The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, JULY 24, 1938
Censorship And Propaganda:
Blockade in Boston
--By W. J. Cash
Site Editor's Note: See also "Spanish Blood", August 23, 1936, "Blessing and Blood", September 20, 1936, and "Fuehrer and Duce Stumped", April 25, 1937 for further commentary by Cash on the Spanish civil war and Franco.
BOSTON, already the most completely censored town in the United States, has forbidden the showing of the new moving picture, "Blockade," at the insistence of pro-Franco societies. And in New York the same elements have got it practically forbidden by bringing pressure to their own theater-owners.
This is dangerous business, and is most dangerous for precisely the elements which are prompting it, for they are minorities in America.
Mr. Wanger, the man who made the picture, denies that it was intended as propaganda for the Loyalist cause. And the reports of the best critics bear him out. The scene of the thing is nowhere identified, and nowhere are the markings of Franco or his Italian and German masters shown. In all it is simply a graphic story of the systematic murder of the civilian population behind an army warring on its own people, with the aid of alien invaders. The story of thousands upon thousands stood up and shot, without any regard to age, sex, or active participation in the fighting--without any regard to anything at all but that they are suspected of disliking the purposes of the army. Above all, the story of the incessant raining of death upon cities from the sky--not upon proper military objectives but upon areas far removed from military objectives, and upon people who are not engaged in fighting--upon men, women, and babies indiscriminently.
BUT whatever Mr. Wanger meant it to be, it is still nevertheless, and of course, mightily effective propaganda against fascism and for the Loyalist cause. But why? Simply, for the reason, first of all, that the whole day-to-day record increasingly and overwhelmingly identifies the Spanish Fascist army as the equivalent of the army in the picture. Because we know, on the authority of the best reporting agencies in the world, the Associated Press and the correspondents of the great metropolitan dailies, such as The New York Times, and on the authority of a huge core of American writers whose ability and integrity we believe in and who have been on the ground, that the picture fits Franco and his masters as it fits nobody else in the world, including either the Russian Reds or the Loyalists. When we look at it we remember Badajos with 2,000 mowed down in cold blood. We remember Guernica with the German planes flying over the village and killing 700 men, women, and children. We remember 1,300 civilians bombed to death in the heart of Barcelona, 500 women slain while they waited in the market at Teruel for their morning's provisions, 5,000 pitiful refugees machine-gunned out of existence on the Semeria flight, a thousand instances besides.
Nobody in his wits suppose the Loyalists' hands are entirely claim. We know that wild mobs, infuriated by the exploitation of the most cynical priesthood left in the world, have (quite unjustifiably) murdered priests and burned churches. We know that in the early days of the war the Loyalist Government retaliated upon the Fascist in kind, and murdered civilians in large lots. We know that there are plenty of isolated instances of retaliation still to be found. But on the record, as it comes from unbiased sources, we cannot find any evidence that the Loyalist Government has coldly and deliberately pursued a systematic policy looking to the extermination of those who did not agree with it.
Moreover, when we see this carnage in "Blockade," we remember the infamous Douhet Theory, which provides for just this sort of systematic murder of civilians on the ground that it is the best way to win a war. We know that that theory is the invention of an Italian Fascist officer, and that it has for many years been the theory taught officially in both the Italian and German armies, but it is everywhere an integral part of the theory of fascism.
Yet again, we remember the words of both Mussolini and Hitler. We remember the official Nazi and Fascist doctrine that the true aim of man in life is a glorious death in war. We remember that both Nazis and Fascists officially deny that human life has any value or sacredness as such, that all that counts is the glory of the state, which is to say in the last analysis, the glory of the men at the head of the state,--and that murder is not only permissible but virtuous when it is designed to contribute to the glory of the state. We remember Bruno Mussolini boasting in print of his delight in murdering poor niggers, men, women, and children, helpless on the ground, in comparing the spectacle of human flesh and blood being shattered into a red spray by the bursting of bombs, to the beauty of a rose opening to the sun.
YES, the picture is undoubtedly powerful propaganda against fascism and for the Loyalist cause. Yes, we do come out of seeing it warm partisans of the Loyalists, regardless of their crimes or their errors of doctrine. We do not come out of it hating fascism as a reversion to savagery which must be destroyed if civilization is to live. But we come out feeling and thinking that way simply because it sets us to thinking upon the obvious and overt facts.
And the attempt to tell us that we shall not see it is simply an attempt to tell us that we shall not think on and accept the facts. It is in attempt to make us swallow a version of the case which has no backing save the reports of an organization which has a tremendous vested interest at stake. Every decent American everywhere should rise up and protest against the attempt of that organization to destroy the right to untrammeled judgment, which is our most precious heritage.
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