McCarthyism Writ Large
by Stephen Lendman
In the late 1930s and 1940s, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) targeted alleged communist sympathizers. Uncorroborated hearsay alone mattered.
Prominent Hollywood figures were named. Hundreds of actors, directors, producers, screenwriters, musicians, songwriters, and other artists were accused of communist sympathies.
They were blacklisted. Notable ones were called the Hollywood Ten.
They included screenwriter Alvah Bessie, screenwriter/director Herbert Biberman, screenwriter Lester Cole, director Edward Dmytryk, screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr., screenwriter John Lawson, screenwriter Albert Maltz, screenwriter Samuel Ornitz, producer/screenwriter Adrian Scott, and author/screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.
McCarthyism signifies baseless slander, unscrupulous fearmongering, and political lynchings.
Communist hearings got headlines. They were televised. They were witch-hunt prosecutions. Harvard Law Dean Ervin Griswold called McCarthy “judge, jury, prosecutor, castigator, and press agent, all in one.”
He personified evil. He targeted innocent victims. He ruined careers. He did so for political advantage. He called Secretary of State Dean Acheson “a pompous diplomat in striped pants.”
He accused General George Marshall of being “soft on communism.” With no proof, he claimed he had names of 205 known State Department communists.
He later said 57. He claimed they were passing secrets to Soviet Russia.
“The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency,” he said, “is not because the enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer – the finest homes, the finest college educations, and the finest jobs in Government (and the private sector) we can give.”
He characterized enemies as “card-carrying communists.” He called others “loyalty risks.”
He vilified patriotic Americans. He did so for political gain. He created hysteria. He targeted anti-American books. He got them pulled from libraries.
He overstepped. He fell from grace. Publications like the Louisville Courier-Journal said:
“In this long, degrading travesty of the democratic process, McCarthy has shown himself to be evil and unmatched in malice.”
In June 1954, he met his match. Army lawyer Joe Welch challenged him. He attacked his spurious accusation about one of his attorneys having communist ties. He did so, saying:
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or recklessness.” McCarthy shot back.
Welch angrily interrupted, adding “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”
Overnight, McCarthy’s popularity plunged. Senate censure followed. It ruined him. In 1957, he died a broken man at age 48. He wasn’t missed.
Obama exceeds the worst of Joe McCarthy. He heads America’s police state apparatus. Rule of law principles don’t matter.
Dissent’s considered unpatriotic. Whistleblowing’s criminalized. Unconstitutional spying’s institutionalized.
Freedom’s fast eroding. It’s an endangered species. It’s on the chopping block for elimination.
Wealth, power, and privilege alone matter. America’s war on terror advances them. It rages against humanity. It does so abroad and at home.
State terror is official policy. Obama exceeds the worst of his predecessors. He’s done more to subvert constitutional protections than any previous president.
He more than ever made America unfit to live in. Police state justice potentially threatens everyone. It’s modern day McCarthyism writ large.
Merriam-Webster calls its earlier version “a mid-20th century political attitude characterized chiefly by opposition to elements held to be subversive and by the use of tactics involving personal attacks on individuals by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges; broadly: defamation of character or reputation through such tactics.”
Oxford Dictionaries calls it “a vociferous campaign against alleged communists in the US government and other institutions carried out under Senator Joseph McCarthy in the period 1950-54.”
“Many of the accused were blacklisted or lost their jobs, although most did not in fact belong to the Communist Party.”
McCarthyism reflects “a campaign or practice that endorses the use unfair allegations and investigations.”
According to Wikipedia, it’s “the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for (verifiable) evidence.”
The Online Dictionary calls it “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.”
In January 2012, Obama’s Justice Department charged former CIA officer John Kiriakou. It claimed he disclosed classified information to journalists. It said he violated Intelligence Identities Protection Act provisions. It accused him of “lying” to CIA’s Publications Review Board.
He potentially faced longterm incarceration. In October 2012, he accepted plea bargain terms. They’re sought and/or accepted for lesser sentences. Innocent victims take them to avoid harsher treatment.
Kariakou pled guilty to one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Other Espionage Act charges were dropped. He got 30 months in prison.
He thanked supporters saying:
“I’m headed to prison while the torturers and the lawyers who papered over it and the people who conceived it and the man who destroyed the proof of it, the tapes, will never face justice.”
“And that’s the saddest part of the story,” he added. Unconscionable crimes reflect official policy.
Whistleblowers are targeted. Exposing government wrongdoing’s criminalized. Doing the right thing’s not tolerated. Police states operate that way. America’s by far the worst.
On August 6, Kariakou headlined “Obama’s abuse of the Espionage Act is modern-day McCarthyism,” saying:
Convicting Bradley Manning of 1917 Espionage Act violations and charging Edward Snowden “under the same act are yet further examples of the Obama administration’s policy of using an iron fist against human rights and civil liberties activists.”
“President Obama has been unprecedented in his use of the Espionage Act to prosecute those whose whistleblowing he wants to curtail.”
Doing so sends a chilling message. “Challenge us and we will destroy you.” Doing the right thing risks prosecution. Kariakou recounted his own experience.
He “bl(ew) the whistle on the CIA’s torture program.” It’s unchanged under Obama. Attorney General Holder declared war on whistleblowers.
Doing so “smacks of modern-day McCarthyism.” Washington needs ” ‘ism(s)’ to fight against.”
Whistleblowers acting honorably are “accused of helping terrorists.” They risk Espionage Act charges. They risk witch-hunt prosecutions. They risk long imprisonment. Perhaps they risk death.
Justice reflects tragedy and travesty. It’s turned on its head. Civil liberties are vital to protect. Lawless government spying and other wrongdoing need exposure. “That should be the story,” said Kariakou.
Professor Emeritus Norman Pollack discussed “The New McCarthyism.” Fundamental human rights and civil liberties are undermined.
Obama’s destroying them on his watch. He’s dismantling rule of law protections. He denies “transparency.” He prioritizes “opaqueness.”
He rejects “people’s right to know.” He targets whistleblowers exposing government wrongdoing.
He demands “total conformity or, more realistically, passivity, as the war machine and its partner-in-destiny capitalist accumulation at the top roll on.”
He’s “contemptuous of basic Constitutional tenets affecting freedom of thought and association.”
“The White House exists in a moral vacuum. That targeted assassination is fully entertained and practiced is at one with this phase of psychological-juridical control over the free expression of ideas.”
“Both have reference to despotic ways of governance which have implications even beyond principles honoring privacy and free thought.”
State terror threatens everyone. Humanity’s endangered. Democracy exists in name only.
Much worse ahead is likely. Modern day McCarthyism harms everyone. It’s the worst of all possible worlds.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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