Thursday, May 3, 2018

Donald Trump Is Not Rebecca Nurse or Bridget Bishop

Recently I heard someone going on about how the Arthur Miller play, The Crucible, a play themed on the infamous Salem witch trials, was really about the anti-Communist campaign going on at the time Miller wrote the play.   In the same decade Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee wrote the play Inherit the Wind which was an even less historically accurate play "about" the Scopes trial but which, also, was supposed to "really be about" the anti-Communist hearings and trials and blacklisting that The Crucible was "really about".   Well, that might have been the intention of Miller, Lawrence and Lee, but I'll bet you that unless they were informed of the authorial intent not one in a thousand people who viewed the play would have gotten that.  Which, if having some effect in the real world of political and personal persuasion is the goal must count as about the dumbest means of getting the message across ever dreamed up by intelligent people. 

Since then the same covert message has been attributed to all kinds of stuff, high brow to the lowest brow of Hollywood c-grade sci-fi.   I have to wonder if that isn't some kind of post-production claim to try to gain significance for otherwise ephemeral trash or some dimwitted humanities scribbler who doesn't like to read hard stuff and think about it giving their love of trash some kind of academic cachet.   "Trashademic", if no one has come up with that term for the kind of scholarly writing about commercial pop-culture trash, someone should have before now.

I was thinking about this because I wondered about the etymology of the term "witch hunt" as used by Donald Trump and his white-collar muscle to discredit the investigation into their criminal gang and its possible relation to the use of the term to discredit the investigation into the previous attempts to subvert American democracy under the previous gangster regime in the Soviet Union.  I wonder if Arthur Miller had the ability to foresee how that idea was going to be used by the most criminal gang to ever hold power in the United States sixty years on if he'd have scrapped the idea of using the witch trials as a cover.

It is such an irony that Trump, the very man who delivered that great desideratum of the old commies of the 1920s-now, the subversion and destruction of American democracy for the benefit of the Russian mafia-state and doing it so successfully through the REPUBLICAN PARTY! is using the old term of 1950s commies to whine about those who are investigating his criminality. 

It took seeing how the idiots who are the current generation of the secular left enabling a series of fascistic Republicans, through the Green Party, through magazines such as In These Times, The Nation, and things like it being revealed that contrary to decades of such lefties swearing on the Grundrisse that the Rosenbergs were innocent to make me realize that those old commies were as admirable as the German American Bund and the various other American supporters of fascism elsewhere.  A lot of them were duped, especially those who were not communists but got suckered into feeling sorry for them on the basis of anti-anti-Communism, the red-hunter thing having gotten totally out of hand as a political tool of, especially, Republican-fascism of that era.  Things were always far, far more complicated than those facile "which side are you on" analyses claimed.

There were no witches in Salem, but there are enemies of democracy, gangsters who seek political control so they can steal and do the killing and enslaving and oppressing and mount distraction campaigns of paranoia, racism, sexism, etc. and no idiotic attempt to symbolize them with the innocent victims of late 17th century Salem should blind us to what we really are up against.

1 comment:

  1. The irony of using the Salem Witch Trials as metaphor is that they serve as symbol without changing much of anything about them (not that Miller could see what is credibly a feminist reading of them). Women were accused who were without husbands (widows, never married), who were on the edges (physically as well as socially) of society, and who stood to lose property and other things to their accusers. It wasn't so much a case of mass hysteria cause by ergot poisoning (an idea that's been debunked anyway), it was a canny way of using the fears of some (and the fears of others, like Cotton Mather, who feared the community he supposedly led but actually just responded to in the trials) to gain power over, and property from, others.

    Rather like today, no people of wealth were accused of witchcraft; no people of social position or social power were suspected. It ran very much on class lines, even in a community too small and simple to have the complex class distinctions of Merrye Olde England.