‘Cultural Marxism’ is a term that these days is almost exclusively used by hard right wing critics of the popular culture industry. In this episode I examine the roots of the cultural Marxism conspiracy theory in Nazi propaganda, and how it has developed since then. From the FBI’s files on alleged commie infiltration of Hollywood to Trumpists and the alt right this is a wide-ranging exploration and expose of one of the dumbest, most misleading conspiracy theories in human history.
One of the many conspiracy theories that I find to be stupid, and for the most part baseless, is the idea that Hollywood – and pop culture more broadly – is dominated by cultural Marxism and is produced by cultural Marxists. I am certainly not denying there are left-wing films out there, that criticise capitalism and even advocate for something on the socialist-Marxist-communist part of the political spectrum. One such film is Sorry to Bother You, by Boots Riley, which I reviewed in my subscriber episode on anti-capitalist entertainment.
But even with that movie, is it a Marxist film? It is certainly a critique of industrialised, corporate capitalism but it doesn’t explicitly advocate for a more communistic system. Furthermore, look what happened to it – Riley struggled to find a distribution deal, it went out on a fairly limited release, then some asshole in the Washington Post said the CIA should make copies and sneak them into China as part of a new cultural Cold War. As though the way industrialised, centralised economic practices collectivise labour and dehumanise the workers is unique to the modern Chinese brand of state capitalism/one party communism, rather than more or less identical all over the world.
And of course, Riley didn’t set his film in China or in a sweatshop factory in Bangladesh or in a copper mine in East Africa, he set it in the US, and for a reason. He intended to criticise the American capitalist system, for a largely American audience. I’m pretty certain his intention was not to become part of some CIA project to make China look bad. Bearing in mind this is a guy who back in the day was a music producer and released an album with a front cover that was curiously evocative of the 9/11 attacks and when the studio wanted to change it, post-9/11, he was pushing back against that. He is quite a radically-minded man.
Now, we could end the episode there, having illustrated that perhaps the most anti-capitalist movie of recent years was, far from being embraced by the culture industry, sidelined and largely ignored by it, before a journalist promoted it as a means of having a go at China. This is the opposite of what would happen in a culture industry that is Marxist. But unlike a lot of cultural commentators I am not happy presenting you with just one isolated, contextless example to try to make my point, so let’s go back to the beginning.
What is Cultural Marxism?
Curiously, when I searched for the term the first result that came up is not from a left wing website, but instead is from Conservapedia, a right wing Wikipedia. Their page is full of the usual misdirections and idiocy, saying cultural Marxism is the same thing as political correctness, confusing cultural liberalism with cultural Marxism, and so on. But it does illustrate the point – this is a term that is largely wielded by right wingers who want to label pop culture as some sort of crypto-communist conspiracy to turn all your children into transsexual immigrants. As though being a trans immigrant is somehow inherently shameful, regardless of what sort of person you are.
In short, this is the niggerlovingcommiegayjewish conspiracy theory – that everyone who isn’t a white, right wing Christian is somehow part of a centralised plot to destroy white Christianity through everything from Disney movies to Katy Perry music videos to Barbie dolls.
But let’s go back to the origins – in the 1920s at Frankfurt University a group of socialist intellectuals were trying to understand why 19th century revolutionary Marxism had failed to sweep over the world and provoke widespread overturning of imperialist, aristocratic and industrial capitalist systems. They found that Marxist theory couldn’t account for the social and political factionalism of the early 20th century – the social condition identified in TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. In particular they examined how the culture industry worked to enforce the producer-consumer identities of the working and middle classes, thus psychologically discouraging them from overthrowing the system. Obviously there’s a lot more to it than that, but essentially this is the point at which the notion that cultural revolution precedes political revolution really took hold in academia, though as a revolutionary tactic it goes back centuries before the Frankfurt School.
Indeed, the term ‘culture industry’ and the notion that mass culture is something that is just as manufactured as saucepans and hairnets also takes hold with the Frankfurt School, though of course ruling classes have been using culture as a mechanism for social control for thousands of years. The Frankfurt School were denounced by Hitler and other Nazis and German nationalists as ‘cultural Bolsheviks’, and their philosophy branded ‘cultural Bolshevism’ ‘sex Bolshevism’ and ‘Jewish Bolshevism’. Intellectuals making attacks on conventional, largely Christian notions of nuclear families, sex, identity and so on were seen by the Nazis as an attack on the ideas underlying their own power base and mass appeal – quite rightly, since Nazism is just a reformation of white Christian supremacism rebranded to appeal to white working class people.
The great irony is that opponents of the cultural Marxists adopted the same basic idea – that culture is manufactured, not organic. So just as the Frankfurters critiqued certain notions of human identity and social rituals and so on as being central to political-economic power dynamics, and at times advocated for a different kind of culture to help provoke self-liberation among the working classes, their opponents did exactly the same thing. They adopted a hostile attitude towards popular culture, accusing it of being a means of communist propaganda.
In the 1930s Nazi organisations in Los Angeles infiltrated the movie industry, both in terms of recruiting below-the-line technical workers who were making movies and in terms of influencing movie content. In my Nazis in Hollywood episode I outlined how the German consul in LA, Georg Gyssling, used the power of the German movie market to shape movies so they portrayed Germany and the Nazis more positively, and to prevent films from being made if they were deemed too controversial by Nazi high command.
I can find little evidence of a Soviet equivalent of this. I am not saying that the Soviet Union had no influence over the content of films being produced in Los Angeles at this time, as Soviet leadership did recognise the power of cinema as a propaganda tool, but I cannot find much in the way of proof that they actually accomplished this on anything like the scale Nazi Germany did.
Despite this, the Nazis were obsessed with the idea that Hollywood was full of communists who were pumping out communist propaganda through movies. A pamphlet distributed by the German-American Bund and similar Nazi front organisations states:
Christian Vigilantes Arise! Buy Gentile, Employ Gentile, Vote Gentile.
