People of every ideological persuasion use abstract conceptual terms to denote positive & negative qualities. The same terms may be used with similar positive or negative association by adversaries at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Terms such as peace, progress, growth, justice, freedom, liberty, nation, humanity, culture, heritage, morality, integrity, loyalty form positive parts of the vocabulary of most literate people. Terms such as oppression, tyranny, corruption, injustice, betrayal, dishonesty, have universally negative usage. But while these positive and negative abstractions are readily employed by political spokesmen for very diverse points of view; the reality is that they mean very different things to different people--often totally contradictory things. What determines anyone's understanding of any term are the subjective images that term evokes. People are now and always have been motivated by images--both static and dynamic. To understand any person's ideological orientation, you need to understand the images that drive him.
This Chapter might, of course, have been included as a subset to Chapter 22, on "Perspective and Focus." Certainly, the most powerful tool, which a speaker can employ to focus anyone's immediate attention, is to tap into an available store of concrete images; or, if none are available for the need of the moment, to create the most effective images that will serve the point he is trying to establish. Yet the subject of understanding the images, which motivate others for good or ill, is clearly distinct from that of focusing attention on a particular available image. Obviously, the question of perspective will pertain in each case.
Many successful speakers have their own styles for introducing imagery into an address. Some may actually paint a scene--as Ronald Reagan used to do--by describing a striking experience of a particular citizen. But the more frequently used technique is by reference to some event or events with which the audience should be sufficiently familiar, that it may be reasonably expected that each will conjure up the desired image or images in his own head, simply from the reference offered.
Images go to the very core of the cultural heritage of a people; and, as such, reinforce the ethnic bond. Shared images, among different nations, can also often--though not necessarily-- support friendly and cooperative attitudes between them. But whether or not the perceived lessons from those images are strong enough to override a perception of conflicting interests, they can at least contribute to better communication. A better perception of the ethnically derived or retained images of different peoples may provide an important key, not only to a clearer understanding in their present, but in predicting their future conduct, as well as their suitability as business associates, immigrants, employees, etc..
Consider, for many specific instances, the influence of Biblical images in the development of value systems throughout the West. While a small intellectual cadre, in theological seminaries, may ponder the significance of words and probe abstract concepts; virtually every adult, who as a child heard the tales that conjure up specific images of miraculous or heroic deeds or simple family values, will carry those specific images--as though movie clips imbedded in the brain--throughout his life. As such, they remain available to the preacher, orator, politician or teacher, who would evoke them to prove a specific point in an argument or discussion. Other references, common to most who were children in the West, because of the tremendous influence of Greek and Roman achievement, would recall images from the Trojan War or Greek Mythology, the founding of Rome, Horatio at the bridge, or a myriad more of the like.
Less universal, but powerful in Northern Europe, would be tales from Norse Mythology and from Viking lore. While throughout Europe, passed down also to European stocks in the settler countries of the New World, would be heroic tales from the Middle Ages; romantic images of Chivalry, which are part of the heritage of every ethnic group, with particular nuances reflecting the unique experiences most applicable to each. And while many of these tales are known to a wider spectrum than the immediate lands and peoples involved, there is in that special context, with respect to those to whom they most clearly pertain, an attribute which, properly evoked, offers a potentially powerful tool for a Conservative of such ethnicity seeking to preserve ancestral values. Let us consider some images with particular utility in speaking to an audience of mainstream Americans; first with reference to those which reflect a common root in British culture, and second with those having reference to perceptions more acutely involved in experiences since our separation.
The tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table relate to an era, Centuries before the Norman conquest, when the openly contested issues in what is now England were not between traditional British culture and Socialism, but between the Anglo-Saxon and various pre-Saxon peoples; when the under the surface issue was not between Britons and Third World emigres, but between Christianity and the remnants of pre-Christian Britain. Yet while these earlier issues were certainly reflected in many aspects of the Arthurian Legends, they are hardly the images, which references to the tales of brave knights, fair ladies and noble deeds, have inspired in British and American children over the centuries.
