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Joseph Keller

Portrait of a Red-Baiter

(7 June 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 23, 7 June 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It was made to order for the yellow capitalist press. A well-known member of an American Legion “Americanization” Committee was found dead in a locked hotel room. His face was bruised, his skull fractured. He was reported to have been engaged in “anti-communist investigation,” including “undercover” work for the government.

“It looks like murder,” solemnly stated Police Chief Thomas J. Marks, of Long Branch, N.J., where the body of Harold S. Adamson was found in bed in his room at the Elkwood Hotel. That’s all the newspapers needed. Before any investigation was made their headlines began screaming “Reds” and “Murder.”

Legion Foe of Subversive Groups Found Dead, Believed Murdered, proclaimed the headline in the May 25 N.Y. Times. The N.Y. World-Telegram announced: Anti-Red Link Probed in Legionnaire’s Death. With sundry dark hints, surmises and innuendoes, the Times reported that the victim, “a member of an old Monmouth County family,” had just returned from Washington “after having completed a six-month course on subversive activities.”

But within 24 hours, the press began to dummy up. The big headlines disappeared; small, discreet items carried the news for another day. Then thundering silence. The scene shifts to Long Branch, N.J., to the office of Dr. Julius Toren, who performed the autopsy. Harold S. Adamson, it seems, was a “chronic alcoholic.” His blood, at the time of decease, had an alcoholic content of 2.6 milligrams?

Moreover, local law officials were reluctant to waste their time on the “red” angle. In the first place, John M. Pillsbury, assistant prosecutor of Monmouth County, said he “knew of no registered Communists in the Long Branch area and knew of no red groups working here.” A police official explained: “Adamson has been a notorious drunken brawler in these parts, and we are convinced he died from a blow received earlier in a drunken brawl.”

To top it all, police files showed a record of 15 arrests of Adamson on charges of manslaughter, breaking and entering, adultery, drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Once he was arrested for beating his mother, now dead, and blacking both her eyes.

* * *

What began as a big anti-red spree, wound up with the revealing portrait of a professional red-baiter. We don’t mean to imply that all professional red-baiters beat their mothers. We readily admit that some of them don’t.

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