The main graphic at the top of the pamphlet features an anti-semitic cartoon, a snake and the six-pointed star of David, emphasising how for Nazis being Jewish and being a communist was the same thing. I even remember Jan Irvin telling me that Judaism and Bolshevism were the same thing, though this is the same man who keeps referring to ‘Stalin’s Bolsheviks’, apparently unaware that Stalin slaughtered the Bolsheviks and replaced them with Stalinist loyalists. I guess reality simply doesn’t matter when you’re a fascist fuckknuckle.
The pamphlet goes on:
Boycott the Movies! Hollywood is the Sodom and Gomorrah where International Jewry controls Vice, Dope, Gambling, where young gentile girls are raped by Jewish producers, directors, casting directors who go unpunished. The Jewish Hollywood Anti-Nazi League controls Communism in the motion picture industry. Stars, Writers and Artists are compelled to pay for communistic activities.
This last comment is presumably a reference to paying union fees, which during the Great Depression was a source of some resentment for working class people, though whether trade unions constitute communistic activities is another matter. Nonetheless, this pamphlet and others like it were part of an effort to help recruit working class movie industry workers to the Nazi cause, and to spread the idea that Jewish commies ran the movie industry. Also, note how everything on this pamphlet is basically what Conservapedia and other hard right and alt right outlets say these days, including the notion that Hollywood is full of child rapists and other moral degenerates. We’ll come back to this later.
For now I want to emphasise to you that this is the true origin of the Cultural Marxism Conspiracy Theory – literally, it came from Nazis. They inverted the Frankfurt School’s notion of the cultural industry as a means of protecting the establishment and maintaining its power and status, and painted it as a threat, something that was corrupting and undermining the white Christian establishment. Anyone who tells you that this theory began as late as the 1980s, which is what the Wikipedia page says, simply doesn’t know their history. It began with Hitler’s allegations of ‘cultural Bolshevism’ and evolved into the version propagated in the 1930s, especially in Los Angeles.
And this is my first argument against this conspiracy theory – not that it came from Nazis, because that’s a cheap and lazy argument, but that it makes out like the culture industry is somehow opposed to the establishment and is a threat to it, rather than being part of it, as the Frankfurters maintained. Ask yourself, does this make any sense? A movie industry that is largely owned by banks due to the crash of the late 20s exposing just how indebted and leveraged the big studios were, resulting in the banks taking ownership of stock in those studios as a means of repayment. That’s the industry that’s somehow anti-establishment, anti-capitalist? In what parallel universe does that make any sense at all?
The FBI and Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry
What happened next only accentuates the insanity of the Nazi perspective on Hollywood, as the FBI adopted their mentality almost lock, stock and barrel and began their decades-long investigation into the supposed Red Menace in the movie business.
Note: they never investigated the German-American Bund and other Nazi front organisations, even when an ad hoc Jewish spy network presented them with conclusive evidence that these outfits were Nazi fronts, and some of them were planning assassinations and other terrorist attacks. Their file on Georg Gyssling makes no mention of his role in shaping and censoring movies to fit the German government’s propaganda demands. The FBI either didn’t care about Nazi infiltration of Hollywood, or were actually in favour of it.
But when it came to the Communist equivalent, which was much smaller, far less formalised, less well funded, and less influential, they made it a priority. To the extent that they became convinced that the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League was a Soviet front, entirely in keeping with what the Nazi propaganda pamphlet said. Again, being an anti-fascist somehow means you’re part of an anti-American plot stoked by foreign powers – is this not a meme you’ve heard time and again in recent media coverage? And doesn’t that imply that the FBI saw America as a pro-fascist country?
Now, I’ve read the FBI’s file on the Anti-Nazi League as well as their file on Commie Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry and they are a magnificent work of circular reasoning and moronic paranoia. Basically, it works like this:
A writer, actor, producer or studio executive is alleged to be a secret communist propagandist. Why? Well, because their films are obviously communist propaganda? How do you know that? Well, they were written, produced, greenlit and/or starred someone who was a member of a communist front organisation such as the Anti-Nazi League or the Writers Association. How do you know they are communist front organisations? Well, they’re full of people we think are communists. How do you know they are communists? Well, because their films are obviously communist propaganda.
And so on.
I’m not kidding, reading these files this is the exact logic they employed – utterly circular, and utterly stupid. The only evidence they cite is statements from informants, all of whose names are redacted, but most of whom are clearly people like Ronald Reagan, who were or would become members of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, itself an ultra-conservative white Christian organisation that believed Jews and communists were using the movie industry to attack America. That is to say, people who believed in Nazi propaganda designed to produce exactly this sort of reaction.
That is not to say that there weren’t writers and actors in Hollywood who were members of the American Communist Party – there absolutely were, and several of the Hollywood Ten were party members. But that doesn’t mean they were writing communist propaganda into their films or that every organisation whose meetings they went to was a communist front. I’ll say more about that in the next section.
To illustrate this paranoid, circular reasoning I want to quote some stuff to you from the FBI’s file on communist infiltration of Hollywood. The entries for the films North Star and Another Part of the Forest are good examples, because they were both written by the same screenwriter. On North Star the FBI said:
The author and writer of the screenplay for this production, Lillian Hellman, has been identified by [redacted], Confidential Informant of the New York office, as a Communist. In addition, Confidential Informant [redacted] of the Los Angeles office has reported that Hellman is a high ranking Communist who has associated exclusively with known Communists and Communist sympathizers for 20 years.
On Another Part of the Forest the file also says of Hellman:
Confidential Informant [redacted] of the Los Angeles office in 1944 stated that she was a high ranking Communist who has associated exclusively with known Communists and Communist front organisations for at least twenty years.
So Lillian Hellman was supposedly a ‘high ranking Communist’. How exactly does one get that status? Most communist organisations don’t have ranks because they aren’t paramilitary gangs and they’re obsessed with equality. Much like Occupy Wall Street, they eschew leaders because leadership is exclusive and hierarchical, which surprise surprise results in no leadership and to the organisation being ineffective. So who bestows on someone the status of a ‘high ranking Communist’? People who fear communism and don’t understand it and are spreading paranoid bullshit to the FBI.