We refer to the images inspired in the minds of children, in contrast to those which might be stimulated in the minds of adults who, for whatever reason, may not have been exposed to the Legends until later in life. For a very obvious difference in perspective, the adult who was not exposed to the legends until after puberty, will likely be more focused on such aspects as a reportedly adulterous relationship, in which the Queen was involved; or with literary symbolism, or with trying to evoke a self or agenda-serving message out of that symbolism. Thus adults, without childhood images of chivalric deeds, might prefer movies where the emphasis on adultery is greater than on knightly valor; or relate to the propagandist's appropriation of "Camelot" to refer to the Left-Of-Center Kennedy Administration. (In the one case, the imputation of a woman's private indiscretion would have been absolutely contrary to the Chivalric ethic; while the Kennedy Administration's foreign policy, which employed assassination and unleashed the antics of Dean Rusk, discussed in detail in Chapter 18, was anything but honorable or Arthurian.)
Clearly, the more powerful images are neither those directed at Arthur's Queen, nor those conjured up to suit propagandists on the Left. Those childhood images, of a type that remain in place throughout life, even if seldom called forth, are far more likely to be concrete and visual to all who grew up in, or thoroughly assimilated to, the English speaking world. They are also more clearly Conservative in their impact: The images of brave men, doing the right and honorable thing; men fulfilling traditional male roles, and the fair damsels, whose honor and virtue--as noble women--they so gladly served. As such, those imbedded images may be very useful to a speaker, appealing to the better and more noble instincts in an audience, whom he hopes to rally to the preservation of their heritage.
The specific images associated with the legendary Robin Hood are less clearly advantageous. On the positive side for the Conservative, are a sense of adventure and the individual exploits of the major outlaw heroes; men of courage, intelligence and formidable skills. So, also, is the sense of adequacy--the concept of the adequate man--and the underlying implication that the men were only outlaws because of corruption and usurpation, at a time two decades before Magna Carta, when the heroic King Richard was off to the Holy Land, and his ambitious brother John was scheming against both King and public. On the other hand, even the very young in the English speaking world understood that the "Merry Men" of Sherwood Forest were robbing the rich and giving to the poor--which certainly sounds like Socialism.
While the conclusion, in the most popular version, has the men swearing true allegiance to Richard, upon his return in disguise to resume rule in his Kingdom; there are probably too many cross-currents in the imagery to make the tales really useful. We have taken time to reference them, because it is important that Conservatives understand that even where images may make mixed statements, there are those among them which can at least be used to neutralize the efforts to use others against us. This will be found to be equally true about a great many of the sources for images that our foes use to bedevil us. The art is in seeing the whole picture, likely to be available for recall, and to understand how to direct attention to what is helpful. Note also: The Robin Hood images are probably more useful to the American than the British Conservative. We have our own traditions of men going into a comparative wilderness to escape a perception of corruption or usurpation; images a tad closer to the mainstream values we mean to preserve.
The American experience is so rich in useful images, that the problem is in picking and choosing those best for a particular audience. Admittedly, there has been a gradual shift in those images that seem to resonate best among the population, reflecting changes related to development, ethnicity, and the effects of ideologically based campaigns. For example, consider the once common presentation of the "Spirit Of '76" in patriotic parades and celebrations of historic events: The three generational representation of the Revolutionary War spirit, where a young drummer boy, young warrior and middle-aged warrior, showing battle wounds, marched together in step, heads erect with focused bearing; a living reenactment of the bold, courageous spirit which won our independence. In earlier generations, this demonstration stirred the very soul of the patriotic American.
Or consider the famous portrait of George Washington at prayer at Valley Forge; or the later one of Robert E. Lee--actually the son of one of Washington's most trusted Lieutenants--in the darkest days for the Old South. Those images retain a tremendous effect on Americans with a strong spiritual bent. Later examples of images with powerful resonance would include pictures of the Alamo in Texas and the flag raising over Iwo Jima in World War II.
