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The Hollywood Blacklist

November 01, 1987

In reference to your articles on the Hollywood blacklist, I personally have become involved in a disturbing situation which suggests that many writers who were around 40 years ago, even some who went in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, have forgotten the lessons of that era.

I qualified for and was invited to join the Writers Guild of America. I filled out the application completely until I came to the last page. There the applicant is asked whether he or she worked during the WGA strikes of 1981 and 1985 (even if they were not allowed to join the Guild), and if the applicant did work, to "please list the companies for whom you rendered writing services. . . ."

I refused to answer these questions not because they would incriminate me, but because I found them morally reprehensible and an infringement on my constitutional right to privacy. I also felt that the WGA was encouraging its applicants to name the names of producers whose policies the Guild did not approve of.

I was not allowed to join the union because I did not sign this paper. That decision by the Membership Board can only hurt my career. I met with them to argue my point, but they did not change their ruling.

Now I am not suggesting that the WGA's application is as dangerous as HUAC was. HUAC probed the thoughts, opinions, and associations of those who testified in front of it. The WGA is trying to prevent scabs from joining the union.

But it seems to me that the most important lesson of the Hollywood blacklist is that anything remotely similar in substance, form, or spirit to "naming names" is dead wrong--and un-American. It doesn't matter who asks: the government, management, or labor. It doesn't matter the reason: whether to keep a safe country or to keep a safe union. If we as Americans are to prevent anything like the blacklist from happening again, we must take a stand against anybody who asks us to "name names" at any time, under any circumstances.

Considering how so many writers were hurt by HUAC's tactics and the blacklists, it is ironic that the WGA is not sensitive to this issue. I can only offer up my rejected application as a spirited protest against the Guild's policies. The membership of the WGA has the power to change these procedures. I urge them to do so.

MYLES BERKOWITZ

Los Angeles

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