I've been re-reading Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and co-leading a month-long discussion online with a few dozen adults. We discuss every aspect of the play by email. Lots of fun. As anyone who knows the play will remember, George and Martha play a series of always slightly varied games with each other. These are games played to vary the relationship (in part to create sexual excitement through, for instance, role-changing) but also as a means of altering the power dynamic between them. (George married Martha in part because her father is the president of the college where he is a not very successful history professor. So she's got the power but he shifts rules of the games they play in order to challenge those positions; she often likes the rule-shifting because it shows some evidence that George is not entirely flaccid.
So our group was talking about the elaborate games in this play, and I decided to explore the possible connection between what Albee is doing here in this 1962 work and the Cold War rage for game theory. Here is what I wrote to the group this morning:
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Game theory developed rapidly and quite publicly in the period when Albee was first writing plays - in the late 60s. It reached its peak in the early 50s. Gamesmanship, following from militarily-applied gaming scenarios, is largely credited for the White House strategy in dealing with the Cuban missile crisis in the fall of 1962. (Our play was written earlier and produced before the crisis in October that year, but audiences throughout that period would have been quite aware of cold-war versions of gaming as Martha and George engaged in their personal power struggles through ever-varying game scenarios.)
The way George and Martha interact - stepped up, psychological 'warfare'-style games whose rules shift ever more at the brink of danger - has always reminded me of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). This balance required open acknowledgment of each side's strengths and vulnerabilities. However, as "prisoner's dilemma" showed us, both players must assume the other is only concerned with self-interest; therefore, each must limit risk by adopting a dominant strategy.
Homosexuals in government, 1950 Congressional Record, volume 96, part 4, 81st Congress 2nd Session March 29 -- April 24, 1950
ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
Mr. MILLER of Nebraska. Mr. Chairman, I realize that I am discussing a very delicate subject I cannot lay the bones bare like I could before medical colleagues. I would like to strip the fetid, stinking flesh off of this skeleton of homosexuality and tell my colleagues of the House some of the facts of nature. I cannot expose all the putrid facts as it would offend the sensibilities of some of you. It will be necessary to skirt some of the edges, and I use certain Latin terms to describe some of these individuals. Make no mistake several thousand, according to police records, are now employed by the Federal Government.
I offer this amendment to the Vorys amendment in good faith. Recently the spotlight of publicity has been focused not only upon the State Department but upon the Department of Commerce because of homosexuals being employed in these and other departments of Government. Recently Mr. Peurifoy, of the State Department, said he had allowed 91 individuals in the State Department to resign because they were homosexuals. Now they are like birds of a feather, they flock together. Where did they go?
You must know what a homosexual is. It is amazing that in the Capital City of Washington we are plagued with such a large group of those individuals. Washington attracts many lovely folks. The sex crimes in the city are many.
In the Eightieth Congress I was the author of the sex pervert bill that passed this Congress and is now a law in the District of Columbia. It can confine some of these people in St. Elizabeths Hospital for treatment. They are the sex perverts. Some of them are more to be pitied than condemned, because in many it is a pathological condition, very much like the kleptomaniac who must go out and steal, he has that urge; or like the pyromaniac, who goes to bed and wakes up in the middle of the night with an urge to go out and set a fire. He does that. Some of these homosexuals are in that class. Remember there were 91 of them dismissed in the State Department. That is a small percentage of those employed in Government. We learned 2 years ago that there were around 4,000 homosexuals in the District. The Police Department the other day said there were between five and six thousand in Washington who are active and that 75 percent were in Government employment. There are places in Washington where they gather for the purpose of sex orgies, where they worship at the cesspool and flesh pots of iniquity. There is a restaurant downtown where you will find male prostitutes. They solicit business for other male customers. They are pimps and undesirable characters. You will find odd words in the vocabulary of the homosexual. There are many types such as the necrophalia, fettichism, pygmalionism, fellatios, cunnilinguist, sodomatic, pederasty, saphism, sadism, and masochist. Indeed, there are many methods of practices among the homosexuals. You will find those people using the words as, "He is a fish. He is a bull-dicker. He is mamma and he is papa, and punk, and pimp." Yes; in one of our prominent restaurants rug parties and sex orgies go on. Some of those people have been in the State Department, and I understand some of them are now in the other departments. The 91 who were permitted to resign have gone some place, and, like birds of a feather, they flock together. Those people like to be known to each other. They have signs used on streetcars and in public places to call attention to others of like mind. Their rug and fairy parties are elaborate.
So I offer this amendment, and when the time comes for voting upon it, I hope that no one will object. I sometimes wonder how many of these homosexuals have had a part in shaping our foreign policy. How many have been in sensitive positions and subject to blackmail. It is a known fact that homosexuality goes back to the Orientals, lone before the time of Confucius; that the Russians are strong believers in homosexuality, and that those same people are able to get into the State Department and get somebody in their embrace, and once they are in their embrace, fearing blackmail, will make them go to any extent. Perhaps if all the facts were known these same homosexuals have been used by the Communists.
I realize that there is some physical danger to anyone exposing all of the details and nastiness of homosexuality, because some of these people are dangerous. They will go to any limit. These homosexuals have strong emotions. They are not to be trusted and when blackmail threatens they are a dangerous group.
The Army at one time gave these individuals a dishonorable discharge and later changed the type of discharge. They are not knowingly kept in Army service. They should not be employed in Government. I trust both sides of the aisle will support the amendment.
Photo: George A. Dondero
Mr. DONDERO. Was there any evidence or testimony before the gentleman's committee with respect to the number of people who were separated from the service in the Department of State who had later acquired positions in other departments of Government? I refer to those whose employment was considered a security risk. Was anything said before your committee on that subject?
Mr. CLEVENGER. I will say to the gentleman, I brought that question up a year ago, as to whether the other departments would be alerted so that they might not hire these--we can name them now--these homosexuals. Until the Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Peurifoy, made that word public over in the other body, we had insufficient information so far as the committee was concerned and could not tell you. In reply to my question we were informed they were not, and unofficially we were told, or at least I was told, that they have been employed in other sections of the Government, at least most of them were.
Mr. DONDERO. The reason I asked that question is that I made inquiry by letter to find out where these people went and whether they are now employed by our Government and I have not yet received a reply giving me any information on the subject.
At Franklin & Marshall's Writers House on March 10, 2010: A Lecture and Conversation: Al Filreis on "Some Poems of the Cold War: The Tranquilized 50s".At Franklin & Marshall's Writers House on March 10, 2010: A Lecture and Conversation: Al Filreis on "Some Poems of the Cold War: The Tranquilized 50s". "Come out from under your desks. In this hands-on session, Al Filreis will present several poems to explore together with participants within the milieu of the Cold War culture. Filreis is a Kelly Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, the founder and Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania, and Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing. Filreis is the author of 5 books on poetry, as well as numerous academic articles and essays. This event is free and open to the public." More...
At a conference on Totalitarianism held at the American Academcy of Arts and Sciences in 1953 (proceedings published in 1954, edited by Carl J. Friedrich), David Reisman (author of The Lonely Crowd and other books), who was one of the speakers at the conference, put forward his elaborate plan for a "nylon war" that would cater to the ordinary human appetites behind the Iron Curtain by bombarding the Russians with luscious consumer goods.
Ah, academic conferences in the 50s! Don't you wish the social sciences were into stuff like this now?