Communism in Hollywood: The Moral Paradoxes of Testimony, Silence, and Betrayal

By MacLeod, Doug | Film & History, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Communism in Hollywood: The Moral Paradoxes of Testimony, Silence, and Betrayal


MacLeod, Doug, Film & History


Alan Casty Communism in Hollywood: The Moral Paradoxes of Testimony, Silence, and Betrayal Scarecrow Press, 2009 376 pages; $50.00

Usually, when talking with my composition students about (in)tolerance in American culture, I briefly touch upon McCarthyism owing to its political, moral, and ethical significance. A paranoid time in American history, McCarthyism is considered by most as "a synonym for the anticommunist political repression of the early Cold War," although, the utter hatred for communism arrived well before McCarthyism existed. The reason for this hatred - according to one critic - was the irrational notion that outsiders threatened the nation from within. Projecting their own fears onto a demonized "other," many Americans found convenient scapegoats.

In other words, the "other" was always an organized, well-oiled machine filled with a rebellious conglomerate of faiths, races, and cultures, but distinctly not "American" or democratic in its ideological make-up. And it is because of America's fear of "organized otherness" that McCarthy went after Communist Party members. What the Wisconsin senator didn't realize, however, was that the organized "others"were not always organized, an idea that Alan Casty examines in Communism in Hollywood: The Moral Paradoxes of Testimony, Silence, and Betrayal.

The author hypothesizes that the meetings held to protest McCarthy's witch hunts representednot great moments but, instead, distorted idealism, while party members, who crusaded for free speech, submitted to censorship and accepted the denial of that very freedom. Casty further explains how silence in the face of freedom of speech does not equal loyalty and community.

Meticulously researched andtightly organized, Communism in Hollywood examines the complex history of communism's origins, its influence in Tinseltown, and how, after time, it became much like McCarthyism, wherein trials were eventually held, judgments were hastily made, and misconceptions about the atrocities that were actually occurring in the Soviet Union were not fully recognized. Casty believes that this turmoil between individuals within the American Communist movement eventually led to profound "immediate effects" on "their lives and careers," as well as "long-term moral paradoxes. …

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