Wednesday, February 12, 2014
More About "Subversives"
Though I've now reached the Student Rebellion chapters of "Subversives," I'm still kind of gobsmacked at the information in the previous chapters, particularly about Ronald Reagan's long and intimate relationship with the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover. I can't say that I ever knew or even thought about it before.
Rosenfeld details Reagan's collaboration and cooperation with the FBI and Hoover in rooting out Communists and com-symps from Hollywood, not only in his role as President of the Screen Actors Guild, but -- apparently -- just because he was who he was and he wanted to do it. It's a tale I never really thought about before.
Of course everyone knew that he had been president of the Screen Actors Guild and had engaged in Red Baiting during that time, but what he had actually done on behalf of the FBI and Hoover's anti-Communist conspiracy/crusade, the names he had named, and the people whose careers or lives he'd destroyed had to my knowledge never been highlighted at all, certainly not to the extent that Rosenfeld does in "Subversives."
Of course, Rosenfeld has the documents, and he has interviewed many of those who were still alive during his writing of the book and were directly or indirectly involved in the conspiracy against presumed Communist infiltration of the movie industry. It is a story of gross deception and illegality on one level. On another, though -- and perhaps even worse -- it is a story of careerism and business as usual on the part of Reagan and many others who pretended one thing but who were doing something else.
I think most of us understand that J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was a lawless and criminal enterprise, particularly when going after those Hoover personally deemed suspect of disloyalty, communism, and/or communist "sympathy." Of course there were many other targets of his interest and ire, but that's another issue. The issue here is the incessant, indeed obsessive, targeting of Hollywood personalities for investigation (often enough through illegal breakins of homes and offices) and denunciation as "subversives" and "communists."
Many of us knew the FBI was doing this, not simply in Hollywood, but everywhere (my 5th grade teacher was targeted, for example), and we understood there were severe consequences for many, many people who were accused, but it simply never occurred to me that there were such deep personal connections between Ronald Reagan and the FBI in this conspiracy. Finding out about it now, for the first time, demonstrates to me how carefully and successfully these things were concealed.
It was a conspiracy.
I won't go into the details here, but I urge you to get and read the book. It's an eye-opener both about Reagan and Hoover, and about what a very small world it can be when certain well-placed individuals join forces to destroy some designated "enemy."