In the 19th Century, the log cabin proved a very useful political image, symbolizing both a settler past and a bond with the settlers on a still dynamic frontier. In the case of William Henry Harrison, and the successful Whig campaign in 1840, the log cabin was a complete fraud. Harrison had actually been born in a beautiful Virginia manor house in the Tidewater. But he had won Indiana from the Indians, so the symbolism was not completely inappropriate. In Lincoln's case, he really had been born in a log cabin. However, our point as to both of these well known log cabin campaigns, is that Americans were very conscious of the symbols of a pioneer settler heritage; and these political uses resonated because of something far more basic than partisan politics.
Before the embryonic settler nations--our original States--ever formulated verbal explanations of concepts, which led to and gave rational explanation for the American Revolution, every boy or girl growing up in those already well-established, yet still fresh societies, would have had some very clear images: Images of the still recent dynamics of settlers who had cleared a wilderness, planted a new land and built a society--family by family--from the ground up; images of an ever present frontier, still close at hand; the perception of a Society, neither dependent upon a remote Government nor collective power to solve personal problems, nor direct individual lives beyond the basic restraints necessary for peaceful life in a civil society; restraints, pretty much limited to the Ten Commandments--and in areas with minor theological influence, to the last six. Oh, there were other rules, depending upon the community. But with that open frontier, as well as a wide variety of already developed communities with more congenial value systems, no one was confined by what was "politically correct."
We would suggest that none of the events, which followed, would have been likely but for the prevalence of such dynamic images of what America was all about. The Declaration of Independence (linked below with study guide), for all its brilliant clarity, did not flow from airborne abstractions, but from the powerful images to which we refer. The "people" to whom Jefferson refers--the people explaining their reasons and intentions--are not some generalized portion of humanity, but a specific: The now emergent American peoples, dominated by those images. And to this day, you will find that those Conservatives who have been most resilient to the assault on heritage, are those who still retain the same images.
America's patriotic songs also reflect images. Yet here, there has been a subtle shift, which has not been to the Conservative advantage. In our floating Chapter Last, we inquire as to what has happened to "America"--basically the Anthem before Francis Scott Key wrote the "Star Spangled Banner." It remained second only to Key's masterpiece until a very few years ago. The reason for our concern was not mere nostalgia. The song contains clear and important patriotic images; images essential for the preservation of our heritage and culture:
My country,' tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing; Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims' pride, From every mountainside let freedom ring!
Our fathers' God, to thee, Author of liberty, to thee we sing; Long may our land be bright With freedom's holy light; Protect us by thy might, great God, our King! [First and Fourth Verses]
By pure happenstance, our High School Graduating Class had a Reunion a few months ago. The new music teacher at the high school appeared after the banquet, to lead us in familiar songs; passing out printed song sheets, so everyone would know the words. One of those songs was entitled "America." But it was not America but America The Beautiful, which is nice yet syrupy, wholly without those stirring references to the fathers and their God. While this young teacher's confusion was, doubtless, simply that, and not an intentional effort to water down America's patriotic images; it certainly did not dissuade us from the concern articulated in Chapter Last. Just what has happened to this great traditional American hymn? Or more to the point, why have Conservatives who need to evoke the images that it evokes, let it slide off the program?
Even the Star Spangled Banner has been subtly reduced in impact. The images in the First Verse are tentative. In World War II, Americans usually sang both the first and final (fourth) verses. This was still the case in that same High School, indirectly referred to, long after the War. Why is this important for Conservatives? If you know the final verse, you will understand why. For those who have never even heard it, here is why! It is not tentative. It is not whimsical or cautious. It is triumphant:
Oh thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved homes and the war's desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a Nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: In God is our trust. And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Some of the images that sustain values are never verbalized. Some may be verbalized, but only succinctly captured in a moment of inspiration. Such a moment was reflected in the imagery that the great Negro Educator Booker T. Washington employed in his celebrated speech to the 1895 Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta:
In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.
