February 26, 1951
Thank you very much for your letter and for discussing the matter of BORN YESTERDAY with J. B. Matthews. I was glad to hear that Westbrook Pegler had not intended to attack the picture. There is nothing further that I can ask you to do in this matter. I was merely anxious to have the political points called to Pegler’s attention before he wrote about the picture, if he intended to do so.
I have not heard about the DAILY WORKER, but I did hear about Bosley Crowther [film reviewer for The New York Times] praising the picture. This looks to me like a bit of band-wagon climbing or attempted whitewash of Garson Kanin’s original play. The attempt is to make it appear that Kanin’s message was the same as the message of the movie. The best proof of the truth, however, is in a comparison of the texts of the play and the movie. If you ever care to see the movie for yourself, you can judge this best.
The movie, being only a farce, is not politically strong enough for our side to single it out as a political document, but if our side mentions the politics of the movie at all, then I think the adapter should be given credit for the clean-up job which he has done at the price of an incredibly hard battle. I appreciate very much your courtesy in calling this to the attention of Matthews.
I hope that you will forgive me if I say that I have not been able to tear myself away from my novel to write the article for THE FREEMAN. I had hoped to do the article when I could take a rest from the novel, but so far I have found myself unable to stop, and I am afraid to lose the impetus with which I am moving now. Would you permit me to let it go at that? I will keep the article in mind for my first writing
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assignment, if I take time off from the novel, but I am afraid to interrupt it at present.
I do envy you for the fact that your novel [The Great Idea, later retitled Time Will Run Back] is finished and is about to come out. Archie Ogden was here and told me a little about it. It sounded extremely interesting, and I am looking forward to reading it. All my best wishes to you for the success you deserve.
I am enclosing the excerpts from my letter about PLAIN TALK, which you liked and asked me to send you. If you remember, you wanted it for the purpose of showing it to John Chamberlain and your editorial associates. As you will see, I have omitted all personal references to people and names. You may show it to those who, in your judgment, might be interested—but please do not tell them what this letter was about originally. I do not think that this letter is of wide enough interest for publication in the magazine, but I will be glad if you find it of value as a guide for editorial policy.
I have not been able to read every issue of THE FREEMAN from cover to cover as I would have liked to, but I have followed your political editorials THE FORTNIGHT. I have no criticism to offer in that respect, only my best compliments and my wish that you keep it up.
Of the articles which I liked very much, I’ll mention COUNCIL FOR THE MINORITY by Robert Morris, LORD KEYNES AND SAY’S LAW by Ludwig von Mises, FOR PRESIDENT: MICKEY COHEN by Morrie Ryskind, PLAN FOR COUNTER-ACTION by Rodney Gilbert—particularly this last.
I have not read all of the issues, so I am sure that there are other articles which I would find as good.
But I must, regretfully, object to two articles which I have read, both of them in the December 25th issue. I was shocked by THE TEAMSTERS DROVE OFF by Jonathan Mitchell. This article proclaims the one fatal fallacy of the Republican Party which, I thought, we all agreed to consider as fatal, namely, the creed
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of compromise. I think that THE FREEMAN should do everything possible to oppose and denounce the Republican methods of “middle-of-the-road-ism” and “me-too-ism”. THE FREEMAN’S credo, in its first issue, stated this very clearly and strongly. Therefore, I hope that you will not be tolerant of the advocates of compromise and will not give voice to ideas such as Mr. Mitchell’s.
But the above article is nothing compared to the truly outrageous piece entitled MID-CENTURY SURVEY by William A. Orton. I am baffled by this piece—and by its appearance in the pages of THE FREEMAN. In another publication, this piece would have to be taken as advocating ideas which coincide with some of the cardinal points of the Communist party line. This is inconceivable for THE FREEMAN—but if these points are not what Mr. Orton is preaching, then what is he preaching?
1. Mr. Orton advocates One World—or, as he calls it, “planetary community.” What is a “planetary community?” Community with whom? On what terms?
2. Mr. Orton asks us to drop “exaggerated fear and exaggerated hostility.” Fear of whom and hostility towards what? Mr. Orton never mentions the words “Soviet Russia” or “Communism”—yet as far as I know the only fear and hostility which Americans now feel are towards Soviet Russia and Communism. Are these fears and hostilities exaggerated—or are they insufficient, considering the nature of our danger?
3. Mr. Orton writes: “We should all prefer to scrap the guns and share the butter (especially in America, where we have more butter than we know what to do with).” Good God, Harry, is this the statement of a defender of free enterprise? When we are on the brink of economic ruin brought about by policies such as the Marshall Plan and other orgies of giving things away—do we have more butter than we know what to do with, and does our salvation lie in some more sharing?
4. After two pages of apocryphal warnings about the possibility of the total extinction of mankind,
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Mr. Orton comes out with what he calls “some categorical observations” on the methods to save ourselves, as follows: “The reporting of events from ‘enemy’ societies has in our time been grotesquely biased.” (!) Is this the great threat to mankind and the first problem of our time? Does our trouble lie in our “biased” reporting about Soviet Russia? If Mr. Orton did not mean Soviet Russia, what other “enemy society” did he have in mind?
5. Mr. Orton objects to our “excessive secrecy” and wants to share our “intellectual, technical and even medical advances” with the “world-community.” If this does not mean giving the atom bomb away to Soviet Russia—what does it mean?
6. Mr. Orton wants us to get “increasingly liberated from the current exigencies of power politics.” Whose power politics? Since Mr. Orton states, in his last paragraph, that we can do all these things “without waiting for every other party to act first,” one must take it to mean that he finds America guilty of power politics. Is the thing going on in Korea power politics on the part of America? Is Mr. Orton accusing America of imperialism?
I am unable to see in what manner Mr. Orton’s message differs from the things advocated by the Communist party line. If this was not his intention, if he had some other message in mind and I missed it, would you tell me please what it was and where to find it in that article? The question that disturbs me most is, of course, why you allowed this article to be published. If you care to, would you tell me why? I hate to criticize THE FREEMAN, but since you asked me to let you know whenever I found anything politically improper in THE FREEMAN, I felt that I had to tell you my reaction to this article and to tell you that I found it more than improper.
This letter is so long that I had better stop it here, except to say that that article is not representative of THE FREEMAN at present, and I do trust that it won’t be in the future.
Would you please send me some copies of the
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re-prints of THE FREEMAN’S credo from the first issue? I get many requests for them and would like to send them out.
With best regards from both of us to you and Frances.
Hazlitt answered that he hadn’t seen the two articles prior to publication but agreed with AR’s analysis.