Category Archives: Racist and Nazi Propaganda

Gone With the Wind (1939)

While in London, the heroes of Army of Shadows, Jean-Pierre Melville’s great film about the French Resistance, take time to see Gone With the Wind.

Before venturing on a discussion about Gone with the Wind, it’s important to remember a few things. Classic Hollywood was great cinema, but terrible history. Michael Curtiz in The Adventures of Robin Hood and Cecil B. DeMille in The Crusades had as much concern for historical accuracy as Quentin Tarantino did in Inglourious Basterds and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Until the 1960s, American cinema was tightly censored, the Production Code implemented in 1933 having given the Catholic Church the final decision over which films got released, and which ones didn’t. And yes you read that right. By 1939, not only had the Confederate “Lost Cause” won the propaganda war, most liberals and leftists, especially East European Jewish immigrants in Hollywood, wanted to help Franklin Roosevelt keep the Southern Democratic vote, especially as it became more and more inevitable that the United States would go to war with Germany. Finally, the United States had just come out of the Great Depression, which remains, along with the Civil War, the single most traumatic event in American history.

Almost no actual Southerners were involved in making Gone With the Wind. David O. Selznick, its producer and driving force, was the son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants from Pittsburgh. The screenwriter Sidney Howard was from Oakland, California. The director Victor Fleming was from Los Angeles. Max Steiner, an Austrian Jew, wrote the score. The cinematographer Ernest Haller was a German American from Southern California. The cast was equally of “Yankee” or European stock. Vivian Leigh was British. Olivia de Havilland was born in Tokyo, Japan, the daughter of British and French expatriates. Thomas Mitchell, who played Scarlett O’Hara’s father, was an Irish American from my own hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. While a few of the black actors were from southern border states like Arkansas and Texas, Hattie McDaniel, who won Best Supporting Actress, was from Witchita, Kansas. Clark Gable, who played the most famous southern romantic hero in all of American cinema, didn’t even try to affect a southern accent. He was from Cadiz, Ohio, also the hometown of Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln’s fiercely abolitionist Secretary of War. In fact, just about the only real southerner in the cast of Gone With the Wind is Alicia Rhett, who played India Wilkes, and had originally auditioned for the part of Scarlett O’Hara. After Gone With the Wind, she never acted in another film.

So why did all of these Yankees, East European Jewish and English immigrants, and yes, African Americans, come together to make a film romanticizing slavery?

I suppose for Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen, the answer is easy. There were few, if any, roles for African American women. The viciously racist Birth of a Nation 20 years earlier had not only portrayed African Americans as rapists obsessed with white women, it had no African American actors in the cast. Almost every good actor will take a badly written part in a movie with horrible politics, the idea being that you can inject enough of your own humanity into the character to override the intentions of the screenwriter. What’s more, none of the black characters in Gone with the Wind present any threat to white, southern women. Big Sam, played by Everett Brown, actually saves Scarlett O’Hara from being raped by a gang of white ruffians. Clark Gable, who was good friends with Hattie McDaniel demanded that the sets on Gone with the Wind be desegregated, refusing to act in the film if the toilets were marked “white” and “colored.” Sadly, and it says more about the United States than it does about Gone with the Wind, the studio that made Gone with the Wind was relatively enlightened for its time.

If Margaret Mitchell’s novel, published in 1936, had been a massive best seller, it hadn’t necessarily been nostalgia for the “Lost Cause.” Unlike the film, which had to pass the Catholic Church’s board of censors put into power by the Production Code, the novel is frank about sexuality. Katie Scarlett O’Hara is a feminist heroine, the kind of liberated women who came to prominence in the 1920s. While far more viciously racist than the movie, the novel is also one of the few best selling accounts of Americans living under a military occupation, told from the point of view of a young woman trying to come to terms with her own sexuality as civilization is crashing down around her. Scarlett O’Hara not only comes through the Civil War and the destruction of the old planter class, she becomes immensely wealthy, far richer than her father ever was, even at the height of slavery. Women, who buy novels, especially romance novels, at a greater rate than men, and who had just come through the Great Depression, which, once again, is along with the Civil War, by far the most traumatic event in American history, surely found her an appealing, even revolutionary character.

