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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Monday March 22, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 52)
Some Rude to Kazan; "Evil Right-Wing"; CNN's Bruce Morton Took Sides

1) Linda Tripp couldn't escape ridicule at the Oscars. Host Whoopi Goldberg joked: "A Bug's Life. Wasn't that the Linda Tripp story?"

2) Most rejected the left-wing plea to be rude to Elia Kazan, but Nick Nolte and Ed Harris were among those refusing to applaud.

3) Richard Dreyfuss argued that while Stalin wasn't so great the "evil right-wing" was more dangerous; a screenwriter called Kazan "a traitor" while another hoped "someone shoots him."

4) In his syndicated column MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell noted how Kazan realized the Communist Party was part of a "worldwide conspiracy" and that an enemy screenwriter praised Marxism.

5) News media also hit Kazan from the left, portraying him as the villain. Today didn't bother with Kazan's side, Peter Jennings recalled communism wasn't really a threat and CNN's Bruce Morton abandoned professionalism, revealing: "Me? I'd sit on my hands."

Correction: The link listed for the abcnews.com report on the press conference had "#china" at the end and so brought you to a point about halfway through the document: to Clinton's answer on China. The correct address to go to the top of the ABC report: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/PoliticalNation/pn_clintonpress_990319.html


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Is it over yet? The Academy Awards started at 5:30pm local time and lasted over four hours. Final credits didn't finish rolling until 9:36pm PT or 12:36am Monday ET, more than a hour beyond the scheduled time. ABC's hour-long Politically Incorrect after show special did not end until 2:15am ET.

     Linda Tripp couldn't escape being made fun of. Following a showing of the cartoon characters in the animated movie "A Bug's Life," Oscar host Whoopi Goldberg joked: "A Bug's Life. Wasn't that the Linda Tripp story?"


kazan0322.jpg (6934 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Elia Kazan earned a standing ovation from many in the audience at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, but some followed the urging of old lefties and refused to applaud.

     At about 8:20pm PT/11:20pm ET live on ABC actors Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro strode on stage to present the Honorary Oscar, better known as a Lifetime Achievement Award, to director Elia Kazan, most famous for Street Car Named Desire, East of Eden, Splendor in the Grass and On the Waterfront. (For those who have missed the controversy, many Hollywood liberals had denounced Kazan for honestly answering questions in the 1950s about who supported Stalin's worldwide tyranny and had urged award goers to refrain from clapping.)

     Scorsese's introduction to highlights from Kazan's films reminded viewers that Kazan, ironically given current liberal anger, produced films which addressed the injustices of the time: "At a time when the prevailing American voice was bland and glib, this poetic realist, this angry romantic, always spoke fervently to our most basic conflicts between races and religions, classes and generations, men and women."

     Following the retrospective of his best work, the 89-year-old Elia Kazan walked on stage to applause. ABC's cameras panned the audience, focusing on those clapping and largely avoiding those who were not, so it was hard to tell how many were not as close-ups of those standing blocked the view of people behind them. Clearly the liberal protest idea was rejected by most, but a significant number did remain seated.

     Among those standing and clapping that I could identify: Helen Hunt (star of NBC's Mad About You), Meryl Streep, Debbie Allen, Kathy Bates (Misery and Fried Green Tomatoes) and Karl Malden, who nominated Kazan for the award. Also standing, two male actors but notably not their wives: Warren Beatty, but not his wife Annette Bening, whom the camera had earlier shown sitting beside him, and Kurt Russell but not his wife Goldie Hawn, though I can't be sure she was next to him in the audience at that moment. Steven Spielberg and wife Kate Capshaw clapped but remained seated.

     Deliberately not applauding: ABC's camera's only showed four people close enough to recognize: At one moment the camera caught Ed Harris (The Truman Show) with his hands in his lap sitting next to his wife Amy Madigan (Field of Dreams), who had her arms crossed and appeared to be scowling. Later, viewers saw Nick Nolte with his arms crossed as he sat next to his girlfriend Vicki Lewis, of NBC's NewsRadio, who had her hands clasped.

     Kazan thanked the audience for its applause and "the Academy for its courage," but did not apologize for his 1952 testimony.

     ++ Video Alert: Watch the reaction yourself and see what Kazan looks like. Monday morning the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Sean Henry will post a RealPlayer video clip of Kazan walking on stage, the audience reaction, and his comments. Go to the MRC home page after 10am ET: http://www.mrc.org
     (I'm sure someone at the MRC will be able to identify the two rude woman and I'll have the posted version of this CyberAlert updated with their names.)


