Wilson becomes a Liberal

Cosmic Trigger volume 2 is rich in historical and biographical detail – one good example being the chapter titled “Wilson Becomes a Liberal”:

“Uncle Mick’s anti-semitism now seemed embarrassing to me (I wished he wasn’t a relative) but his angry cynicism about official government propaganda and the horrors he saw in World War I had left a mark on my mind. I furtively read the loathed and forbidden ‘revisionist’ historians – especially Charles Beard, James J. Martin and Harry Elmer Barnes – and decided that liberals were right about most things but not about how capitalist wars get started.”

RAW then goes on to write that he started reading Orson Welles’s column in the New York Post. At the time, Welles was in semi-exile from Hollywood – RAW adds that one of his civics teachers told him that this was because the Hearst family had never forgiven Orson for Citizen Kane.

The New York Post was owned by banking heiress Dorothy Schiff, who apparently shared some of Welles’s liberal political outlook (she sold the newspaper to Rupert Murdoch in 1976). Orson used his column to express his views on US and foreign politics, and this didn’t make him many friends (recall that the FBI thought of him as a Communist at the time). His column ran from January to November, 1945.

In 2015, the New York Post published an article, ‘Why Orson Welles failed as a Post columnist’, which includes some downloads of scans of the original Welles columns. These are very difficult to read, even when magnified, as the text is small and low-resolution. But here’s a brief excerpt from Orson’s third column (Jan 24, 1945):

Little Known Fact Department: The fascist salute was invented by the Hollywood film director, Mr. C. B. DeMille. There is no record that any of the Caesars were hailed by the now famous stiff-armed gesture. It first appeared in a silent movie, “the Eternal City.” As a matter of fact, a great part of the pomp and pageantry of Fascist spectacles is just so much Cecil B. DeMillinery.”

Another nugget from RAW’s recollections is his reference to a film called The Stringless Yo-Yo, a documentary film made by Harvey Matusow, who made a living outing people as Communists he’d known while in the Party – before eventually confessing that he’d never actually been in the Communist Party and had made it up (he went to jail for perjury, after which he made the film about his exploits). RAW heartily recommends the documentary “to anyone who wants to understand how politics works”. A fascinating story – but the film, alas, seems unavailable.

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