Culture, Justice, Politics

Mechanics of the Blacklist, Part 1

I’ve had Communists on the brain the last couple of weeks. On November 7, I gave my lecture, Mechanics of the Blacklist, 1946-1954, as part of the Jewish Currents Morris U. Schappes lecture series. Jewish Currents is the magazine for which I am a regular contributor. It started publishing in 1946 as Jewish Life. Back then, Jewish Life was published by the Morgn Freiheit, the Yiddish language Communist newspaper. Morris Schappes was the editor of Jewish Life and its second incarnation, Jewish Currents. Today, Jewish Currents is published by the Workmen’s Circle, an interesting development seeing as the politics of the two organizations have been at odds for a very long time. (Workmen’s Circle or Arbeter Ring has been passionately anti-Communist since they pushed the Communists out of the organization in the 1920s.)
Given that I’ve been writing for Currents for almost three years, I’ve become very interested in the trajectory of Yiddish Communists in this country. Two summers ago I gave a talk on the history of Currents in the context of other Jewish and radical magazines. I learned some pretty interesting things about Jewish radicals, and human nature. But that’s for another post. (Or you can hire me to give my talk about Jewish Currents.)
But I wasn’t interested in the topic of blacklisting until I saw The Front last year. As a movie it’s kind of a failure, but as a topic, it’s fascinating. Woody Allen plays a nebbishy bartender (I know, get out!) who gets drawn into a scheme to act as a ‘front’ for blacklisted writers in the 1959s. Back in those days of ‘McCarthyism’ and Communist persecution, a writer who had been identified as a Communist, or a sympathizer, or a dupe, or a fellow traveler, would find him or herself unemployable at all of the major networks and studios. In ‘The Front’, these blacklisted writers use Woody to sell their scripts and Woody, for putting his name on the work, gets a cut. Hijinks ensue.
The coolest part of the movie is that much of the talent involved with it (it was made in 1976) was in fact blacklisted during that time. Zero Mostel gives a particularly riveting performance as a comic who can’t get work, and in the end, is driven to desperate measures.
It was one of Zero’s scene which caught my attention. Desperate to work again, Hecky Green (Mostel) tries to defend himself against allegations that he is a Communist. He meets with an FBI agent and pleads for help. Pathetically, he explains, on his knees, that the only reason he went to that May Day parade (which is what got him on the blacklist) was his desire to nail one of the chicks who was marching.
Ultimately unable to clear his name, and unable to work, Hecky jumps out a window. His tragic death is based on the death of Philip Loeb, the real life actor (the Goldbergs) who was also persecuted for supposed Communism and, with nowhere to go, ended his life by jumping out a window.
I had heard about the blacklist before, but I never thought to wonder how exactly it was promulgated, or enforced. As portrayed in The Front, it appeared to be something nebulous, a government taking without opportunity for a hearing and without appeal. I started to wonder about the due process implications and the government’s ability to destroy lives based not on concrete charges but on rumor and whisper.
Our government has a long history of persecution of Communists, starting with the Palmer Raids of 1919. I mention these only because it was a large scale, systematic assault on Communists which ended up with thousands of arrests, and served as a proving ground for a young J. Edgar Hoover.

In 1947, Harry Truman (facing a hostile Congress and other political factors) enacted a piece of legislation which would screen all Federal government employees for ‘loyalty’. One of the grounds for ‘disloyalty’ was membership in a subversive organization. Truman directed that the Attorney General, with the FBI, promulgate a list of subversive organizations for use by the Loyalty Review Board in their determinations. The Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations (AGLOSO) came to have far wider import than just its effect on Federal employees.
This is the original AGLOSO as it appeared in the Federal Register.

Once a part of the public record, the AGLOSO was seized upon by citizen groups who believed that the government was not aggressive enough in its efforts to protect the country from the ‘Red Menace’.

“There is a vast area of subversive activity still within the law about which neither the FBI nor the Justice Department can do anything. Therefor it remains the civic and patriotic responsibility of individual Americans and their organizations to perform.”

