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“Oppenheimer” Distorts Cold War History

Oppenheimer won seven Oscars on Sunday night.

Hollywood was thrilled that a tedious three-hour-long movie attracted both critical support and raked in nearly $1 billion at the box office. Too bad the premise of the movie is untrue.

A central premise of the film — that atomic bomb scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer’s career was unfairly curtailed after the 1954 revocation of his security clearance — doesn’t hold up to even the paltry standards of Hollywood history. As Neal Freeman who knew some of the players in the drama writes, “Robert Oppenheimer was, beyond the slightest of all possible doubts, a security risk. The security-review panel was far from the gross miscarriage of justice that the movie depicts.”

Kai Bird, the Oppenheimer biographer whose work the movie was based on, has made clear where its politics are. He believes  “the highly divisive state of US politics today can be directly traced to the 1950s McCarthyite witch hunts that brought down suspected Communist sympathizers including Oppenheimer.”  This is the thinking of the same revisionists who still insist that the infamous Rosenberg Soviet spies were innocent. (Oops, this is probably Hollywood’s next blockbuster.)

Oppenheimer was a hero for his work on the bomb that ended WW2, but he was also a dues-paying member of the Communist Party of the United States. The Venona files, Soviet cable traffic from the 1940s that was decrypted by the National Security Agency and released starting in 1995, confirm this. Oppenheimer was mentioned as an unlisted member of the American Communist Party in a Soviet intelligence document dated January 7, 1946.

For decades Hollywood has refused to acknowledge the security risks associated with Soviet sympathizers and spies during the Cold War. This is no doubt in part because, in the 1940s and 1950s, so many Hollywood producers and writers were avowed Stalin supporters and propagandists even as he was butchering millions of Jews and anti-communists. They have blood on their hands.

Will Hollywood ever produce a movie admitting that?

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