History

"Make Mine Freedom"

|

"This Cold War-era cartoon uses humor to tout the dangers of Communism and the benefits of capitalism." Enjoy the glorious Technicolor cartoon production by Harding College, complete with a snake oil salesman hawking "ism"s and lots of catcalls at hot (animated) 1940s babes.

Via Alina Stefanescu

NEXT: Duck Soup

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Ah, how quaint. Look at the way the “Labor” character is supposed to be an actual American, instead of one of the Snake Oil Salesman’s shills.

    Clearly a product of an earlier time.

  2. “Clearly a product of an earlier time.”

    Yeah when Labor was run by people like Lane Kirkland.

  3. “lots of catcalls at hot (animated) 1940s babes”

    Yeah apparently back then, the right to a speedy and public trial meant four guys in a jury box catcalling a hot babe. WTF was that about?

  4. However cheesy it is, it’s still pretty damn good. Idealistic? Propaganda? Certainly. But it hits the nail on the head about what America’s supposed to be like, what we aspire to be, and that’s good enough for me.

    I especially like the part where America’s wealth is touted as a good thing, rather than ipso facto evidence that we’re robbing the rest of the world blind. 🙂

  5. Hmmmm. Grandpa had a lot of money under his mattress. Pretty suspicious. “Possession of a large sum of cash is ‘strong evidence’ of a connection to drug activity[.]” United States v. $ 124,700, 458 F.3d 822 (8th Cir. 2006). The money should probably be forfeited to the government, not invested.

    And that guy who wouldn’t let the cops search his house out without a warrant? Unless he’s got something to hide, why does he care?

    I’d like to see an updated version of this cartoon made by Bushy conservatives. Rick Santorum could narrate.

  6. I imagine that today’s freedom is in roughly the same condition as a 50’s Go Go dancer grown old. Hot stuff back in the day, but all that’s really left to show for it are memories, stories, and bravado.

    Take it away Wendell:

    “No free people can lose their liberties while they are jealous of liberty. But the liberties of the freest people are in danger when they set up symbols of liberty as fetishes, worshiping the symbol instead of the principle it represents.”
    ~Wendell Phillips from “Liberty and the Great Libertarians”

  7. “Yeah when Labor was run by people like Lane Kirkland.”

    Because Jimmy Hoffa Junior is such a revolutionary socialist. Or something.

  8. The thing about the video most surprising to me was that Harding College sponsored a production that showed adolescents dancing. It reminded me of the joke: why do members of Churches of Christ not make love standing up? Because someone might think they were dancing.

  9. *builds statue to David “Grylliade”

    well spake!

  10. Excellent stuff.

    Unfortunately viewing it made me think more than previously that, as Virginia Postrel has pointed out, the problem today isn’t “isms”. Hardly anybody is trying to convince people these days, as opposed to in those days, of any systematic replacement for freedom. Rather, it seems that freedom has itself become an “ism”.

  11. “Yeah apparently back then, the right to a speedy and public trial meant four guys in a jury box catcalling a hot babe. WTF was that about?”

    Perhaps it’s a statement about the beauty of a independent judiciary or emmm something.

  12. It’s worth noting that the film was made by a couple of young animators named William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

  13. “Rather, it seems that freedom has itself become an “ism”.”

    They hate our freedomism. Freedomists are on the march. The war against unfreedomists.

    I likee.

  14. Jesse, I was about to comment on how much I loved the animation, and now I know why. Terrifically done!

    I was actually surprised how meaty the message was. Seems to me most preachy propaganda shorts don’t actually communicate much of anything.

  15. Its interesting that one of the things they warned against at the end was “race hatred”. Thats suprising considering it was made in the late ’40s.

  16. Heh. Glorious. A classic.

    Nice to see it wasn’t all “Reefer Madness” back then.

  17. Cesar,

    There actually was a quite a bit of race hatred in a certain anti-American ideology from the 1940s.

  18. Sounds like Frank Nelson (“Yesss?”) voiced the salesman.

  19. I’m not sure concentration camps for politicians is such a bad idea. Meanwhile, anybody know where I can get a new carburetor for a ’47 Dokesmobile?


  20. There actually was a quite a bit of race hatred in a certain anti-American ideology from the 1940s.”

    Yeah, and there was also quite a bit in a certain section of the United States.

  21. joe,

    You may have committed a Godwin violation, though I’m not sure what your point was.

  22. Cesar,

    “Yeah, and there was also quite a bit in a certain section of the United States.”

    Yes, but in film from the 1940s about rejecting foreign “isms,” the reference is pretty clearly to the Nazis.

