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A Shadow of Red: Communism and the Blacklist in Radio and Television

ISBN: 9781566635752
Publisher: Ivan R. Dee
Publication Date: 2007-03-09
Number of pages: 432
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  • Regular price $16.98

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The Cold War came to broadcasting in 1950. In that year, just as the Korean War was about to erupt, there appeared from a small publisher a booklet called Red Channels, which listed 151 suspected Communist sympathizers in broadcasting. Within months the blacklist in radio and TV began. The purge of the airwaves, distinct from the better-known blacklist in the movie industry, provoked one of the American media's great free-speech controversies. It affected scores of writers, directors, and actors, yet it was instigated by only a handful of anti-Red watchdogs—three ex-FBI agents, a former naval intelligence officer, and a grocer from Syracuse. A Shadow of Red follows the efforts of these five guardians of the broadcast media in a revealing history of the period, based on interviews, personal correspondence, FBI reports, and court transcripts. The conflict has routinely been portrayed as a simplistic morality tale of persecutors and the persecuted, the standard witch-hunt narrative of right-wing fanatics hounding political innocents whom they insisted were agents of the Communist devil. But, as David Everitt makes clear, the blacklisters, though excessive and destructive, were not deluded hunters of an imaginary menace. Their crusade is best understood as the culmination of a long-standing ideological struggle in broadcasting, in which neither side would indulge its adversaries. Ultimately the conflict would be decided in a historic and dramatic libel trial that brought all the issues, and all the old grievances, into the open. A Shadow of Red is brilliant history, a cautionary tale about civil liberties in a time of emergency, and a vivid example of the polarized political battle over who controls the media, a battle that continues to this day.

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