Firing Line magazine, 1949
Firing Line was a publication of the American Legion, a group which never hid its admiration for European fascism or its longing for an authoritarian government here. Firing Line’s sole purpose was to inform readers about Communism, and one aspect of that mission was publishing the names and activities of people whom they believed to be Communists. One of the sources for their information was lists like the AGLOSO. Another source was the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). In addition to the Federal HUAC, 13 state legislatures had their own HUACS. Those, too, were combed for information to be published in Firing Line.
But Firing Line was hardly alone in their efforts. Much more nefariously, a number of for profit businesses opened up shop to investigate and publicize suspected Communists and Communist organizations. One of the most famous was Counterattack, a publication of American Business Consultants. Opened by three former FBI agents, and funded by a wealthy businessman with a passion for fighting Communism, Counterattack was a national publication with wide reaching impact.
This is a page from an issue of Counterattack.

American Business Consultants, in addition to selling their newsletter to businesses which sought to rid themselves of Communists, also offered their investigative services to those same businesses. It was a typical racket set up. Someone from ABC would call a business, like an advertising agency, and warn that a particular actor might be named as a Communist and that the ad agency (which was selling ads for a particular show) should hire ABC to investigate and find out of the rumors were true. If they were, and the public found out, a boycott might be organized against that program. But the public would never find out, and organize a protest, unless ABC publicized the rumor. Which they would, if the potential client refused to use their investigative services.
Counterattack was a success, highlighting supposed Communists and Communist organizations of all sorts (especially in unions) but, following the lead of the Federal government and its Hollywood HUAC hearings, American Business Consultants set its sights on Hollywood, too.
In 1952, ABC published Red Channels, a book listing over one hundred alleged Communists working in the entertainment industry. Next to each name would be a number of citation proving that he or she was ‘guilty’. Most of these came from state and Federal HUAC hearings. In addition to government records, ABC would copy names from leftist organization letterheads and petition.
Red Channels (image courtesy of Tamiment Library)

Here’s a typical listing from the pages of Red Channels: (image courtesy of Tamiment Library)

I chose this page, from the index of suspect organizations, because it includes Jewish Currents (then called Jewish Life.) Jewish Life was in fact a Communist Party affiliated magazine. However, most of the organizations listed were not affilated with the CP, and neither were most of the names in the index.
Here’s the listing for Arthur Miller

And while it wasn’t that hard to get yourself blacklisted (being one name among 30,000 on a petition could be enough), it was quite difficult to get oneself off it. The government might be forced to offer some minimal due process protections, either when being fired for ‘disloyalty’ or being tried for subversion or perjury (if one lied to a Communist investigating committee like HUAC).
But ABC, the American Legion, and the hundreds of other members of the army of citizen anti-communist vigilantes, had no use for our Constitutional due process protections. Hecky Green could go and throw himself on the mercy of the blacklisters, but that doesn’t mean that he’ll get a fair hearing.
In part two, I’ll explore a little more about the people who were targeted by this wave of anti-Communist fervor. What did it mean to be a member of the Communist Party? Who joined and why? And why were there so many Jews in the CP?

28 thoughts on “Mechanics of the Blacklist, Part 1

  1. Considering that Communist Regimes are commonly considered to have murdered between 100 and 200 million people (20,000,000 Ukrainians purposely starved to death by Stalin, etc. etc.) is in any wonder that the US went slightly nutsy over the threat of Communism. And Btw, if you want to see the current totalitarian blacklist in action, come out to Hollywood, or join a major tv network, or go to work in the newsroom of one of the “elite” papers, and announce that you are a conservative – you promotion prospect will have just become 0.

  2. Incorrect, is your primary focus in life hanging out on Jewschool and taking a crap on anything anyone says? For a full year now, you have trolled around on this site liberal bashing. And to what end? Haven’t you had your fill already? Can’t you agree to disagree? Can’t you allow yourself to have irreconcilable differences and move on? Seriously… Doesn’t it ever get old?

