chosen were: 1) it provided publicity for the
> committee by linking their investigation to celebrities;

Politicians can be a slimy and opportunistic lot; I don't think that's disputed.

2) it targeted a
> highly conservative industry whose bosses were singularly sensitive to bad
> publicity …

I've discussed the role of publicity in previous posts; briefly, yes: they were sensitive to bad publicity.

> …and were pushovers for the committee and for the horde of
> blackmailers and thugs who prospered in their wake.

Blackmailers and thugs shouldn't profit from this type of situation (nor from ANY situation), but that just means that more than one group behaved badly.

3) and, finally, because
> many of the people targeted were Jews in an industry which was generally
> thought of as a Jewish industry. Many of the committee members were on the
> record as being anti-semites.

Sad. But that's the type of problem that should be addressed by directly challenging discrimination, not by defending the Hollywood Ten.

> Next, the committee found out virtually nothing about Communism. The "Hollywood
> Ten" were jailed not for being Communists but for refusing to answer questions
> and name names before the Committee. They were convicted of contempt of
> Congress.

Berliner states this in the second sentence of his article.

> … he ignores the
> cottage industry, directly created by the hearings, which sold "clearances" of
> people to the communication companies, by coaching them on what to say. If
> they refused, companion organizations like Red Channels, for a fee, advised
> companies on who was a Red and who was not. In other words, blackmail.

See above. The presence of leeches shouldn't make one think that virus-carriers are okay. (As with my previous analogy, please don't overextend it to something it isn't.)

> Many of the writers and other craftspeople in Hollywood …
> they were making obscene amounts of money doing what they felt was frivolous
> work. Guilty consciences for the most part drove them to causes which promised
> to assuage their consciences by doing "good works"

If that's all the Hollywood Ten was doing, why not just admit to assuaging their consciences, and testify as friendly witnesses? Or why not put their money to better use? Why not a use they understood the ramifications of?  When one puts his money into a charity, he should know whether it'll go to hurting innocent victims (e.g., Siberians). And if he still turns out to be have been wrong, he can at least admit that, and accept the consequence, then sticking with the ideology.

> … It provided the Right with whipping boys to make
> up for the fact that the Right in this country was pro--Fascist prior to the
> War.

Again, politicians are subject to politics. I've been perplexed to read trial transcripts wherein a congressman badgered a self-described Roosevelt Democrat even though the country's voters had chosen FDR during the previous decade-and-a-half. Nonetheless, such events shouldn't make us lose sight of the more serious inquiries.

This is very clear from the phrase "premature anti-Fascist" which the
> Committee invented and their attacks on "Mission to Moscow" and "North Star" -
> American propaganda films, requested by the Federal government, and now given
> a Revisionist agenda by the Right.

Granted that the government did request them and that the U.S. government did want to engender pro-Russia feelings during the years when the two countries were war allies. You might want to look into Ayn Rand's testimony before the committee: she asked the members why the government couldn't have, instead of requesting sentimental depictions of the Russian people, simply publicized that Russia was an enemy of the U.S. which the U.S. found just cause to cooperate with in a particular venture (WW2).

> Mr. Berliner appears to be an Ayn Rand acolyte. Fair enough. However, expecting
> truth from that source is disingenuous. Their agenda, following the
> "philosophy" of Rand is based on one thing alone - rabid Anti-Communism.
> Consider the source.

Consider the arguments.

--David Hayes


Return to Table of Contents

Go to next article