Here’s a fascinating appearance by Larry Schweikart, University of Dayton professor and author of three books, on the Richard Land Live! radio show, December 2008 [link][mp3]. Schweikart is pushing his book 48 Liberal Lies about American History (That You Probably Learned in School) [Amazon].
Schweikart’s attention-getter here is that one can discern the quality of a history textbook by seeing how it treats Ronald Reagan, but to my ears his discussion of how he surveyed history books by counting pictures and taking these to be representative of editorial choices, was much more interesting [see also]. I’m not sure I agree that his conclusion that pictures of the Ku Klux Klan represent a pessimistic outlook on the part of the authors is entirely warranted. Other interesting points include
- His claim that Lee Harvey Oswald’s Communism is well-established, and characterizations of Oswald as a Marine are evidence of some sort of bias. I’m under the impression that Oswald was definitely a Marine and at best probably a Communist.
- His analysis of the Japanese atomic bombing decision; this all seems to turn on the size and accuracy of troop casualty predictions, and whether 50,000 (or 100,000) Allied casualties was large or small.
- His discussion of the guilt or innocence of the Rosenbergs. I’m under the impression that modern views of the Rosenbergs are more nuanced: that Julius was guilty, Ethel not so much, and that they got harsher treatment than other Cold War spies because they were Jewish [link].
But it’s the discussion of Senator Joe McCarthy and the Red Scare that really makes this episode noteworthy; it starts at about 23:30 in the mp3. Land and Schweikart apparently agree that McCarthy was correct that Communists ran rampant in the government in the early Fifties, the fear of Communism that characterized the Red Scare was a “grounded fear,” and Schweikart says in his book that McCarthy was the victim of press bias, particularly on the part of Edward R. Murrow.
I realize that modern depictions of the Red Scare are generally seen through a Hollywood filter, particularly by people who were on a blacklist or were friends or colleagues of someone who was on a blacklist, but I am always surprised when I find someone whose interpretation of the Red Scare is this far to the right.
For the record, I’m of the opinion that if McCarthy had been correct in every detail someone would have taken up his crusade after his censure; if that happened I’m not aware of it.
HAIRSPRAY delighted audiences by sweeping them away to 1960′s Baltimore, where the 50′s are out — and change is in the air. Loveable plus-size heroine, Tracy Turnblad, has a passion for dancing, and wins a spot on the local TV dance program, “The Corny Collins Show.” Overnight she finds herself transformed from outsider to teen celebrity. Can a larger-than-life adolescent manage to vanquish the program’s reigning princess, integrate the television show, and find true love
(singing and dancing all the while, of course!) without mussing her hair?
I’ve seen the movie but not the musical; I suppose it’s possible that the musical doesn’t deal with desegregation, which was a major theme of the movie.
The small handful of productions I saw at Liberty when I was there as a student they typically did by the book: Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was done unedited, and was just as heavy-handed and overwrought as the original. As I recall the Red Scare themes of the play were implicit, so it was possible to watch the play and think it was entirely about religious hysteria in Massachusetts in the 1690s and not also about political hysteria in Eisenhower America.
The relationship between conservative Christianity and the arts generally is always complicated; the much-lamented Ektachrome Transparencies blog dealt with some of the issues of the film program at Bob Jones University and gave a better treatment than I can here. Suffice it to say that there’s always someone who will be offended by someone else’s artistic expression, and an arts program at a conservative school always walks a tightrope, mostly without a net. So far as I know there is still no life drawing class at Liberty, and I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for one to happen.
Anyway, I don’t know what to think of the production of Hairspray at Liberty. This is one of those times where there may be a stage production that is based on a film that might or might not be shown on campus, and if so certainly wouldn’t be part of a John Waters film festival. This is one of the points where fundamentalists and evangelicals of some stripes part ways: fundamentalists wouldn’t put on a production of Hairspray because Waters is gay and made some other films with well-nigh unspeakable content; evangelicals are more likely to consider each work separately.