  3. Mobius, seriously? This is part of the perpetual battle between the right and the left – as a conservative I believe in the market economy, good and evil, and realism, and think that liberals (on the whole) live in a fantasy land of feelings and hope and disregard for reality.
    I actually hope (maybe incorrectly) that if I make a conservative argument in this mostly liberal/leftist forum, a few of you just might consider what I’ve said and be swayed – at the least I demonstrate to the liberals here that there is another point of view and the monolith they live in doesn’t represent the entire world.

  4. “There is another point of view and the monolith they live in doesn’t represent the entire world.”
    No – it certainly doesn’t.
    But the point of Jewschool is that it’s a haven from a Jewish blogosphere completely swept up in Rightwingerism. Jewschool is the alternative to the conservative echo chamber. In essence, we’re here as a rejection of what you offer.
    How many Left-wing Jewish blogs are there? A dozen? How many Right-wing Jewish blogs are there? Three hundred?
    You have a whole Internet to bash liberals on.
    Go buy jewschoolsucks.com and go post for post, tearing every article on this site to shreds. I don’t care. Just take your noise someplace where someone cares to hear it.

  5. Mobius, I find it fascistic to deny opposing viewpoints a chance to be heard. Don’t you find it ironic that you are arguing for the liberal purity of this site on a post that dealt with a reactionary attempt to keep opposing (communist) views from being aired? In any case, if you think what I write is crap, or nonsense, or untrue, you can scroll right by – the only ones who read it are those who find some value in it.

  6. If you think saying that your comments are out of place in this forum constitutes fascism, you clearly have no conception of what fascism is.
    Does a talk radio station have an obligation to allow anyone who calls in to have airtime? If they hang up on a caller, is it violating their right to free speech? Does a magazine have a responsibility to publish every letter to the editor? Does a blog have an obligation to allow anyone to post?
    The answer is no. These are private resources controlled by private individuals, not public resources, or public spaces, paid for with your tax dollars. You have no expectation of free speech in a private setting.
    Right now, you’re using resources that don’t belong to you. You don’t pay for Jewschool. You don’t cover the hosting, the web development costs. You don’t donate money. You don’t buy advertising. So what entitles you to take advantage of these resources in order to demean everyone involved in this project?
    Trust me–I’ve burst inside the offices of the Carlyle Group chanting anti-war slogans and been arrested for it. I had no right to free speech there, just as you have no right to free speech here.
    Telling you to take it somewhere else isn’t stifling your speech, because again, there’s a whole Internet out there for you to speak on. No one’s gagging you. No one’s telling you that you can never write again. I didn’t attach penalties or threats of bodily harm to intimidate you and cow you out of speaking.
    I told you that your remarks are unwelcome. I’m not banning you. I have no authority to ban you. This isn’t my site anymore.
    But as the person who built this site, and who has watched your behavior since you started reading us, the reason I’m pissed at you, is that you make writing for this site an unpleasant experience. You take the time and effort that other people put into this and you shit all over it.
    In doing so, you drive people away from blogging, you drive them away from expressing themselves, you harass and harangue until you shut them up.
    That leaves you with way more in common with fascists than anyone here.

  7. Mobius, now that I’ve taken my shower and had time to think more about your post, I realize what your problem is: you work in new media but you don’t understand or embrace it. You’re right that in the old days 3 networks and 2 papers controlled the agenda of what was right or wrong. The beauty of the net is that it allows all of us to participate, to speak our mind. It’s the purist form of democracy, the way ideas can be tested and examined. You prefer the old model where you can publish your own paper and exclude the thoughts you don’t like. Mobius, that’s not what the net is all about – the net is participatory, open and free. You’ve helped build the community pool but now you want to limit the swimmers to your approved list. If you want the old days to come back, then go to the old media – your model works there.

