November 6, 2015

HOW BRYAN CRANSTON’S ‘TRUMBO’ WHITEWASHES STALINISM: “Blacklisting was and is a terrible thing — but we do a disservice to history when we unthinkingly celebrate Stalinists as heroes,” Sonny Bunch writes at the Daily Beast:

Yes, there’s no excuse for the blacklisting of communists by Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s. Just as Scott Eckern, Orson Scott Card, and Brendan Eich should not be deprived of their livelihood for their political views—and those on the right should think twice before launching a boycott of Quentin Tarantino for his recent comments about police—the Hollywood Ten and other Communists should not have been shut out of the studio system for arguing in favor of an unpopular ideology.

But it wasn’t just an unpopular ideology that Dalton Trumbo and his fellow blacklistees were supporting with their membership in the Communist Party: They were backing Stalin and a murderous, totalitarian regime dedicated to bringing America into the Communist fold. And to overlook this fact, as Trumbo does, is to do a real disservice to history.

And then there was Trumbo’s novel, Johnny Got His Gun, on the surface a cri de coeur for pacifism, but in actuality, a classic case of, as Glenn would say, Trumbo not being anti-war, but merely on the other side. In this case, Stalin’s side, during the period while Stalin and the Nazis were carving up Poland during while operating together under their non-aggression pact. Its publication and afterlife had some fascinating twists and turns, particularly once Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Or as Bunch writes, “a funny thing happened after Hitler turned on Stalin a few years later and the Communists desperately sought American entry into the war: Trumbo suddenly become much less committed to pacifism.”

That’s a topic I explored earlier this year, exploring how Trumbo, Pete Seeger and Charlie Chapin were all perfectly willing, to invert the self-serving quote from Lillian Hellman, another pro-Soviet apologist, to cut their conscience to fit this year’s fashion.

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