Monday, November 12, 2007

'None Dare Call It Treason' Pt. II

'If Tokyo Rose were alive today, she wouldn't get jail time - she'd get a three picture deal.'

-Govindini Murty

My last little essay was about the parallels between the GWOT and the Red Scare of the early Cold War, specifically pointing out a truck sized hole in the web of patriotism and fear being woven by neo-conservatives. I said that the Plame Wilson outing was very close to treasonable, if not an open act of treason, and that under very different circumstances it would have been called such by the very people responsible for it. In this little rant I'm going to comment on the parallel between the GWOT and the Red Scare once again.

The quote above is from the following opinion column in the New York Daily News:

The author is co-founder of the 'Liberty Film Festival', which itself sponsors the blog 'Libertas', which is described in its header as 'a forum for conservative thought on film.' The blog is an interesting combination of nostalgia for Hollywood's 'lost greatness' and typical neo-conserative pseudo-patriotic pro-war ballyhoo and the usual potshots that neo-cons take at those who disagree with them. The general consensus opinion of the posters appears to be that Hollywood is evil and anti-American. This isn't a new idea. During the Red Scare, also a significant part of the period of the same Hollywood greatness to which they pay tribute, Hollywood was accused of being evil, anti-American, and subversive in the cause of Communism. Now, apparently, Hollywood liberals are on the side of the terrorists. Apparently, if you have a point to prove and a right wing slant, you can always score points by giving Hollywood a good pimp-slap.

Now, I actually happen to agree with one of the major arguments of Libertas' posters. The quality of the bulk of the movies coming out of Hollywood is not particularly high. However, I'll let them in on a secret. It never has been. Great movies are declared great by history, not by the era in which they first screened. 'Citizen Kane' bombed at the box office. So did quite a few other movies now considered all time greats. On the other hand, musicals starring ice skater Sonja Henie and swimmer Esther Williams made fortunes despite being incredibly bad. In our own era we have garbage like the Saw and Hostel franchises and disappointments like the mediocre (The Bourne Identity)-to-trash (The Bourne Supremacy) movies based on the highly entertaining and exciting (if not literarily profound) classic thrillers by Robert Ludlum. Great movies were rare in the 'golden age of Hollywood' and they are rare now. That's how Hollywood has always been and how it always will be.

That said, I can't help but remember the investigations of Hollywood during the Red Scare and the condemnation of the victims of these investigations in the media and in Washington. Ironically, one of the victims of this witch-hunt, screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo, was the writer of patriotic war movies such as 'A Guy Named Joe' and 'Thirty Seconds over Tokyo'. But his movie 'Tender Comrade' was labeled as Communist propaganda (it was about communal living on the homefront during WWII, and had no connection to 'Communism' in the Soviet sense) and he went to jail for just under a year.

Of course, in this modern society, an actual witch-hunt against Hollywood on a HUAC scale is unlikely. Still, the efforts of neo-conservative 'patriots' to dredge up a war against Hollywood and the 'liberal' media in their own political press and media represents the same paranoia on a lower scale of intensity. Anti-war idealism is equated with anti-Americanism and a lack of patriotism and all those who oppose their 'crusade' (in the words of President Bush) to Americanize the Muslim world are 'America bashers'. There are truths about war and peace that should always be told and remembered and truths about this particular war that need to be told.

The following is offered in the name of truth:

There was no Tokyo Rose. Tokyo Rose was the invention of the American wartime propaganda machine. There were some twenty anonymous female broadcasters of Japanese propaganda in English during the war. None of them used the name 'Tokyo Rose' in broadcasts. The woman convicted of treason for the non-existent 'Tokyo Rose broadcasts' was Iva Toguri D'Aquino, a Japanese American visiting family in Japan at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack and subsequently trapped in Japan. When she refused to renounce her American citizenship, she was treated by the Japanese as an enemy alien and denied a war ration card. To support herself she went to work as an announcer on a Japanese radio program called 'The Zero Hour' and used the names 'Ann' and 'Orphan Ann' in broadcasts. She refused to broadcast anti-Allied propaganda and the American POWs forced to produce the radio program kept such propaganda out of her broadcasts.

After the war, she was investigated by both the FBI and US Army Intelligence and released. No evidence that she had broadcast Japanese propaganda was ever found. When she applied to return to the US so her child could be born on American soil, Walter Winchell lobbied against her and accused her of being 'Tokyo Rose'. While waiting for a visa her child was born and then died, and soon after she was brought back to the United States and charged formally with treason largely due to the publicity created by Walter Winchell's smear campaign. D'Aquino served six years of her ten year sentence and moved to Chicago after her release. A reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Ron Yates, identified her in Chicago and his investigation of her trial and conviction revealed that the two most damaging witnesses against her had lied under oath due to coercion by the FBI and the U.S. occupation forces. In 1977, she was pardoned by President Gerald Ford.

A three picture deal would go a long way toward redressing this injustice. Unfortunately, Mrs. D'Aquino died in 2006.

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