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Thursday, October 15, 2009

The McCarthyist Party

It couldn't happen now -- cell phone cameras are ubiquitous -- but the event that brought a man whose name is synonymous with fearmongering and false accusations to the public attention wasn't recorded. No audio or film exists and the text of the speech was not saved. The best I can do is quote Wikipedia:

[Sen. Joseph] McCarthy experienced a meteoric rise in national profile on February 9, 1950, when he gave a Lincoln Day speech to the Republican Women's Club of Wheeling, West Virginia. His words in the speech are a matter of some debate, as no audio recording was saved. However, it is generally agreed that he produced a piece of paper that he claimed contained a list of known Communists working for the State Department. McCarthy is usually quoted to have said: "The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205 -- a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department."


Some people trace the birth of the modern right back to Barry Goldwater's loss in 1964. But I put it here, in Wheeling, West Virginia, 1950. Demagogic, fearmongering, and authoritarian, Joe McCarthy was the template for the modern conservative. Goldwater just came along later and filled in the details.

So it shouldn't surprise us to learn that McCarthy's politics rise from his grave from time to time. McCarthyism has become the fallback position for many Republicans. We saw it in Sarah Palin, with her accusations of terrorism aimed at Barack Obama. We saw it in Michele Bachmann, who once called for a media investigation of liberals' "anti-American views." We saw it after 9/11, when then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer warned "all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do" -- because Bill Maher told a joke the White House didn't like.

And now we have this:

The Hill:

The McCarthyistsRepublican members of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus said the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have tried to plant "spies" within key national-security committees in order to shape legislative policy.

Reps. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), citing the book Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that's Conspiring to Islamize America, called for the House sergeant at arms to investigate whether CAIR had been successful in placing interns on key panels. The lawmakers are specifically focused on the House Homeland Security Committee, Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee.

"If an organization is connected to or supports terrorists [and] is running influence operations or planting spies in key national security-related offices, I think this needs to be made known," said Broun, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee. "So I join my colleagues here today in calling for action."






Of course, it wasn't so much "calling for action" as it was grandstanding on BS. The Hill took the extraordinary investigative journalistic step of calling the House sergeant at arms to see what they had to say. "But the Office of the House sergeant at arms said that it has received no such request from any of the four Republicans and declined to speculate on how a request of that nature would be addressed," the paper reported.

"We have not received any request at this time," said Kerri Hanley, a spokeswoman for the House sergeant at arms office. "Until we know of the exact request, a determination cannot be made on how it will be handled."

So they didn't so much call "for the House sergeant at arms to investigate whether CAIR had been successful in placing interns on key panels," as they did just pretend they made the call. But never mind that, there are radical Muslim terr'ists in Washington... As interns!

How worried should you be about this? The book they're using for the basis of their claims is published by the wingnut WorldNetDaily, so not very. WND is basically the web headquarters of the birther movement, so they're not only claiming that secret Muslim terr'ists have infiltrated the lunch rooms in congressional office buildings, but the White House itself. Myrick, Shadegg, Broun, and Franks don't seem especially freaked out about that claim.

Neither do they have any actual names of these terr'ists. Other journalists did some journalism and found out that, despite having absolutely iron-clad proof in the form of a book written by a right wing frootloop, none of these four would-be McCarthys have in their hands a list.

"[D]on’t get too worried. I just checked with a spokesperson for Rep. Myrick, who seems to be leading this charge, and she confirmed to me that the group does not have a list of names of the infiltrators," writes Greg Sargent. "Though if the investigation does turn up a list, one imagines it just may be waved around at a press conference one of these days."

And, of course, the investigation won't turn up any names because the investigation is being conducted within the borders of the Land of Make-Believe.

It'd be easy to laugh this off -- it is, after all, ridiculous -- but we've seen where McCarthyism leads and we know what the consequences to actual, non-imaginary people is. If you go to WorldNetDaily, you'll see that their editorial position is that Muslims are evil. Period. That these four Republicans are playing to WingNutDaily's intolerance and bigotry should be alarming.

This is also where this "America is a Christian nation" crap leads; witch-hunts looking for infidels. There are Muslims in Washington and we should all be freaked out about that. In fact, there are Muslims in our schools and our neighborhoods. They write stories in our newspapers and books our children read. They treat patients in hospitals and hand out drugs in pharmacies. They are everywhere.