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Hollywood's Hatred of Kazan. As Rush Limbaugh observed a few weeks ago, Hollywood liberals want the country to forget about what Clinton did in his "personal life" a couple of years ago and "move on," but they hold a grudge about something a director did off the set 47 years ago. The last two CyberAlerts each passed along one example. Those are mixed in below with several other examples of the left's vitriol that I've come across:

     -- Kazan helped "the evil right wing." Actor Richard Dreyfuss on CNN's Larry King Live, March 17: "The [House Un-American Activities] Committee was an institutionalized humiliation. It was a triumphant purge of the left by, not the good right wing, but the evil right wing, who wanted to make their enemies crawl, and Elia Kazan was made to crawl. He was specifically made to name names that he didn't have to name; that were not in any way needed because they already were known."

     -- Unreasonable to have expected people to have realized communism was bad. Dreyfuss on the same Larry King Live: "Right now, since 1989 it's been easy to say that everyone should have known before the fall of communism that it was, it was wrong. And that's to a great extent true. But it can't, it can't make up for individual sins."

     -- Okay, Stalin Wasn't So Great But the Right-Wing Was Worse. Dreyfuss in a March 17 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times titled, "Sitting on My Hands on This One: There is no question that he's a great director. But no award can change the fact that what he did was morally wrong." Dreyfuss lectured:
Since the fall of communism in 1989, it might be tempting to view the anti-communist crusade of the late '40s and early '50s as justified. Certainly the left in the U.S. is culpable for not seeing and condemning Stalinism for what it was, shorn of ideal talk: a totalitarian and inhumane tyranny. For that refusal, the left bears enormous responsibility.
But the right, at the same time, was guilty of wrapping their its anti-communism in virulent anti-Semitism, racism and nativism, making it all but impossible for millions of people to go along with what was perceived as unspoken messages that confused the basic issues and hid a very dark and ugly side of the right. The HUAC should not have been the place that principled men and women were asked to express their political beliefs....

     END Dreyfuss excerpt

     -- Kazan a "Traitor." From a March 16 CNN online story by Paul Clinton:
And in another sign of the controversy, a full-page ad against Kazan's upcoming Oscar recognition appeared in the March 15 issue of the Hollywood Reporter. Jules Dassin, 87, a former screenwriter and director now living in Greece, was blacklisted in the 1952. He paid $2,160 for the advertisement, which read:
"There is the story in our history of a man who was proclaimed a hero of the American Revolution. In one of the battles against the British he suffered a mutilating leg wound. Sadly, after the revolution he became a traitor. It was ruled that for treason he be hanged. But before they hanged him, the leg that was wounded was amputated so that the better part of him be not dishonored.
Elia Kazan too was a traitor. Some of those betrayed were his close friends. Their lives and futures were destroyed. He became ally and accomplice to an infamous committee which shamed his country. There is no way for the films of Kazan to be amputated from the rest of him. Yet, if there were any decency left in him he should have refused the award so as not to once again sow discord and bitterness among those whose lives and devotion are given to cinema." Signed, Jules Dassin.

Dassin directed the 1948 classic Naked City, and he wrote and directed the 1960 Greek film that made Melina Mercouri an international star, Never on Sunday...

     END CNN online excerpt

     -- Carl Reiner, also in the CNN online piece:
In Hollywood, positions between political conservatives and liberals are usually very clear. But in this case, the lines are blurred: Kazan was a liberal who wound up having mainly conservatives defend his behavior.
Legendary TV and filmmaker Carl Reiner is widely considered a liberal but in this case the nature of the offense overrides any liberal urge he might have to forgive and forget.
"I'm signing the letter that says, let's be quiet when he gets his award and just sit there," says Reiner. "I think it's very sad that this man is being honored and the people he destroyed are never going to have a chance to be honored."

     END second CNN online excerpt

     -- Hoping "someone shoots him." (Note original source at end of this item.) From a March 16 Reuters story by Arthur Spiegelman, after noting support for Kazan by Warren Beatty, who credits Kazan with making him a star:
But once-blacklisted writer/director Abraham Polonsky has darker thoughts: "I'll be watching, hoping someone shoots him. It would no doubt be a thrill in an otherwise dull evening." Polonsky also said recently that his latest project was designing a movable headstone: "That way if they bury that man in the same cemetery, they can move me."
Norma Barzman, a blacklisted writer who fled to France with her husband to find work and wound up making friends with Picasso and other notables, said Kazan's "lifetime achievement is great films and destroyed lives."
Barzman, a leader of the protest, said, "If you feel you don't want to honor a dishonorable man, just stay seated."

     END Reuters excerpt

     Update: Polonsky's "hoping someone shoots him" comment originally appeared in a February 5 Entertainment Weekly magazine story by Jeff Jensen, an issue I had picked up to read the cover story on the X-Files. The March 19 Human Events reminded me of this source and reported that Polonsky is best known for writing the films "Body and Soul" and "I Can Get it for You Wholesale."