    No doubt, the creators were concerned about American racism feeding into such an ideology, but that’s clearly the direction they were approaching it from.

  23. They hate our freedomism. Freedomists are on the march. The war against unfreedomists.

    Freedomism isn’t freedom.

  24. freedom:freedomism::truth:truthy?

  25. Freedom = Liberty?

    Freedomism = libertarianism?

    All isms are bad?

  26. I’m always good for a wolf whistle over hot 40’s babes.

    I’d be interested in a response from Brian Doherty. This, and that other ‘how capitalism works and makes this country great’ cartoon (maybe from the 60’s, you remember, I’m pretty sure it was the inspiration for the underwear gnomes). How do these cartoons, fit into his ‘Libertarianism was the stuff of lunatics’ thesis.

  27. Yes, but in film from the 1940s about rejecting foreign “isms,” the reference is pretty clearly to the Nazis.

    Even a film made in 1948?

  28. The warning against “those who seek to divide us” by “preaching race hatred” surely refers to the way that the left claimed that racism was inherent to capitalism and socialism was a solution to racism.

    The right were rather touchy on this point. If they had been able to instead take a lead on attacking racism themselves contemporary society might have managed to get by with fewer racial hangups.

  29. Neu Mejican,

    The assumption is that our system is “natural,” while its competitors are ideologies.

    Just as Marx thought that his vision of socialism was natural, and it was only ideology that caused people to believe in private property and the right of businessowners to keep the profits created by their employees’ labor.

    Recognizing that our own beliefs are an ideology as well is a rather recent develpment.

    “All men are created equal” – no ideology there! It’s just “self-evident.” The fact that it wasn’t self-evident for the first 8000 years of human civilization…nevermind about that.

  30. Clearly a product of an earlier time.

    Yeah, back when the average union member wasn’t a government worker.

  31. D.A.R.,

    In 1948, we still had hundreds of thousands of troops garrisoning western Europe, and were still showing them “Know Your Enemy” films about the Germans and their Fuhrers. And, of course, there had been the Bund and other fascist groups in the very recent past.

    JK, I disagree. The left didn’t “preach” racial hatred – it denounced racial hatred.

  32. “Yeah, back when the average union member wasn’t a government worker.”

    No, back when disagreement between labor and management – and even the right of labor to argue for its interest – were accepted as the normal functioning of a modern economy. Back when trying to eliminate this argument by destroying the power of one side was considered an example of “foreign doubletalk,” rather than the accepted creed of American conservatism.

  33. Every reference I’ve found about the film labels it as a Cold War reaction to communism. Apparently, the film was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as one of a series promoting free enterprise over communism to be shown in factories and such. I found nary a reference to viewings by U.S. troops overseas at the end of WWII.

  34. Its interesting that one of the things they warned against at the end was “race hatred”. Thats suprising considering it was made in the late ’40s.

    Breeze through the Prelinger archives and you’ll find a lot of other films with that type of message. People weren’t as back-assward evil and you would think.

  35. D.A.R.,

    Read that again – I didn’t say they were showing this film to GIs overseas. I said they were showing “Know Your Enemy” films to troops overseas.

    “Every reference I’ve found about the film labels it as a Cold War reaction to communism.” The communists weren’t preaching race hatred – just the opposite, they were denouncing racism, and denouncing capitalism and imperialism (defined as they chose to define them) as racist.

    Including that term (and the snake oil salesman promising “record profits” to the businessman) seem to be anti-fascist messages, though whether this was out of a deliberate anti-fascist message, or was put in to achieve ideological balance and make it more appealing to lefties, I couldn’t really say. Either way, those two referernces make no sense as an anti-communist message.

  36. joe, I understood what you wrote. I also know, as you must if you bother to look, that the readily available evidence is strongly against your interpretation. Knowing you to be such a stickler for the facts, I thought I’d bring that to your attention.

  37. “joe, I understood what you wrote.” No, clearly not. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have made that error when you tried to repeat what I wrote.

    “I also know, as you must if you bother to look, that the readily available evidence is strongly against your interpretation.” The “readily available evidence” being, what, exactly? Oh, I see – how it is “labelled.” O.K., since you’ve asserted that the film has been labeled a certain way, I guess it makes perfect sense that they were warning us about communists when they told us to look out for people preaching “racial hatred” and promising “record profits” to business. No need to think about those problems. You’ve seen the film labeled.

    You know, if you had a counter-argument, you would have made it.

  38. joe writes:

    ‘JK, I disagree. The left didn’t “preach” racial hatred – it denounced racial hatred.’

