Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Crucible - 17th century witchcraft, 20th century blacklists, a 21st century list - forever relevant!

Last week we watched, via Netflix,
The Crucible - a 1996 movie adaptation of Arthur Miller's play written in the early 1950s. I hadn't researched the film, it was a random choice, prompted by a misleading one line synopsis at Netflix. Oddly though, the movie turned out to be a wee bit relevant to what had been in online news last week, and mentioned by commenter LB on 30 November. The Washington Post had published a list of 200 websites and blogs named by a group of (un-identfied) researchers as being pro-Russian or helpful to Russian aims of meddling with US electoral matters. The list originally contained reputable sites such as Truthdig, Counterpunch, naked capitalism, the owners of which have since objected strongly to the smear, some have threatened to sue the newspaper. There was/is a definite smell of blacklisting in the air. Washington Post has not yet fully apologised nor retracted the article's content.

Anyway...back toThe Crucible

These snips come from a blogger's review HERE
The play, written in 1953, is set in Salem during the infamous witch hunts of 1692. The Crucible shows how false accusations and lies can lead to the destruction of a society through fear. The accusations of witchcraft shown here are mainly fuelled through uncertainty towards things that are not easily understood, or things that are unfamiliar. Miller’s play was written as a clear allegory for the 1950’s ‘witch hunt’ for communists in America, otherwise known as McCarthysim. However the message of The Crucible is just as relevant today as it was when published..........
(An update) What Does The Message of The Crucible Mean Today?

(Added on 20th November 2016) I’ve returned to this blog post over a year after originally posting to consider how The Crucible is just as relevant today than it has ever been before. The horrifying year of 2016 has brought about the likes of Brexit and Donald Trump. Both events seem built on the process of make outsiders of minorities in order to pass blame from ourselves onto others. We aren’t executing people under the guise of being witches, but figures such as Trump and Farage are indeed whipping up a sense of hysteria within society. By saying that foreigners are to blame, these figures are inciting a sense of xenophobia and racism, that, as shown by The Crucible, are the preliminary ways of society tearing itself apart.

My point of relevance of The Crucible is different, but related. In publishing that unsubstantiated list of websites and blogs, The Washington Post was acting in clear McCarthy style.

This snipped from weebly.com
Arthur Miller wrote the play The Crucible in response to the red scare of the 1950’s, in which he was was condemned for disrespect & disapproval of the United States Congress for being unsuccessful in naming numerous individuals who had attended meetings with him. In a bid to not only secure his career as a journalist & play writer and also to alert the American people against the government misinformation & propaganda that were headed their way. The characters in the play are faced with the same tragedies & sentences that befell people during the McCarthyism trials; he uses the ‘Salem Witch Trials’ as a metaphor to draw national attention towards the doings and executioners of the McCarthyism propaganda.

Arthur Miller uses allegory in his play, The Crucible, to show the similarities between the Salem witch trials and the Red Scare. During the McCarthy era, freedom was a very important aspect in life; during the Salem witch trials, religion was a very important aspect of life. In both of these events, people are frightened. The Red Scare led to many people fearing others, thinking everyone was a Communist. In the Salem witch trials, witchcraft is threatening the village. Miller also wanted to show the similarity between both corrupt courts in these two events. In the Salem witch trials, all substantial evidence is through out of the window, and everything that supports witchcraft is valid. Much is the same with the Red Scare court system.

In The Crucible Arthur Miller created a longer-lasting, wider-reaching allegory than he could have realised at the time. For astrology fans, his natal chart is available at Astrodatabank, here. He had Sun in Libra with Moon and Uranus in Aquarius, possibly Libra rising.


mike said...

Evil is in the eye of the beholder and I'm always amazed at the conservative right's ability to find their must-be-made-accountable victims. Add a touch of religious fanaticism and it becomes the devil's workshop in full view. Those that know how to exploit fear and mine group-think normalcy for their gain, like McCarthy himself, are guilty of social fraud and earn their one-way ticket to Hades.

There must be something in our genetic heritage that pushes the fear of social rejection to the point of accepting the doctrine of social morals and ethics and mirroring that back to our social circle(s). Any individual variations from that norm are concealed from others from fear of rejection. I love the Catholic's view of confession, which is one method of allowing variations, but viewed as sin to be redeemed. Unfortunately, it takes a perverted and gullible population to find an equally perverted leader. Trump supporters were here prior to the rise of Trump...they were waiting for their overseer to organize them and give them purpose.

