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Sunday, October 27, 2002

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Instantman links to this Fox News story about the 50th anniversary of the founding of Mad magazine.

HAPPY FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY TO ALFRED E. NEUMAN -- and a lesson for those who claim that they're being "suppressed" today:

It is hard to believe, in this new millennium, when satire and cultural criticism, most of it witless and inept, drip from virtually all of society's pores, that there was once an era when subversive humor was as hard to find as a winning lottery ticket. The era was the 1950s, the gray flannel fifties, and Mad magazine, which began publishing early in the decade, was so subversive that the FBI actually investigated it, sometimes sending agents to visit the editors and, in the words of an FBI document, "firmly and severely admonish them."

Mad's reaction was to draw funny cartoons of J. Edgar Hoover.

On Friday night I caught part of a WWII-era short on Turner Classic Movies. They use them to fill in between movies, if necessary. Golly, I love these. They reveal so much more than they intended. (A couple nights ago I saw part of a short on THE FUTURE! Do you know that in THE FUTURE! we will be able to cook foods with radiofrequencies? Yes!)

Anyhow, this short was a cautionary film of the "loose lips sink ships" variety. Those usually warned people to watch what they say about troop movements, etc, but this was a little different. The film showed a man at a bar ranting to the bartender, while two men at a table nearby tried not to look like they were eavesdropping. The man at the bar says something of the nature, "Blah blah blah our allies are unreliable blah blah blah Brits will fight to the last drop of American blood blah blah blah and those Bolshies don't get me started blah..." One of the men at the table says, "I must tell the boys in the boardroom," and they leave immediately. After they're gone, the blabber and the bartender exchange a hearty "Heil, Hitler." They're Nazzy agitators!

Come to think of it, the message isn't really clear. Is it: "Don't criticize the war effort because it will damage morale"? Or is it: "Don't listen to people criticize the war effort because it will damage morale"? Either way, it makes today's jackbooted dissent-crushers look like Abbie Hoffman.

(This short also has a clip of a Roosevelt speech assuring Americans that they are not "soft", and that the current generation is capable of the same heroism that their ancestors were. It was very, very strange hearing that over shots of WWII soldiers, the same guys whose deeds seem so extraordinary today.)