How do I know it’s paranoid bullshit? Because of the other comment, that she associated exclusively with commies, sympathizers and commie front organisations for over 20 years. Really? Every single person and organisation she was involved with was communist? She never met with, had lunch with, went to a meeting with, employed or was employed by anyone who wasn’t a communist? For over 20 years, going all the way back to the early 1920s? Does that sound realistic to you, for a Hollywood writer?
In order to believe this crap you’d have to believe that everyone who associates with a communist, in any way, is a communist themselves. They couldn’t possibly be a friend or relative with different political views. That’s the apotheosis of a neurotic delusion. But that is the way the FBI approached this.
Aside from this circular, delusional logic they also reviewed the alleged communist movies to analyse just how communist they were. A bunch of people desperate to find an agenda in movies, watching movies for solely that purpose, shockingly finds things in those movies that make them think there’s an agenda? Where have we heard that before? Oh, yeah, every single person or movement who has ever alleged there’s some sort of agenda in Hollywood. Total confirmation bias, but this is the FBI, we have to remember that they really aren’t very bright. They’re like the Special Education Needs intelligence agency.
I won’t go through all of their content analysis because that would take too long, though this stuff is hilariously dumb so I do recommend reading some of these documents if you enjoy a good laugh at the FBI’s expense. Let’s pick out a few examples. First, the Abbott and Costello movie Buck Privates Come Home, where the Bureau highlighted scenes where an enlisted man is on kitchen duty while a party is being thrown for a general. Another scene that bothered them is where an enlisted man says he cannot have a relationship with an officer (which was and is US military policy). Apparently these scenes drew attention to how the class system works in the military and therefore made ‘the audience unnecessarily class conscious’. So apparently making the audience aware that there are ranks in the US military and the lower ranks get the shit details and cannot go out with higher-ranked officers is some sort of revolutionary communist propaganda that is going to destroy America.
A different but equally telling example is Body and Soul, which tells the story of a guy who runs Mandingo Fights, i.e. where two big black guys beat the hell out of each other for the entertainment of a predominantly white crowd, now known as prizefighting. Quite literally, the entertainment value of Mandingo Fighting was seeing black men suffer through violence inflicted by other black men, it’s overtly racist and sadistic. But the FBI didn’t see it that way, they said that the director Robert Rossen, the writer Abraham Polonsky and the cast members John Garfield and Anne Revere were all communists. Though of course they were identified as communists through this entirely moronic and circular process.
When it came to the film itself an informant told them that:
It portrays the rich and successful man in a bad light and the finest character of them all is a colored fighter.
The fight promoter manipulates the ‘colored fighter’ into a bout even though he knows the man has a blood clot and that the fight will probably kill him, but says ‘so what, it’s business’. Another white man bribes various fighters, but the negro character refuses a $60,000 bribe to throw a fight, ‘portraying the negro in a fine light, which, according to [redacted] is the principal form of propaganda in the picture.’ The memo sums up that ‘it shows the negro as a noble character and sympathetic character while the successful promoter is shown as an unscrupulous, dishonest, heartless individual.’
So a man who is making money and is a success – no matter what he is doing to make that money and success – had to be lauded, otherwise the film is communist propaganda. And forget drawing attention to how the entertainment industry exploits black people’s bodies for the entertainment of predominantly white audiences, that’s definitely communist propaganda, according to the FBI’s informants.
I’m sure you’re starting to get the idea, but I want to give you one more example – Another Part of the Forest, which I mentioned above. It tells the story of a Southern aristocratic family in the reconstruction period following the American Civil War, and the family is totally corrupt, squabbling over money, incestuous, ignorant and degenerate. The FBI’s memo records how someone inside the studio reviewed the script on their behalf and labelled it a commie film, or at least ‘vicious propaganda against the capitalist system’.
The father of the family made his fortune profiteering from the war, though the informant puts ‘profiteering’ in inverted commas, suggesting that there’s nothing wrong with making money from war, because it means you make money.
The father, the two sons and the daughter now spend all their time lying, cheating, double-crossing, blackmailing one another and everybody – in order to get money. The pursuit of money is made to appear evil and sickening – and the audience is left with the impression that money can be obtained only by such methods, that these are the only kind of people who can become rich. This is not said explicitly, but it is implied very forcefully – because there is not one line of dialogue, not a single reference to any honest method of acquiring wealth. The Hubbards are not presented as a freak family of scoundrels. They are presented, by implication, as the rich.
Is this true? If you portray one rich family as being incestuous and corrupt and greedily obsessed with money are you necessarily implying that all rich people are like this? If so, why would members of ‘the rich’ greenlight such a movie, if it also applied to them? It seems this FBI informant, despite working in a movie studio, has no idea how movie studios work. They go on:
The political message of the picture is certainly appalling. It tells people in effect, that the course of American history consisted of a slave system which was replaced by something still worse, by the rise of capitalism.
They cite one particular scene from the script, and say:
Here you have the filthy, contemptible implication that the magnificent progress of American industry in the late 19th century, the great spurt of productive energy unequalled in history, the railroads, oil and coal were created by or for the profit of men.
Another scene explains how the father of the family made his money – by selling basic necessities such as salt at massively inflated prices, before the informant adds:
Most people are quite confused on what constitutes war profiteering – so it is a standard Communist practice to denounce legitimate capitalist methods in the guise of denouncing ‘war profiteering’. By the proper definitions of a free economy, only dishonesty in obtaining or executing government contracts can be classified as ‘war profiteering. The activity denounced In the above dialogue – a man running a blockade and making a profit on a product which he alone is able to supply – is not profiteering, and is not reprehensible. People were not forced to buy his product, they needed it desperately, and there is no definable limit to how much profit a man may or may not make. The mere conception of limiting profit is a collectivist idea. In a free economy, profit is established by supply and demand and nothing else whatever.
And then the kicker:
There is no character here that has any virtue unless it be the mother who was sick-minded, with the exception of three negroes, the three servants in the house. Then they appear they are bright and good.
