Thursday, February 27, 2003
New and Old McCarthyism-Jonah got way out on a limb in giving Two Cheers for "McCarthyism;" I'm going to wiggle the branch some.
Regardless, wherever you come down on McCarthyism, Communism, and the rest is a matter of opinion. What is a matter of fact — unmitigated, irrefutable, undeniable fact — is that there were hundreds of Communists working for Moscow, directly or indirectly, in the United States during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. The Rosenbergs were guilty and got what they deserved. Alger Hiss too. Victor Perlo, Judith Coplon, Morton Sobell, William Perl, Alfred Sarant, Joel Barr, and Harry Gold were all either pawns or lackeys of a foreign and evil foe. We know the Hollywood Ten were all Communists, but what else they were we can't know for sure, because they believed taking the Fifth was more important than protecting the country (and if you think it's unfair to cavalierly call people who devotedly followed the Moscow line for all their adult lives "Communists," I sure hope you don't ever call, say, President Bush a "fascist" on the basis of no evidence at all). The American Communist Party (CP-USA) was in fact a Soviet franchise. In other words, you are free to describe McCarthyism as a witchhunt if and only if you are willing to concede that actual witches existed in our midst. The evidence — from declassified Venona transcripts, Soviet archives, memoirs, etc. — is still mounting, but what we have so far is plenty in itself. In 1996, Nicholas Von Hoffman wrote an essay for the Washington Post that caused no small amount of hysteria on the American Left, which has been milking its myths and denial for decades. McCarthyism was the product of the "paranoid style" in American politics. There were no witches — only zealots and brown-shirted bullies. The playwright Lillian Hellman declared: "The McCarthy group — a loose term for all the boys, lobbyists, congressmen, State Department bureaucrats, CIA operators — chose the anti-Red scare with perhaps more cynicism than Hitler picked anti-Semitism."There were quite a few Soviet operatives that were around, but there were also people who were merely significantly to the left and ran in parallel circles with the Moscow-backing folks. I'm not sure how left-tinged my view of the era was, but there were quite a few people who hung out in socialist or communist circles in the 30s. Back then, with the Depression in full gear and the atrocities of Stalin and the downside of centrally-planned economies not fully known, many reasonable people saw socialism as a good alternative to the status quo; the socialists were even on the side of the angels on many issues, such as equality for women and minorities. Fast forward two decades; the USSR is now an enemy, Stalin's dark side is better seen and many Communists of the 30s are active agents against the US. A serious look at who is actively helping the USSR ensues and many spies and moles are found. The Verona transcripts that Jonah mentions points to a few that got away and confirms many others that the left has denied for years. However, many people that merely had an democratic socialist viewpoint got called into question; being significantly left of center got quite a few people fired or kept them from getting hired. "McCarthyism" was more the casting of a bit too broad a net, causing people who were loyal but leftist to get fired along with the real Communists. McCarthy himself only had a bit of McCarthyism, with the Army hearings being the big overreach. It was the school teacher or actor who hung out in broadly socialist circles (that may well have had Communists in the mix) and got fired as a result that were the victims of McCarthyism, not the Hollywood Ten. Do we have McCarthyism on the war on terror? I don't think so. The left will pull out the phrase too easily. We aren't arresting the Martin Sheens of the world for being idiotarian leftists. Protestors do get arrested for obstructing traffic or other civil disobedence but we don't have people in jail merely for opposing government policy. The closest thing to McCarthyism is the close look that Islamic immigrants, especially those from terrorist-oriented countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, are getting from the FBI and INS; they're getting the rules applied with vigor that we're not doing with Mexican or Chinese immigrants who overstayed their visas. If the enemy in McCarthyism is communism and communist-looking people (Socialist and other people of the left) got splattered by the brush, what is the enemy of our new war? It isn't idiotarianism, it's militant Islam. We need to keep the mosques and the people in them under a closer scrutiny than other religions; it's not nice to have to say that, but you don't get too many suicide bombers coming out of Lutheran churches. The trick in the future will be to root out the jihadist cells while still allowing Islam to exist as a religion. The left, as long as they steer clear of jihad-preaching mosques, don't have anything to fear from being collateral damage in this new cold war. Making Sami al-Arian a victim of modern McCarthyism doesn't wash. If the charges are correct, he's been the financier and leader of a terrorist organization. He's not being busted for being anti-Israeli, he's being busted for financing the killing of Israelis. That makes him more akin to the Rosenbergs than the Hollywood Ten. While we give a special look to Islamic organizations in the US, we have to figure out how to let the non-jihadists have their faith without discrimination. Profiling, yes, they might wind up having police and FBI types poking their nose around their mosque more than they will poke around the Baptist church up the street. However, encouraging people to be fired just because they're of the wrong faith would be modern McCarthyism.
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