On this day in 1949, the FBI released a report on Hollywood celebrities who were members of the Communist Party. These included Frederic March, John Garfield, Paul Muni, and Edward G Robinson. What’s more, it named Paul Robeson, Dorothy Parker, and many other celebrities who shared the beliefs of these radicals. This was the start of the Hollywood blacklist and all the joys that would come with the early 1950s.
Interestingly, on that same day, George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was first published. It’s enough to make one cynical. Clearly, Orwell’s work was an attack on the totalitarian states of the middle of the twentieth century: Germany under Hitler and the Soviet Union under Stalin. But it’s interesting that in the United States, we figured out a way to control the population indirectly. After all, it wasn’t Joseph McCarthy who blacklisted all those people; it was Hollywood executives just following the easiest path to profits.
Now, I’m not saying that the way that the power elite of the United States maintains power is equivalent to the millions murdered by Hitler, Stalin, and so many other authoritarians. But I am saying that that the millions murdered were just a means to an end — although the Nazis seemed to get confused about that point at the end. I’m not sure why, but the powerful in America just have it easier. Gleen Greenwald’s most recent article is a good example of how Americans are so good at self-oppression. If we weren’t, maybe the power elite would be exterminating millions of Americans every year.
It was a curious day 66 years ago.