While Washington's immediate subject were racial relations in the South--he was arguing for a bond between the rooted peoples, both White and Negro, to oppose reliance on immigrant labor (issues as current and critical in 2004 as they were in 1895)--the real power in the imagery is that it captures the very essence of the true America. It resonates so well, because that is basically how America as a Federal Union, came into being. We have always been profoundly diverse. The only way Virginia and Massachusetts could ever have been in the same Union, was on the basis of just such a concept. It is the way America was supposed to function. In all matters that are purely social or local, we were and are as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand when our common interest is at stake.
What Thomas Edison unleashed with cinematography has, in our opinion, never been fully deployed--nor even yet fully grasped--by anyone. What is clear, however, is that Conservatives have been largely ineffective in utilizing the medium in any of its still increasing facets. Such a statement cannot be made with respect to the forces on the Left. Both the Communists and Nazis understood the potential power in creating moving images for display to mass audiences. But the most persistent use of such images on the Left has been in America, in an entertainment industry almost hopelessly dominated by Socialists of varied intensity, usually mislabeled as "Liberals." And in that entertainment industry, one must inevitably include the mass media visual "news" producers, regardless of any pretension to objectivity.
It was largely images that "news" producers flashed on America's television screens, which so undermined public support for the Viet Nam War, to eventually force our retreat from that key area of Southeast Asia. While some might argue that the pictures of American casualties were genuine, as were the pictures of student demonstrations against the War; the real bias was, of course, in what was not shown. John Wayne--one of only a handful of Hollywood personalities in the era, who still presented American images from a positive, pro-American perspective (his 1960 classic on The Alamo, for example)--did star in Green Beret, a movie intended to show the positive side of our involvement. But his effort was swamped in a sea of images designed to undermine the people's spirit. While during World War II, Hollywood made movies that supported the war effort, with the emphasis on the heroism of our fighting forces; more and more, movies made after the start of the Viet Nam War focused almost exclusively on everything that was most ugly.
With the vast improvements in special effects over the past generation, the movie/video industry has been able to capture images of horror in war, ever more effectively. As such graphic portrayal may well cross a line for many, which ceases to be entertainment; one may inquire whether these displays are purely for the sake of art, or have quite another purpose. We observed in Chapter 16, that part of the studied technique of Norman Cousins, in seeking to promote the idea of World Government, was first to try to terrify an audience with the images of Atomic War at Hiroshima. Have some in Hollywood, at least, had similar motive in showing women and children a side of combat, from which men have always tried to shelter them?
The possibilities for using cinematography and video productions to influence public perception and values, for ideological purposes, are virtually boundless. All the propagandist with a large budget and studio resources need do, is create a well defined, sympathetic hero or heroine to represent the idea, interest group, or problem, intended to be propagandized; create an unsympathetic antagonist or antagonists, motivated by greed, cruelty or hatred, or a very ugly picture of a social or economic phenomenon, or the like; surround each factor with a good story-line, to concentrate the perceptions of the audience; and without ever addressing any real issue beyond the fictional images being used to proselytize, the desired points may be put across. The one thing, of course, that must always be avoided in a Leftist promotion of "reform," is any treatment, where the actual argument or reason for the situation, phenomenon, policy or condition, being attacked, is ever explained in rational terms.
Certainly, Hollywood's choice of characterizations and themes, since the middle of the last century, have not been neutral. We do not mean to suggest that the images were, or are, all one sided or even ideological. There has remained a certain balance between the desire for profit and ideological promotion. Thus while many films have gone out of their way to glamorize rebels against established orders, and to portray "death row" inmates as sympathetic figures; the industry was happy enough to enjoy the profits from some very tough cop movies--for example, Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" and the Charles Bronson "Death Wish" collections.