  8. incorrect, you consistently and intentionally misstate a person’s argument, frequently as a conspiracy theory, instead of actually debating any actual point or substance. Everyone is a crazy far-Left leftist in your framing of their position. It is as exhausting as it is a waste of everyone’s time. There is a huge difference between genuine debate and attempting to merely demonize and delegitimize your opponent.
    Never the less…is part of this phenomenon Jewschool’s own culture? There is sometimes a discernible tone of self-congratulatory progressiveness on Jewschool that is inherently dismissive of other POV’s. Such a culture might have a hand in encouraging only those viewpoints that are in agreement or are diametrically opposed, as axiomatic positions are interesting mostly only to those who accept such a dichotomy.
    And Mobius, while you are correct that there are more right-leaning blogs than left-leaning ones, never the less, it is hardly as simple as you make it out to be. I know many bloggers (including myself) who are uninterested in defining themselves according to partisan right or left, and we choose our positions issue by issue. You aren’t even allowing for such a grouping, and your numbers would indicate that you prefer to think of such people as right-wing. But many Jews generally fall into that independent category, particularly those outside of Orthodoxy or the Jewish professional/activist world.
    Additionally, if you take a blogger like UOJ, he is clearly–by Jewschool standards–on the right. But though he may be “right-wing,” his target has consistently been the far-right. A criminal has gone to jail because of him, for crying out loud.
    Anyway…you have every right to want to shut down a troll…but if that’s the only opposition you are getting, it may have something to do with Jewschool’s own presentation…which doesn’t mean Jewschool should change, but it does suggest–if this is the case–that this is more of an incubator of the Jewish Left than a place for redefining Leftist ideas…I personally think of Jewschool as a bit of a havurah itself to cultivate the next generation of Jewish progressive activists and leadership. And that’s interesting to those who are of that ilk, and to those diametrically opposed to it.

  9. incorrect — the beauty of the net isn’t that everyone has the right to post their tripe to any wesbite they want. it’s that they have the ability to start their own website upon which to publish their tripe and to grow a readership of their own to outshine their opponents.
    ie., the net remains an open market for ideas. again — no one’s stopping you from buying jewschoolsucks.com. go ahead. that’s your freedom of speech. that’s your open democracy.
    on jewschool.com, it’s a democracy of the sites contributors — the people who actually invest time, energy, and money into building, maintaining, and authoring this site. it is not a democracy of trolls and rightards who want to take pot shots at every innocuous sentence that makes it to the blog’s front page.
    you sound more like a socialist than a conservative, nationalizing this blog by claiming that anyone has a right to abuse its forum in anyway they so desire. you apparently don’t believe in personal property rights, or the right to choose not to hear other people’s speech. you believe in your right to infringe upon the sanctity and peace of others’ space. but that isn’t your right at all.
    could you imagine if the owner of a bar didn’t have the right to evict a drunk who’s harassing other customers, or who’s hanging around degrading the bartenders?
    i’m not saying you can never go to another bar and be a surly, arrogant fuck for the rest of your life. i’m just saying, you’re not welcome in THIS bar.

  10. I think jewschool would be a better blog without incorrect. Not because he has different views, or is a right wing crazy, but because he is acting in a manner destructive to the sense of community and long term goals of this site.
    He is a guest accused of misbehaving. Now is the time to show him the door. it’s not censorship, it’s not fascism, it’s just being a good host.

  11. I’m a troll? Really? Go back to my post, I made two points: that the crazed American blacklist of the 50’s should be looked at as aberrational and in the context of the true worldwide communist effort that killed millions of innocents (please note I didn’t condone, approve or support that blacklist, just indicated that everything in life needs context); and I indicated that there is the less structured but no less real blacklist of conservatives in the elite media, universities, and arts in this country.
    If anyone thinks either of those points are untrue, I’m sorry but you are uninformed. And if anyone who didn’t know them is hearing them for the first time, the post was especially important; and if you know those facts but resent hearing them, then your objection isn’t to “trolls” but to having to consider issues you don’t want to consider.
    I’m sorry if some want to be only surrounded by mirrors and echo chambers – that’s not what the net is. Information is free, and I hope the thought police never take over the net.