There was a visual, online test about a year ago to identify how conservative an individual is. It presented various circular shapes going from perfect circle to less-than-perfect circle. Conservatives would only recognize the perfect and near-perfect circular shapes as circular...they had no tolerance for out-of-round.

I found this Teen Vogue essay heartwarming:

Twilight said...

mike ~ Circles, perfect and imperfect are all circular, the ends meet at a certain point, whether taking a short or a longer route, as long as no angles are made on the way. LOL! Not sure what that adds to anything.

I read the Teen Vogue - it's likely much better fodder than most teeny reading matter to be sure. For an all round view, it ought to be read in conjunction with these - the Truthdig piece is sourced from the aeticle at 2nd link. Both have comment threads which I haven't yet fully finished reading. It was nice to see Mike Gravel's name there, by the way.



mike (again) said...

Re Circles - Your definition identifies you as a liberal...conservatives like theirs drawn with a compass...LOL.

Re Hacking vs Leak - The VIPS states, "All signs point to leaking, not hacking. If hacking were involved, the National Security Agency would know it – and know both sender and recipient. In short, since leaking requires physically removing data – on a thumb drive, for example – the only way such data can be copied and removed, with no electronic trace of what has left the server, is via a physical storage device."

Several agencies within Homeland Security have identified the DNC's email theft as hacking. VIPS said that the NSA would know whether hacking or leaking occurred, yet VIPS has no inside track into how the theft occurred, so I view VIPS' argument as precocious and unfounded.

There are any number of articles online discussing hackers' maintenance of anonymity, with proxy servers, the dark internet, and sophisticated software that erases all traces.

By-and-large, I'd say the DNC's (Podesta's) emails were stolen, whether by hacking or leaking. I can't imagine Podesta or the DNC wanting those emails leaked, therefore having self-involvement. It could be a theft by someone working for the Republicans. Shades of Watergate? Simply because Homeland Security says one thing and VIPS and others say something else, does it matter? Theft occurred and it DID influence the election. Just as James Comey contributed to influencing the election.

John Townley just posted an interesting essay, a bit lengthy, but worth the effort. At least read part "C". He has several one-liners that are very apropos.

The full Moon occurring just after 6 PM this evening is at 22* Gemini, with transiting Moon on Trump's natal Sun-Uranus-N Node, and transiting Sun-Saturn on his natal Moon-S Node. Not sure how to interpret this combination, but I'd say that Trump will somehow astound us all very soon, once again. This falls across his 4th and 10th houses...home (private life) and career (public standing).

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ This issue is really very much above my "pay-grade" to discuss with any real confidence. I can see both arguments regarding leaking and hacking, and both sides regarding the electoral college arguments going on around the net.

The leaking argument "feels" more real to me than the hacking - there's a name being suggested, as possible leaker, either in the comment threads of the links in my previous comment, or at naked capitalism.com today (Seth Rich, I think it was).

Thanks for the John Townley link - have read the part you indicated, will save rest for later. This sentence is definitely worth noting IMO:

In the long run, it all may be a needed maturing of a still-adolescent America, a gullible sophomore yet to be wiser for its foolishness, self-wounded for the second time in a single generation, that will have stood quarreling and posing while being fleeced, as the rest of the world passed it by.

Lambert Strether has a long post up this afternoon at Nak..Cap... about the actual constitutional source requirements for the Electoral College. It's another long read, but interesting points made.

All these writers, good and all as they are, and experienced, and knowledgeable, have their own "fixed centre", opinion, point of view from which to set out on their lengthy articles. It's easy to spot the Clinton supporters from the disaffected Sanders' people and the Trump brigade. In the current peculiar circumstances, there really seem to be reasonable arguments to be made in several directions. Nothing's black and white - it hardly ever is, but usually the shades are less blurred.

Donald Trump, to our eyes, is not fit to be president, but enough people in enough key states thought he was the better bet from those available on their ballot. The fact that more people in certain highly populated states thought differently is interesting, but is not taking into consideration the wishes of the important people in rest of these "United" States. Electoral College has a certain job to do - a job open to slightly differing definitions and requirements of its electors. I can see both sides of Lambert Strether's points there too.

Phew - lots of tl;dr stuff around today!

One thing we can say about having Trump around - nobody dozes off through boredom!
Yes, I wonder what ajbect Trumpishness the last super-moon of 2016 will bring forth?

Anonymous said...

