Saturday, January 8, 2011

How the Right is Reviving McCarthyism

S. Paul Forrest

“Ugly and venomous toads are indeed loose in our land. But a precious jewel of opportunity is provided to labor by their presence.”
- William Shakespeare

Many right-wing politicians have expended a great deal of effort in promoting a neo-McCarthyism agenda in the drive for their own version of an idealistic, America. These people have expounded upon the premise that as a Christian Nation, we must stay true to the beliefs that our founding Fathers enfolded into the Constitution. By this, they are asserting that if you are not Christian, you are not American. Quite simply, it is a transparent attempt to strengthen and continue the invasive characteristics of the Patriot Act; the legislative outcome of the same xenophobic paranoia that infected this country during the McCarthy Era.

Along with the Christian Right, the Republicans and their Tea Party cousins have taken up the fight to convince Americans that we should continue along our isolationist agenda to protect the interests of our Democracy by denouncing Islam. Not only is this an affront to the freedom to worship that our ancestors first came to this country for but it is an attempt to promote the demonization of Islam in an action that is unconstitutional according to the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Our “Founding Fathers” set up a Secular State not a Christian one and to protect this establishment, the 1st Amendment created two distinct restrictions. The first, the Establishment Clause, has two interpretations:
1) The "separation" or "no aid" interpretation prohibits the establishment of a national religion by Congress or,
2) the "non-preferential" or "accommodation" interpretation, prohibits the preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another.

The preferential interpretation prohibits Congress from preferring one religion over another, but does not prohibit the government's entry into religious domain to make accommodations in order to achieve the purposes of the Free Exercise Clause. There is a reason for this separation: Our founding fathers and mothers came here to escape religious persecution not to establish it anew.

There is also the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution which says that Congress cannot pass a law for the government of the Territory which shall prohibit the free exercise of religion. This means Muslims by the way, even if at Ground Zero.

Interesting, isn’t it? The Party that has most vehemently called for the return to days of our forefathers, their beliefs in God and the Christian principles they claim are part of the Constitution of this Great Nation are advocating for unconstitutional actions by bringing Christianity into favor as the National Religion. They are mounting a direct assault on the 1st Amendment with deceptive facts and calling it Patriotism.

In the blindness resulting from this ethnocentric initiative, many of these self-termed Christians seem to forget one very important detail; Jesus was from the Middle East and very much, non-white. They have also conveniently forgotten that our Founding Fathers were endeavoring to escape prejudice and oppression. In their view, our present Patriot Act initiated negation of our Constitutional rights is an exercise to protect America from an invasion of a Global society but the reality is they are using God to promote their own version of oppression much like the communist hunters did in the 1950s during the second Red Scare.

One example in particular gives me great fits when I hear it: When we say The Pledge of Allegiance we say Under God, don’t we!?! This statement/question is a perfect example of the ignorance they employ to mislead us Americans. Just so you know; the term “Under God” was added in 1954, dead in the middle of the proud time in American History called the McCarthy Era. Along with this misstatement, the Right have employed other tactics which have resounding similarities to those employed in the 50’s during the McCarthy Era. First a little history…

Joseph McCarthy was a U.S. Senator from 1947 until his death in 1957. He was noted for making claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and elsewhere. Ultimately, McCarthy's tactics and his inability to substantiate his claims led him to be censured by the United States Senate. If you don’t recall what that time in our history represented, let me remind you and in the process, draw some disturbing parallels.

The term McCarthyism, coined in 1950 in reference to McCarthy's practices, was soon applied to similar anti-communist activities. Today the term is used more generally in reference to demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents. (Wikipedia)

The Red Scare, named after the purposeful deception and promotion of anti-communist activities in America, was the over riding reality of the time and created a fear campaign similar to the current anti-Islam campaigns. Howard Zinn in his book, A People's History of the United States makes the following observation of the period of time after WWII prior to and during this period:

“…Right after the war, the American public, war-weary, seemed to favor demobilization and disarmament and the Truman administration (Roosevelt had died in April 1945) worked to create an atmosphere of crisis and cold war. True, the rivalry with the Soviet Union was real--that country had come out of the war with its economy wrecked and 20 million people dead, but was making an astounding comeback, rebuilding its industry, regaining military strength. The Truman administration, however, presented the Soviet Union as not just a rival but an immediate threat.

In a series of moves abroad and at home, it established a climate of fear—an hysteria about Communism--which would steeply escalate the military budget and stimulate the economy with war-related orders. This combination of policies would permit more aggressive actions abroad and more repressive actions at home.“

Pause for dramatic effect.

When I researched this subject, I expected to find similarities between the current anti-Islamic agenda and McCarthy’s anti-communism initiatives but this passage struck me like a blow to the head. The current hysteria in America today and the purposeful promotion of an immoral war for the sake of protecting America from Islam is following the same pattern which so maniacally cut into the America fabric before. Today though, media is much more broadly assisting in the deception but unfortunately, the people are just as naïve to follow.

