The anti-Communist hysteria rampant in the U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s is often called the McCarthy period. But the red-baiting and persecution started even before McCarthy was elected to the Senate in 1946. The notorious House Un-American Activities Committee led the crusade to ferret out alleged Communists in the U.S. They struck gold when they took on Hollywood, not because they actually found Communists but because of the public’s media-fed fixation on movie stars. Perhaps the most interesting case involved the great director Elia Kazan who felt he had to name names and cooperate with HUAC. In this program Victor Navasky raises interesting moral choices and questions. His discussion of the actor Lee J. Cobb is most moving.
Interview by David Barsamian and S.K. Levin.
Victor Navasky was the editor of The Nation for many years. He is the author of Kennedy Justice. His book Naming Names about the Hollywood blacklisting era won the National Book Award in 1982. He said, “It was Walter Cronkite who used to end his nightly newscasts by saying, ‘That’s the way it is.’ “Well, I wanted to put out a magazine which would say: ‘That’s not the way it is at all. Let’s take another look.’” He died in 2023.