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America’s scariest book? Red Channels

Red Channels

I’ve come across a copy of Red Channels and frankly it is one of the most scary pieces of publishing that I’ve ever seen. Published in 1950 by Counterattack, Red Channels is “The report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television.” It’s an incredible piece of history from the absolute height of McCarthyism. The book, complete with a scary red hand about to grasp a microphone, is basically an industry blacklist of America’s media and entertainment types.

Counterattack was established by a group of former FBI agents dedicated to exposing Communists. This book ‘exposes’ 151 people. Flicking through the pages, there are many famous names – Larry Adler, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, John Garfield, Dashiell Hammett, Lena Horne, Burl Ives, Gpysy Rose Lee, Burgess Meredith, Arthur Miller, Zero Mostel, Dorothy Parker, Edward G Robinson, Pete Seeger, Sam Wanamaker, Orson Welles.

Pete Seeger’s entry

Some of their alleged crimes….attending civil rights meetings, attending a stop censorship meeting, speaking at a teacher’s union meeting, attending a council on African affairs meeting.

The introduction quotes J Edgar Hoover: The (Communist) Party has departed from depending on the written word as its medium of propaganda and has taken to the air. Its members and sympathizers have not only inflitrated the airways but they are now persistently seeking radio channels.”

Red Channels goes on…”Those familiar with show business are already sickeningly aware of the manner in which Red Facism has exploited scores of radio and TV stars at pro-Soviet rallies, meetings and conferences.”

This book is merely 59 years old.

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