    I agree that the left did not preach racial hatred. My point is that this cartoon is equating denouncing racism with preaching racial hatred.

  39. Sure, the left didn’t preach racial hatred, they just locked undesirable races out of union jobs and rioted until undesirable races were run out of town so they wouldn’t have to compete with them for jobs.

    I’m not saying that the left was completely racist, but I am saying that they were never completely anti-racist.

  40. JK,

    Maybe, but I didn’t interpret it that way.

    “…equating denouncing racism with preaching racial hatred” was a very right-wing, reactionary idea, even then. I wouldn’t expect to see that idea put forward, much less without some kind of support, in a film that made such an effort not to take sides between labor and management.

  41. Rimfax,

    Why are you saying that at all?

    Because it seems waaaaaayyyyyy OT. Am I missing some relevance to the movie, or did you just feel the need to post something anti-left?

  42. The assumption is that our system is “natural,” while its competitors are ideologies.

    You must be aware that the founders weren’t trying to create a “capitalist” system, but rather a constrained government that mostly left people alone (relative to most other governments in history)…as opposed to the forcible establishment of communism by communists, fascism by fascists, and nationalist socialism by the Nazis.
    It was Marx that provided the label “capitalism”.

    Seeking to profit from ones endeavors is a natural behavior of humans.

  43. uncle sam,

    “You must be aware that the founders weren’t trying to create a “capitalist” system…” No, a democratic, enlightened, free one – with each of those terms defined by their ideology. That they saw the reduction of force by the government in areas like protectionism and religion as desireable was part of their ideology. Read any Jefferson or Hamilton, and you can find quite a bit of ideology. An ideology I agree with, but an ideology nonetheless.

    But we’re in agreement that the didn’t see THEIR ideology as an ideology. That was my point.

    “Seeking to profit from ones endeavors is a natural behavior of humans.” The belief that the government should exist to further these endevours – even if just by enforcing the property rights of individual citizens – is an ideological belief.

  44. No, not clearly not. I understood you weren’t saying that the film in question was being shown overseas. I also understood its irrelevance except in the context of someone needing to find any shred of context that could support his own, in this particular case, apparently ideology driven and obviously erroneous attempt at revisionism. I never contended the film was itself ideologically or historically consistent or that, being itself a piece of propaganda, it may not have leveled charges against (its principal focus of) communism that might more accurately have been leveled at fascism. I merely questioned your nether-region-plucked bald assertion that regarding the race hatred comment “the reference is pretty clearly to the Nazis” in a film made in 1948.

    Clearly in your head, perhaps. Not, however, at all clearly the intent of the filmmaker. One doesn’t need a counter-argument to a factual dispute. One only needs better evidence. Your only evidence is “it doesn’t make sense otherwise,” but it’s a piece of propaganda, not a friggin’ doctoral dissertation.

    joe, you’re sounding like the actor who takes Blanche Dubois away at the end of “Streetcar Named Desire” who, when asked what the play was about, answered “ambulance drivers.”

    .

  45. “Seeking to profit from ones endeavors is a natural behavior of humans.” The belief that the government should exist to further these endevours – even if just by enforcing the property rights of individual citizens – is an ideological belief.

    Any belief system is definitionally ideological. However, a belief system that attempts to thwart reality will fail in implementation.
    Thus, the idea that government should be limited may be ideological, but the manifestations of natural human behavior are simply what they are.

    Much like ecologists may believe natural ecologies should be left alone (an ideology) the result of an unmolested ecology is an unmolested ecology, not an ideologically constructed system.

  46. The film is really quite stupid actually. What it appears to be an example of is the sociological theory known as “structural functionalism,” which I’ve never bought into.

  47. “The communists weren’t preaching race hatred – just the opposite, they were denouncing racism,…”

    Stalin had it out for the Jews, and his timely death may have prevented a large-scale cleansing of the USSR. One might ascribe this to an overall anti-semitic climate/culture in that region at the time, but Uncle Joe’s regime was communist nonetheless.

  48. B.P.,

    True enough, although almost every group in Russia had it in for the Jews: Bolsheviks, Cossacks, the czar, the serfs. If it wasn’t for the pre-Revolutionary pogroms that drove my Jewish relatives from the Ukraine, I wouldn’t be here today.

    The difference between a free, capitalist society and a totalitarian one is that the latter wants to eradicate the Jews, while the former just wants to keep them out of country clubs, executive positions not related to entertainment, and Presidential elections.

  49. So much vehmence, D.A. Still no facts. Awfully light for a “factual” dispute.

  50. BP,

    That’s actually a pretty well know event, but not exactly a part of the creed of communism. This movie was an offensive in the battle of ideas, and anti-semitism and other forms of race hatred were not, nor were they widely perceived to be, part of the idea system of communism.