So now is the time for all good Americans to soil themselves in fear and let the Republicans protect them. There are Socialists in the White House and Muslims in the halls of Congress. The end is near. As always with Republican political axes, this one is ground on divisiveness, paranoia, and flat-out lies. The enemy -- entirely of the accusers' own invention -- is out to destroy our way of life. They're gays and atheists and liberals and feminists and environmentalists and socialists and communists and labor unions and trial lawyers and community organizers and illegal aliens and legal aliens and college professors and the poor and abortion providers and people who drink lattes and the media and -- probably -- people who put out those "thin ice" signs in the winter (how do they do that without falling through? It must be Satanic magic).

And now Muslims. The only plus to all this is that it really limits the groups attracted to the Republican Party. Remove any group they've ever attacked collectively and you're left with wealthy white Christians -- and even then, not all of them. No wonder the GOP is shrinking.

McCarthyism may not be dead, but it's killing the GOP.

-Wisco


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5 comments:

Eric Lester said...

I have been saying for the last 8 years that we are living in the new McCarthy era, with the word "terror" substituted for "commun" in the horrible fear word.

Those who use fear and engender racism and xenophobia to further their desire for political power make me wish that I believed in a real Hell where they could really burn.

But I don't, because in spite of being born in the USA and living within its borders for nearly six decades, I'm not a member of the State Religion.

This movement (and I use the term in the sense normally used after "bowel") has caused enough death and misery on this benighted planet. I dearly hope that the American People can pull their noses out of their HDTVs long enough to reject their message.

vet said...

It's kinda sad that calling the house sergeant at arms to confirm a story about them - is now "extraordinary investigative journalism". When I learned journalism, which wasn't all that long ago, it would've been the bare minimum to do before running the story.

Brown's quote is interesting: "If an organization is connected to or supports terrorists [and] is running influence operations or planting spies in key national security-related offices, I think this needs to be made known." Well absolutely. Who could argue with that?

But the number of assumptions in it is extraordinary. "An organization" - name it. "Connected to or supports terrorists" - if you have evidence of this, why haven't you turned it over to the FBI? "Running influence operations" - what does that even mean? "Planting spies" - again, evidence? "Key national-security related offices" - name three.

What McCarthy did, as you point out - what set him apart from every other scaremonger, and there were plenty of them - was that he had a list. An actual tangible list. A list is something that can be verified; it's hard evidence, in the scientific sense of the term, something that's at least capable of being falsified.

But these blowhards don't even have that. As such, their "investigation" is going nowhere. ALl they're doing is, as you say, trying to excite their base. They know their chances of re-election depend on enough people being sufficiently scared of their enemies to give their time and money for their re-election. And so fear is their most important tool.

Anonymous said...

Can we just round up all these assholes already and throw them in the FEMA concentration camps that Glenn Beck is always ranting about? That'll at least give them a legitimate reason for being crazy.

M said...

I listened to Michael Savage last night talking with the author of the book in question. The guy is a conspiracy theorist to say the least. He makes claims that the Council on American Islamic Relations is assassinating people who get in the way of their methodical positioning and recruitment for takeover of the American government to Muslimize the country from top to bottom. According to the author there's a trail of verifiable dead who weren't Muslim enough for the job or threatened to expose the "truth"-- to which he never gave an example during the interview. Surprisingly, Savage, playing the part of concern troll, kept asking for proof that never came.

"Buy the book!"

"They're gays and atheists and liberals and feminists and environmentalists and socialists and communists and labor unions and trial lawyers and community organizers and illegal aliens and legal aliens and college professors and the poor and abortion providers and people who drink lattes and the media and -- probably -- people who put out those "thin ice" signs in the winter (how do they do that without falling through? It must be Satanic magic)."

Add: Anyone or anything that's not Old Timey

sofa said...

DHS Napalitano has a list of people who cling to the Constitution.

Party of lists.

And party of killers: In the 20th century, Lefties killed over 150 million people in their own countries. Purges and re-education. People on lists. Mao, Stalin, Castro, Dictators with KGB, SS, Stassi, secret police. Lefties with Lists.

History.