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Jewish World Review March 19, 1999 /2 Nissan 5759

Thomas Sowell

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THE OUTRAGE OVER THE AWARDING of an Oscar to film director Elia Kazan is itself outrageous. It is also very revealing about the underlying assumptions -- the vision of the world -- of those who are criticizing the awarding of this honor for his motion picture achievements to someone whose political actions they disapprove.

Back during the immediate postwar period, there was a sudden and shocking public awareness of the extent to which Communists had infiltrated and manipulated many American institutions, including the State Department and the atomic bomb project, from which nuclear secrets were passed on to the Soviet Union.

Thus began investigations into the underground activities of Communists, including Alger Hiss, who went to jail for perjury about his espionage, and the Rosenbergs, who went to the electric chair for turning nuclear bomb secrets over to Stalin and company.

Like many political investigations, the investigations of Communists and suspected Communists were sometimes handled responsibly and sometimes irresponsibly. The most prominent example of the latter was Senator Joe McCarthy, who made unsubstantiated charges against many people.

But the subversive activities of Communists in the United States were not imaginary. The Communist Party was not simply a set of people with a particular set of beliefs that they wanted to apply to American society. It was a underground operation, consciously working for the interests of the Soviet Union, over and above any concerns they might have for American society.

In the early years of World War II, when the Soviet Union was allied with Nazi Germany, American Communists went all-out to prevent American aid to Britain, during the desperate days of the Nazi blitz, when Britain's very survival was in doubt. Everyone who wanted to help Britain was depicted by the Communists as not merely mistaken but as evil and reactionary.

All of that changed literally overnight when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. You need only read the official Communist newspaper in the United States, "The Daily Worker," published the day before the invasion and the issue published the day after to see a total 180-degree turn on the issue of war and American involvement. Once the Soviet Union was attacked, Communists in the United States became the biggest hawks in the land.

The opening of Soviet archives in recent years has confirmed that the Communist Party in the United States was financed and controlled from Moscow. It was never about a set of beliefs or values for the benefit of Americans. It was an organization of traitors serving a foreign dictatorship that murdered millions.

What does all this have to do with Elia Kazan and his Oscar? Congressional investigations of Communist infiltration into the Hollywood movie industry turned up many prominent members of the film industry who were also members of the Communist Party or who had in the past been members. These were not necessarily the conscious traitors who ran the party, but included the "useful idiots" who did their bidding.

One of these former Communists was Elia Kazan. When questioned by Congressional investigators, he named other members he knew. That was his great crime, in the eyes of the Hollywood left, who still vent their venom at him, half a century later.

Would they denounce an "informer" from inside the Ku Klux Klan who revealed the names of other KKK members? What about an informer from inside the right-wing militia movement? As in so many other areas, it is not the principle that the left is concerned about. It is the question of whose ox is gored.

Many Hollywood writers and producers whose Communist Party memberships were revealed became unwelcome in the industry they had infiltrated and tried to manipulate. But is there a right to infiltrate and deceive? It was not the government but other people in Hollywood who made the Communists unwelcome, partly in response to outraged public opinion.

Communists have the same right to their opinions as anyone else -- but not any more right. Others have an equal right not to associate with those whose ideas and actions they abhor.

Like so many who claim "rights," what the Hollywood left really wanted was privileges. Other Americans were not to have the right to reject the Communists and their sympathizers or their actions. How dare the peasants reject the anointed?

That is the ugly reality behind the denunciations of Elia Kazan's Oscar.


Up

03/15/99: Undermining the military
03/10/99: Joe DiMaggio -- icon of an era
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01/26/99:Moral bankruptcy in the schools
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3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
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©1999, Creators Syndicate