Yet how many movies and videos have we seen, where the lie that National Socialism was on the Right (see Chapter 7) was not only perpetuated but used in the context of dialog in a gripping drama; where the villain mouthed a deliberately contrived mixture of Nazi rant with the traditional views of a Western nation, while the hero sounded like one of Teddy Kennedy or Hillary Clinton's speech writers. Of course, this should surprise no one. The Leftist orientation of many of the writers was never any secret. Yet the unsuspecting movie goer, or TV viewer, imbibes the intended point; and that point is a gross misrepresentation of Conservative values--a Big Lie--made all the more believable because a carefully developed and appealing character, or characters, appear to be victims of the ideology being smeared.
The motion picture and television industries must bear a major part of the blame for a breakdown in social standards; for the acceptance of weird "life-styles," undermining marriage and disrupting long accepted patterns for directing one's life and raising children. Traditional society enforces its rule as much by stigmatizing the unacceptable as by any legal penalty. When people see conduct which was never acceptable, repeatedly treated as simply a funny idiosyncrasy or a subject only for sympathy, standards are definitely lowered. While the entertainment industry might claim that, in this, they are only promoting a more tolerant society; the fact is that they project images, without ever actually acknowledging that there is another point of view. In both the "sit-coms" and dramas dealing with changing mores, those objecting to previously unacceptable conduct are, virtually without exception, caricatured as benighted bigots or boobs, never as rational Conservatives.
If such patterns are true in general; they are yet more obvious when the industries address racial, ethnic or religious themes. We have touched upon this phenomenon in other essays, including the Appendix on "A Compulsion For Uniformity," below. But at this point, we will examine it more closely. The "question" of race and ethnicity--as well as those of faith, class and era--in motion pictures and television, actually involves many separate questions, or distinct areas of concern. There are questions of art, product appeal, and fairness; all quite distinct, although none completely separate from the questions involved in the misuse of art for overt or subliminal manipulation of unsuspecting audiences, for political, social or ideological purposes.
We must acknowledge that, however desirable, it is impossible to completely divorce the social message from art. There have always been legitimate artists, who sought to incorporate a plea for social change into their art; and in our personal commitment to Conservative values, we hardly suggest that any projection of values, contrary to our own, is inherently wrong. Our complaint with the studios is not that they sometimes give vent to the perspective of the Left leaning artist. Our complaint on the subject of race and ethnicity, is that for the past 50 years, they have virtually never given vent to any dissent from the perspective of the Left leaning artist; and have further indulged many who were less entitled to the appellation "artist" than to that of propagandist.
The increasingly negative image of religious orthodoxy, projected in movies and on television during the same period, reflects a different facet of the same phenomenon--an attack on one of the bases for Conservative orientation. But the issues involved in religious controversy are even more complicated than those involved in questions of race and ethnicity; indeed, so to a degree that makes the pattern less obvious than with the latter. Yet, in more fully developing a discussion on the use of the media to change racial attitudes, we do not mean to imply that it has not also been used effectively in many other areas; such as in undermining religious faith, as well as traditional views on sexuality, proper behavior and the administration of criminal justice.
For many decades, the Western Movie was a Hollywood staple. Prior to World War II, the major studios used Indians in such movies, generally and primarily as a generic adversary for the White (Caucasian characters), who received almost all of the real personality development, and were given a near monopoly on any sympathetic imagery. While these same studios may not have always treated American Negroes as some of their spokesmen in that era might have wished; they were certainly not denied individual roles where characters were developed with sympathetic imagery. Rather quite the opposite. A future historian might be able to tell a great deal from those movies.
