Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Stopping The Smear Merchants


Yesterday, I invoked the words of Joseph N. Welch, who stopped the state-sanctioned smear merchant Joseph McCarthy in his tracks by simply asking:

Have you no sense of decency, sir?

But, despite what many may think, a number of people worked to end Mr. McCarthy's reign of terror.

And one of them was a Canadian:

"Reuben Ship's celebrated radio satire of the work of the US House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and its chairman, Joseph McCarthy, was first aired nationally in Canada by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on May 30, 1954. For the most part, the drama was reviewed favorably in Canada. In the USA, it was reviewed in a positive light by the New York Times and by the left-wing press (including New Masses), but it was excoriated by the right wing as anti-American propaganda. By mid-June, tapes of the broadcast were circulating in the USA. There, some attempts to broadcast the CBC production on both coasts caused objections from the American Legion and private individuals...."

This is in reference to 'The Investigator', a parallel universe radio play where Joseph McCarthy takes his act to heaven. It quickly became an underground hit in the US that, apparently, was even listened to on a bootlegged LP by Dwight Eisenhower and his staff.

"About 100,000 copies of a long-playing record made from the CBC production of "The Investigator" were sold during 1954 and 1955, mostly in the US. The LP appeared on an obscure label named "Discuriousities" created by two enterprising Americans to sell the recording—probably in collaboration with Ship himself. The record was described as communist propaganda by Ed Sullivan in his newspaper column and in other publications; it was given positive notice (again) in The New York Times, which wondered if the satire might cause friction between the US and Canada. The New Republic informed readers that a chuckling President Eisenhower had it played at a meeting of his cabinet......"

Of course, the smear merchant militia, including those members located North of the 49th parallel, went berserk. But in the end the whole world listened, and eventually truth and reason won out.

"In Ottawa, Hugh Lennard, a Conservative member of Parliament, castigated the Canadian Government for allowing the broadcast......(but then).....The Australian Broadcasting Company requested broadcasting rights and the production was praised highly when it was aired by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) a year or so later...."

The question is, would such a doc, if it were made today, even be broadcast on the CBC.

And I'm not talking about this very day's CBC, but rather the one that, credibly uncredible rumours have suggested, could soon, perhaps maybe, if Sandra Bee's wildest dreams come true, very well be ruled by this guy.

The Investigator was brought to our attention via a great documentary by Sam Levene on CBC's Sunday Morning. The original radioplay is archived on the 2nd link above.
This story was first posted, in a slightly different form in May 2005.
And just in case you are shaking your head in disbelief regarding the subject of the uncredible, but incredibly credible rumour that I didn't just make up (ie. I've blogged about it before at the very same time that incredibly important people were blogging about other, but related, stories about banging evil up the side of the head with an axe handle), you may do well to remember that he has spent a not inconsiderable amount of time either as a panelist and/or guest hosting on The Current. And don't ever forget that his his mom was, well, his mom.


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