Neither the novel nor the film Gone With the Wind is sympathetic to the “Lost Cause.” Man for man, the Army of Northern Virginia was as tough, and brave, as any army that’s ever taken the field. For over 4 years, they fought one of the word’s great industrial powers to a draw, a draw that was only broken when Lincoln decided to let Phillip Sheridan and William Tecumseh Sherman wage total, economic warfare on the southern people. Yet early in Gone With the Wind, when Rhett Butler explains to a gathering of aristocratic planters at Twelve Oakes, the estate owned by Ashley Wilkes and his family, that the south has no chance of winning the war, young, aristocratic southern men are portrayed, not only as foolish hotheads, but as outright babies. Rand Brooks, who plays Melanie Wilkes younger brother Charles, and who foolishly challenges Rhett Butler to a duel, has soft, dough like features. It’s clear that had Butler actually accepted his challenge, it would have been murder, not a contest of honor between gentlemen. Hamilton enlists in the Confederate Army, but he’s not cut down by Yankee gunfire while leading a charge at Gettysburg. He dies of the measles. During the siege of Atlanta, Confederate soldiers are not the formidable warriors who terrorized Yankee troops with the rebel yell. They’re little boys who cry out in pain for their mommies or broken down old men who can barely limp along the road in retreat from Sherman’s juggernaut.

Women in Gone with the Wind are another story. From Scarlett herself, to Melanie Wilkes, who hides a will of iron beneath her angelic exterior, to Belle Watling, the sex worker more honorable and devoted to the southern cause than any of the film’s “respectable” women, to Mammy, the only person with the ability to stand up to Scarlett, a black woman essential to keeping a white, slave-owning family from going to pieces during Reconstruction, the women of Gone with the Wind are better soldiers than the men. Indeed, the only time we see any southerner in Gone With the Wind kill a Yankee is when Scarlett O’Hara shoots a would be rapist in the face. With the exception of Rhett Butler, men in Gone With the Wind are soft, romantic, and incompetent. Ashley Wilkes would be far more believable as an English professor teaching Shakespeare at a women’s college in New England than he is as a man who came through the ghastly Battle of Spotsylvania Court House and a Yankee prisoner of war camp. Scarlett, in turn, is more believable pining over Ashley early in the film than she is as a fully mature adult after she eats a uncooked radish from the ground and declares “as God as my witness I’ll never be hungry again.” At that point, her unrequited love for the sad Mr. Wilkes just seems baffling and self-destructive, which is, of course, exactly the point. Katie Scarlett O’Hara is now a successful lady capitalist profiting far more by using convict (slave) labor than her father ever profited using chattel (slave) laborer. We want her to forget about Ashley and live happily ever after with Rhett Butler, her soulmate.

If Rhett Butler is the only genuinely masculine male character in Gone with the Wind, it’s largely because he’s a self-interested capitalist and not a romantic aristocrat pining over the “Lost Cause.” Supposedly he’s from Charleston, but his accent is pure Mid-Atlantic bourgeois by way of California the Midwest. He does in fact do more for the Southern cause than poor little Charles Hamilton, spending most of the war as a blockade runner, then enlisting in the Confederate Army after the Battle of Atlanta, but in both cases it’s purely out of self-interest. Blockade running is profitable. A brief tour with Joseph E. Johnston’s Army against the hated Sherman and the rank of Captain were handy status symbols after the restoration of White Supremacy and the Southern Democrats in 1876. If Ashley and Melanie Wilkes represent the romantic “Lost Cause” than Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara represent the new capitalist south that emerged in the late 19th Century, the old south with a new and improved economy but with its old racial and class hierarchies largely intact. As Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa said in The Leopard, his famous novel about the unification of Italy, “if everything is to stay the same, than everything has to change.” Rhett and Scarlett are the ideal conservatives, wealthy, upper-class aristocrats who can change with the times and subvert any attempts of the working class to rise to power. This also opened the door for the successful children of Jewish immigrants like Selznick. Gone with the Wind romanticized an aristocracy, but not, it must be stressed, the “old” aristocracy. Indeed, old aristocratic WASP Americans like Ashley Wilkes would give way to a new, better, brighter, stronger elite, men like David O. Selznick, or women like Katie Scarlett O’Hara, also a first generation American.

Gone with the Wind, therefore, while not “Lost Cause” propaganda, is poisonously reactionary propaganda. Released in 1939, after capitalism came close to utter collapse during the Great Depression, and was saved by the aristocratic Franklin Roosevelt, the film says “there is a natural hierarchy. Whether under slavery or free market capitalism, aristocrats like Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, and Franklin Roosevelt deserve to rule. Keep your place and it will all work out for the best.” In contrast to the noble and sympathetic black characters of Gone with the Wind, the Big Sams and Mammys, who remain passive, upwardly mobile “white trash” like the O’Hara’s old overseer Jonas Wilkerson and his wife Emmy Slattery, are invariably vicious and spiteful. Gone With the Wind is a racist film, if only because it centers the sufferings of the white planter aristocracy and not the epic struggle of the African American freemen to resist the violence of slavery and the Klan, but the screenplay reserves most of its true hate for low class whites who take advantage of the collapse of the old order, either to elevate themselves, or to elevate the ex-slaves. One ludicrous scene of a carpet bagger promising ex slaves “40 Acres and a Mule” consciously distorts history. It wasn’t the carpet baggers who proposed giving the ex-slaves 40 Acres and a Mule. It was William Tecumseh Sherman and the Union Army, a promise the federal government ultimately reneged on.