It is obvious that the focus was on a White audience; the perspective that of White America. There was nothing very subtle, and the images of Indians in the almost formula Westerns were probably not intended to convey any ideological message, or to alter the existing imagery in anyone's head. They probably did reinforce a negative image, growing out of conflicts on the frontier; but they did not create that image. (For insight into just how deep such negative feelings towards Indians ran among some in the 19th Century, see the long vignette in Herman Melville's The Confidence Man, which describes how a sitting Illinois Judge, in the 1850s, spent his annual vacations.)
Presenting a more balanced picture of the Indian Wars--with Indians more fully and sympathetically developed--was certainly justified, both in the interests of art and in the interests of better relations between the Nations and America. That does not mean that Leftists did not later produce movies, which tilted the bias completely against the Whites. Yet it can perhaps be argued that "turn about was only fair play." There has not been a major effort to poison White/Indian relations. Such cannot be said about the role of the visual entertainment industry in its treatment of White/Negro relations in America. Here we have truly seen both its power and malevolence.
Prior to World War II--and for sometime thereafter, even with the considerable shift in tone--the principal complaint of Negro actors and actresses, as well as those involved in production, was that their race were generally pictured only in domestic or song and dance roles. The Hollywood mainstream were not making movies about Negro business or professional people, etc.. The point had some validity. On the other hand, Hollywood was in the business of making money; and targeted audiences were predominantly White, far less likely to identify with a Negro business or professional person than with a White one. The function was entertainment, not sociology. (There was also, for a time, a professional and quite competent Negro based movie industry, which presented more middle-class images.)
While the pre-war mainstream movie images of American Negroes were from a White perspective, ignoring the business and professional classes; those images were seldom, if ever, antagonistic. If the roles were usually portrayals of domestic servants, they were often respected and highly trusted servants; sometimes more capable than their masters or employers in seeing what was really important in a situation, and models of absolute loyalty. Consider the prime example of Hollywood on White/Negro interaction prior to World War II, the most famous movie of the era and, for decades afterward, the most successful movie in Hollywood history, "Gone With The Wind."
Four figures in the drama display sufficient inner strength, or mettle, that they remain basically unbowed, even as the events, which break so many others, swirl past: Rhett Butler, Scarlett O'Hara, Melanie Wilkes and Mammy. But Rhett and Scarlett are each too self-centered to represent true nobility of spirit--though Rhett, at least, appreciates those with purer motive. Melanie is a moral pillar--a symbol of Southern Christian gentility--finally defeated, not by adversity, but by weak health. Only Mammy perseveres as a rock, symbolizing pure dedication, common sense and loyalty. Anyone who thinks that this is a denigrating portrait of the American Negro, has truly rejected the moral heritage of the West!
The stability of this trusted servant--steadfast and reliable whatever travail besets the family--serves to rally the spirit of others. Scarlett may be willful and disregard Mammy's admonitions. But Mammy remains as Scarlett's virtual conscience--ever faithful to the family, utterly predictable in her practical adherence to what she knows to be right. The movie works, in large measure, because millions of Americans--including many Northerners--knew in 1939 that there really were such loyal and faithful servants in the Old South; men and women totally dedicated to a common heritage. As Booker T. Washington stated so well, immediately before that practical hand imagery, already quoted from the same speech:
...be sure in the future, as in the past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen. As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, in nursing your children, watching by the sick-bed of your mothers and fathers, and often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves, so in the future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in defense of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both races one. [Note again, how Washington uses effective concrete imagery.]
Our essay on Racial Denial In America, below, deals in part with the mindset which gripped both Hollywood and Academia after World War II. The shift in the treatment of the American South and relations between her peoples, thereafter, strongly reflected that mindset. With the making of Disney's sentimental "Song Of The South" in 1947, we saw one last sympathetic image of Southern culture--actually a celebration of Negro contributions to Southern culture, as well as a portrayal of positive feelings between the races. But while the studio has regularly reissued feature length movies, made before and since; the managers, who took over the film empire at Walt Disney's death, have not seen fit to reissue such happy imagery of the South.