     -- Forget Forgiveness. From a March 18 AP dispatch by Michael Fleeman on a press conference by those denouncing Kazan:
     "Blacklisted actor John Randolph, who appeared in Serpico and this year's You've Got Mail, told the news conference that Kazan gave credibility to the infamous McCarthy-era hearings by the House Un-American Activities Committee into Communists working in Hollywood. 'This is not a question of forgiveness. It's a question of remembrance,' Randolph said."

     What happened to "moving on"?


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Who is Kazan, what did he do and how defensible are his actions? For a lengthy and impressive look at the 1950s atmosphere, what Kazan really did and the communist ties and radical views of his enemies, check out Allan Ryskind's cover story in the March 19 Human Events. They don't have a Web site, so you'll have to find a hard copy. You may be able to get a copy by calling Eagle Publishing, which produces Human Events, directly: (202) 216-0600.

     Back in January MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell's column looked at the attacks on Kazan and how he realized the Communist Party was part of a "thoroughly organized, worldwide conspiracy." And speaking of Abraham Polonsky, MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson, in digging up material for the column, came across this insight from Polonsky in a Los Angeles Times story: "I thought Marxism offered the best analysis of history and I still believe that."

     Here are some excerpts from the January 25 column distributed by the Creator's Syndicate

Kazan's Oscar: Not Too Late
By L. Brent Bozell III

...To them [his critics], Kazan is secondarily the gifted artist who made "On the Waterfront," "East of Eden," and "A Streetcar Named Desire" and primarily the rat who, testifying before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952, "named names." Specifically, he named eight persons who were Communists in the mid-1930s, when he himself belonged to the party. More than fifteen years later, Kazan wrote, "To be a member of the Communist party is to have a taste of the police state. It is a diluted taste but it is bitter and unforgettable. It is diluted because you can walk out" -- which he did, after a year and a half.

Several previous high-profile attempts to honor Kazan have failed. Charlton Heston described one in the January 20 Wall Street Journal. In 1989, when Heston, then president of the American Film Institute, proposed that the AFI's life-achievement honor go to Kazan, producer Gale Anne Hurd (the "Terminator" movies; "Armageddon"), declared that "we can't give this award to a man who named names" and led a successful charge against his effort.

Hurd now says that on esthetic grounds, Kazan "absolutely deserves" the special Oscar, explaining that she opposed the AFI award because "at the time...the arts were under fire by zealots like Jesse Helms, [and] I was concerned about what sort of message we were sending." Understanding non sequiturs apparently isn't a high-priority item in Tinseltown.

Sadly, in commentary on Kazan's Academy Award, the same muddleheaded analysis was evident. In a piece for the industry's hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times, author David Freeman declared that when Kazan testified before HUAC, he was "on the wrong side of the issues." London's the Independent published a dispatch by Andrew Gumbel stating that "Kazan's testimony was considered particularly treacherous because of his track record as a socially and politically committed artist."

Some surviving blacklistees spoke up as well. In a letter to the Times, screenwriter Bernard Gordon, best known for the first movie version of "The Thin Red Line," said he was "appalled" by this "award to a man who was a prize informer in the campaign of HUAC to demonize the rest of us." Screenwriter Abraham Polonsky, who recently told the Times, "I thought Marxism offered the best analysis of history and I still believe that," called Kazan "a creep."...

If you wonder why Kazan gets under the skin of the Hollywood left, consider this lucid, commonsensical passage from his autobiography: "I believed it was the duty of the government to investigate the Communist movement in our country. There was no way I could go along with [the] crap that the CP was nothing but another political party, like the Republicans and the Democrats. I knew very well what it was, a thoroughly organized, worldwide conspiracy."....

     END column excerpt

     To read the entire column, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/columns/ent/col19990125.html


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) The news media also approached the Kazan controversy from the left, assuming he'd done wrong. USA Today couldn't decide whether the Kremlin or Congress in the 1950s posed the greater threat. Friday morning, NBC's Today didn't bother with trying to give viewers Kazan's side, featuring an interview segment with an actor and a columnist who both opposed giving him the special Oscar. CNN's Bruce Morton abandoned any professional pretense and in a supposed news story told Late Edition viewers that if he were at the Oscars he'd sit on his hands.

     At the same time, Bob Novak noticed the media's liberal prism and Brit Hume suggested "Hollywood is a hotbed of intellectual and ideological bigotry" and would have supported the naming of Nazis.

