Blacklists, Fowl, and Freedom

Some of the following is a work of fiction. Sort of.


The year was 1952. The setting was Hollywood, CA. The cast of characters included actors, actresses, producers, directors, and writers. The cast also included zealous Senators and the press corps that inevitably accompanies them. The setting was a hearing room in which the Senators were grilling the representatives of the film industry one-by-one. The alleged nefarious activity was sympathizing with, or even supporting… The Communist Party! Heavens. 



For those who cannot remember the 1950’s, let me just say that we were scared. We were scared of the Russians. We were mostly scared of the Communists. The phrase, “The Iron Curtain” sounded like a scary thing they built somewhere in Europe to keep the communists away from us. As a boy, I played with plastic army men. I set them up to do battle against … the Russians (communists), of course. In school, there were “duck-and-cover” drills in which we learned to take shelter from the atomic bombs that were probably coming our way.



To some, the most scary thing was the idea that there were Communists hiding in our midst, and in particular in the film industry, undermining the very fabric of our society right under our noses. Hence the hearings. The goal was to uncover these bad guys and girls and ensure that they could do no more harm. If you were in Hollywood, and these Senators could find any shred of evidence of that you had any sympathies toward Communism, your career was finished. Kaput. Over. No more. You were out on your keester.


Fast forward to 2013 and the weeks before Christmas.


When you are out attending to various shopping duties this year, it is impossible to avoid noticing a lot of camouflage and guys with huge, untrimmed, gray beards. They’re everywhere! Products, posters, life-size cardboard cutout images of the guys with the beards, camo hats, T’s, do-rags; wow. Who are these guys, and why are they being marketed so heavily? And really, who cares? Up to today I was dismissive. Of course I knew the name of the TV show, but that’s about all I knew, other than the excessive imagery being forced on me in the stores. And I didn’t care.


Today I began to care. My curiosity got the better of me. I watched an episode of the show. Interesting folks, but not particularly the sort of thing I would normally watch. The firestorm that the lead character of this show has generated has me genuinely concerned, however. I’m concerned for freedom. I’m concerned about bullying. I’m concerned about hypocrisy. I’m fearful about the damage that can be done to a person for saying some things that powerful people disagree with.


The whole thing has brought to mind the famous quote, incorrectly attributed to Voltaire: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I was brought up believing in things like this.


I find it interesting and troubling that things in America have come to this point.


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