I’m sure the picture is starting to emerge – any film that portrayed black people positively, or portrayed any aspect of capitalism negatively, or criticised bankers or aristocrats or industrialists, or highlighted the hierarchical nature of American society was deemed communist agitprop, designed to undermine the perfectly free and fair and just capitalist system. Even when that system involves slavery, exploitation, profiting from violence or desperation or any other ‘legitimate capitalist methods’.
Now, you might argue some of these films are cultural Marxist products, and some of them may in fact be that. But there’s no evidence of this being part of a wider Soviet-backed conspiracy. Furthermore, the files make various references to studios taking out supposed ‘communist content’ before sending the film into production, showing that there was no wider conspiracy in the industry as a whole.
Indeed, the fact that the FBI were monitoring every movie they could in order to root out even these fairly limited and obvious criticisms of American society shows how the culture production system works to support the establishment far more than it ever undermines it. Just one more example – the movie Keeper of the Flame starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy highlighted how fascists in America were using the guise of isolationism and American nationalism, that they effectively wrapped themselves in the flag to fool people. And this was exactly what was going on, in Los Angeles and elsewhere. The FBI’s informant, who had provided them with sections of the script, concluded:
In this script the writer has, in a veiled manner, attempted to make the audience believe that Fascism end Americanism are synonymous.
In reality the writer was doing the opposite – they were saying Americanism was being used a cloak for Fascism, to make it more palatable to a democratic society so they could gain influence covertly. And as I say, this is exactly what was going on in the US in the 1930s, the FBI were told about it by the spy network set up by Leon Lewis but they didn’t do anything about it. Except to harass film-makers who drew attention to it, and accusing them of being communists – which is exactly what the Nazis wanted them to do.
This whole file reads like the diary of an alt right film buff, desperately trying to find some justification for being offended by movies that say things they disagree with, because those things are a little too true and honest. It’s hilarious, cretinous, bigoted bullshit.
Before we move on I do want to highlight something here – that the American establishment is a weird hybrid of free market ideology, nationalism and racism, and Christian fundamentalism. It has evolved somewhat since the 1940s, of course, but at that time that’s what the FBI were defending. We see this same conglomeration of ideas in several other places – the early American conspiracy movement during the Cold War, the modern American conspiracy movement starting in the 1990s, the alt right, the Tea Party, the Ron Paul movement and Trumpism. Without dwelling on the myriad internal contradictions of claiming to believe in human freedom but also believing in a well armed security state to keep those wetbacks from crossing the Southern border, I just wanted to point out how all of these people are basically adopting the same political mentality as the FBI did in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, which in turn originated with the Nazis in the 1920s and 30s. Far from being libertarians, these people are all authoritarians seeking to ‘take the country back’ from those who do anything to counter-act the white Christian supremacist domination of American society.
Dalton Trumbo and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Getting back to the title of this episode, this is another reason I don’t believe the cultural Marxism conspiracy theory – if it was true then the FBI wouldn’t have to engage in such mental gymnastics in order to prove it. If it was true then the fascists and racist capitalists in the industry would have been exposed and driven out, rather than protected. The stark reality is that there has never been any investigation of fascists or arch-nationalists or, indeed, of any political group in Hollywood except for Marxists. So how can the industry possibly be full of Marxists? They’re the only ones who have been targeted by the government and blacklisted by the industry.
Which brings us to the Hollywood Ten, the first ten screenwriters to be called before the House Un-American Affairs Committee, who refused to answer questions on whether they were members of the communist party. They ended up in jail for contempt of congress, and were blacklisted by the major studios and prevented from working. Have the libertarians come to their aid, protecting their freedom of expression, lambasting the government for their overreach?
Have they fuck. If anything they still cite this as proof of a leftist conspiracy in the entertainment industry and portray themselves as the victims, which is a total inversion of the facts. They believe in freedom, but only the freedom to agree with their nationalistic, racist, authoritarian worldview. But just as the Nazis branded themselves as Americanists, many within the American hyper-nationalist movement brand themselves with words like ‘freedom’ to fool people into thinking they are something they are not.
In a true free market of ideas they’d be arguing for the rights of the Hollywood Ten, and others, to make as much left-wing propaganda as they like, as long as they can criticise it openly and make propaganda from other points of view. That’s what a true democracy and true free market of ideas would look like. Of course, no such thing exists. I’m just pointing out that these people aren’t honest. In fact, they’re profoundly dishonest and total hypocrites.
Exhibit one is Ronald Reagan – who famously said things like ‘Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing’ and ‘The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ But Ronald Reagan fully participated in House Un-American Affairs Committee, testifying, naming names, even becoming an FBI informant to snitch on people he suspected were communists. So, a man who jumped on the white supremacist Christian free market bandwagon in order to get elected to the highest office in government pretending to be a libertarian who believes in limited government and individual freedom is all in favour of spying for the government and helping them lock people up for belonging to a political party, or even refusing to confirm or deny whether they belong to a political party.
Likewise the FBI complained about films that criticised people making money, because apparently anyone who makes money in any way at all is some sort of American hero and every film should worship them. But they were all in favour of denying the right to a livelihood to the writers of these films, on the grounds the FBI suspected they had certain political beliefs.
I’m sure you’re seeing the hypocrisy and contradictions here – the difference between believing in freedom, and believing solely in your own freedom. The former is libertarian, the latter is sociopathic and authoritarian.
As I pointed out in my episode on the Hollywood Ten two movies that were supported by the OSS, the precursor to the CIA, ended up on the FBI’s list of commie films. The only OSS-supported film that didn’t end up on the list was the one the OSS withdraw from because they couldn’t agree on the final draft of the script. So there is another subtext here, of the conflict between the FBI and the CIA.
But there’s another story I want to add to this, of Dalton Trumbo and the film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Trumbo was a respected screenwriter who worked as a war correspondent in Japan during part of the war. He was a member of the communist party, and he led the movement by the Hollywood Ten to refuse to answer the committee’s questions in the post-war years. He was jailed, and when he got out he pioneered the system whereby blacklisted screenwriters would ghost-write scripts, or act as script doctors, without credit, so they could still get paid and still work in the industry.