The Uncle Remus stories--the subject of the movie--though recorded by a White writer, did in fact represent a Negro contribution to Southern and, indeed American, culture. Their root may be found in a little wise hare, whose clever devices bore unmistakable similarity to those of Br'er Rabbit, in West African folk lore. If someone has decided that American children should no longer be exposed to the Uncle Remus concept--a kindly Negro, telling folksy animal stories that teach common sense principles--it is not a White cultural contribution being suppressed.
This is directly analogous to what happened in Virginia, where an organized campaign by Leftist "Civil Rights" groups led to an abandonment of the State Song, "Carry Me Back To Ole Virginny." That song had been written by a well educated New Jersey Negro, as a love offering to his Virginia girl friend. What is being suppressed in each case, is a positive Negro contribution to American culture, offered in a loving spirit. The essence of both the movie and the State song, was that they continued to evoke images of an affectionate relationship between the races: The Booker T. Washington vision, rather than the hate driven N.A.A.C.P. vision.
1947 saw both the "Song Of The South" and President Truman's introduction of the "Civil Rights" issue, an appeal to Congress to intervene in American race relations, with particular emphasis on private employment practices (Chapter 19). In fairly short order, America was polarized by the ensuing debate. It was during this same time frame, that the shift in the images projected by major Hollywood studios first became really apparent.
Suddenly, any portrayal of the ante-bellum South, seemed to focus more on the ugly side of slavery than was ever really necessary for the artistic purposes of the story. In place of more historically accurate images of the actual bonds between plantation owners and their household servants, the latter were pictured as seething with sullen but silent resentment--the demeanor that Sidney Poitier displayed in any movie with any trace of a racial theme. Post 1860s' themes tended to stereotype Southern Whites as either bigoted, corrupt or obsessed with various compulsive neuroses. It was as though the culture and stock which had given America, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lee and Calhoun, had utterly ceased to exist. On the other hand, Negroes were always made to appear as victims. Yet, curiously, the complaint that the Negro middle-class were under-represented in characterizations, was not really corrected--at least not by the major studios.
A movie from an independent producer, in 2002, actually did briefly address the damage that the "Civil Rights" Revolution did to some older Negro communities in the rural South. But Hollywood never showed much concern for such issues during the 1950s, '60s, '70s, '80s, etc.. Nor was there much concern for small pharmacies, grocery or clothing stores, owned by Negroes in Negro neighborhoods, ruined (as were many a similar White shop) by competition from the same giant chains. Those were the problems of real people--but not specific to the Southern culture being targeted, nor glamorous enough for the purpose intended.
Instead, we were offered images of Negro nuclear scientists, technicians working on super-secret projects, or elite specialists seeking to counter secret plots. (These roles did not, of course, correspond with increased presence in the actual Academic centers for advanced research or study.) In many an action drama, it was made to appear that good could only triumph via the heroic deeds of a Negro Co-star. We do not suggest that such characterizations are inappropriate--heroes come in many forms and descriptions--only that the picture was suddenly very disproportionate. People used to joke in the 1960s, that the only roles in which Negroes were under-represented were in prison scenes. But it was a bad joke. In a Hollywood rolling in self-gratulation over its devotion to equality, the small town Negro shopkeeper--closing his doors for the last time because his former clientele were enjoying their "Civil Rights" in a chain store outlet at the new Mall--did not exist!
Of course, Hollywood also turned out a succession of movies where the actual subject was race relations--or more accurately, claimed racial injustice;--movies in which not only the imagery, but the plot itself, promoted the view of the "Civil Rights" movement; ascribing Negro problems to evil Whites, and effectively arguing for ever more Federal intervention, in the guise of problem solving; using the incredible power of projected images to instill a particular mindset in the viewer. Was this only powerful propaganda, or did it really lead to meaningful progress?
