The 1950s — Red Scare Not Confined to Red Square, Part 4
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when open gambling along the Tunnel Strip was the hottest story under the sun….the Lafayette Sun, that is. A special issue of the Hollywood Reporter was circulated throughout this area, debunking revelations of illegal—or, at least, shady doings—brought to light by Sun Publisher Herman Silverman. He asked who paid the big bucks to print the issue; and wondered why Hollywood Reporter’s editor, Jimmy Tarantino, cared about Silverman’s expose.
In reply, Tarantino produced a second issue of the H.R. with a cover story centered on Silverman himself: “Sun Publisher Under Surveillance As Communist.” The story inside gave the scoop.
“Herman Silverman, civic-minded publisher of the Sun, should watch out when hurling the wolf cry at the masses. It would be best for him to analyze his own … background before he tries to bolster his… circulation [and position himself] as protector of the populace.
“It is alleged that Herman Silverman, since his student days at Stanford University in ’40,’41,’42, was very much interested in the philosophy of the Russian Kremlin. And to date, it is also reported that his leanings are still in that direction. He is currently being investigated to sift out the ashes and bring some of the live RED coals out in the open. When the full reports reach this columnist’s office, THEY WILL BE PRINTED. It is evident that he might also be using a Communist tactic with his campaign by arousing people to a pitch. By that time he can play with them at will, regardless of printed lie. Communists always seek typical American strongholds to invade.
“What can be better for someone like Silverman (who bought the Sun 2 ½ years ago) to strike at highly rated Contra Costa County? This man who worked in a metropolitan city like San Francisco suddenly decided to buy into Contra Costa. Why? Who sent him? Where does a man working as a reporter on a San Francisco newspaper acquire enough money to buy a newspaper? What group is backing him? Could they be Kremlinites?
“Herman Silverman, who used three editions to rouse peaceable communities with a pack of lies (he has yet to prove anything), is working right in line with Communistic code of aggression. Communism has a master plan to create dissention and hatred. Thereafter, the people become tools.
“The erstwhile publisher …headlined last week’s edition ‘SUN ASKS F.B.I. TO INVESTIGATE.’ This headline alone is enough to make people believe something awful is going on. He mailed the F.B.I. issues of the Sun and a letter. This is the most stupid formal complaint against gangsterism ever witnessed by this columnist.”
Intrepid columnist Tarantino claimed to have checked with the F.B.I. and learned that the agency is “not interested in the case because they’re aware that Chicago gangsters never appeared in Orinda and that NO GANGSTER MEETING TOOK PLACE IN ORINDA.” He claimed that “the F.B.I. resents that Silverman used their agency in a headline when no proof was evident, thereby striking unnecessary fear into the hearts of Orinda families who probably thought the town was invaded by machine guns and killers.
“There is discussion at the F.B.I. agency about the town’s only newspaper who dared hurl a fake kidnapping on the public of a friendly town with the impact of an atom bomb. Dana McGaugh, who admits he was hitch-hiking on that fateful night of his faked kidnapping, must have taken a shot in the arm to concoct so unrealistic a story. The best thing Herman Silverman and Dana McGaugh can do to right themselves with the citizens of Lafayette and Orinda would be for them to submit to a lie detector. That needle would go off in crazy gyrations no doubt. …Silverman and McGaugh has better clean up their own quarters.
“Orinda does not have mobster gamblers in its midst, nor does it have prostitution, smoke-filled vice dens or shootings. The only place where anything irregular goes on in Orinda is among certain individuals associated with the Sun.”
This excerpt from the 1950 Lafayette Sun provides a hometown glimpse into the Red scare practice of labeling (and libeling) someone a Communist. We’ve probably heard of it, but likely never witnessed it so close to home.
The story will continue…….