What’s more, Gone with the Wind is an antiwar film at exactly the time an antiwar film was most dangerous. The United States in 1939 had a powerful “America First” movement led by the openly fascist Charles Lindbergh that prevented Roosevelt from declaring war on either Germany or Japan until the Japanese actually bombed Pearl Harbor and Hitler declared war on us. A film in which both romantic leading men hate the idea of war for different reasons, Ashley Wilkes because it would destroy the old South and Rhett Butler because it would destroy wealth, and which vividly depicted Southern “boys,” boys not men, crying for their mommies as their legs were sawed off without anesthesia, was rank “America First” propaganda. David O. Selznick, while Jewish, was strongly suggesting that a war against Hitler might just not be worth it. Let those Europeans take care of their own problems. We’ve already had our apocalyptic battles at Gettysburg and Atlanta. Why get American boys killed to save Poles, Frenchmen, Russians and East European Jews? Why upset a capitalist social order that had just been saved by a honey voiced Democratic Party aristocrat?

Hitler and the Nazis, of course, loved Gone with the Wind. How could they not love a film so firmly on the side of an aristocratic racial hierarchy? Ironically, while we never see Vivian Leigh and Leslie Howard kiss in Gone with the Wind –Ashley has Scarlett solidly in the “friend zone,” stringing her along for his own ego — it would have meant the death penalty in Nazi Germany. Leslie Howard, born Leslie Howard Steiner, was a Hungarian Jew from London, and sexual, or even platonic, romantic relations between Jews and Aryans had been outlawed in 1935 by the Nuremberg Laws. Perhaps that’s why Hitler’s air force found Howard’s DC-3 flying in 1943 flying over the Bay of Biscay and shot it down. It wasn’t the Yankees who killed Ashley Wilkes. It was the Nazis.

News of the air disaster rocked Britain, and delighted the Nazi propaganda minister, Dr Goebbels. Leslie Howard, while at the pinnacle of Hollywood success as the star of The Scarlet Pimpernel, Pygmalion and Gone With The Wind, had sacrificed his royalties, bought himself out of his contract, and returned to Britain in 1939, to work for the war effort. He made propaganda films for the Ministry of Information, and on his own initiative directed and starred in two films that had irritated Goebbels: Pimpernel Smith, about freeing young Jewish refugees from the Nazis, and The First Of The Few, about the designer of the Spitfire, which bolstered morale during the Battle of Britain. He broadcast letters to America designed to bring neutral USA onside, and had visited Ireland on a bridge-building mission to the anti-British premier Eamon de Valera.

It Can And Is Happening Here

I gave a quick talk about Occupy Wall Street to the Malta NY Rotary Club once. A man came up to me afterward. He looked like the aged Buster Keaton of The Railrodder and had made his living before he retired fixing CRT televisions. In the abstract I should have loved this guy.

He came up to me after my talk, clearly seeing I was Jewish and knowing my politics because I’d just given a talk about them and said “What we need to fix this problem is…a Holocaust but for the Muslims this time.”

I was horrified. I saw in his eyes that he didn’t want Muslims put in concentration camps, tortured and killed because he hated Muslims, but that he wanted to hate Muslims because deep down he wanted to see people put into concentration camps, tortured and killed. And he looked like Buster Keaton.

I went around to practically everyone I knew and described the incident. I said that without some unforeseen major event, this country would either go hard left or hard right within 5 years.

Some of them responded with sensitivity to my evident distress. Some of them shrugged it off and said something to the effect “That could never happen in the US.” (Poor Sinclair Lewis.) Almost no one seemed to take me seriously. Even if they did, I’m not sure I knew anyone who had the power to right this. I just hoped and prayed that I did and didn’t know it.

Now the president* is openly endorsing a woman who is saying, basically “We need a Holocaust, but with the Muslims this time.”

Anyone who thinks that they’re safe because they’re not latino/a so they’ll never be put in a camp, please read your history. That’s not how it works.

The racist mob wants to feel better about themselves by killing men women and children. But they never actually will feel better, so they will not stop torturing and killing men, women, and children until they are obliterated and marginalized. We need to stand together against this. We can’t be afraid to be arrested, assaulted, or worse. Never again means no more concentration camps.

The mob wants blood. They don’t care whose blood it is. In Nazi Germany, children sent their own parents to concentration camps, and officials within the Nazi party would even kill each other and lie about it in order to feel like big shots.