The South, when Booker T. Washington made the quoted speech, still reeled from the effects of a terrible war. Neither Washington nor anyone else expected an instant solution to any problem. Washington's view--Hollywood's view up until World War II--was of a people progressing by building their heritage: Learning a trade and going to work for and with those with whom their families had been associated for generations. There was no acceptance of poverty or anything demeaning--no acceptance of a status quo. It was a call to begin a building process, step by step; the way that all human society, which has progressed positively, has progressed! The N.A.A.C.P. view ("Creating Hate In America Today," below) was to encourage the Negro to see himself as a victim, to blame his White neighbors for every problem; to demand Federal intervention in the social order to right each wrong, real or imagined. Both systems, and both views, were "progressive"--calls for change. The difference was between the progress of growth and that of destruction.
During the decades when Hollywood was spinning those images of hatred and resentment, picturing the South's Negroes as victims, its Whites as neurotic and obsessed; the older generations, who still remembered the bonds of which Washington spoke so vividly, died off. But lest one bombarded with the negative images, we have discussed, imagine that the positive reality never existed, consider:
1. Washington was speaking to a largely affluent White Southern audience, drawn from all over the Cotton States. The audience had lived through the era he described. Had they not known that he spoke the truth, the speech would have made no sense whatsoever.
2. In large areas of the deep South, the Negro population had greatly outnumbered the White in the 1860s. Had they not been basically loyal, the Confederate War effort could not have been effective. Too many of the young White males would have had to stay home, to defend their families.
Consider, also, that we now see the harvest of two generations of image manipulation. While our immediate subject is the power of imagery--particularly that in the projection of dynamic images;--it is hardly off the mark to view the results of the instant example. Who, besides demagogues, have gained from Hollywood's effort to remake America's racial attitudes? There is now, surely, a Negro middle-class. But there was a Negro middle-class in 1947--albeit Hollywood never really discovered them in their frenetic quest to promote images of victimization. Yet what about the Negro poor in 1895, when the now rejected course, which Booker T. Washington proposed, was put on the table? What about the Negro poor in 1947, when Harry Truman proposed Federal intervention, and Hollywood began to tack before the winds of proposed change? They were indeed many.
There have been changes, in fact, but few for the better. Whereas in 1895, the problem that Washington addressed, was the threat of Negroes losing job opportunities to new immigrants; a look at the open border and unemployment statistics, today, will demonstrate how well the new dispensation has dealt with that concern! While Washington looked to his White neighbors for friendship and help in a progress based upon self-improvement; today's Negro poor have been taught to resent and blame Whites for every problem; to look for help to Government--a giant impersonal bureaucracy. Instead of learning a trade, many wait for their checks and food stamps--paid to wallow in a purposeless existence. For all too many, the real achievement from the new images, has been an explosion in crime and a collapse of marriage. We dealt with the school experience in Chapter 5. There is no practical way, the Washington way--building personal responsibility and friendly ties--would not have worked better than this!
Hollywood's attack on American racial images, has not improved race relations or bettered the lot of any recognizable element in America. Rather it has aborted constructive progress, based upon mutual interest and the ties of heritage, to create and spread bitterness and resentment, undermining the concrete positive images of how peoples progress, and replacing them with ugly caricatures; paralyzing the one race with a sense of guilt, the other with that of victimization. In this it has contributed to a confused sense of purpose, based upon verbalized abstractions, where better understanding of the now discarded images based upon actual history, was needed and desired. It has done enormous damage to the self-respect and genuine social progress of both the White and Negro races. It has, however, demonstrated with brutal effect, the really awesome potential power in the manipulation of moving images! (Of course, at every step, Hollywood was assisted in this manipulation by the equally biased purveyors of video "news" images with the same Leftist slant.)
We would suggest that it is in an internal moving panorama of four dimensional images, that an individual finds and maintains his sense of personal identity, and understands his cultural heritage. If Conservatives continue to lose the image war, we may wake one day very soon to find that, as in the song, we have "nothing left to lose."
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