Retrotechtacular: Blue Collar, Red Nightmare

This week’s presentation is a well-cast piece of anti-Communist propaganda perpetrated by a division of the DoD that you’ve probably never heard of: the Directorate for Armed Forces Information and Education.

It’s narrated by Jack Webb of Dragnet and Adam-12 fame. He tells us of a fake American town located somewhere behind the Iron Curtain. It’s full of young comrades who sock hop and bebop while studying and playacting the bourgeoisie activities of the American economy and way of life. After introducing this, Webb pulls back the cushy, velvet curtain to profile a typical American household led by one [Jerry Donavan].

[Jerry] has it all: a wise-cracking wife played by Jeanne Cooper (most notably of The Young and the Restless), a son with a healthy interest in war games, a young daughter with pretty blond hair, and a beautiful older daughter who would go on to fame up the road at Petticoat Junction. After some unsettling news from this daughter at the dinner table, Jerry heads up to bed early to catch a few Zs.

Jack Webb denies [Jerry] any visions of sugar plums and instead drops him in the middle of Fakesville, USSR for a vivid nightmare of an America reconstructed by Communism. Watch as he figures out what’s going on and what the new regime means for him and his good-looking family.


Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.


43 thoughts on “Retrotechtacular: Blue Collar, Red Nightmare

      1. In the 70’s and 80s, while computer literacy training in the US shifted away from programming and toward indoctrinating students to use the office suite of a particular corporation, Russian teens were learning to program on Russian built home computers
        When the US government banned exprt of software using DES encryption, it was already possible to download better encryption software from Russian wweb sites.

    1. This movie isn’t about it, but actually communism and hacking are quite related. I mean practical “communism” like it was until 199x in USSR and occupied by it countries. Due shorage or ban of allmost every single piece of hardware, people were forced to hack allmost constantly. For example private persons werent allowed to buy a tractor (or any other means of production) so people had to build those themself.

      1. Reminds me of the joke, ” “A customer orders a car. The salesman tells him to come back to pick it up in nine years. The customer asks “Will it come in the morning or the afternoon?” The salesman says “You’re joking, aren’t you?” The customer replies “No, the plumber is coming in the afternoon.” ” You have to be very resilient to live under tyranny.

      2. Let’s say it is a very bold overstatement. It might have been true in it’s entirety very early after WWII. Later, conditions varied in space and time (e.g. in Poland more than half of agricultural production was private). However, it is true that constant shortage of almost any goods made people hack a lot every day.

    2. An entire fake town built out of nefarious purpose. That certainly is a hack.

      Doesn’t matter though, its fun. Oh and the tiny four written paragraphs are of excellent writing quality.

    3. I’m asking myself the same question. Calling the video it self a ‘Hack’ is quite a stretch to justify it on Hack a day.

      Food for thought: small incremental change on a regular basis yeilds huge results on a long enough time line. I hope this doesn’t foreshadow the direction of HaD

    4. The hacker community tends to be open and collaborative, which according to some people makes them communists. Those people believe anything worth doing is worth doing for a price, and any behavior otherwise must be an evil pinko commie out to destroy Uhmurricah. Or something like that.

  1. “perpetrated” shows your ignorance of the death and depravity that was wrought on the Russian people by communism. It might not have the character development of Hunger Games or 50 Shades of Gray, but it tells people of the horror that killed 20,000,000+ Russian people. Stalin accomplished that in a little over one decade following the end of WW2.
    You enjoy the freedom that was gifted to you and you turn and lambaste the people who gave it. Yes, there are stupid videos about the harm marijuana can cause, made by people with 50 DUIs. Communism on the other hand starved and killed millions. That is not just my rant, the SOB in charge kept meticulous records showing those facts.

    1. If you used the term ‘Dictatorship’ instead of ‘Communism’ your comments would be more widely applicable, and more accurate. (Though communism caused deaths also, through economic failures).
      The film is a great example of the filmmaking craftsmanship of the time and also the “Us against Them” attitude of the Cold War period.
      “Perpetrated” seems fair comment on a film where what is in effect an army propaganda unit makes a film that is in effect telling the population what to think.

