After World War II, technology was advancing and converting from military orientation to more consumer based companies. One of the new technology devices that were introduced to American consumers was television. American television in the 1940’s and 1950’s became a link marvel between Americans, podcasting news, shows, and movies. American television during the 1940’s and the 1950’s played a major rule in preserving American social values and it became an effective tool for politicians and the government goals and agendas.
Television keept the American culture and values untouched by promoting television shows that confronted Communism, homosexuality, a long with promoting religious shows that preserved American’s morals and traditions. The danger of Communism spread in the United Sates was a major concern for many politicians and citizens in the United Sates of America. It was Joseph Raymond McCarthy, a republican senator born in 1908 in Wisconsin from Irish-Catholic roots, who took the lead in confronting and fighting Communism.
After McCarthy was elected as a senator for Wisconsin in 1947 he started issuing lists that includes Americans with any kind of relation to the Communist party. McCarthy was the Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation of the Government Operations Committee of the U. S Senate. McCarthy’s actions against Communism became a movement during the cold war called “McCarthyism”. The movement was targeting any American that would consider a threat to the United States national security.
In the House, The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), an investigative committee belongs the House of Representatives, was responsible for the investigations toward citizens that have a relationship with the Communist party. Names of American spies and agents of the Communist army were visible announced to the public by Individuals, Organizations, and the media; For Instance, Sen. McCarthy’s, the HUAC, Red Channels, American Business Consultants, and AWARE. Inc. Many Companies, firms, and government institutions took these names and add them to their black list in a phenomenon that became known as blacklisting”, the practice of refusing to hire or terminating from employment an individual whose opinions or associations are deemed politically inconvenient or commercially troublesome” Many people, who were blacklisted, were employees working for television and film industry in Hollywood. In 1950 the Red Channels issued a list of 151 Americans tied to Communism, among those names was Philip Loeb, an American stage, film, and television actor famous for his role in a Jewish comedy show on CBS called “The Goldberg’s”.
Loeb was accused for being a member of the communist party. CBS didn’t welcome him in the show, even though they didn’t publicly announce that. The Senate Security Subcommittee called Loeb for further investigation; Furthermore, agents of the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were in the hearing describing him as “concealed communist” who “has always followed the communist party line and continues to do so until this day [June 2, 1951]”. Loeb denied the accusation stating that he has never been a member of the communist party.
Philip Loeb was dismissed from the “The Goldberg’s”, and on August 1955 the FBI released statement stating that Loeb is innocent and that he does not have any relation with communist party. A week after the statement, Loeb checked in a hotel and committed suicide by overdosing sleeping drugs. One of the most remarkable Television show of all times was “I Love Lucy”, a CBS show considered to be “the first breakout television show that was brazenly multicultural, and emphatically female-driven”. Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnez were the stars of I love Lucy show, appearing as Lucy Ricardo, and Ricky Ricardo.
The show was a big hit, adopted by big name companies to put their advertisements during the show. On September 6, the House Committee on Un-American Activities held a session discussing Lucy Ball relationship with communist party. The accusation was that Lucy and her brother, Fred H. Ball, and her mother, Mrs. Desiree E. , registered their intension in Los Angeles county giving their vote for the Communist party: furthermore, the HUAC accused her for singing a petition for the candidacy for state assembly of a communist party nominee called Emil Freed.
Lucy denied these accusations along with her husband Arnez. About $10 million had been invested in “I Love Lucy”; unlike Loeb from the “The Goldbergs” show, Lucile and her husband were irreplaceable and famous with 50,000,000 viewers followed each episode of their show; Furthermore, Lucile and her husband were invited to have dinner with president Eisenhower, the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and four supreme courts Justices. “From the episode of the redhead and blacklist, the lesson learned was that while the small fry were hooked and gutted, the big fish would be tossed back”.
This controversy indicates how television business was about money and influence; For instance, Lucile and her husband were kept in the show even though Lucile was a member of the communist party, but the public believed she was innocent and CBS kept her since her appearance in the show was not harming the “American” believes during the Cold War. Television, during the Cold War era, terminated shows and actors not just because of their backgrounds and affiliations to the communist party, but also because of the racial stereotypes.
Amos ‘n’ Andy show, an African American show appeared on NBC in 1951″Negro show as they called it during that time”, is a good example. The show represented a new era of television, about variety and support of equal rights and the civil rights movement at that time. The show did not rank high, and it was over in 1953. “Like reds, blacks in the living room were flashpoints for controversy and occasions for ideological combat in Cold War America. Unlike the entertainers tarred by the blacklist, however, the entertainers who trafficked in racial stereotypes were banished because of their performance no their background.
Hence, the controversial personalities on Amos ‘n’ Andy could not be cleared, only canceled”, the show canceled because many Americans did not like the idea of having African Americans as the stars of a show. Television affected the American culture in many ways, politically for example. Politicians rushed to use the media to help them get elected and to use it influence to announce their agenda and plans. Sen. McCarthy was one of those politicians that every time he had a list of pro-Communist he appeared on television announcing the list to the public.
Not all politicians were in favor of this so-called the “McCarthyism” anti communism movement because not everyone on McCarthy’s and the Red Channels list were guilty, but these types of televised announcements were contentiously pleased anti-communists American audiences. In a society that disguised homosexuality, and appeared to have faith in god and religion, Americans viewed homosexuality as un-natural. Television network was trying to promote and preserved these values during the cold war era. A good example for that is the “Life Worth Living”, an inspirational Catholic show on the DuMont Television Network.
Bishop Sheen, who advised people to follow god as the only way to win and survive during the Cold War, hosted the show. “Bishop Sheen was a pure product of the material conditions of early television, a time when a singular face in close up on the small screen could still lull viewers into a trance of attention” On the other hand, when the news was spreading about George W. Jorgensen, a 26 years old soldier who traveled to Denmark for a surgery that changed his gender. Television was very conservative toward homosexuality; For instance, television channels did not mention the incident in the news, or talk shows.
Instead television shows start mocking George W. Jorgensen gender change surgery; Furthermore, the word “sexual” was band from being used on television unless it is a content of a news report. McCarthy and many members of the government stood against gays and homosexuality, considering gay people as disloyal and threat to the country’s national security because they could be an easy target for the Communist party to recruit them, saying “One reason why sex deviates are considered security risks is that they are subject to blackmail” Sen.
Joseph McCarthy declared in McCarthyism In conclusion, American Television during the 1940’s and the 1950’s was a major player in preserving American values and tradition. The government and politicians in their agenda against Communism and anything that could be considered a security threat, used television as an effective way to help convince Americans about Communism danger.
During the Cold War, television was very conservative towards American culture, supporting shows that were religious and prohibited talking about civil rights issues: for example, the word sexual and homosexuality was banned from being used on television along with canceling shows where African Americans played the main characters. Television connected people in way that was more appealing to the conservative-religious white Americans who considered themselves a majority, neglecting others who could be a harm towards the American society principles at that time; For example, African Americans, Latinos, homosexuals, and Communists.