What A Difference A Month Makes: Re-Watching “Trumbo”

It was only in May that I had a quick note in a morning warm-up declaring the 2015 film “Trumbo” an ethics movie. That it is, but subsequent developments have made me realize it is much more, including frightening.

The film, starring Brian Cranston as the most famous member of the “Hollywood Ten,” now is a glass of ice water recieved full in the face, shocking viewers into the realization that the George Floyd Freakout is the catalyst for a second wave of McCarthyism. This one varies from the first in that the current version is being fueled by the Left rather than conservatives, and that it is far more violent, and potentially more dangerous.

After watching the film again and reviewing the history, for “Trumbo” is easily the best film about the blacklist, there is no question in my mind that this is true. Previously, I regarded the use of “McCarthyism” as a useful if over-used metaphor, like “witch-hunt.” (“McCarthyism” usually refers to the oppression and intimidation of the entire “Red Scare” period, including the blacklist, which was Fifties for “cancelled.” The “Hollywood Ten” were victims of the fascist House Un-American Activities  Committee, which was separate from the vicious Wisconsin GOP Senator, but “House Un-American Activities  Committee-ism” doesn’t roll off the tongue well.) Now it is evident that we are witnessing  in the United States  a mutated clone of what occurred across the country in the beginning of the 1950’s, with “racist” the current label being used to bully, silence, and ruin careers and lives, rather than “Communist.”

It is also clear to me, after viewing the movie in the ugly light of the events occurring across the country, that the solution today is the same  as the solution the movie chronicles. Citizens, especially prominent and successful ones, must muster their courage, integrity and dedication to American values to resist the threats, refuse to apologize, and defy the efforts to silence and intimidate them. They must also accept the unpleasant consequences until their opposition bears fruit and the madness subsides, so sacrifice is also required.

As in the Red Scare period, the madness is inspired by good intentions. Then, rational people were convinced that protecting the nation against the threat of Communism was a matter of survival, justifying suspending civil rights and basic ethics. The ends justified the means. They were horribly wrong (just as dewy-eyed, naive post WWII activist, intellectuals and artists like the Hollywood Ten—and Pete Seeger, Paul Robson and Bernie Sanders—who admired Stalinist Russia were horribly wrong) but we should not demonize all of them (McCarthy, though, was an irredeemable villain, as another excellent Red Scare movie, “Good Night and Good Luck” documents), just as we shouldn’t demonize all of the current activists who are trying to destroy our democracy and culture to banish “systemic racism.” They are wrong too, that’s all. But these people, for all their good intentions, still must be opposed.

At the conclusion of the film, a reflective, somewhat mellowed Trumbo gives an acceptance speech as  he receives the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement from the Writers Guild of America in 1970.  He says, after some introductory remarks,

The blacklist was a time of evil. And no one who survived it came through untouched by evil. Caught in a situation that had passed beyond control of mere individuals, each person reacted as his nature, his needs, his convictions, and his particular circumstances compelled him to.

It was a time of fear. And no one was exempt. Scores of people lost their homes. Their families disintegrated. They lost — and in some, some even lost their lives

.But when you look back upon that dark time, as I think you should every now and then, it will do you no good to search for heroes or villains. There weren’t any. There were only victims. Victims, because each of us felt compelled to say or do things that we otherwise would not, to deliver or receive wounds which we truly did not wish to exchange.

I look out to my family sitting there, and I realize what I’ve put them through. And it’s unfair. My wife, who somehow kept it all together, amazes me. And so what I say here tonight is not intended to be hurtful to anyone. It is intended to heal the hurt, to repair the wounds which for years have been inflicted upon each other and most egregiously upon ourselves.

Thank you. Thank you kindly.

That’s the end of the film, and it is apparently what Trumbo really said.

That conciliatory sentiment , however, came a decade after the blacklist ended, after there had been time to analyze what had occurred and why. The blacklist ended in part because Trumbo and others refused to be intimidated. They defied those who tried to silence them, and kept fighting. Trumbo and the Hollywood Ten went to prison for “contempt of Congress,” meaning that they refused to apologize for their words and beliefs or name others who had similar political beliefs.

I suspect that the current fever will take even more courage and fortitude to break than the Red Scare, particularly with most of the news media openly sympathizing with the race-baiters, the rioters and the statue-topplers. Nonetheless, the nation needs its heroes now. Anyone who apologizes to the mob is strengthening it.

“Trumbo” makes this clear. And the clear parallels between the upheaval he survived and what we face today show that the nation is in serious trouble.

