left biblioblography: A Glimpse Into The Fear Of Times Past – Odd, How The Language Rarely Changes…

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Glimpse Into The Fear Of Times Past – Odd, How The Language Rarely Changes…

Cross posted @ Atheist Oasis355px-Unholy_three

I was reading through the Wikipedia entry for McCarthyism – and as usual, the jaw drops, the eyebrows arch in disbelief, and once again the exclamation “Those people are CRAZY!” is involuntarily wrung from my mouth.

McCarthyism is the political action of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term specifically describes activities associated with the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and characterized by heightened fears of communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents. Originally coined to criticize the anti-communist pursuits of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, "McCarthyism" soon took on a broader meaning, describing the excesses of similar efforts. The term is also now used more generally to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, as well as demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.

I know, we’re all familiar with the term. But lest we forget..

During the post–World War II era of McCarthyism, many thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person's real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and even imprisonment. Most of these punishments came about through trial verdicts later overturned, laws that would be declared unconstitutional, dismissals for reasons later declared illegal or actionable, or extra-legal procedures that would come into general disrepute.

Fat lot of good it did the victims, ex post facto. Here’s a scarier bit:

McCarthyism was supported by a variety of groups, including the American Legion and various other anti-communist organizations. One core element of support was a variety of militantly anti-communist women's groups such as the American Public Relations Forum and the Minute Women of the U.S.A.. These organized tens of thousands of housewives into study groups, letter-writing networks, and patriotic clubs that coordinated efforts to identify and eradicate what they saw as subversion.

I guess stupidity is gender-free, no? It gets worse:

Although far-right radicals were the bedrock of support for McCarthyism, they were not alone. A broad "coalition of the aggrieved" found McCarthyism attractive, or at least politically useful. Common themes uniting the coalition were opposition to internationalism, particularly the United Nations; opposition to social welfare provisions, particularly the various programs established by the New Deal; and opposition to efforts to reduce inequalities in the social structure of the United States.

A case of the have’s fussing over the have-not’s receiving anything. Here’s the topper:

One focus of popular McCarthyism concerned the provision of public health services, particularly vaccination, mental health care services and fluoridation, all of which were deemed by some to be communist plots to poison or brainwash the American people. Oftentimes, the anti-internationalist aspect of McCarthyist literature took on an anti-Jewish tone. (See flier at right: Rabbi Spitz in the American Hebrew, March 1, 1946: "American Jews must come to grips with our contemporary anti-Semites; we must fill our insane asylums with anti-Semitic lunatics.") Such viewpoints led to major collisions between McCarthyite radicals and supporters of public health programs, most notably in the case of the Alaska Mental Health Bill controversy of 1956.

The vaccination and public health thing is eerily familiar, no? And Anti-Semitism? Why is this no surprise? And an example of how gullible the America public is:

In addition, as Richard Rovere points out, many ordinary Americans became convinced that there must be "no smoke without fire" and lent their support to McCarthyism. In January 1954, a Gallup poll found that 50% of the American public supported McCarthy, while 29% had an unfavorable opinion of the senator. Earl Warren, the Chief Justice of the United States, commented that if the United States Bill of Rights had been put to a vote it probably would have been defeated.

While I was reading this entry, it struck me that the Tea Baggers (errr, sorry, Tea Partiers) use almost precisely the same language, except that they’ve substituted ‘socialist’ for ‘communist’.

While these nutters aren’t quite in power, they may well be soon. And their fan base isn’t very well behaved, either:

On March 21, 2010, Springboro Tea Party founder Sonny Thomas posted racist slurs against Hispanics on the group's Twitter webpage, including one post that said, "Illegals everywhere today! So many spics makes me feel like a speck. Grrr. Wheres my gun!?". The posts triggered cancellations by several local and statewide political candidates scheduled to speak at a Springboro Tea Party rally on April 17. Other Tea Party officials say the posts were "classless" and way out of line, but say they don't represent the Tea Party movement as a whole.

Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams referred to Allah as a "Monkey God". Williams' comments elicited strong rebukes from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NY State Senators and Muslim leaders. In a subsequent blog posting, Williams wrote, “I owe an apology to millions of Hindus who worship Lord Hanuman, an actual Monkey God. Hanuman is worshiped as a symbol of perseverance, strength, and devotion ... Those are hardly the traits of whatever the Hell (literally) it is that terrorists worship.” When questioned by The Washington Post about his comments about Islam and Obama, Williams has claimed the controversy has "been fantastic for the movement."

(These religious sorts do dance spastically, don’t they?)

This is my favorite, inasmuch as it not only readily illustrates the mindset of this party, but the intelligence level as well.

On March 22, 2010, a Lynchburg, Virginia Tea Party activist, attempting to post the home address of Congressman Tom Perriello on his blog, incorrectly posted the address of Perriello’s brother, who also lives in Virginia, and encouraged readers to "drop by" to express their anger against Rep. Perriello’s vote in favor of the health care bill. The following day, a severed gas line was discovered in Perriello's brother's yard which connected to a propane grill on the home’s screened-in porch. Local police and FBI investigators determined that it was intentionally cut as a deliberate act of vandalism. The website issued a response saying the Tea Party member's action of posting the address "was not requested, sanctioned or endorsed" by the group.

And of course, this classic gem:

On July 14, 2010, a Tea Party group in Iowa removed a billboard comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin after receiving sharp criticism from other tea party leaders. North Iowa tea party co-founder Bob Johnson admits the sign was wrong and offensive, and misrepresents the intentions of the Tea Party group.

There will (if there haven’t been any yet…I’ve not paid that close attention) be outcries that these represent the bad outside fringe of the group. I’m willing to bet that they don’t – they represent the majority.

Till the next post, then.

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