Steven Spielberg has emerged in Hollywood as an authority on the Holocaust. This year, during the Academy Awards, he won for best director for the movie Saving Private Ryan, about the Americans who sacrificed their lives and limbs to stop Hitler. Through a foundation, he?s underwriting the filming of the personal testaments of those who suffered under Nazism. Thousands have been recorded so that future generations will never forget what happened. Spielberg was also responsible for Schindler?s List, a great film that also described the horrors of the Holocaust.
That?s why we were surprised to see Spielberg give polite applause—but no standing ovation—when famed director Elia Kazan was given a special lifetime achievement award during the Academy Awards ceremony. Kazan was being honored for his role in such celebrated films as On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, and East of Eden, but the reaction in the audience was being viewed as a commentary on where Hollywood stands on those who told the truth about an international conspiracy far greater in scale than Hitler and the Nazis—communism.
Like millions of others, we were dependent on ABC?s coverage of the awards to see how those in the audience reacted. Perhaps we missed something, but it appeared that Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw, were sitting in their chairs and applauding. That?s much better than those, like actor Nick Nolte, who sat on their hands. But they did not appear to join those, like actor Karl Malden, who stood and applauded Kazan. It appeared that a majority of the audience did stand and applaud.
Leaving his film credits aside, Kazan deserved a standing ovation for his anti-communism alone. Back in 1952, he had the courage and integrity to name eight Communists before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In the best tradition of a whistleblower, he told the truth about what he called a “dangerous and alien conspiracy” – communism. Furthermore, he declared that “any American who is in possession of such facts has the obligation to make them known, either to the public or the appropriate government agency.”
An obligation to make them known still applies to Hollywood and Spielberg in particular. It is time for Spielberg to do some ground-breaking films about the legacy of communism. According to the Black Book of Communism, the communists have killed as many as 100 million people in this century, 65 million in China alone. Rather than being dead, Communism still exists and thrives, in countries such as China, Cuba, and North Korea. Indeed, the U.S. still has 35,000 troops deployed in South Korea to deter the Communist North from launching an attack. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela is scheduled to step down, to hand over the presidency to Thabo Mbeki, a one-time communist. In Angola, a communist regime is still consolidating its power.
This is not the time for waffling about communism in Hollywood or anywhere else. Kazan spoke the truth about the communists almost fifty years ago, but it?s not too late for Spielberg and others to continue his truth-telling.