This is all portrayed in the film Trumbo, which is actually a pretty good movie, with a great cast. It is a bit weird watching Bryan Cranston a.k.a. Heisenberg as Trumbo, but once you get over that it’s a lovely period piece that rattles along at a good pace and is well worth the two hours it takes to watch. It isn’t the most accurate historical film in the world, but it does contain some fun scenes, such as when Trumbo and some of his commie cohorts – before all the trouble starts – go to a meeting of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals to hand out leaflets, and there’s a lovely confrontation between Trumbo and John Wayne.
Now, I do suspect that John Wayne was an FBI informant in this period, he certainly had no problem making government propaganda films and worked closely with the Pentagon on numerous occasions. Most obviously on The Green Berets, which was conceived from the off as a way to promote the Vietnam war. This is despite war propaganda being prohibited by UN Resolution 2/110 and other laws, but of course the Pentagon ignores those laws on a constant basis. I don’t actually have any proof that John Wayne provided the FBI with information, but we know the names of other high profile actors who did, including Reagan, and the Alliance for Preservation of American Ideals was very much part of the ideological group I’ve been talking about.
What is particularly interesting about Trumbo is that before he got accused of being a communist and had his life turned inside out, he wrote the script for Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a military-supported movie about the Doolittle Raid. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film or doesn’t know what I’m talking about, following the attack on Pearl Harbor the US military launched a raid to bomb Tokyo, as a sort of feelgood PR operation. They only killed about 50 Japanese people, and they lost all the bombers they sent on the raid so from a military point of view it was totally pointless, but it helped boost morale back home. One of the pilots on the raid, Ted Lawson, wrote a book about it, which was then adapted into the film.
Naturally, the Office of War Information (OWI) and the military provided full support, including allowing Trumbo to fly around for a day or two inside a bomber of the type used on the raid, so he could get to know the aircraft and the different roles the crew played. They provided footage of the bombers taking off from the aircraft, as well as footage from the raid itself (which was being filmed from inside the bombers, because remember this was all about PR). In return they reviewed the script, as per usual, and there is a script note about what happened to the pilots after the raid, when they were all shot down and landed in various places. Some were captured by the Japanese in Japan-controlled areas in China, and were tortured including by waterboarding. A few were executed, but some were held as prisoners of war and eventually returned to the US. Others landed in different parts of China, some controlled by Chi-Coms, some controlled by the Soviet Union.
In trying to make sense of what the US military wanted the film to show, or what problem they had with the draft script, I was pointed in the direction of an interview with Trumbo himself from a couple of years before he died, that Roger Stahl found in the Suid archive. It’s a fascinating interview, mostly because Trumbo was quite a blunt and honest man, didn’t mince his words or shy away from his opinions, but also because he explained the story of the government’s assistance, including when the studio wanted him to go to a meeting with President Roosevelt and he refused because he felt that spending 6 minutes in a room with a man he had nothing to say to and who had nothing to say to him was a waste of everyone’s time.
The key omissions or distortions in the film were that the planes that went down in Soviet-controlled territory, who were returned to the US via Iran, are not depicted in the story, while the communist Chinese who helped some of the other pilots were rebranded as nationalists. The entire role of communists in helping the downed pilots was excised, taken out of the film for political reasons and because the US government didn’t want the public knowing about this.
So, despite being a communist, Trumbo happily wrote a script avoiding the positive role of communists in the Doolittle Raid story. But this didn’t stop the FBI from listing Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo as a film written by a communist screenwriter, or from accusing Trumbo of being a communist agent in Hollywood. They did nothing when the House Committee called him before congress to answer questions, they did nothing when Trumbo was prosecuted, convicted and jailed, they did nothing when he was blacklisted. They seem to have had no problem with jailing someone who had made war propaganda for the US. And later in the interview Trumbo explicitly says the film was propaganda, so there’s no doubt he knew what he was doing.
Again, if the cultural Marxism conspiracy theory was true then how do we make sense of this? Wouldn’t Trumbo have insisted on including the positive depiction of communists in his script, if he was fixated on promoting communism through Hollywood? Wouldn’t he have blown the whistle, perhaps after the war, if he was so ideologically committed?
In reality he was something of a champagne socialist, he enjoyed the high life despite his belief that working class people were getting a bad deal and should be paid more for their contribution to society. He wasn’t some crazed communist agent or a ruthless Marxist trying to destroy America. Therefore, the entire Trumbo story poses serious questions about this conspiracy theory, and almost refutes the theory by itself, even ignoring all the other evidence we could look at.
But perhaps the most explicit case of FBI persecution in this period was their treatment of Charlie Chaplin, whose films turn up repeatedly in the FBI file on commie infiltration of Hollywood. Separately, Chaplin has a 2,000-page Bureau file that shows that, as a result of his left-wing beliefs, the FBI conducted lengthy investigations into his politics and his sex life, including pursuing leads offered by anonymous sources, clairvoyants and gossip columnists. Destroying Chaplin’s iconic status became an obsession for the Bureau, who reached out to MI5 for help trying to dig dirt, though the British found nothing indicating he was a Communist, let alone a Soviet spy. They couldn’t even figure out exactly where and when Chaplin was born, which remains something of a mystery.
In September 1952, Chaplin and his family left the US to go on a European tour to promote his new film, and, after consulting with J Edgar Hoover, the Attorney General revoked Chaplin’s re-entry permit, banning him from the country. Even though the Bureau’s files concede that they had no evidence that could be presented in court to justify barring him from re-entering the US, Chaplin decided not to contest the decision and lived the final 25 years of his life in Switzerland. He did not return to America until 20 years later when he visited New York to receive an honorary Oscar in 1972. Basically, the FBI quietly ended the career of perhaps the greatest comedian of all time on the false grounds that he was a Communist.
Again, if the industry was so packed with commies and so dedicated to Marxism, wouldn’t they have protested this – one of their biggest stars being banned from the country for spurious reasons? If the aim was cultural subversion then they could have seized upon Chaplin’s international fame and popularity to attack the US establishment and expose their hypocrisy and corruption. But they didn’t. So once more, the thing that would have happened if this theory was true did not happen, and instead the opposite happened.