Recently, Michelle Bachman, a Tea Party member, had called for a probe to determine who in Congress was Pro-America and who wasn’t. On MSNBC, she said, “What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: are they pro-America or anti-America? I think the American people would love to see an expose like that.”

A probe of that very nature was launched by HUAC during the McCarthy Era. Ellen Schrecker tell us the following in her article, “Congressional Committees and Unfriendly Witnesses”:
“In many respects, the operations of these committees paralleled those of the executive branch. They publicized the dangers of the Communist threat, their hearings often producing the same scenarios as trials, with many of the same charges, witnesses, and defendants. But because congressional hearings were immune from the due process requirements that accompanied criminal prosecutions, the committees had more leeway to denounce and accuse. They came to specialize in punishing individuals by exposing their alleged Communist connections and costing them their jobs. So effective had the committees become that by the height of the McCarthy era, in the mid-1950s, people were often fired simply for receiving a subpoena from HUAC or one of the other committees.

Investigating committees served more partisan functions as well. Conservatives in and outside of the Republican party used them to attack the liberalism of the New Deal and the Truman administration. On the local level, the committees often functioned as hired guns for their allies within the anti-Communist network. Conveniently timed hearings, with their highly publicized and damaging charges of Communist affiliation, could target specific groups and individuals at crucial moments like strikes, union elections, or sessions of state legislatures. The committees also collected information and did research for the rest of the anti-Communist network.”

Toward a renewed McCarthyism is where Bachman and others in her world are taking us. Along with their faux-Patriotism and ever expanding definitions of National Security, the current Republican Right and their political allies from the Tea Party are trying everything they can to control the American Political system and the minds of its citizens. They are attacking the Nation of Islam and using the ½ of 1% of radical Muslim’s actions to continue the oppressive nature of the Patriot Act and use “National Security” as a term to initiate a suspicious agenda for anyone who is “un-American”.

If anywhere is the proof that the Right is not only in favor of McCarthyism but trying to revive it in their agenda, it is in the words of Ann Coulter in her book, Treason:
"The portrayal of Senator Joe McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is sheer liberal hobgoblinism. Liberals weren't cowering in fear during the McCarthy era. They were systematically undermining the nation's ability to defend itself while waging a bellicose campaign of lies to blacken McCarthy's name. Everything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie. Liberals denounced McCarthy because they were afraid of getting caught, so they fought back like animals to hide their own collaboration with a regime as evil as the Nazis."

Really? As described by Marci Ranzer, “there were many innocent victims of McCarthyism and hundreds were imprisoned. Most of the victims however, did have some connection to the Communist party at some point in their lives. Lots of victims were blacklisted including several actors, authors, civil rights activists and physicists. McCarthy’s witch-hunt began in 1950 when he announced he had a list of 205 known communists employed by the state department. His charges led to years of senate and house investigations and were responsible for many people losing their jobs. The reputations of the victims of McCarthyism were destroyed and their families were torn apart. Popular condemnation was brought down upon people who were accused by McCarthy.“ Is this the same kind of defense they are currently trying to establish today?

Like those who for so long held this country hostage while the (second) Red Scare spread wildly across America, in the name of Patriotism and National Security, the Right wing “Patriots” will have us all questioning each other while compromising our Constitutional rights. Those creating false flags, calling all Muslims evil and initiating the investigation of the citizens of this great Nation to determine their allegiance will have us all boarded upon the train of ignorance to justify their war and persecute non-Christians who they deem as a danger to our Democracy. The reality is however; the only real threat to this Nation is the Right’s reviving of McCarthyism.

The true danger of this revival is represented by the recent attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D) of Arizona. She was a target of the Right in the past for her stance on Health Care reform and on half-term Governor Palin’s website there once were crosshairs of a gun scope aimed at her precinct. In a reaction to the slaying of the Congresswoman, the webmasters have taken it off. Other Democrats have been receiving death threats as well, taking the fear mongering of the Right from rhetoric to reality.

The reasons the Nation didn’t rip itself apart during the McCarthy Era can be attributed to reason and Congressional intervention. In this Era however, the party responsible for it has a majority and the media, using every possible vehicle of delivery, is exacerbating the fear without check. How many more people need to die here or overseas before they realize how dangerous a game they are playing? How long before America realizes it and stops the madness? To you I can only say; we must stand together, right, left and center to defend our country and derail this revival of McCartyism else pay with our very freedom.

Update: 1-10-11At this time is is also important to see the clear attempt by the Right to discredit the Obama Administration for having had Van Jones as a member of it. Thiese "Communist Ties" along with the insistence that the heads of Departments be called Csars, has done nothing to quell the fervent protrayal of the Obama initiative to bring communism or marxism to this country. When on a witch hunt however, in an attempt to be successful, witches are found easily.

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