 

25 thoughts on “What A Difference A Month Makes: Re-Watching “Trumbo”

  1. Help.

    I received an email from the new head of the alumni association of my college. It contained the following, in pertinent part:

    “[The annual alumni] meeting was not business as usual for me, however. As the first person of color to hold this position, I’m compelled to point out that now is the time we must begin to address some of the pain caused in Hamilton’s past, and the pain our community (and our country) is going through in the present. I believe Saturday’s meeting was just the start.

    I invited alumni to keep the conversation going after the committee reports and awards. The statements made by the College regarding racism and discrimination and the current uproar relating to the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the dozens of other Black and Brown women and men at the hands of police are only a few examples of why I felt we needed to talk, listen, and learn from one another. I know these conversations open a wound for Kirkland women, alumni of color, and those in the LGBTQ+ community who felt isolated, violated, and unheard during their time on the Hill. Many participants in the meeting, myself included, were still processing their reactions to the College’s response. However, during the meeting, as many reflected on their own personal experiences at Hamilton, the need for these discussions became abundantly clear. I’d even say the need for continued conversation and follow up are vital if we are ever going to move toward a healthier and more inclusive community.”

    I consider this Authentic Frontier Gibberish. I first just rolled my eyes and thought this too will pass. But subsequently, I’ve thought of sending her the following in an email:

    “Dear Ms. _______,

    I’d appreciate your briefly telling me what the college has done wrong and what can be done to remedy those wrongs. When I was on campus fifty years ago, the college took absolutely no position on, for example, the Vietnam War protests, other than insisting finals be taken on schedule, Kent State notwithstanding. How is it that the college needs to take positions on police procedures?

    Thanks,

    OB, class of 1973”

    To send or not to send. Anyone? Beuhler?

    • Send, but don’t expect a productive dialogue. Your former college’s alumni head is fighting against Racism and anyone who questions the narrative that police procedures are connected to Racism is a Racist and must be fought.

      But we’ve got to start somewhere, right?

      • Yes, when SJWs say “we need to have a conversation,” they mean “I need to tell you some inexplicable theory I picked up in college, so shut up and listen.”

    • Yes, send it forthwith.

      I am in a similar dilemma. Our son attends a Jesuit high school. In the wake of the George Floyd disaster, there is thought of programming to specifically educate the students about diversity and inclusion and systemic racism and inequality as part of the ongoing curriculum. Nice, huh? I
      want to oppose that drift toward social justice nonsense but I won’t want to cause my son problems at school, and it being a smaller campus body where he is already well-known, my actions will stick out like a sore thumb with a busted up fingernail.

      jvb

      • John, maybe you can have private, face to face conversations with the senior Jebbies on site. Maybe even bring a small check.

      • My mother was no “shrinking violet” and was forever involved in my schooling be it PTA, President of the Band Parent’s Association, or many other high profile leadership positions she held. I was constantly taking flack from fellow students and sometimes even teachers and administrators for her beliefs, positions, and direction. Looking back on it all now I can say, “yes, it was tough.” However, I would not change one thing for which she ever advocated. The experiences were character-building and most of all she was usually correct. My mother was a lion, and I respect her for it today far more than if she had kept her mouth shut. Courage and fortitude are the keywords of today’s blog entry and the attributes it will take for both you and your son to survive any possible repercussions. Do it.

  2. Jack,

    The first part of this sentence makes little sense (in addition to its length):

    “The film, starring Brian Cranston as the most famous member of the ‘Hollywood Ten,’ now is a glass of ice water recieved full in the face, shocking viewers into the realization that the George Floyd Freakout is the catalyst for a second wave of McCarthyism, with the variations being that the current version is being fueled by the Left rather than conservatives, and that it is far more violent, and potentially more dangerous.”

  3. Wasn’t communism rampant in Hollywood during those years though? Are we not experiencing today to a degree communism’s (continued) influence there? To be clear I’m not justifying the persecution of innocents or those who were communist. However McCarthy seemed to have a reason for concern and that concern didn’t go away just because the red scare tactics were abominable. Can someone explain this?

    • I’m with you. Not hunting godless communists with the same vigor as the Nazis is the direct efficient cause of our current troubles.

    • Well, we had Alger Hiss who was undoubtedly a Soviet asset and spy who went to prison for perjury and spent 3 1/2 years there. McCarthy had nothing to do with prosecuting him. However, with the Soviets having the bomb it was a very scary time.

    • That’s why Arthur Miller’s “witch hunt” analogy in “The Crucible” was bogus. Witches were imaginary, Communist were real. Racists are real too. So are sexual abusers. But in all of these cases, legitimate concern about real problems were warped by those seeking power and to harm others for their own benefit. And of the three, only sexual abuse was or can be made illegal. This is where the “Crucible” was dead on: citizens being accused to gain power and to ruin them.

