Tailgunner Joe rises from the grave in this nightmarish, spellbinding excursion into our nation's recent past. San...


RED SCARE: Memories of the American Inquisition: An Oral History

Tailgunner Joe rises from the grave in this nightmarish, spellbinding excursion into our nation's recent past. San Francisco--based freelance writer Fariello offers an oral history of a time when subscribers to The Nation, devotees of foreign films, and even those who supported Franklin Roosevelt's fourth term came under suspicion of being Communists or fellow travelers. It's no hyperbole to liken the time, as Fariello does, to the Inquisition. Fariello talks with dozens of participants in the whole sordid business, people like retired FBI agent M. Wesley Swearingen, who ferreted out suspected Reds in Chicago for nearly two decades and who confesses, ""It strikes me now, and it struck me then after a few years, that this was a waste of time and a waste of taxpayers' money."" Harvey Job Matusow, a Communist, worked as a paid government informant until a Justice Department investigation revealed that his testimony was pure fiction. Robert Meeropol, a son of the convicted atom-bomb spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, recalls his early life as a ""red diaper"" baby and the pain of losing his parents. The writer Kay Boyle speaks of her husband, an Austrian-born former OSS officer who was hounded out of military service by federal authorities who decreed him guilty of ""premature antifascism."" And the blacklisted filmmaker Edward Dmytryk, who went on to direct Raintree County, The Caine Mutiny, and The Young Lions after enduring an official government campaign of harassment, comments on the contemporary film industry: ""Why don't we put out a decent film that has something to say? There are still people who are afraid to say anything for fear someone will get on their backs."" To his interviews Fariello adds generous, accurate footnotes, along with a fine introduction. The tenor of our own time, with talk of cultural war, the cleansing of liberal politicians from Congress, and the restoration of ""American values,"" makes this good book especially timely.

Pub Date: March 13, 1995


Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1995