So many characters in 1960s sitcoms had a Terrible Secret which, if uncovered and made public, would have Disastrous Consequences: loss of livelihood, loss of position, loss of acceptance in society.

Fortunately, no 1960s sitcom character was actually a card-carrying Communist. No, the secret was something less political: a witch, a genie, a martian, a talking horse, an angel, a ghost, a talking car, a robot. etc.

Above: Ray Walston in a publicity photo for My Favorite Martian (CBS, 1963-1966).

Happy birthday Julia Child!

Did you know that Julia was once a member of the Office of Strategic Services?

By bestselling author Jennet Conant, A Covert Affair is a stunning account of Julia Child’s early life as a member of the OSS in the Far East during World War II, and the tumultuous years when she and Paul Child were caught up in the McCarthy witch hunt and behaved with bravery and honor.


Edward R. Murrow on Senator McCarthy, from See It Now, March 1954.
What Kind of Jew Is Bernie Sanders?
Bernie Sanders’s religious views may seem quixotic, but they’re actually part of a longstanding American Jewish tradition.

Although culturally Jewish, religiously-nonbelieving Socialism may seem like a quirky blend today, it’s part of Jewish history, complete with red-diaper babies, Socialist Jewish summer camps, and bitter persecution during the McCarthy era before reemerging in the New Left of the 1960s.

Even the Forward, the Jewish newspaper where I also write a column, began its life as a Yiddish Socialist daily, Forverts, edited by Abraham Cahan. (Like everyone on the Left, it was attacked by redder Socialists for being not Left enough.) For many recent Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, progressive politics was the new religion, and the only real question was which sect—liberalism, socialism, communism—one liked best…

Some of this came from within the Jewish tradition, both as a matter of Biblical injunction (“Do not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger as you were slaves in Egypt,” a commandment today’s Jewish Trump-supporters might ponder) and of national character. European Jews were oppressed for thousands of years: burned, exiled, forbidden from owning property, banned by polite society. And even when, in the 18th and 19th centuries, “civilized” Jews from France and Germany were granted the benefits of citizenship, the “backward” Jews from Eastern Europe were still subjected to pogroms.

When the descendants of these Jews came to the United States, the intellectuals among them brought their history of marginalization and their firm belief that progressive change—whether revolutionary or gradual—was absolutely necessary as a matter of simple morality. America was the goldene medina, the Golden Country, where finally everyone could be equal, regardless of birth or race. Yet there was obviously a gap between that ideal and reality, and into that breach rushed a generation of Jewish progressives. Some championed the New Deal, others joined the New Left, some were hunted down as communists and provocateurs. But all participated in a Jewish version of “civil religion”: a basically secular moral order that agitated for progressive social change.

Sanders’s political idealism is obviously cut from this cloth.  Part of his appeal to progressives is that he calls Wall Street “immoral and wrong,” countering the religious rhetoric of conservatives not with namby-pamby liberalism but with a moral, prophetic call, however unrealistic it may be. “I think it is important that a sense of morality be part of our politics,” Sanders told the Post. And one gets the sense that he believes it.


Okay, here’s the deal with “Traveler."  I already have a thing for this period of history and so my opinion in no way can be trusted, but I thought they did a fabulous job on this one. It’s deliciously disturbing to see how far back the conspiracy goes, and some of the motivation behind it. Mulder’s father being in on it— we sort of knew but hadn’t really seen in flashbacks— was just icing on the cake, which was already chock-full of McCarthy being in on it.

Oh, and David Moreland, the man who played Roy Cohn— magnificent job, sir.

Grandpa Walton, AKA Will Geer - Artist Unknown - Photo by Laura

In the 1950s, Will Geer moved his family to Topanga Canyon to escape the evils of McCarthy era persecution in Hollywood. Once there, he began what eventually became the Theatricum Botanicum, an open air theatre complex surrounded by gardens and the magical woods of the Santa Monica mountains. The “secret garden” served as safe haven for his family, as well as other notables, like musician and union organizer Woody Guthrie. Today, in addition to staging summertime Shakespeare and other great plays for Los Angeles theatre lovers, the Theatricum staff, headed up by Geer’s descendents, offers dramatic arts education to children throughout the city, helping ensure that true theatrical freedom of expression remains alive for generations to come.

(PS - this photo is a bit unfocused - my apologies for that:)

Canada’s McCarthy Era

Is it just me or does it feel like our government has suddenly become very McCarthy-esque? With the Conservatives planning to set up a tip hotline that deliberately places Muslim families at the mercy of their neighbours, citizenship revocation at the behest of a single bureaucrat, and MPs making lists of “enemies of Israel”, we have to ask is this the Canada we really want?