      It’s the method, not necessarily the motive.

      • Every major city is going to have “Black Lives Matter” painted somewhere where you can’t avoid seeing it soon. Every major police department is going to come under attack, Every police officer everywhere is going to get the side-eye as he goes about his duties, and many are likely to be interfered with (I just saw a meme forwarded that basically said if you are black and you see a white cop interacting with a brother, stop and watch, interfering if something doesn’t look right). Every statue that looks questionable is going to come down, either by mob violence or by craven municipal councils where not a single Republican sits. If you are white, you will be presumed to be a racist, an attitude I once thought was confined to the under-educated “preach it” types, one of whom told me “All y’all white folks are racist, some y’all just better at hidin’ it than others, but I’m watchin’, cause y’all gonna slip one day, then I go to the boss and out y’all go.”

        The more I think about it, the more I think there’s no way that Trump or the Senate Republicans can hold out this fall. The other side is just too energized and too angry.

  4. OB , send
    John, the opposition relys on you not wanting to cause your son problems but an ounce of prevention now is worth a pound of cure later.

    I for one will no longer tolerate this bullshit from SJ,W’s. I no longer speak to a brother who thought it tongue in cheek humor to compare me to a Nazi.

    If you want to see the corporations stop caving to the shakedown artists start sending letters to the CEO’ s telling them you will stop buying from them and do without or use another supplier if they continue to cave to racebaiters. You will encourage others to do the same Include true info about the founders of BLM and their Marxist agenda.

    Ask them if BLM is about racial injustice in the US why are BLM chapters found in every capitalist nation on Earth. With enough letters they will think twice about that million dollar contribution to BLM. When BLM, Sharpton and others start getting shown the door when the come calling only then will it stop.

    Tell your school boards to take no political positions on any matters. School is where information is transferred and not indoctrination camps. If they don’t take this course you will run against them and show them to be spineless cowards willing to discriminate against innocent white children who have done nothing to earn the badge of racism the are being forced to wear . Remind them that white children cannot remove the color of their skin just as Holocaust victims could not remove the tattoos of their oppressors. Thell them if they think systemic oppression exists that they should resign forthwith because they are the ones formulating policy.

    Stop contributing to organizations, colleges and universities. Tell them you do not wish to have any part of your contribution used for any political initiatives that cast generic blame on someone or something Tell them money is fungible so you have no way to determine if your funds are being used for such purposes so until all contributions are used to fund student scholarships you are declining to contribute

    We need to quit bitchin’ about what is going on and fight fire with fire.

    If this does not work you can surrender, move, or fight them in the streets but if we do nothing we are no less culpable for our future than those who say their advancement is stifled by systemic racism.

      • Thanks Chris. I stopped donating to my college long ago. I’ve been contributing directly to my children’s and grand children’s well being instead of funding diversity directors. My parents paid my college tuition cash on the barrel. I’m just not sure I owe them anything. Besides which, they’ve got a huge endowment, no one pays the sticker price and minority kids have been going there most likely for free in significant numbers for decades.

        • I spent 20+ years in a community college setting. Students can be characterized as on campus full timers and part-time adult students. Full time students are highly malleable older adults and pre-adults. Our administration basically gave students carte blanche to pursue items of interest.
          What is absolutely lacking is any adult guidance for student groups to provide balance. Instead, staff feel it necessary to reinforce student autonomy and be more of a friendly ally with other college officials. The college will adopt just about anything as long as it does not push an agenda that is pro-white or pro- male(sports excepted).

          I took early retirement when it became obvious that being white, being male and being willing to challenge student ideas to help them learn was becoming a fast ticket to getting in professional trouble.

          I just received a letter asking for money. It went into the trash. I am developing form letters to send out to every organization that requests money or provides goods and services to me. I figure sending out letters before the fold to the charlatand might be a better strategy than waiting and punishing them for making the wrong choices.

          If we all started sending letters condemning both what happened to Floyd and the Marxist organizations such as BLM, or SLPC, and others seeking to further their agenda by demanding apologies, money, or other things of value it might stem the tide of corporate groveling.

          • I sent it and copied the president and a buddy who’s on the board of trustees and, I’m pretty sure, is a key guy in managing the endowment. Personally, I’m not even to the point of condemning what happened to George Floyd pending what comes out in the trial. Maybe those guys were following department policy and procedure as the summary Zoomie 77 found a while ago. But using the incident as a pretext to put the college through its social justice paces for a bunch of Marxists is not acceptable. Worse, it’s irrational. I thought irrationality had not place in universities since, oh, say, the Enlightenment? Or perhaps even the Middle Ages?

            PS: Administrators and faculty are clearly complicit and the trustees seem to just sit by and watch it happen.

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