  12. all your post said, as far as i’m concerned, was “leftists are worse than mccarthyites.” and your claim about a hollywood blacklist against conservatives is entirely unfounded. go to opensecrets.org and look at the donations in the zipcodes around hollywood. or hell, look at the election results for l.a. county in the 2006 california gubernatorial election and it’ll show you that just under half the population voted republican. and in the 2004 election, 6 of l.a.’s congressional districts elected republicans. not to mention, the richest mfers don’t even live in l.a. county — go look at orange county. to suggest that republicans can’t get a fair shake in hollywood is utter bullshit.

  13. Incorrect: “Our government has a long history of persecution of Communists, starting with the Palmer Raids of 1919. I mention these only because it was a large scale, systematic assault on Communists which ended up with thousands of arrests, and served as a proving ground for a young J. Edgar Hoover.”
    No, the blacklist of the 1940s and 50s was NOT an aberration. Rather than a legitimate exercise in national security, persecution of Communists in this country has long been an outlet for the worst expressions of state sponsored anti-Semitism and xenophobia. And the thrust of my presentation is NOT that Stalinism was good (KHOLILE) but that the efforts of the anti-Communist vigilantes in this country destroyed thousands of lives WITHOUT making a measurable difference in protecting our national security. In some senses, the anti-Communist vigilantes were similar to pogroms, in that they gave vent to the most violent anti-Semitic tendencies latent in the general population. Our government not only did nothing to protect those harmed by the blacklist, they actively supported and encouraged it.
    As for the existence of a ‘liberal blacklist’ well, to even suggest such a thing is laughable and indeed does mark you as a fantasist as
    well as a troll. Do you even know what the blacklist was? It meant you would not be hired. Anywhere. People lost their jobs, their families, their health and their lives. And on what account? For (possibly) being a member of a political party which was never illegal. Don’t dare tell me that conservatives are blacklisted when I can’t flip a channel on the TV (or go to a bookstore) without seeing the nauseating faces of Coulter, O’Reilly and the rest of their disgusting ilk.
    I personally don’t give a damn what you say on Jewschool. Be my guest. But don’t delude yourself that your ignorance and witless arguments are going to change any thinking Jew’s life.

  14. Rokhl, to think that being a liberal once meant having an open mind:
    Maybe you are right, maybe there was a 50 year period in this country when we went crazy in response to Communism and hurt thousands of people; but to not recognize the context, a reaction to an evil system that consciously murdered hundreds of millions and scared the wits out of Americans gives a false historical view of what and why the blacklist, etc. occurred. Clearly I’m not saying that leftists are evil, that would be stupid (leftist does not equal Communist)- it is saying that Communism and Nazism were the last century’s two evil systems that in the case of Communism caused an overreaction in this country.
    I work in one of the leftist dominated areas I’ve described above as engaging in virtual blacklisting – there’s a reason that those of us who are conservative don’t mention our political views.
    And btw Mobius, when people use the term Hollywood in a political context, they aren’t referring to the geographical entity – they mean the entertainment business – see, you’ve just learned something from someone you can’t stand – the benefit of free speech.

  15. I have to say, rokhl, that you choice of the work “persecution” is a curious one, if technically true. Do you know that Communists are still ‘persecuted’ in government jobs and can’t hold a security clearance? Would that really be suprising to you?
    What made McCarthyism so terrible and dangerous was it’s lack of truth. What was terrible was that people were blamed when, rather than support the murderous regime of Stalin (which, don’t kid yourself, a number did), they merely had progressive views on social values, which I think is what you think of when you think of Communists from that era. I could be wrong.
    Think of the context: America developes the nuclear bomb and Russia gets it a mere 3 years later. That was only possible because of severe infiltration of Communists agents in the American security establishment. It’s easy to sit back and be horrified at our black and white view of Communists, but I wonder if we’d have the same view if we’d lived thru the Cuban Missile Crisis (or, for that matter, the six day war, which also almost drove both sides to war).
    Communism in the context of the cold war was truly an evil thing if it meant supporting the Russian regime (which was terribly anti-semitic, among other things). So I do find it interesting that you use the work ‘persecution’. Perhaps they should have been persecuted…