It’s very scary to think about what might happen if this government is allowed to obtain power again. They have not left out the possibility of expanding C-24 to deport anyone who commits a heinous crime if they have any connection to another country, or of denying Muslim women who wear face coverings access to public service jobs. They don’t seem to care about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor working with parliament to pass good laws. All they care about is their ideological agenda. What is frightening is how many Canadians don’t see the problem with the erosion of personal rights in the last 10 years.

A government that relies on making enemies of Canadians is not a good government. When you start vilifying people based on their religion, race, or political ideology, this is when we start to fall into the sort of political thought surveillance that was happening in America during the cold war. People were encouraged to report on their neighbours, not unlike what happened during the Cultural Revolution in China. There is no need for a tip line for “barbaric cultural practices” (What’s next, “UnCanadian activities?”) as we have a simple number, 911, that covers emergencies or illegal activity. This is a political tool, and nothing more. 

The goal is to create a culture of fear. Fear and suspicion of ones neighbours. To keep people in fear so that they will be too afraid to look at all the other things going on. The real problems facing this nation. The corruption of the current regime. Canadians are being manipulated into thinking that two women who want to cover their face is the most dire issue facing Canadians today. Terrorists are out to get us, they say. They used to say the same thing about communists. 

Of course there are legitimate issues to do with terrorism, and terrorists should spend a long time in jail, but we do not need to live in fear. We need to unite as Canadians against terrorism. Love our Muslim neighbours. Be a safe haven for those who are fleeing war. Understanding destroys hate. Knowledge is power. This government wants us to be scared rather than informed.


Saturday’s Hero being picketed due to perceived communist ties, RKO Theatre, Los Angeles, 1951 


FEAR: The Mincing Menace!

They came from within our midst…
Witness the collapse of DEMOCRACY!

[*movie announcer voice*]

Striking terror into the hearts millions— capable of toppling governments with a whisper — a threat to national security  — costing taxpayers billions in legislation and policing — grinding governments to a halt — blackmail — corruption — intrigue!

FEAR: The Mincing Menace!

Echoing McCarthy-era fear tactics, The Original Terrorist™ — an eternal scapegoat — is a recurring political character trotted out during election cycles to solicit reactionary votes in order to withhold from minorities equal protections under the law.

Art prints and more on @society6 !


Hazel Dorothy Scott (June 11, 1920 – October 2, 1981) was an internationally known, American jazz and classical pianist and singer; she also performed as herself in several films. She was prominent as a jazz singer throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In 1950, she became the first woman of color to have her own TV show, The Hazel Scott Show, featuring a variety of entertainment. To evade the political persecution of artists in the McCarthy era, Scott moved to Paris in the late 1950s and performed in France, not returning to the United States until 1967.

Born in Port of Spain, Hazel was taken at the age of four by her mother to New York. Recognized early as a musical prodigy, Scott was given scholarships from the age of eight to study at the Juilliard School. She began performing in a jazz band in her teens and was performing on radio at age 16.

This morning I saw a hilarious and admittedly roundly dismissed Reddit post in which the poster was trying to arrange to have a barrage of questions asked of the participants in an upcoming panel featuring members of the GameSpot Australia editorial team. The poster, in saying that he’d gotten those dreaded “SJW vibes” off of one member of the team, cited as evidence of her social justice warrior affiliation that she is “a fan of Gone Home.” I joked with a friend that the paranoia among some of these people is so deep that to them, Gone Home, which asserts that stories about queer women have as much of a place in games as stories about anyone else, is the equivalent of communist literature during the McCarthy era, as if people say to each other in hushed voices, “Did you hear that so-and-so liked Gone Home?!” It made for an amusing start to my day.

The panel is entitled “The Changing Face of Games Journalism.” I don’t know what they’re going to say about it and I wish them all the best with the panel. What I have to say about it is that, among the most established mainstream sites, games journalism is becoming increasingly video-oriented, and that this is something of a problem. Already, games journalism has always been dominated by—not exclusively made up of, but disproportionately dominated by—straight white men. If GamerGate were actually concerned with ethics, they might rightly question why the makeup of gaming sites favors this group so heavily, why voices of people of color, queer folks, and women are underrepresented. But actually, this is part of what GamerGate is working against, because to them, such diversity, and the deeper, broader cultural analysis that would come along with it, represents an “agenda,” while leaving games journalism in the hands of those particular straight white men and others who feel no inclination to engage with the sociopolitical meanings of games, is the sought-after ideal of supposedly apolitical, unbiased, agenda-free games coverage. I honestly think many of them don’t understand how deeply political their position is.

