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Reds! Reds everywhere! Or the strange tale of the Communist messages in a mural at La Guardia Airport April 26, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, The Left.


I’m reading Cockpit Confidential, an entertaining book on air travel and transport by pilot Patrick Smith. Full marks to him for name checking David Foster Wallace and Husker Du in the first 50 or so pages and for giving a comprehensive insight into just how 21st century aircraft (well, quite a few 20th century) operate as safely as they do – albeit he has numerous criticisms of the system.

But he also mentions in passing this (takes a while for the site to lose), a mural by artist James Brooks completed in (I think) the 1940s at LaGuardia airport under the WPA programme which in the 1950s was covered up supposedly because of its ‘Communist’ inflected meanings…

In the Business Insider piece, which is pretty sympathetic, it demonstrates just how ‘progressive’ thinking… well, look, read on:

I’m no art historian, nor a scholar of the classics, but I know enough to recognize the references to Icarus and Daedalus, to DaVinci and the Wright brothers, and to the prewar aviators who navigated the seas with little to guide them but a compass, dead reckoning and the stars. In the representation of an ordinary man and woman, with the woman holding binoculars, I saw why someone might have felt uneasy amid the Cold War paranoia – because Brooks portrayed flight as being important for the common citizen and not just society’s military, business and political elites. Not a socialist thought, necessarily, but pretty far ahead of his time.


1. Starkadder - April 26, 2014

Somewhat ironic that the mural was eventually restored ath
the behalf of the fiercely anti-communist Dewitt Wallace ….


Starkadder - April 26, 2014

Sorry, that should read “at the behest of”.


2. Patrick Smith - April 26, 2014

Thanks for the mention of my book. Though I’d somewhat disagree that I mention the Brooks mural only “in passing.” There’s a fairly thorough description of it. You might also enjoy my photos of the mural, here…



WorldbyStorm - April 28, 2014

Apologies, “in passing” in the sense of the totality of the book, you do indeed devote a solid amount of space to it. Thanks for the photos. Still working through the book and enjoying it. Further kudos for the Clash and Jam references 🙂


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