  16. Rokhl:
    You stated that “[o]ur government has a long history of persecution of Communists, starting with the Palmer Raids of 1919. I mention these only because it was a large scale, systematic assault on Communists which ended up with thousands of arrests, and served as a proving ground for a young J. Edgar Hoover.”
    According to the Wikipedia entry on the Palmer Raids, which of course may tell only part of the story, the raids were assaults on radicals of diverse political tendencies, including anarchists, socialists and Communists, most of then foreign-born individuals.
    See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmer_Raids
    Also take a look at the Wikipedia entry, “First Red Scare,” here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Red_Scare
    I’m just noting these entries because there was Jewish involvement in many, indeed, most of the radical movements “on the left” from the 1880s onward. While there are similar and overlapping reasons for individuals who became active with these movements, it is also worth exploring what personal and / or political factors led some people to become Communists, others anarchists, some socialist or labor Zionists, others Trotskyists of diverse tendencies … etc., sometimes within the same extended or immediate family.

  17. “No, the blacklist of the 1940s and 50s was NOT an aberration. Rather than a legitimate exercise in national security, persecution of Communists in this country has long been an outlet for the worst expressions of state sponsored anti-Semitism and xenophobia”
    No. This is exaggerated. While no one is defending the McCarthy era, it was hardly “the worst expressions of state sponsored anti-Semitism and xenophobia.” For that, I would refer you to the Soviet state we were in a cold war with at that time. What happened here was deplorable — but it was nothing like what we were fighting.
    And there were too many Jewish communists. There just were. My socialist great-grandparents and their friends and family had to take much too much precious time out to fight those far-left idiots instead of building infrastructure and social services for fellow workers and this nation. The McCarthy era was excessive and unfair, and the worst of the far-right, but Jewish communists were an overrepresented pain in the ass.

  18. Just wanted to clarify — they were the worst of the far-right in power in the U.S. at that time or until recently — obviously there is plenty worse far-right.

  19. rokhl writes:
    In ‘The Front’, these blacklisted writers use Woody to sell their scripts and Woody, for putting his name on the work, gets a cut. Hijinks ensue.
    Aha!!!! Finally I understand the background for the Simpsons episode “The Front”! Thank you.

  20. DK writes: “No. This is exaggerated. While no one is defending the McCarthy era, it was hardly “the worst expressions of state sponsored anti-Semitism and xenophobia.” For that, I would refer you to the Soviet state we were in a cold war with at that time. What happened here was deplorable — but it was nothing like what we were fighting.”
    Come on David, you are deliberately misreading my sentence. When I refer to state sponsored xenophobia and anti-Semitism I meant, of course, that which was sponsored or condoned by *our* state.

  21. Rokhl,
    That makes sense, and I apologize for misreading your sentence uncharitably.
    But can we also agree as well that their was an over representation of Jewish communists?

  22. Arieh writes: “I’m just noting these entries because there was Jewish involvement in many, indeed, most of the radical movements “on the left” from the 1880s onward. While there are similar and overlapping reasons for individuals who became active with these movements, it is also worth exploring what personal and / or political factors led some people to become Communists, others anarchists, some socialist or labor Zionists, others Trotskyists of diverse tendencies … etc., sometimes within the same extended or immediate family.”
    Arieh: Your additional historical context just makes my point stronger. Yes, the government consistently targeted anarchists and other radicals, in addition to Communists, (though the large part of all of these were foreign born). This tends to show that such targeting was in fact NOT a response (proportionate or disproportionate) against monstrous crimes which would happen decades later, but instead, this targeting was motivated, in large part, by very strong, xenophobic, nativistic and anti-semitic feelings within our government, and within the population at large.