Leaders of the Jewish community, early on, would say “We need to work with them and then they’ll be appeased”, much like the establishment Democrats are saying now. These former leaders were, in all likelihood, gassed or shot and dumped in anonymous mass graves along with the communities that mistook their cowardice for leadership.

If you’re Jewish and think that Trump’s base won’t come after you and doesn’t hate Jews, you are delusional. Your being delusional is probably endangering the lives and safety of your friends and loved ones, and definitely endangering the lives and safety of the groups the Nazi GOP have decided to use as trial balloons to see if the US, “land of the brave, home of the free” will be fine with them throwing whoever they want into concentration camps.

Please share this with anyone you think should read it.

*I had a link in this article sourcing the president* endorsing someone who’s openly advocating for genocide against Muslims, but it was messing up the article formatting, so I’ve provided it in the comments section below.

The Decentralized Fascist Gestapo

In an article a while ago, Stan wrote that the police in this country were becoming, or maybe already were a distributed informal gestapo. In my numerous articles exploring the rapid escalation of mass shootings in the US, I brought up the question whether they represent a similar “gestapo 2.0” being established by kamikaze “loner” shooters, who overwhelming belong to the Cheeto That Rapes Peoples’ key demographic-entitled angry white men. 2 years ago I wouldn’t have figured that nothing like the massacres that occurred during the Chinese Cultural Revolution or in Indonesia in the 1960s could happen in the US in our lifetime-an officially condoned massacre of the leader’s political opponents carried out by bloodthirsty civilians given no real orders besides “we won’t prosecute you if you kill the people we want you to kill.” 

I can’t confidently say now that this isn’t a very real possibility.

Roughly a year ago I wrote in a set of predictions of how the Cheeto That Rapes People would attempt to consolidate power that a key element being overlooked was the possibility of a decentralized guerilla ground army being created through the passage of a concealed carry reciprocity law.

For those unaware of what concealed carry reciprocity is-it basically means that if a person gets a license to carry a concealed firearm in one state, all other states would have to honor this license, sorta the same way you get your driver’s license in one state but it carries over to all 50 states. The GOP is pushing a federal concealed carry reciprocity law through right now, along with ending the ban on silencers. The only realistic motivation to end silencer bans is, at best the NRA hoping to increase guns sales through the encouragement of more and more deadly lethal mass shootings, at worst the Republican party hoping to consolidate power even further through the implied threat of gun violence at the polls or public assemblies against the president, a Cheeto who rapes people. If at least one mass shooting incident doesn’t happen near a polling place during the coming midterm elections due to this passing, I would be shocked.

The NRA, the Republicans, and their leader, the Cheeto That Rapes People, have been priming their base for this since Sarah Palin put that chart with Democratic congressmen with rifle scopes over their faces on her website. Probably even earlier. Anyone thinking Russian troll farms won’t be goading white supremacists on social media to do this hasn’t been paying attention. Anyone thinking that armed intimidation at polling places couldn’t possibly happen here forgets that this was one of, possibly the primary reason for the formation of the Ku Klux Klan after the end of the Civil War.

This is the response of the “moral majority” to the senseless slaughter of thousands of 1st graders, concert-goers, minorities, and people with the audacity to try to leave their houses and live their lives. If this passes, anyone who wants to hide a gun can just go to the state with the most lax gun laws, buy whatever they want, then go back to where they want to intimidate or kill people. They can be prosecuted for murder, yes, but that doesn’t bring back peoples’ dead children, spouses, or friends. It doesn’t stop intimidation at polling places furthering the consolidation of power by a sociopathic oligarchic minority. When women worry about that weird guy with boundary issues, they will now have to worry “Is he armed?”

Given the recent developments in Robert Mueller’s investigation of likely treason committed by the Cheeto That Rapes People, the Cheeto is probably feeling cornered. All evidence on the public record suggests the Cheeto is at best a malignant narcissist and at worst a psychopath. When malignant narcissists or psychopaths are challenged, they will always resort to manipulation through threats and violence to maintain their sense of control over their victims. They will lie without remorse. They exist only for their own gratification and self-aggrandizement. They do not feel empathy when they see dead children, only the ways they might profit from them.

Erik Prince, cofounder of the private militia-for-hire company Blackwater and brother of education secretary Betsy Devos, has been pitching a private secret service that answers only to Mike Pompeo and the Cheeto. This will probably be established, given that the surest way to predict the future recently seems to be by figuring out where follow-the-money and Murphy’s law intersect.

When the Cheeto is cornered, is it that far-fetched to suggest he’ll probably make a call to his “second amendment people” to silence his opponents? He already did it once.