Defending the Blacklist

In response to calls for a boycott of Mel Gibson, in light of the actor’s now-confirmed anti-Semitism, David Bernstein equates such a boycott with the notorious Hollywood blacklist of the 1950s, stating:

I’m not going to shed any tears over Mel Gibson’s self-destruction, but I haven’t shed any over those poor unfortunate Stalinists who temporarily lost their jobs in the 1950s, either.

I know that mocking Bernstein is like shooting a very large fish in a very small barrel, but this is patently ridiculous. As Julian Sanchez notes, being a Stalinist in the early 1950s is a whole lot less reprehensible than being an anti-Semite today. But more to the point, the vast majority of blacklisted artists were not members of CPUSA. In fact, I undertook the laborious task of researching each and every member of the blacklist listed at Wikipedia, and seeing if they were ever a member of either CPUSA or the Young Communist’s League. Of the 93 artists listed, only 14 were ever members of either organization. Of those 14, only one – Paul Robeson – didn’t quit in disgust. Ejecting Stalinists from public life is indefensible, but the blacklist did far more than even that. As anyone who knows anything about the period knows, it was little more than an excuse to purge leftist ideas from the American mainstream. And, of course, Bernstein would have no problem with that.

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