  23. I’m not going to pile too far into a conversation where others probably know more, but for one point: I think we need to be very cautious, and thoroughly knowledgeable before attributing actions that we may find unbecoming (or even morally unacceptable) to “antisemitism”.
    Two elements here: The first is that Communist and extreme leftist groups were a genuine threat to the American democratic system and the Constitution during the early 20th century. Even the introductory links above provide an overview of the bombings and manifold acts of violence committed by extremist groups during that time. Some of them made open declarations of hostility against the American republic and combined them with attacks. (The Palmer Raids were so named because they followed an assassination attempt against Attorney General Palmer.)
    My point is there was reason for alarm, and the reason had nothing to do with ethnicity or religion but ideology–and an ideology that had demonstrated its ability and willingness to commit violence and attack the American system.
    The second is that Jews were highly represented in extreme leftist groups at the time. But those groups weren’t being primarily investigated because they had Jews. Rather all the members were being investigated because they belonged to a group that the Justice Dept. believed was dangerous. If a group calls for violent revolution and overthrow of the gov’t, of course it’s going to be probed!
    My point is that whether or not feelings of xenophobia, racism or anti-semitism came into play during the course of any particular investigation, they were not the motive behind the investigations. If “Jews” or “immigrants” were caught up more than others in these probes it probably wasn’t because of their religion or ethnicity but because they were disproportionately involved in the groups under scrutiny.
    In addition behavioral and psychological profiles would be drawn up and the people who matched those profiles would be scrutinized more. That is the nature of all investigation. Now, whether the investigations were carried out properly, whether there were errors or abuses, etc. is a different question. But I think we need to be clear about motives and not issue the charge of “antisemitism” unless it is clearly deserved.

  24. Eric, you wrote,
    “My point is that whether or not feelings of xenophobia, racism or anti-semitism came into play during the course of any particular investigation, they were not the motive behind the investigations. If “Jews” or “immigrants” were caught up more than others in these probes it probably wasn’t because of their religion or ethnicity but because they were disproportionately involved in the groups under scrutiny.”
    Eric, I don’t see how you can eliminate antisemitism from the McCarthy era, including partial motive. It does seem it was an important characteristic of this movement, and it was fueled by disproportionate involvement in both Communism, but also non-Communist and non-radical leftist activities.
    It seems, at least in some ways, as a last ditch effort to stem rising Jewish leftist power in this country. It failed utterly. And while I certainly have no sympathy for the McCarthyites and their allies or their dirty tricks, I do understand that a group fears being displaced and losing power to a group they consider “other” to some extent.
    Sometimes I think the Jewish community fails to empathize with their opponents…especially white Christian ones, and according to McNamara, this is a dangerous flaw. We perceive and identify antisemitism, and feel that is digging deep enough.
    I don’t think it is. There is not one kind of antisemitism, and there is not one reason for antisemitism. The McCarthyites did fear communism, but they also feared liberalism and socialism, and were already enraged over the New Deal, and feared further changes being advocated often by Jew know who.
    If the 60s were any manifestation of their concerns, they had damned good reason to fear, in terms of their POV.

  25. To take another tack in this discussion, the AGL was used into the 1970s. I was called for my draft physical in 1969, humming “Alice’s Restaurant” all the way through. At one point we all sat at desks in our underwear, among soldiers with guns. A sargent intoned in true Alice’s Restaurant monotone “The Attorney General has certified that these organizations advocate the overthrow of the government by force or violence.” I raised my fist and shouted “Right On!” He said, more or less, “Shut up and fill out the form.” At the bottom it asked if you were a member of any of these groups. I wrote “I refuse to answer on grounds that I might incriminate myself. Besides, it’s none of your fucking business.” I didn’t get let out for this, but I did get a big “9” on the front of my folder. I saw someone else with a “9” and he also had refused to answer.
    I didn’t get out for being subversive. I didn’t go to Viet Nam because a letter from my allergist said I had allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Go figure!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.