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New International, July 1948


Ted Enright

Mealy-Mouthed Martyrs


From The New International, Vol. XIV No. 5, July 1948, pp. 159–160.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Hollywood on Trial
by Gordon Kahn
Boni and Gaer, NY, 1941, $1.00, 227 pp.

Hollywood on Trial was written as a defense of the ten indicted fellow-traveling screen writers; but as a defense it is so worthless as to amount almost to an indictment itself.

No one expects them to reveal facts which they refused to divulge to the Thomas Un-American Committee, or to answer Thomas’s $64 question about membership in the Communist Party. But surely these rather well-known writers, adopting the role of heroic embattled martyrs for the right to believe in their own political ideology without persecution, cannot expect readers to believe that their ideology consists solely of respect for the First Amendment!

What do they stand for? What are their social ideas? Here in this book they could have expressed their social philosophy without prosecutors’ interruptions or distortions, and, if they are to go to jail for their ideas, at least make clear to the people what are those ideas for which they are being penalized.

Nowhere in the 227 pages of the book is the opportunity found to do this. Instead —

First, they repeat their testimony, which amounted to nothing. Second, they set out to prove that they are every bit as jingoistic, super-patriotic and crude as J. Parnell Thomas. (Says Gordon Kahn: “Nor did J. Parnell Thomas or any of the hundred newspapers covering the hearings ever mention the fact that nowhere in that room was there an American flag.”)

Third, they swear: We never put any Communist propaganda in a picture – name one, they demand! Look at our works: Destination Tokyo, Back to Bataan, Objective Burma, Behind the Rising Sun, Hitler’s Children ... they shamelessly peddle their wares.

Fourth, no matter what we believe, the Constitution protects our right to privacy; no one asks Eisenhower to swear whether he is a Democrat or Republican, why ask us?

This is the totality of the book. And in his foreword, that incomparable political muddlehead, Thomas Mann, testified that he never saw any Communist propaganda in a Hollywood film.

Mann, of course, is right, even though Kahn does not mention the film Mission to Moscow. This film too was not propaganda for a communist society or ideology: it was simply a crudely lying whitewash of a totalitarian despotism which happened to be allied with American imperialism at the moment. But while there .was not a trace of communism in these pictures, there was a ton of chauvinism, jingoism, hate incitement, anti-internationalism and flag-waving imperialist propaganda – propaganda of a kind without which the Thomas Committee itself could not exist. If there is today a spiritual climate of intolerance, suspicion and hate, are not these writers themselves partly responsible?

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