The barring of Mr. Rank‘s Oliver Twist from its announced appearance (1949) in the United States is explained thus by Arnold Forster in his book, A Measure of Freedom (Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1950, p. 10):
American movie distributors refused to become involved in the distribution and exhibition of the motion picture after the Anti-Defamation League and others expressed the fear that the film was harmful. The Rank Organization withdrew the picture in the United States.
Finally it was announced in the spring of 1951 that the British film after seventy-two eliminations and with a prologue by Dr. Everett R. Clinchy of the National Conference of Christians and Jews might be accepted as a filming of Dickens without anti-semitic intentions (Dallas Morning News). But is there any Charles Dickens left anywhere around?
On the question of Communism in Hollywood, there is available in pamphlet form a remarkably informative broadcast of a dialogue (Facts Forum Radio Program, WFAA, Dallas, January 11, 1952) between Mr.
Dan Smoot of Dallas and the motion picture star, Adolphe Menjou. Replying dramatically to a series of questions climatically arranged, Mr, Menjou begins with Lenin‘s We must capture the cinema, shows Americans their incredible ignorance of Communism, lists Congressional committees which issue helpful documents, and recommends a boycott of motion pictures which are written by Communists, produced by Communists, or acted in by Communists, the term Communists including those who support the Communist cause. For a free copy of this valuable broadcast, write to Facts Forum, 718 Mercantile Bank building, Dallas, Texas. See also Red Treason in Hollywood by Myron C. Fagan (Cinema Educational Guild, P. O. Box 8655, Cole Branch, Hollywood 46, California), and do not miss Did the Movies Really Clean House? in the December, 1951, American Legion Magazine.
Censorship in the field of books is even more significant than in periodicals, motion pictures, and radio (not here considered), and a somewhat more extended discussion is imperative.
With reference to new books, a feature article, Why You Buy Books That Sell Communism, by Irene Corbally Kuhn in the American Legion Magazine for January, 1951, shows how writers on the staffs of two widely circulated New York book review supplements are influential in controlling America‘s book business. To school principals, teachers, librarians, women‘s clubs indeed to parents and all other Americans interested in children, who will be the next generation this article is necessary reading.
It should be ordered and studied in full and will accordingly not be analyzed here (American Legion Magazine, 580 Fifth Avenue, New York 18, New York; see also The Professors and the press in the July, 1951, number of this magazine). Important also is A Slanted Guide to Library Selections, by Oliver Carlson, in The Freeman for January 14, 1952.
Dealing in more detail with books in one specific field, the China theater, where our wrong policies have cost so many young American lives, is an article entitled The Gravediggers of America, Part I, The Book Reviewers Sell Out China, by Ralph de Toledano (The American Mercury, July, 1951, pp. 72-78. See also Part II in the August number). Mr. de Toledano explains that America‘s China policy, whether by coincidence, or as part of a sharply conceived and shrewdly carried out plan has led to the fact that China is Russia‘s. Mr. de Toledano then turns his attention to the State Department:
Meanwhile the real lobby,the four-plus propagandists of a pro-Communist line in Asia, prospered. Its stooges were able to seize such a stranglehold on the State Department‘s Far Eastern division that to this day, as we slug it out with the Chinese Reds, they are still unbudgeable. Working devotedly at their side has been a book-writing and book-reviewing cabal.
With regard to books, book reviewerss, and book-reviewing periodicals, Mr. de Toledano gives very precise figures. He also explains the great leftist game in which one pro-Communist writer praises the work of another and old practice exposed by the author of The Iron Curtain Over America in the chapter, Censorship, Gangs, and the tyranny of Minorities in his book Image of Life (pp. 146-147) : Praise follows friendship rather than merit. Let a novelist, for instance, bring out a new book. The critic, the playwright, the reviewers, and the rest in his gang hail it as the book of the year. Likewise all will hail the new play by the playwright—and so on, all the way around the circle of membership.
Provincial reviewers will be likely to fall in step. The result is that a gang member will sometimes receive national acclaim for a work which deserves oblivion, whereas a nonmember may fail to receive notice for a truly excellent work. Such gangs prevent wholly honest criticism and are bad at best, but they are a positive menace when their expressions of mutual admiration are poured forth on obscene and subversive books.
For still more on the part played by certain book-reviewing periodicals in foisting upon the American public a ruinous program in China, see A Guidebook to 10 Years of Secrecy in OurChina Policy, a speech by Senator Owen Brewster of Maine (June 5, 1951). The tables on pp. 12 and 13 of Senator Brewster‘s reprinted speeh are of especial value.
The unofficial arbiters and censors of books have not, however, confined themselves to contemporary texts but have taken drastic steps against classics. Successful campaigns early in the current century against such works as Shakespeare‘s play, The Merchant of Venice, are doubtless known to many older readers of The Iron Curtain Over America. The case of Shakespeare was summed up effectively by George Lyman Kittredge (The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, edited by George Lyman Kittredge, Ginn and Company, Boston, 1945, pp. ix-x), long a professor of English in Harvard University:
One thing is clear, however: The Merchant of Venice is no anti-Semitic document; Shakespeare was not attacking the Jewish people when he gave Shylock the villain‘s role. If so, he was attacking the Moors in Titus Andronicus, the Spaniards in Much Ado, the Italians in Cymbeline, the Viennese in Measure for Measure, the Danes in Hamlet, the Britons in King Lear, the Scots in Macbeth, and the English in Richard the Third.