The Cultural Marxism Conspiracy Theory Reincarnated
Fastforwarding to the present and the more recent past, the cultural Marxism conspiracy theory underwent a resurgence in the 1980s, during the Reagan years and the moral majority and the satanic panic. Again, Reagan painted himself as a free market libertarian but his core base was in white Christian identity politics, and particularly in people who think poor people and black people have had it too damn easy and needed to be reigned in. And as for those Jews, well, they aren’t Christians, so we should be suspicious of them too.
Rather than recount the first wave of satanic panic bullshit I think it’s better to dwell on how and why it came about. As I keep emphasising in this episode, it originated with the Nazi concept of cultural Bolshevism, which was deeply anti-semitic and was designed to appeal to white Christians, and to turn them into white Christian supremacists. But only if they were protestant, of course, as Nazi Germany persecuted Catholics in similar ways to how they persecuted Jews.
But what the hell does any of this intersectional religious identity conflict have to do with child molestors? In reality, nothing. The notion that the liberal establishment or Hollywood is full of child rapists is, as far as I can tell, a total fantasy driven by asexuals and paedophiles. I imagine that’s quite a big statement for some of you to absorb so I’ll unpack it a bit.
No doubt, there are people in high politics and in the entertainment business who are child rapists or use underage prostitutes and so on. I am not disputing that for one second. What I am disputing is whether it is any more widespread in those particular segments of society than it is in society in general. I’ve heard tons of conspiracy wankers like Dave McGowan, David Icke and so on make this claim, and use terms like ‘pedocracy’ which literally means rule by children but which they want to mean rule by child rapists. But none of them ever present any hard evidence of this being true – they say it because it appeals to certain crowds. Crowds who are fixated on people who have sex with children.
To my mind there are two sorts of people who fixate on this – people who are asexual, and think all sex (especially outside of heterosexual marriages) is perverse and scary and dangerous, and people who like to fantasise about sex with children, i.e. borderline paedophiles. Anyone with a fairly ordinary approach and attitude towards sex doesn’t really want to think about people having sex with children, it makes them a bit uncomfortable. The only people who fixate on that, and get really passionate about it, and make no end of baseless accusations, are people who fall into one of these two categories, or are trying to exploit people in those two categories to further their political and ideological agenda.
In short, for every Epstein there are ten pizzagates, for every proven case of a high-ranking establishment child rapist there are at least ten other false accusations based on fantasies about fast food restaurants and so on. Remember the Hampstead Hoax? It turned out that it was the people claiming this was some sick, politically-connected paedophile ring who were the ones actually abusing children, and the people they accused were innocent. This happens over and over again.
Remember when earlier this year there was a meme going round that Tom Hanks had been arrested for paedophilia? This was completely untrue. There’s no evidence of Tom Hanks being a paedophile or being arrested for it, but in the alt right QAnonsphere it spread like wildfire. The fact it never happened was irrelevant to people who are either so terrified of sex they think everyone is a pervert or are so fixated on their own fantasies about having sex with children that they project them outwards.
Remember when Richard Spencer, the guy who coined the term alt right, advocated for paedophiles to be given child pornography in the hope that it would prevent them from acting on their desires and abusing real children?
Remember when Charlie Sheen was accused of looking at child pornography during his divorce from Denise Richards? I’ve had people tell me this is hard evidence, but it isn’t. During hotly-contested divorces and custody battles it is very common, especially in the adversarial system in the US, for both parties to make stuff up about each other in the hope of persuading the judge to rule in their favour. So Denise Richards claims she saw Charlie Sheen looking at child porn, or at least underage porn, on his computer. Let’s just stop for a moment and think about that – if he was doing that, would he do it while someone else was around? Probably not. Would he do it while his wife was around? Almost certainly not. How did she know it was child porn and not just gay porn where the actors are made to look younger, which is quite common in all forms of porn? She couldn’t. Did she do anything to verify the ages of the people in the videos? No. Are her claims verifiable in any way? No. Can they be conclusively proven not to be true? No. Does she have a motive for saying that during a divorce and custody battle where implying her husband might like to have sex with young boys might convince the judge to grant custody of their sons to her and her alone? Yes.
So how is this conclusive evidence of anything? It isn’t. But to the sorts of people who like to fixate on the ‘Hollywood is full of paedophiles’ myth, this reinforces those prejudices and adds fuel to their fantasies. I could go on, giving more and more examples of this sort of stuff but the key points are that of all the millions and millions of people employed in the industry, a tiny handful have actually been shown to have sexual intentions towards children or at least underage people. And until I’ve seen hard evidence to the contrary, I’m going to dismiss this as what it is – bullshit that originated in anti-semitic Nazi propaganda.
As an aside, it is of course true that there are a higher than average number of gay people in the entertainment industry, going back to the theatre days before cinema existed. Likewise, a higher than average number of Jews. And again, the hard right wing Christians have a lot of prejudices against both of these groups, hence the false accusations and the fear-mongering and so on. The fact that both groups (and of course, the gay Jews who belong to both groups) went into the industry en masse because they were being excluded from other industries due, in part, to these hard right Christian prejudices, seems to escape these morons. They’re complaining about the consequences of their own behaviour.
One of the most amusing outgrowths of all this is CapAlert, an organisation and website that was set up in 1994 by a Texan Christian. And it shows, their website design doesn’t seem to have been updated since the mid-90s, but it is still up and it’s well worth a read if you fancy a good laugh. Cap Alert is run by ‘A ministry of the ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture Ministry (CAP Ministry)’. It’s basically a Christian fundamentalist movie review website whose sole aim is to convince Christian parents that the movies are turning their children gay.
Now, I’m pretty sure movies can’t turn people gay, just as movies can’t turn people straight, or make them bisexuals, pansexuals, asexuals or child rapists. Again, there’s no evidence of movies doing this – people’s sexuality is predominantly a genetic thing, with a degree of in-built flexibility that can be triggered by life experiences. Bearing in mind this is the same sort of Christianity that preaches ‘pray the gay away’ and claims to be able to turn gay men into straight men, and in some cases gay women into straight women, it’s pretty obvious that they, not the film industry, are the ones seeking to control people’s sexualities.
