The original “Hollywood blacklist” dates back to 1947, when 10 members of the Communist Party, present or former, invoked the Fifth Amendment before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
The party was then a wholly owned subsidiary of the Comintern of Josef Stalin, whose victims had surpassed in number those of Adolf Hitler.
In a 346-17 vote, the Hollywood Ten (save one who recanted, Edward Dmytryk) were charged with contempt of Congress and suspended or fired.
The blacklist had begun. Directors, producers and writers who had been or were members of the party and refused to recant lost their jobs.
Politically, the blacklist was a victory of the American right.
In those first years of the Cold War, anti-communism and Christianity were mighty social, political and cultural forces. Hollywood acknowledged their power in what it produced.
Rhett Butler’s departing words to Scarlett O’Hara – “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” – were the most shocking heard on screen.
Catholicism was idealistically portrayed in “Going My Way” and “The Song of Bernadette.” Priest roles were played by Bing Crosby, Spencer Tracy, Gregory Peck.
But over a half century, the left captured and now controls the culture.
The Legion of Decency is dead. The Filthy Speech Movement from Berkeley 1964 has triumphed. The “seven filthy words” of comedians like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin are regular fare in films and steadily creeping into prime time.
Movies show sexually explicit scenes that make Howard Hughes’ 1944 condemned film, “The Outlaw,” starring Jane Russell, look like “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.”
Where Ingrid Bergman of “Casablanca” fame had to flee the country in 1950 after an adulterous affair with director Roberto Rossellini, the media today happily provide all the salacious details of every “relationship” Hollywood stars enter into and exit.
All of this testifies to the cultural ascendancy of the left.
Yet every establishment has its own orthodoxy, its own taboos, and its own blacklist. And, despite its pretensions to be open to all ideas, our cultural establishment is no different.
While the Hollywood Ten have been rehabilitated and heroized, it is Christians and conservatives who are in cultural cross hairs now.
Traditional Catholic morality is mocked, as are Southern evangelical Christians. And the new cultural establishment has erected a new regime called Political Correctness. It writes the hate-crimes laws that citizens must obey and the campus speech codes students must follow.
The new mortal sins are not filthy talk or immoral conduct, but racism, sexism, homophobia and nativism. The establishment alone defines these sins and enforces the proscriptions against them, from which there is no appeal, only the obligatory apology, the act of contrition and the solemn commitment never to sin again.
If you still believe homosexuality is unnatural and immoral and gay marriage absurd, you are a homophobe who is to keep his mouth shut.
If you think some ethnic and racial groups have greater natural athletic, academic or artistic talents, don’t go there, if you do not wish an early end to your journalistic career.
If you think illegal aliens should be sent home and legal immigration should mirror the ethnic makeup of the nation, you are a xenophobe and a racist.
All of these terms – racist, sexist, homophobe – are synonyms for heretic. Any of them can get you hauled before an inquisition.
To control the politics of a nation, control of the culture is a precondition. For who controls the culture defines what is moral and immoral, and what is heroic and villainous. And if you can set limits on what journalists write and broadcasters say, you can shape what people think and believe.
Through history, frightened establishments have dealt severely even with peaceful challenges to their power, which is why Socrates was forced to drink poison, Christ was crucified, Sir Thomas More was beheaded and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was sent to the Gulag.
When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” for demanding that Georgetown Law School subsidize the $3,000 women students annually require for birth control to exercise their sexual freedom, the media that piled on Rush objected less to the term than to the target he picked: one of their own.
Bill Maher routinely uses far more odious terms on Sarah Palin. Yet his $1 million gift to an Obama super PAC was welcomed by agents of the same president who phoned Fluke to console her over Rush’s remarks.
Rush apologized. But the left still campaigns to have his voice stifled and censored, by threatening advertisers of his radio show with boycotts if they refuse to drop him.
Thus does the left honor the First Amendment.
As shown in HBO’s “Game Change,” John McCain in 2008 ruled out attacks on Barack Obama’s 20-year ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Chicago preacher of “God damn America!” fame.
Why? Wright and Obama were black, and such attacks might agitate the latent racism of white America. The Republican Party censors itself so as not to antagonize a cultural establishment that wants to see it dead.
“Beautiful losers,” my late friend Sam Francis called them.