My original comment from November 30:

"Twilight ~ No doubt you're aware of the Washington Post's recent article employing McCarthy-style tactics to target many of the news sites we follow, specifically progressive sites that post articles not in line with and critical of the Clinton agenda."

I included my previous comment because it's important to point out, in this case at least, the threat to legitimate, progressive journalism (and freedom of speech) is coming from the neoliberal/centrist establishment, *not* the Trump camp.

The Washington Post supported Clinton's run for president as well as her agenda, not Trump's.

Dualistic thinking (if one side is 'bad' then the other must be 'good') confuses the issue for a lot of folks, making it easier to get outflanked from behind. We need to pay attention to threats coming from Democrats, Republicans, other players too.


P.S. I think you were in my head again this morning, Twilight. I dreamed about a hooded figure lighting a fire beneath my feet.:0 Guess I'll have to watch the Crucible.

LB said...

Comment 5, "Anonymous", is me, LB. I type it in, it doesn't show up, maybe because I've edited.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Thanks - yes, I guess it is necessary to fully clarify that point for stray readers, both now and in the future. Those to the left, politically, have found themselves more divided than of late. I suppose, too, have those to the right. We now have Bernie Sanders' supporters vs establishment Democrats (as in Washington Post); Donald Trump supporters vs establishment Republicans. The list did include some right-wing websites, but not as many.

I kept expecting "The Crucible" to morph into scenes from the 1950s, but it didn't. It is pure allegory, but well done.

LB said...

Just requested "The Crucible" from the library. Thanks for the recommendation.:)

mike (again) said...

Twilight, you said, "The fact that more people in certain highly populated states thought differently is interesting, but is not taking into consideration the wishes of the important people in rest of these "United" States."

That doesn't hold water when it comes to the electoral college. You've previously mentioned the power of the East and West coast states, due to population density, but actually the high-population states are disfavored. The Electoral College favors states with low-population density:

"...basic math illustrates the point that all low-population states, not just swing states, are favored in this system. According to the last census (in 2010), Wyoming, the nation's lowest population state, has just over 560,000 people. Those people get three electoral votes, or one per 186,000 people. California, our most populous state, has more than 37 million people. Those Californians have 55 electoral votes, or one per 670,000 people. Comparatively, people in Wyoming have nearly four times the power in the Electoral College as people in California. Put another way, if California had the same proportion of electoral votes per person as Wyoming, it would have about 200 electoral votes."

"The states with the fewest people per electoral vote, and therefore the highest 'vote power,' are Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota. In Wyoming, there are 143,000 people for each of its three electoral votes. The states with the weakest votes are New York, Florida, and California. These states each have around 500,000 people for each electoral vote."

mike (again) said...

Hello, LB! I can't disagree with your comment regarding non-Trump-associated sites, but Trump, et al, does have ties to quite a few:
"...But a closer look reveals that some of the biggest fake news providers were run by experienced political operators well within the orbit of Donald Trump’s political advisers and consultants."

AND, do I need to bring-up Trump's alt-right, bad-boy, side-kick Bannon, with his Breitbart "News"? Trump couldn't get much closer.

I appreciate Lauren Duca's editorial in Teen Vogue (link in my first comment), with her, "...it is imperative to remember, across identities and across the aisle, as a country and as individuals, we have nothing without the truth."

We are under disinformation assault from all sides. Here's one about patient advocacy:

"'Patient advocacy' groups have a unique power on Capitol Hill. They claim to represent the true voice of constituents, untainted by special interest bias. Politicians and the Food and Drug Administration use their endorsements as reflective of genuine public support. But a new study shows that nearly all of these patient advocacy groups are captured by the drug industry. David Hilzenrath at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reports that at least 39 of 42 patient advocacy groups who participated in discussions with the FDA over agency review processes for prescription drugs received funding from pharmaceutical companies. And at least 15 have representatives of drug or biotechnology companies on their governing boards."

LB said...

Hi mike:) You're right. Some of the blacklisted news sites are not progressive, though I don't *think* any of them supported Clinton.

We're talking about a couple of different things ~ *neoliberal sources promoting the blacklist* and *news sites that were blacklisted*.

Also relevant to consider what the blacklisted news sites had in common and *why* they were targeted.

And yes, there's a lot going on.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ As I've said, this argument is really beyond me and my level of understanding. It seems there are arguments to be made in all directions.

Twilight said...

Washington Post Backlash: Black Agenda Report, Counterpunch, and Paul Craig Roberts Join Us in Second Demand Letter Retraction and Apology for Defamatory “Propaganda” Story