Much more significant than attacks on individual masterpieces, however, was a subtle but determined campaign begun a generation ago to discredit our older literature under charges of Jingoism and didacticism (Image of Life, Chapter III). For documentary indication of a nation-wide minority boycott of books as early as 1933, write to the American Renaissance Book Club (P. O. Box 1316, Chicago 90, Illinois).
Still it was not until World War II that the manipulators of the National Democratic Party hit on a really effective way of destroying a large portion of our literary heritage and its high values of morality and patriotism. Since most classics have a steady rather than a rapid sale and are not subject to quick reprints even in normal times, and since many potential readers of these books were not in college but in the armed forces, few editions of such works were reprinted during the war.
At this juncture, the government ordered plates to be destroyed on all books not reprinted within four years. The edict was almost a death blow to our culture, for as old books in libraries wear out very few of them can be reprinted at modern costs for printing and binding. Thus, since 1946 the teacher of advanced college English courses has had to choose texts not, as in 1940, from those classics which he prefers but from such classics as are available.
The iniquitous practice of destroying plates was reasserted by Directive M-65, dated May 31, 1951, of the National Production Authority, which provides that plates which have not been used for more than four years or are otherwise deemed to be obsolete must be delivered to a scrap metal dealer (letter to the author from Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., June 15, 1951). In this connection, Upton Close wrote (Radio Script, August 12, 1951) that he was a writer on the Orient who stood in the way of the Lattimore-Hiss gang and Marshall‘s giving of China to the Communists, and that such an order wiped out all his books on China and Japan. Mr. Close continued as follows:
The order to melt book plates on the pretense that copper is needed for war is the smartest way to suppress books ever invented. It is much more clever than Hitler‘s burning of books. The public never sees the melting of plates in private foundries. All the metal from all the book plates in America would not fight one minor engagement. But people do not know that, They do not even know that book plates have been ordered melted down!
Censorship is applied even to those classics which are reprinted. Let us look at only one author who lived long ago, Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340-1400). In both of the two fluent and agreeable verse translations at hand as this is written, the fact that the Knight belonged to the Teutonic Order (Chapter I) is eliminated in the wording. Perhaps this is excusable, for the translator into verse faces many difficulties. Of different import, however, are the omissions in two other editions.
The Heritage Press edition of the Canterbury Tales omits with no explanation the Tale of the Prioress, the one in which Chaucer, more than 550 years ago, happened to paint along with the several Gentile poisoners and other murderers of his stories—one unflattering portrait, a version of the popular ballad Sir Hugh and the Jew‘s Daughter, of one member of the Jewish race, and that one presumably fictitious! Professor Lumiansky‘s edition (Simon and Schuster, 1941, preface by Mark Van Doren) of the Canterbury tales likewise omits the Prioress‘s tale, and tells why:
Though anti-Semitism was a somewhat different thing in the fourteenth century from what it is today, the present-day reader has modern reactions in literature no matter when it was written From this point of view the Prioress‘s story of the little choir-boy who is murdered by the Jews possesses an unpleasantness which over shadows its other qualities (op., p. xxiii).
No criticism of the translators, editors, and publishers is here implied. They may have merely bent to pressure as so many other publishers and so many other publishers and so many periodicals have done to the author‘s certain knowledge. One cannot, however, escape the question as to what would happen to American and English literature if persons of English, Scotch, Irish, German, Italian or other decent, took the same attitude toward defamation‖ of persons of their races, including those who lived more than 500 years ago! There would be no motion pictures or plays, and except for technical treatises there would be no more books.
One of the most horrible results of the types of censorship illustrated above is the production, by writers without honor, of works which will pass the unofficial censor. The result is a vast output of plays, nonfiction prose, and especially novels, worthless at best and degraded and subversive at the worst, which will not be reviewed here.
Time and space must be given, however, to the blackout of truth in history. Fortunately the way has been illuminated by Professor Harry Elmer Barnes in his pamphlet The Struggle Against the Historical Blackout (Freeman‘s Journal Press, Cooperstown, N.Y. 1951). Professor Barnes defines the historical craft‘s term revisionism as the readjustment of historical writing to historical facts relative to the background and causes of the first World War and later equates the term revisionism with truth.
After mentioning some of the propaganda lies of World War I and the decade thereafter and citing authorities for the fact that the actual causes and merits of this conflict were very close to the reverse of the picture presented in the political propaganda and historical writings of the war decade, Professor Barnes states again with authorities and examples that by 1928 everyone except the die-hards and bitter-enders in the historical profession had come to accept revisionism, and even the general public had begun to think straight in the premises.
Unfortunately, however, before the historical profession had got to be as true to history as it was prior to 1914, World War II was ushered in and propaganda again largely superseded truth in the writing of history.