The shift toward video as the primary form of game coverage is also not remotely apolitical. If gaming media’s long-cultivated core audience of entitled straight men is hostile to a minority voice like mine when I’m a writer (and it is, as the comments on many of my stories will attest), it’s far more hostile to a voice like mine on video (as the comments on just about any GameSpot video in which I appear on camera will make abundantly clear). And this becomes an issue that can get factored into an individual’s employment, or lack thereof. I could have the winningest on-camera personality in the world and a certain segment of the straight male audience that so many gaming sites have cultivated and catered to for so long would still vocally object to seeing someone like me on video. As long as gaming sites continue to cater so heavily to that same audience, not wanting to do anything to alienate or offend such readers and viewers, the shift to video means that gaming media is only likely to become less diverse, and that those women who do hope to find a place in it may also have to be deemed attractive and appealing to a straight male audience, rather than landing positions in that world on the strength of their knowledge and perspective alone. In other words, the increased emphasis on video means that for many, there will only be more obstacles to having their voices heard, so long as gaming sites cater to that audience the way they have for so long.

But the reality is that it’s well past time for gaming sites to stop catering to that audience exclusively, and GamerGate is the wake-up call. This is a monster that gaming culture has created, and it is time to un-create that monster by asserting in no uncertain terms that games and gaming sites are for everyone. In GamerGate, we are seeing the ugliness that rises to the surface when a group that has been catered to for too long at the expense of other groups is finally made to glimpse a world in which they have to share their domain with others. You see it in ways that are almost comically absurd—like the suspicion and vitriol that is leveled at Gone Home and its fans because of the game’s subject matter—and in ways that are truly horrifying, like the harassment of outspoken women who call for and represent a more diverse and inclusive gaming culture. The vile harassment of women coming out of GamerGate is something that all major sites should report on critically and should condemn. And if you’re afraid to do so, then you are part of the problem, because to stay silent is to lend those people your tacit approval. Your audience can be those straight male gamers who feel like games and gaming sites should cater to them above all others, or your audience can be those people who feel like games and gaming sites should be representative of and welcoming to people of all genders, sexual orientations, races and cultural backgrounds. It cannot be both.

There are a lot of good Carol Channing stories but one of the best ones is that when she was starting she was in a revue that was written by and starred a bunch of communists and had deep communist themes but she didn’t realize any of this and only found out later when they were all black listed during the McCarthy era. Apparently they kept trying to get her to write her representative but she was like “guys I need to concentrate on this solo I have.” In her book she said that she thinks she wasn’t blacklisted because she believes that there was a spy in the company, which to her credit was common in that era, that knew that she had literally no idea what was going on.


The Allen Ginsberg Photographs at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, May 23-September 8, 2013

There never has been an English-language poet more universally known or influential then Allen Ginsberg. Not even Byron, Wordsworth or Dylan Thomas knew the breadth of reputation enjoyed by the New Jersey-born poet at the height of his dazzling fame.

Coming virtually from out of nowhere during the McCarthy era, Jewish, skinny, neurotic, bespectacled, publicly homosexual and obsessively codependent – everything that a post-war American poet ought not to be – Ginsberg blazed through the literary scene on both sides of the Atlantic and then went on to sweep over both sides of the Amazon, the Yangtze and the Black Sea.

Single-handedly he trounced the prodigious and seemingly insurmountable antisemitic god of modernism, T.S. Eliot, shrugging the monumental Wasteland aside with his epic old testament Jeremiad HOWL. Just to let Eliot’s mentor Ezra Pound know that a new boy had arrived, he paid the reclusive former fascist polemicist and make-it-new demagogue a visit in his redoubt in Rapallo, by which time Ginsberg was, arguably, the most popular poet alive.

It must have sent a message to Pound, who during World War Two, over Mussolini’s airwaves, had ranted gloating predictions about the inevitable demise of world Jewry. Here, gazing tenderly down upon him with big warm wet Blakean eyes was the queer Jew Ginsberg, come to slip the poetry torch from Pound’s trembling fingers and bring it back to his beloved Greenwich Village.

A superb tactical promoter who had for a time worked as a Mad Man on Mad Ave, Ginsberg played the media like a harpsichord. Cunning, irrepressible, this Edward Bernays of the poetry avant-garde assembled – from a loose network of free versifiers intoxicated with Charles Olson’s theories of projective verse – his own stable of charismatic hip darlings to parade before the cameras of Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Ginsberg’s mass media and television-promoted cultural revolution not only swept over the American pop scene and Partisan Review but also laid the groundwork for the Sixties and all that was to come. When not arranging publication for his pals, he was finessing the Associated Press to report on their latest shenanigans, especially a faithful inner cohort that included Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Michael McClure, Herbet Huncke, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso and a host of lesser-knowns along for the ride. Never before or since has so much media spotlight been trained on such genuine eccentrics. Everyone knows that organizing artists is like herding cats. Yet somehow he succeeded. And from his efforts came to be born, for better or worse, much of the world as we know it.

