The first example in SOC comes from the film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” so I couldn’t resist passing along this post, “Old FBI memo: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is commie propaganda,” from Apparently, according to an FBI file from 1947, government officials suspected that the film was communist propoganda. The boingboing post points to a blog post located a Wise Bread [link], which includes a link to the text of the FBI document.

The Wise Bread post also links to a press release that provides analysis from Professor John Noakes and reports themes the FBI watched for while analyzing films for possible communist sympathies:

In searching for subversive frames in Hollywood films, the FBI set up three categories of “common devices that were used to turn non-political pictures into carriers of political propaganda.” These devices included smearing values or institutions judged to be particularly American, such as wealth, free enterprise and the profit motive; glorifying values or institutions judged to be particularly anti-American, such as failure or the triumph of the common man; and making casual references to current events that belittled American political institutions.

The press release goes on to claim that the FBI concluded that the film was guilty of the first two themes:

“According to the FBI, “It’s A Wonderful Life” fit into the first two categories,” said Noakes.

The casting of Lionel Barrymore as a “scrooge-type” resulted in the loathsome Mr. Potter becoming the most hated person in the film. According to the official FBI report, “this was a common trick used by the communists.”

And, the triumph of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) represented the triumph of the common man, thus satisfying the second condition.

I confess to being amazed that the “triumph of the common man” theme would be seen as suspicious as it is so often portrayed as at the heart of the American Dream (e.g. Horatio Alger, rags-to-riches, etc.)