     -- Check out this irrational reasoning in a March 19 USA Today editorial caught by the MRC's Tom Johnson:
     "....In this case, Hollywood actually could have it both ways. By acknowledging Kazan's great contributions to film, it also revived public awareness of one of the nation's darkest periods, when careers were ruined, freedoms breached and fears manipulated. Those are days that are hard to remember, but best not forgotten.
     "Why not unspool a few dusty newsreels to remind us that the years of the Red Scare were fearful ones, producing victims on all sides? Maybe Kazan shouldn't have answered the questions about his colleagues. But the Constitution wreckers who ran the House Un-American Activities Committee had no business asking in the first place. Who had more disrespect for the First Amendment, the Kremlin or Congress? Close call...."

     Close call? This from a newspaper. The Kremlin didn't allow any freedom of the press.

     -- Two versus Zero on Today. Friday morning Today brought aboard actor Rod Steiger, a leader of the group which asked Oscar attendees to sit on their hands, and columnist Richard Cohen, to discuss the award the Kazan. In a January column Cohen had defended the award, but he conceded his position was "evolving." In other words, he's grown to realize Kazan's evil.

     MRC analyst Mark Drake took down some of the interview to show how Cohen, who supposedly was on to defend him, did not.
     Couric: "Richard Cohen, it's not as if he's never been honored. He did receive two Oscars, two Best Director Oscars. Should the Academy have let sleeping dogs lie and just let those stand for his work, rather than giving him a Lifetime Achievement Award?"
     Cohen: "Now, I think that's the case. I think if you're gonna, if you're gonna honor the man himself and there are questions about the man himself, he did something that a lot of people find disgusting or a betrayal or whatever you wanna call it. If you're just gonna stick to the work, he's won two Oscars. We've already pointed that out. He's been honored plenty for what he's done."

     -- For his "Last Word" piece at the end of Sunday's Late Edition CNN's Bruce Morton assumed Kazan had been part of a nefarious bit of history and then put himself into the story by announcing how he would have chosen to sit on his hands. Morton saw the decade through a left-wing prism:
     "...At the height of U.S. Red-baiting hysteria in the 1950s, Kazan was a witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee and he named names. Understand, in those hysterical years you could be blacklisted simply for being a member of the Communist Party. You didn't have to have spied or done anything really, party membership was enough..."
     Reviewing the arguments over whether the award honored his professional work or personal honor, which assumed he had done harm in his personal life, Morton ruminated: "So what matters? The movies Kazan directed, or the kind of man he was. It's the same kind of question baseball faces over former Cincinnati Reds player Pete Rose..."
     After recalling how Rose was rejected for the Hall of fame because he bet on games, Morton argued:
     "In Kazan's case, the issue is giving up your friends. You knew back then that the people you named would lose their jobs. To tell a congressional committee the names were none of their business could damage your own career. Kazan made a choice. At the awards the audience will make its choice: Silence or applause. You can argue either way. Me? I'd sit on my hands. I'm Bruce Morton."

     That's what matters most Bruce, what you think. (And your "friends" wouldn't lose their jobs if they admitted their affiliation and denounced Stalin, who had only massacred a few dozen million.)

     -- Peter Jennings portrayed America of the 1950s through the same liberal eyes as Morton. For his March 19 "The Century" piece on World News Tonight, Jennings used Kazan as the hook:
     "Fear of the Soviets energized a mood of suspicion in America."
     Actress Lauren Bacall: "Everyone was a communist. They were seeing them under the beds and in the closets, you know, under lampshades."
     Jennings: "Suddenly, Americans who had flirted with the idea of communism in the 1930s, particularly those who had joined the Communist Party, were thought of as the enemy."
     After raising the Kazan case, Jennings dismissed any concern about communism, concluding his report: "The HUAC campaign was, most historians now agree, out of proportion to the actual threat. Communist influence, while present, had little impact on Hollywood. The Red Scare left deep scares throughout Hollywood and a bitterness that would last out the century."

     -- Bob Novak made this media bias his Outrage of the Week on the March 20 Capital Gang on CNN:
     "Instead of rejoicing that Elia Kazan is getting the coveted lifetime achievement Oscar, the news media has been trashing the 89-year-old director. He is assailed for doing his patriotic duty in 1952. When testifying before Congress he admitted his brief membership in the Communist Party and disclosed the names of eight other comrades polluting motion pictures. A half century later, the news media makes Kazan the villain and the Hollywood Reds the heroes, part of a deplorable tendency to glorify the communist dupes of yesteryear."

     -- Brit Hume pointed out Fox News Sunday that Hollywood wouldn't have protected Nazis: "There are equal criminals on the world stage that if he'd informed against. If he'd informed against Hitler it'd be fine. Hollywood is a hotbed of intellectual and ideological bigotry and at the end of the day that's what this is about against Elia Kazan."

     Indeed, those on the left didn't see communism as such a bad thing even though Stalin was arguably even more deadly than Hitler. -- Brent Baker


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