It was more a movement of friends then any conjoined take on literature, though the production of great novels and poems was certainly it’s grand premise. A close examination of seminal Beat documents shows very few of the aesthetic correlatives typical of a literary uprising. On The Road, Howl, Naked Lunch, Bomb – these texts bear little if any correspondence beyond a vague notion of rebellion and estrangement.

Yet we feel that we know these writers as intimates. That feeling of instant befriending is one of the secret sources of the Beat’s ongoing appeal. They befriend you with their words, their faces, their acts, their snapshots. That was due largely to Ginsberg’s faithful documentation and broadcast of their every little move and mood, and nowhere do we see this aesthetic of publicised intimacy and friendship better demonstrated then in the his private photographs, BEAT MEMORIES on display until September 8 at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum.

The exhibit, which comes to the Bay Area from the National Gallery has been something of an event in this city. Despite the fact that Ginsberg hailed from the East Coast and spent the bulk of his time there, he remains most identified with San Francisco, particularly the North Beach district, where poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who stood trial for his publication of Howl, can still be found shelving Dostoyevsky’s novels under D in the Fiction section of his historic City Lights bookstore.

In fact the display of these snapshots taken over decades of Ginsberg closest friends, lovers and associates has sparked a kind of Beat reunion among many of the locals who knew him. This will reach a celebratory crescendo from July 12-15 when The Allen Ginsberg Festival, which I’ve co-curated, celebrates three days of Beat culture with panels, readings, performances, lectures and general Beatific city-wide mayhem.

Standing before a photo of Beats assembled in front of City Lights Bookstore, leaning close in to read Ginsberg’s handwritten inscription is Neeli Cherkovski, poet and biographer of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Charles Bukowski, and a longstanding intimate of Ginsberg. “Boyyy, look at this…” he says aloud to anyone who might be listening. Around the exhibit and its planned events hover other longtime Ginsberg confidantes like poet David Meltzer, Beat historian and longtime assistant to Ginsberg, Bill Morgan, Kerouac biographer and poet Ruth Weiss, who first contrived the performance of serious poetry to jazz in the late 1940s. Weiss was an associate of such San Francisco legends as Kenneth Patchen and Kenneth Rexroth – the same Rexroth who later MC’d the historic Gallery Six reading where Ginsberg’s performance of HOWL in a storm of trembling and tears (as Kerouac passed jugs of wine and shouted ‘GO!”) launched The Beat Generation.

Viewing Burroughs slumped lazily across a bed, or hunched on a sofa with Kerouac, or Ginsberg lounging on a rooftop, or Kerouac enjoying a smoke on a fire escape in dreamy-gritty black and white, one becomes oneself black and white, lost in a legendary marginality that time will redeem with immortal technicolour fame. It’s a strange poetic effect of time-inversion, witty and yet innocently earnest in its celebration of ordinariness, but with powerful déjà vu echoes of tragedy foreseen. One can feel Ginsberg’s visionary, far-seeing eye in each frame, sense that somehow he knew that some of the figures in the photographs would become iconic, eternal, in ways that would destroy them. One wants also to draw back from the awful snapshot of Kerouac in later life: overweight, drunken, the dissipated image of his own father, as something too private and painful to share on a museum wall. But then, if the Beats had anything to bind them one to another as writers and friends, and them to us, it was in precisely this sort of unrestrained sharing of the most intimate self-truths revealed, no matter how stark, how raw, with anyone who willing to read or listen.
The FBI Has a New Plan to Spy on High School Students Across the Country
Under new guidelines, the FBI is instructing high schools across the country to report students who criticize government policies and "western corruption" as potential future terrorists, warning that "anarchist extremists" are in the same category as ISIS and young people who are poor, immigrants or travel to "suspicious" countries are more likely to commit horrific violence.
By Sarah Lazare

Based on the widely unpopular British “anti-terror” mass surveillance program, the FBI’s “Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools” guidelines, released in January, are almost certainly designed to single out and target Muslim-American communities. However, in its caution to avoid the appearance of discrimination, the agency identifies risk factors that are so broad and vague that virtually any young person could be deemed dangerous and worthy of surveillance, especially if she is socio-economically marginalized or politically outspoken.

This overwhelming threat is then used to justify a massive surveillance apparatus, wherein educators and pupils function as extensions of the FBI by watching and informing on each other. The FBI’s justification for such surveillance is based on McCarthy-era theories of radicalization, in which authorities monitor thoughts and behaviors that they claim to lead to acts of violent subversion, even if those people being watched have not committed any wrongdoing. This model has been widely discredited as a violence prevention method, including by the US government, but it is now being imported to schools nationwide as official federal policy.