To give you a flavour of their movie reviews here’s their summary of 2Fast 2Furious:
2Fast 2Furious is dazzling, colorful and action-packed with some quality performances, clearly a cut above The Fast and the Furious of 2001, but still another no-brain “R-13” . There were no less than 91 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary [Col. 3:8] with one use of God’s name in vain [Deut. 5:11], grabbing of women’s posteriors and some of the most vulgar dancing I have seen among other issues of sexual immorality [Gal. 5:19]. Yes, God’s name was used in vain with the four letter expletive the only time His name was used at all in the 101 minutes of eye candy, day-glow cars, and total disregard for traffic safety and law.
I have to admit, this site is something of a guilty pleasure for me because, as idiotic as I find these reviews, they do make me laugh. And they remind me of the FBI’s reviews of supposedly communist films – they are just desperately looking for anything that confirms their pre-existing bias, in order to justify that bias, in a process that’s totally circular and essentially meaningless.
I am also not sure what ‘the four letter expletive’ refers to – fuck? Shit? Cunt? There are lots of four letter words that are considered expletives. I assume he means ‘fuck’ but given that you’re not allowed to even say the word ‘cock’ on network TV in the US, who the cockfuckshitcunt knows?
Of course, I’m being daft, he’s referring to the phrase ‘Goddamn’.
To further illustrate just how dumb but also wildly funny this site is, here’s their breakdown of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Please note, this isn’t the one that was supported by the US Coast Guard, that was Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the third movie in the franchise.
Wanton Violence/Crime (W) – 51 out of 100
For the most part, the violence content of this film was found to be in slapstick violence, bully tactics and defiance of rightful authority. the caliber of the violence is clearly targeted at the intended age stratum. But the problem with that is that the intended age stratum learns quickly, more by example and less by instruction or counsel. This film is not a good example for the intended age stratum because of the “age-targeted” violence. [Prov. 16:29] And to cause by example our children to sin means a [figurative] millstone tied about the neck of the one who causes them to sin then thrown into the sea. And that is not “Levitican”, it is New Testament. [Luke 17:2]
Impudence/Hate (I) – Zero out of 100
If it were not for all the content applicable to impudence and hate (and some violence and sexual immorality) this film would have earned a G-equivalent score: content that feeds setting examples such as exaggerated aggression and other poor behavioral choices. Again Luke 17:2 applies. In addition, there were numerous uses of the euphemism for the posterior. [Eph. 5:4]
Sexual Immorality (S) – 72 out of 100
As with many films targeted at youth there are many scenes with some sort of attention to the posterior. Examples include the Chipettes dancing with pelvic thrusts and other posterior action, the doctor caring for Dave giving Alvin a sedative in his posterior. [Again Eph. 5:4]
Drugs/Alcohol (D) – 96 out of 100
There was only one instance of drinking alcoholic beverage in the entire 82 minutes of the film. And it could have, of course, been left out entirely without any loss of cinematic power or story telling.
Offense to God (O) – 96 out of 100
God’s name in used once by Cross and then without the four letter expletive. But once is enough and “enough” is too much. God will not excuse anyone who abuses His name. [Deut. 5:11]
Murder/Suicide (M) – 100 out of 100
There were no murders nor suicides noted.
So, despite references to the posterior and other heinous cinematic crimes, the review for Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel wasn’t that critical. I know, I’m taking up your time reading out reviews from a website that sounds like it was written by Ned Flanders, but this is a long episode and it can’t all be serious hardcore research.
Poplitics and the New Right (which is really the old right)
Bringing us right up to date are Ted Cruz and Poplitics. Now, I know I rail against people targeting the low-hanging fruit to make themselves look clever but I am going to do exactly that and to pre-empt any criticism here are my excuses:
1) I’m sure you realise by now that I don’t need to make myself look clever. I am clever, and I know it. My identity isn’t wrapped up in looking clever, it’s wrapped up in actually being clever.
2) There are no high-hanging fruit when it comes the phenomenon of coded white Christian supremacism and its relationship with popular culture. Unless you count Jordan Peterson, who also spreads the utterly misleading notion that modern political correctness is somehow Marxist in origin. But I really cannot be bothered talking about that shallow, dimwitted huckster, and I cannot stand his whiny voice so I’m not searching through his presentations to find clips of him being an asshole. Frankly, if you haven’t already realised that he’s full of shit then I can’t help you.
So let’s look at Ted Cruz, and in particular his SCRIPT Act, a piece of legislation he’s trying to get passed by Congress that would prevent the Pentagon from funding any film that also had any kind of input from the Chinese government or submitted their film to the Chinese government’s censorship board in order to gain access to the Chinese market.
As with everything Cruz does, this is stupid and appeals to fuckwit white Christian American nationalists. Cruz is ethnically Cuban and so he has to try extra hard to appeal to that crowd, hence almost everything he says and does.
More importantly, the proposed legislation contradicts the official Pentagon position that they don’t fund movies and that providing support to Hollywood doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything. Even though their own documents contradict this in various ways. But Cruz doesn’t know that – he clearly thinks the Pentagon help to fund movies. I did file several FOIA requests trying to find out if Cruz or his office had spoken to the Pentagon about this legislation before they drafted it and published it and so far the answer has come back that neither Cruz nor anyone from his office spoke to anyone at the military’s entertainment liaison offices prior to proposing this bill. Which is both tragic and hilarious in equal measure.
More seriously, this bill represents the new Hollywood arms race, whereby the Chinese government having a smaller scale and more roundabout influence on movies is seen as a hostile takeover by the Chi-Coms, while the Pentagon’s massive, constant and direct influence is obviously a good thing, because they’re American goddamnit. I mean, goshdarnit.
