public concern growing over the suppression of dissenting
political opinions and other possible effects of deregulated
and consolidated media, American history may provide a unique
insight into what the future holds. Author Howard Blue, whose
Words at War examines the propaganda of radio drama
during World War II and the evolution of the postwar radio
blacklist, will speak at 7 PM as part of a Friends of WRPI
benefit this Tuesday (Oct. 28) at the Arts Center of the Capital
Region (265 River St., Troy).
Through interviews with veterans of golden-age radio such
as Arthur Miller, Pete Seeger and Arthur Laurents, Blue tells
the story of how morale-boosting radio programming eventually
became a tool of right-wing political interests in the years
following World War II.
out of the 1930s,” explains Blue, “we had a fairly significant
isolationist sentiment in the United States. It was necessary
for radio to describe the enemy. The American public needed
to hear that our guys were an effective fighting force.
World War II], the initial view put forth over the airwaves
was that we had to defeat fascism abroad, as well as injustice
at home,” continues Blue. “In the postwar period, these same
voices became the targets.”
In Words at War, Blue describes a scenario in which
the era’s radio artists fostered domestic unity through support
for both American soldiers and their Russian allies, while
also questioning many of the prejudices that divided the nation.
Following the surrender of Japan and Germany, many of these
same actors, writers and other radio personalities whose personal
views associated them with more progressive, left-leaning
politics, became targets of a blacklisting process which rivaled
that of the more infamous Hollywood version. Popular liberal
radio icons such as Norman Corwin quickly found themselves
singled out by their former network employers and peers, as
well as the American government itself.
were a number of occasions where they went after people for
being Communists when they had no valid proof,” Blue says
of the radio-blacklisting era. “You don’t have to be a total
opponent of the blacklist to say that it was totally flawed.”
Blue explains how the then-CBS vice president in charge of
enforcing the blacklist fired William Robson, a prominent
director at the time, “not because [Robson] was a Communist,
but because he had been accused of being a Communist.”
While the morale-boosting effects of programs such as The
Man Behind the Gun, Lux Radio Theatre, and the
Uncle Sam series had a significant impact upon the
American public’s perception of World War II, the way in which
personalities who were household names were transformed into
enemies for political reasons is still cause for concern,
according to Blue.
the last year, we have seen attacks on individuals who are
in the public eye: actors and actresses and entertainers,”
says Blue. “That’s scary to me.”
again, rags, scissors, sheet metal and bits of string (among
numerous other cast-off materials) were assembled into stylish
couture at the annual Discard Avant Garb fashion benefit.
Held at Club Phoenix on Oct. 12, with musical accompaniment
provided by the Erotics, Mitch Elrod and MotherJudge, the
DAG raised funds for Youth Advancement Through Music and Art,
and the Ark.r.