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literature

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Miller, Merle (1919-1986)  
 
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Following his discharge from the Army, Miller found employment in the publishing industry. He worked as an editor at both Harper's and Time magazines; as a book reviewer for The Saturday Review of Literature; and as a contributing editor for The Nation. His writings also frequently appeared in the New York Times Magazine.

Miller wrote numerous television scripts as well, but his career in television was interrupted in the 1950s when he was blacklisted, mainly due to his work with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

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As a member of the Board of Directors of the ACLU, Miller was asked to head an investigative team to learn about anti-communist blacklisting being conducted covertly in the radio and television industries. He attended Congressional hearings and wrote a report of his findings, which was later published as The Judges and the Judged (1952).

It was not until the early 1960s that Miller was again able to find employment in television, when he was commissioned to create an ultimately unsuccessful series that was to air on CBS-TV during the 1963-1964 television season and starring the actor Jackie Cooper. Miller was required to rewrite the show's pilot script nineteen times during a struggle for power between CBS, Cooper, and the show's producers, United Artists.

Miller later wrote a trenchant and darkly comic account of working on the show in his best-selling nonfiction book Only You, Dick Daring! Or, How to Write One Television Script and Make $50,000,000, A True-life Adventure (1964).

Miller was married for more than four years to Elinor Green. According to him, in all the years they had known one another, even after their divorce, they never discussed his homosexuality.

On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual

In September 1970, Harper's Magazine published a 10,000-word polemic (that took up 11 pages in the magazine) by the academic and essayist Joseph Epstein titled "Homo/Hetero: The Struggle for Sexual Identity."

The magazine's cover brazenly promoted the article with a picture of a muscular male torso clad in a conspicuously tight red feminine blouse.

Among numerous homophobic remarks, Epstein wrote, "If I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth." He went on to explain, "I would do so because I think that it brings infinitely more pain than pleasure to those who are forced to live with it, because I think there is no resolution for this pain in our lifetimes."

He also condescendingly remarked, "One can tolerate homosexuality, a small enough price to be asked to pay for someone else's pain."

Perhaps the most offensive remarks, however, occurred at the conclusion of the article, when Epstein noted, "There is much that my four sons can do in their lives that might cause me anguish, that might outrage me, that might make [me] ashamed of them and of myself as their father. But nothing they could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual. For then I should know them condemned to a permanent niggardom among men, their lives, whatever adjustment they might make to their condition, to be lived out as part of the pain of the earth."

The article sparked a lively public debate, with some readers blithely agreeing with Epstein's assertions, while others seethed with anger and indignation.

Epstein's casual bigotry prompted a sit-in at the offices of Harper's Magazine on October 27, 1970 by members of the Gay Activists Alliance, whose goal was to "secure basic human rights, dignity and freedom for all gay people."

The magazine's editor-in-chief at the time, Willie Morris, downplayed the event, simply recounting years later that "several dozen homosexuals arrived en masse . . . to demand redress for a paragraph in an article by Joseph Epstein which they considered unsympathetic to homosexuality."

The writer and gay activist David Ehrenstein, one of the members of the Gay Activists Alliance who participated in the Harper's sit-in, remembered the events very differently and more accurately. In a 2002 article, he recalled that 40 activists arrived at the magazine's offices that day, along with a camera crew from WOR television, a local New York channel, which later ran a three-part series on gay life and activism incorporating filmed footage from the event.

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