Politique Diabolique Jul 9 2015
WITCHES OF WASHINGTON, D.C.
Collier’s goes looking for the commies but finds something else entirely.

Collier’s isn’t the most visually striking of magazines, but this issue that hit newsstands today in 1954 caught our eye because it contains several nice photos of Marilyn Monroe. There’s also a bit of interesting graphic art, specifically a colorful baseball illustration by Willard Mullin. The other item that attracted us was a story called “What Price Security?” about U.S. government overreach in its search for communists. No art to speak of, but the content gives a window onto the Red Scare period of American life. Author Charlotte Knight tells readers that government efforts against communism have been “so irresponsibly administered that it may have done more harm to the United States than to its enemies.” Sound familiar?

Knight slams witch hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy, and characterizes the fervor around alleged subversives in Washington, D.C. as creating a ripe environment for paranoiacs and liars to ruin innocent people. But of course, as well written as Knight’s article is, she should not have been surprised by anything she discovered. Witch hunts always become vehicles for revenge, personal advancement, and profiteering, because society and politics become warped in such a way as to clear a path for these pursuits. History invariably judges such periods as human tragedies and political failures, though sadly, too late for the ruined and the dead. Scans below.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 19 2011
MENACE TO SOCIETY
Better dead than red.

Above, a rare poster for the Republic Pictures drama The Red Menace, which as you might guess was a cheeseball propaganda film designed to instill terror into Americans about communism’s plans for global domination. You get plenty of subterfuge here, along with lots of betrayals and a few brutal beatdowns, and one of the commies would later portray purest evil by voicing Cruella De Vil in Disney’s 101 Dalmations. Ironically, when The Red Menace premiered the U.S. government was entering into a period during which it would sponsor numerous anti-democratic coups in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. This was unknown to most Americans, but it’s debatable whether they would have been concerned. The years immediately following World War II marked a rising anti-communist wave in the U.S., a movement that would create fertile conditions for the political stardom of witch hunting senator Joseph McCarthy. He would flame out within a decade, but at the beginning of his crusade he had substantial public support. For its part, Republic Pictures was interested not in propaganda but in profit, and Menace was rush-released to take advantage of the public mood. The haste showed—the movie was spectacularly, hilariously bad, and is considered today by many to be the Reefer Madness of anti-communist films. It premiered this month in 1949. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 13
1935—Jury Finds Hauptmann Guilty
A jury in Flemington, New Jersey finds Bruno Hauptmann guilty of the 1932 kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby, the son of Charles Lindbergh. Hauptmann is sentenced to death and executed in 1936. For decades, his widow Anna, fights to have his named cleared, claiming that Hauptmann did not commit the crime, and was instead a victim of prosecutorial misconduct, but her claims are ultimately dismissed in 1984 after the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to address the case.
February 12
1961—Soviets Launch Venus Probe
The U.S.S.R. launches the spacecraft Venera 1, equipped with scientific instruments to measure solar wind, micrometeorites, and cosmic radiation, towards planet Venus. The craft is the first modern planetary probe. Among its many achievements, it confirms the presence of solar wind in deep space, but overheats due to the failure of a sensor before its Venus mission is completed.
1994—Thieves Steal Munch Masterpiece
In Oslo, Norway, a pair of art thieves steal one of the world's best-known paintings, Edvard Munch's "The Scream," from a gallery in the Norwegian capital. The two men take less than a minute to climb a ladder, smash through a window of the National Art Museum, and remove the painting from the wall with wire cutters. After a ransom demand the museum refuses to pay, police manage to locate the panting in May, and the two thieves, as well as two accomplices, are arrested.
February 11
1938—BBC Airs First Sci-Fi Program
BBC Television produces the first ever science fiction television program, an adaptation of a section of Czech writer Karel Capek's dark play R.U.R., aka, Rossum's Universal Robots. The robots in the play are not robots in the modern sense of machines, but rather are biological entities that can be mistaken for humans. Nevertheless, R.U.R. featured the first known usage of the term "robot".

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