Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Paranoia - more of a rant than a gaming post

Swords and Stitchery linked to a free comic 'Atomic War #1' from 1952 as a resource for post-apocalyptic RPGs.  Now, I'm not a big fan of the genre, although I've played Morrow Project, nor am I into comics at all.  But I leafed through it online, and it followed the classic good, smart, American vs bad, stupid, Communist story lines I remembered from a stash of old post-Korean War comic books I had found as a kid.  I mean you're not talking high brow complex plots or incredible art here.

But what struck me in the article was a a quote from Scott Shaw at Oddball Comics: “This is one of many comics that reflected our national paranoia during the Cold War of the 1950s and early 1960s."

Why is 1950's America always described as paranoid [about Communists]? It has occurred to me for quite a few years now that that description shows a remarkably anachronistic - and patronizing - view of history.  Anachronistic in that in order to understand why a decision was made you need to evaluate the information available to the decision maker at the time.   And the information at the time was pretty grim, The UN (not just the US, the USSR had boycotted a Security Council meeting and so was unable to veto the resolution that brought whole organization onboard in resisting the North Korean aggression) was at war against communist North Korea, armed with modern Russian jets.  The Republic of China had been toppled by an internal Communist insurgency in '49.In '48, the Berlin Airlift had kept West Berlin free after the Russians had cut all road and rail links between the Western Occupation Zones and the city.  Word was slowly filtering out about the effects of forced collectivization and the Gulag. All of Eastern Europe was being set up with their own one party Communist states.  In Greece, Communists had fought a civil war against the government from '46 - '49; everywhere you looked communism was advancing and the modus operendi was perceived to be internal subversion.

Now I'm not defending Senator McCarthy's inquisition here; that was an exercise in group think and suppression of dissenting opinion - which we see enough of today.  What I am saying is that childish characterizations of an entire era are as shallow and vapid as the comic book was.

BTW it occurs to me that a pre-apocalyptic RPG, where the characters have to run around in a milieu of fear, uncertainty and doubt, to stop the nukes from dropping might be a blast with the right group.

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