    2. Since HaD chose to take a leap into political blogging, here we go.
      Regimes that claim themselves communist have killed millions. So has regimes that claim themselves non-communist and capitalist. The US capitalist regime has tortured innocents and napalm bombed children. We can talk numbers of course but the fact is that many types of regimes have committed atrocities. Here someone likely will pull out the “every attempt at building a communist regime has…” card. The answer to that all those attempts have removed certain capitalist rules and human rights rules. A communism 2.0 would have the human rights built in but change the structure of production. I’m not saying that it is sure to work, I doubt that it would. But the point is that many objections to newer versions of communism are lazy and bad. Anyway, the best system is probably a mix between socialism and capitalism, like the welfare states of northern europe.

      1. You sir perfectly stated why history ALWAYS repeats itself. Everyone is so convinced they’ve got it right. Could you really be so ignorant that after 1000’s of years, heaven doesn’t exist on earth, nor can it, the sooner you realize and accept history, the better. There is not one empire that has withstood the time, why? Its not because of single mistakes that led to larger mistakes, its because its the nature of us. We cannot obtain total righteousness, 1000s of years of written history proves that.

    3. There is no excusing Stalinism, my family has good reason the believe distant relative of my grandparents, parents, and my generation where some of Stalin’s victims. Any if it’s fair to tribute deaths caused by Stalin to communism, it should be fair to compare deaths caused by capitalists to capitalism. Capitalists should be cautious about being that kettle calling the pot black. anyone who turns a blind eye towards the misery crated by the actions are destined to be victims of capitalists, as we would be victims of communists, if we turned a blind eye to the misery caused by communists. Then again we are are falling in the trap of false dichotomies, when the real problem is the business and government elite that managed to insert themselves into positions of power.

  2. Agreed that this is not Hackaday. That being said, I found the irony of the kids playing “cowboys and indians” delicious, considering that this is a movie about scaring people about being invaded by a foreign power.

    It’s also interesting to note that Russia to this day hasn’t changed strategies. All millitary invasions are preceded with extreme levels of propaganda, subterfuge, subversion and sabotage. This movie, while old, is very relevant to current events, if not Hackaday.

  3. As someone who was born in the Soviet Union, I came to the comments expecting comments like “how could people believe this crap back in the day”. Instead I see people actually agreeing with what they see. I lost a little more faith in humanity.

    1. I was born in a country occupied by Russia after WW2, I have visited Soviet Russia. I claim that what we call “communism” was only one of many ideological covers for the permanent Russian imperialism, which continued the invasion, oppression and genocide since the time of tsars, through communism, and even today by what we call putinism. Did you realize, that the sponsored ideological subversion was real ? War is only the last step. Don’t take my word for it, listen to the former KGB agents.

  4. I usually really look forward to the retrotechtacular, but this is by far the worst video. Nothing to do with hacking/engineering/construction. I only made it about 10 minutes in, I hope this isn’t the direction of retrotechtacular.

  5. Today we are told they hate us for our freedoms. In the event they do hate us, it’s because we have been denying many the Jerry Donavans of the rest of the world the same rights we have been affording The Jerry Donavans in in North America above the Rio Grande, in Western Europe, and in the territories associate with the USA et. al. . Any inherent flaws and virtues associated with capitalism, communism, and socialism are false dichotomies weaved by the the business and government elite that have inserted themselves in power wherever each of them exist. All of the use fear mongering in hopes of keeping enough of the populace ignorant of reality so they take no action that cold change things, that has worked well, too well.

    1. I have spent enough time under communist regime to point out your utter ignorance. The capitalism has it’s flaws, but they are tiny in comparison to the omnipresent oppression, in every aspect of human activity – from political, religious (mandatory atheism), economical (ban of any activity) etc. If you stated your opinion honestly, you will have to learn history.

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