Popular Culture and Political Change in Modern America

Popular Culture and Political Change in Modern America

Popular Culture and Political Change in Modern America

Popular Culture and Political Change in Modern America

Synopsis

This book is a collection of essays dealing with the ways in which specific popular entertainment media, mass consumer products, and popular movements affect politics and political culture in the United States. It seeks to present a range of possibilities that reflect the dimensions of the current debate and practice in the field. Some of the contributions to this volume place popular culture media such as films, music, and books in a broad social context, and several articles deal with the historical roots of twentieth-century American popular culture. Popular culture is treated as categorically neither good nor bad, in either political or aesthetic terms. Instead, the essays reflect the editors convictions that popular culture is simply too important to be ignored by those academics who treat politics and its history seriously. The collection also shows that studying popular or mass culture in a historical way illuminates a variety of possible relationships between popular culture and politics."

Excerpt

By 1919, in the United States anti-communism was a well established, widely employed device for dealing with threats to the existing order, especially those that arose in the industrial workplace. As early as the railroad strikes of 1877, red-baiting had been used by businessmen, the clergy, and newspaper editorial writers to rally middle class support for violent repression of dissident workers. the Haymarket affair of the mid-1880s intensified anti-labor red-baiting, and can be considered the nation's first true Red Scare. Anti-communism flourished again in the decade before World War I, when it was used repeatedly to justify the suppression of iww and other militant labor unions.

The Red Scare of 1919-1921, however, marked a new and qualitatively different stage in the public use of anti-communism. in that postwar period, when organized labor once again shocked the middle class with its widespread use of the strike, anti‐ communism was adopted by the federal government as its central theme for dealing with labor radicals, alleged internal subversion, and external enemies. During this most important red scare, anti‐ communism shaped systematic policies of federal repression. J. Edgar Hoover took command of the Justic Department's Alien Radical Division. Deportation was used extensively as a political weapon. Radical political parties had their offices raided according to coordinated national plans. Throughout the period, undercover agents employed by the federal govenment acted as political spies and agents provocateur.

Viewed in this way, these and the other events that constitute the Red Scare of 1919-1921 appear as a political process through which the American government simultaneously eliminated radical political parties and developed anti-communism as its official ideology. in 1919-1921, the federal government first promulgated, and mobilized support for, the ideological core of what would become its mid-twentieth century foreign and domestic politics. By means of red-baiting, overt repression, and covert activities, anti‐ communism was transformed from a domestic anti-labor device . . .

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