Wednesday, March 16, 2011

He's a Congenital Cheap Pig, But He's Our Congenital Cheap Pig

I have a lot of things I want to write about here, but I've been busy reading, which eats up so much time.

I'm about two-thirds of the way through James J. Lorence's The Suppression of The Salt of the Earth: How Hollywood, Big Labor, and Politicians Blacklisted a Movie in Cold War America (New Mexico, 1999). Let's see, I did a post about that movie just over two years ago. Lorence's book gives a brief account of the production of the The Salt of the Earth, giving me a greater appreciation for the way it involved local, Mexican-American miners and their families in the development of the script and in the filming. Most of the cast were nonprofessionals, and did surprisingly well.

The book goes on to tell of the organized program to block the film's production and distribution. It's chilling, and it reminded me of this post I did at the end of last year, on the misinformation of the American public. Criticizing a blogger who lamented the rise of the Internet and people's reliance on less "objective" outlets than the standard corporate media, I pointed out that Americans have always gone to alternatives:
I'm not sure where my peers and their parents went for their misinformation in the 60s, but there was the Reader's Digest, a reliable fount of right-wing propaganda with an enormous circulation, and there were plenty of right-wing radio commentators even before the Fairness Doctrine was abolished. It was as if there was a sewer in which their blatantly racist, hysterically anti-communist material marinated until it was ready to dump into receptive ears.
As I read
The Suppression of The Salt of the Earth I realized that I'd completely forgotten the American Legion and the Roman Catholic Church, two nationwide anti-Communist groups with their own, probably interlocking, propaganda networks. Those networks are the ancestors of the right-wing propaganda we see today -- often directly, since today's propaganda mills often recycle Oldies but Goodies from the Fifties. And I've been ruminating again on accusations I've seen about the supposed McCarthyism of the "left" by right-wing writers, often the very same people who are trying to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy as a martyr of the anti-Red struggle. Coming from them, shouldn't "McCarthyism" be a compliment? (When I asked RWA1, who'd been calling for an end to the use of "Nazi" and "fascist" in political discourse, if he also favored retiring "Red," "pinko," and "socialist," he mused that he didn't know, he had a weakness for those terms. Of course.)

I've also started rereading Mary Lasswell's series of novels that began with Suds in Your Eye (Houghton Mifflin, 1942). They're a guilty pleasure of mine, and it's my third turn through the books. They're about three elderly ladies in San Diego who become fast friends, bonding over beer, good cooking, and war fever, though the series continued after World War II was over. Except for predictable hostility to "Japs" in the wartime books, the books are less racist than most popular fiction of their period, though a couple of gay male interior decorators are the villains of the last book, Let's Go for Broke (1962), which is an annoyance but not enough to turn me off to Lasswell's writing -- as I said, she's a guilty pleasure, and her stories and characters charm me despite that final lapse.

I made a dash through Stephanie Budin's The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity (Cambridge, 2008), about a theme that has fascinated Bible scholars and historians of antiquity for centuries now. She's not the first to deny the historical validity of claims about priestesses of Ishtar peddling sex on behalf of the Goddess, which have often been used as distractions in the debates over homosexuality and the Bible, but she brought me up to date on the matter. More on this later, maybe.

Last week I finally read Scott G. Brown's Mark's Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith's Controversial Discovery (Wilfrid Laurer UP, 2005), and so I've been looking online for more reactions to it and to Smith, whom I've written about before. I hope to write about it at more length soon; for the moment I want to mention again how startling it is to find really overwrought homophobia among supposedly "objective" scholars, which seems to fuel their willingness to pass along utter falsehoods (such as the claim that no one but Smith ever saw the manuscript of the "Secret Gospel of Mark"). But as I say, later.

Today it was reported that Private Bradley Manning, who's been subjected to forced nudity in his cell on top of months of solitary confinement, has been allowed to
cover himself (via). President Obama, you'll recall, told the press last week that the military had assured him that everything was copacetic, but there has been increasing criticism in the media. If I were given dictatorial powers, I would condemn Obama (and Dana Milbank) to wear this outfit at all official functions for the duration of his term -- no, not really, because if I had dictatorial powers Obama would be turned over to the International Criminal Court, along with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of the torture gangsters, with no American exemptions allowed. More realistically but only slightly, if I had any Photoshop skills I'd merge images of Barry and Michelle into this photo.