  51. joe,

    Have you heard of the Communist-supported white miners’ strike in South Africa, 1922? The strike where the white miners opposed the hiring of black workers? The strike where one sign read “Workers of the world unite for a white South Africa?”

    Don’t take my word for it, look it up at this commie link:

    http://tinyurl.com/2vk2uv

  52. Damn, I love this stuff. “Atomic Cafe,” anyone?

  53. Marx’s “On The Jewish Question” contains passages which would be regarded as anti-Jewish if uttered by a Republican. Not to mention that, as explained in this commentary, Marx said that Judaism would be abolished when the government abolished freedom of religion and private property (which is what Marx wanted, of course):

    http://www.answers.com/topic/on-the-jewish-question

  54. “LONDON (Reuters) – Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky said he is planning a revolution in Russia to topple President
    Vladimir Putin, in comments published on Friday.

    “We need to use force to change this regime,” Berezovsky, who has received asylum in Britain, told the Guardian newspaper.

    “It isn’t possible to change this regime through democratic means. There can be no change without force, pressure.”

    Asked if he was fomenting a revolution, he said: “You are absolutely correct.”

    Berezovsky, a vocal critic of Putin, said he was in contact with members of Russia’s political elite.

    He said these people — who he did not name because, he said, that would endanger their lives — shared his opinion that Putin was eroding democratic reforms, centralizing power and infringing Russia’s constitution, according to the Guardian.

    “There is no chance of regime change through democratic elections,” Berezovsky said.

    “If one part of the political elite disagrees with another part of the political elite — that is the only way in Russia to change the regime. I try to move that.”

    The businessman said he was offering his “experience and ideology” to his contacts, adding: “There are also practical steps which I am doing now, and mostly it is financial.”

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned the comments as a criminal offence and hoped they would prompt questions about Berezovsky’s refugee status in Britain, the Guardian said.

    “In accordance with our legislation (his remarks are) being treated as a crime. It will cause some questions from the British authorities to Mr Berezovsky,” Peskov was quoted as saying. “We want to believe that official London will never grant asylum to someone who wants to use force to change the regime in Russia.””

  55. Mad Max,

    Well, one can also look at Marx’s generally positive thoughts on the domination of India by Britain. They aren’t the sorts of comments that most modern-day liberals could get behind.

  56. Grotius,

    I was focusing more narrowly on whether commies inflame racial hatreds, per the cartoon. Supporting a white-supremacist strike would do that. So would boasting that one’s policies (suppressing religion and private property) would abolish Judaism as we know it.

  57. Yes, Mad Max, a lot of people in the past were more racist than most Americans are today. Even those who joined unions or criticized capitalism.

    Many of those miners and Marxists were creationists, too. So what? Neither of those things are part of communist ideology, any more than the drug war is part of capitalist ideology.

  58. I especially like the part where America’s wealth is touted as a good thing, rather than ipso facto evidence that we’re robbing the rest of the world blind. 🙂

    It probably would have made a different impression on a 1940s audience if the laborer had been cast as, oh, say, a coolie, and the farmer was an employee of the same tycoon as the laborer. I must not think bad thoughts.

    Little known fact:

    The scene where the narrator says to the investors:

    “That makes you capitalists [pause] don’t blush, it is not a bad word.”

    originally was:

    –That means you have sold yourselves to [pause] OH. MY. GOD.–
    *4 investors shed skin to reveal four identical clones of the foreign medicine salesman*

    The original version didn’t test well.

  59. Mad Max,

    That being said, sans the CPUSA, the “Scottsboro Boys” chances of dying in the electric chair would have increased dramatically.

    Then again just about everyone forgot about them once they were let out or escaped.

    Of course it is a crying shame that there isn’t a museum, etc. dealing with the “Scottsboro Boys” in Scottsboro, AL. At least I’ve never seen one.

  60. “The assumption is that our system is `natural,’ while its competitors are ideologies.”

    “Recognizing that our own beliefs are an ideology as well is a rather recent development.”

    That was what I meant above, except that I don’t think it’s as much a slow realiz’n as the fact that the situation has actually changed. It appears that at the time the film (which is excellent IMO) was made, freedom was thought of as the natural order in the USA because in terms of people’s thinking about it, it was. That is, it really was not an ideology at the time, it was just common sense.

    However, the film opened my eyes to the fact that the situation has changed since then — that just inertia and common sense are no longer on the side of freedom. Freedom has actually become an -ism in that it has to be promoted now.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.