Must Listen: Hollywood in the age of anti-communism


I have extolled the virtues of You Must Remember This, one of the very best podcasts in production today, in this blog before. In its current season, YMRT host/writer/producer Karina Longworth visits Hollywood in the House Un-American Activities Committee + McCarthyism eras.

Of the many, many subjects, occasions and phenomena Longworth touches upon is this chilling exchange between screenwriter Howard Lawson and the committee, which doesn’t feel out of context of some of the discourse we are seeing take place this election season.

One interesting tidbit, especially considering the recent firestorm evoked by Sec. Clinton’s mischaracterization of the political legacy of his namesake, pertains to human myth Ronald Reagan. Reagan, formerly a fervent Democrat, became a Republican in the 1950s. Previously he’d been a supporter of Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas. Douglas fell out of favor, broadly and for Reagan in particular, when she voted against a popular bill that would have effectively made it legal to detain, imprison or deport subversives. Around this time, Ronald shifted his support to HUAC member Richard Nixon.

By the way, when Reagan was publicly brought in front of the committee to “name names” of suspected subversives, he didn’t do so. He didn’t have to, it turns out, as he’d already privately provided those names to the FBI.

Additionally interesting, HUAC appeared fixated on every “ism” that was not inherently in support of the amorphously defined “Americanism.” This included communism, socialism, and leftism broadly as America’s political disposition was fast shifting rightward. The committee only briefly considered investigating the KKK. Committee member John Rankin justified the decision to not do so by saying, “After all, the KKK is an old American institution.”

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.