Now, I doubt that this will be passed into law for various reasons – not least that it appears to contradict other US laws such as the First Amendment, which in theory guarantees that film-makers can tailor their films to foreign markets and the government has no right to force them not to by withholding production support. There are also laws around corporations being obliged to maximise profits and share value on behalf of shareholders, and Cruz’s bill would throw a spanner in the works of that. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Another prominent manifestation of this conspiracy theory is Poplitics, a youtube and instagram show that claims to present ‘pop culture without the propaganda’ i.e. pop culture news with right wing propaganda. It is produced by TurningPoint USA, who brand themselves as a conservative organisation but which many conservatives distance themselves from because in reality they are a white Christian supremacist outlet. The rebranding of hard right politics as regular conservatism, and as somehow being counter-establishment, is one of the prominent political trends of the last decade or so. I won’t get into the question of who funds TurningPoint USA because I’m sure you can figure that out for yourselves.
Now, Poplitics is utterly stupid. Their staple topics include things like bitching about how ‘the Left’ are ‘slamming’ or ‘cancelling’ celebrities, while also slamming and cancelling celebrities themselves for equally petty reasons. Whenever a celebrity talks about their religious beliefs or liking guns or being pro-life, they jump up and down and celebrate them. While claiming to have no agenda. Likewise, whenever a celebrity makes a piece of government-supported security state entertainment propaganda, they love it. All the while pretending like this is some rare and precious thing, as though the majority of Hollywood’s output is anti-security state.
Perhaps their most common misdirection and deceit is how they equate shrieking liberals on twitter with ‘the Left’, when most left wingers I know hate cancel culture. Not all, I am certainly not denying that I’ve seen Leftists blocking and defriending people for saying things they disagree with, and refusing to enter into any kind of discussion or debate and simply trying to socially-media ostracise others. Which is childish and pathetic and regressive. Nonetheless, by lumping liberals and socialists in together into one big homogenous pot that they label ‘the Left’ the producers of Poplitics are playing into a deceitful and stupid tradition among right wing commentators. Ben Shapiro, for example, does the exact same thing. It’s also funny to watch them decry identity politics when their entire brand is based on white Christian identity politics.
The show hits on all the usual themes – Hollywood is full of paedophiles and perverts, it’s a liberal conspiracy, it’s cultural Marxism and Christians are somehow getting a rough ride. They decry feminism as a plot to destroy the nuclear family, then complain about how there aren’t any good men or women out there to get married to anymore, thus contributing to the decline of the nuclear family. They accused Britney Spears of being a cultural Marxist when she made some comments about her song ‘Work Bitch’ that criticised capitalism, and have accused the Free Britney movement of being some kind of crypto-communist scam.
To give you a sense of the show and to highlight this deception whereby they claim to love freedom but worship the security state, here’s episode 181 from late July. I apologise in advance for how annoying this is.
Let’s focus in on the briefest part of this episode, because the rest is sheer bollocks – the drop in viewership at A and E since they cancelled LivePD. First, TV viewership always drops in the summer, second there is a post-lockdown trend across almost all TV networks that’s seeing their numbers drop. That’s partly because they don’t have much in the way of new content because of the disruption to the industry this year, partly because people binged TV during lockdown and got a bit bored of it, and partly because the economic problems mean more people are trying to find work and have less leisure time and less disposable income to spend on TV. I’m sure there are other factors too.
Furthermore, they present no evidence that viewership has dropped because the network cancelled LivePD, merely stating that it has happened since then and letting you draw your own wholly misinformed and simple-minded conclusion.
Then they try to minimise the support for the anti-police movement in the US, simply lying to their audience who are full of middle class ritz crackers who want the police to keep black people and poor people off their lawns. Except for when poor black and brown people are being paid below minimum wage to mow those lawns while their owners sit inside watching Law and Order, of course.
But perhaps the biggest deceit, and the most revealing one, in this little segment is that they say the network cancelled LivePD to appease the anti-police movement. That simply isn’t true. They cancelled the show – which is a fly-on-the-wall reality show following cops round as they ‘do their jobs’ – after it emerged that the producers of LivePD had destroyed footage of the police murdering Javier Ambler, a 40 year old black man. The police tried to pull him over for failing to dim his headlights and Ambler evaded them for a little while, eventually pulling over. They then tased him multiple times and pinned him, choking him to death not unlike the murder of George Floyd. This footage was never broadcast, and was then destroyed (likely because of contracts between the producers and the police departments they work with to make the show) and so Live PD was cancelled.
Poplitics must know all this – after all, it’s on the Wikipedia page for Live PD and was widely reported when the show’s cancellation was announced – but that doesn’t fit in with their propaganda so they simply misrepresented what had happened. They claim to believe in freedom, but they don’t care about Javier Ambler’s freedom. They claim to love America, when what they mean is they love bourgeois white Christian America brutalising poor and non-white people. They claim to be sceptical of government overreach, except when it’s the Trumpist government overreach and the security state killing people for no fucking reason whatsoever.
Also, just to emphasise how dumb and inaccurate and mendacious this all is, they bitch about cultural Marxism but I’ve never seen them point out that the major Marxist influence in Hollywood is the Chinese government. They hate China, but not because of reality. It was the Chinese government who refused to let the Ghostbusters reboot be released in the country because of rules against films with superstitious content. Which is kind of ironic, since the producers of Poplitics went apeshit when they discovered a small facebook group of teenage girls proclaiming they were witches using witchcraft to take down Donald Trump, so they are just as hostile towards witchcraft and other non-Christian metaphysical beliefs as the Chinese government are. I guess authoritarians of all stripes have some core similarities.
In sum, this theory originated with Nazis, was adopted almost wholesale by the FBI and right wingers in Hollywood, was rebooted under Reagan (who was an FBI informant during the Red Scare in Hollywood) and is now being pushed by well-funded, ideologically-driven culture producers who have to lie to their audience in order to maintain their facade.
Does this sound like a plausible theory to you? Does it sound like the industry is full of Marxists, when the only people to have ever been blacklisted from Hollywood for their political beliefs are Marxists? Does it seem like authoritarian shows glamourising the security state and demonising black, brown and poor people are having trouble getting on the air?
At its heart, this theory is pure Nazi bullshit, and you’d have to be an idiot to believe it. Or you’d have to be very smart and to go through all this evidence and argumentation I’ve put together here and explain why I’m wrong. And I’m hereby betting my communist left testicle that no one who advocates this theory is going to do that.