There is an escalating mainstream media campaign, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, to depict President Trump as Russia’s puppet in the White House. One need not be a Trump enthusiast to call out these preposterous, fact-free allegations as reminiscent of McCarthyism. Efforts to portray Trump as a Manchurian Candidate — from a classic Cold War book and film where a U.S.soldier is brainwashed into doing the Kremlin’s bidding — endanger whatever remnants remain of American democracy. It’s also disconcerting that Russia-baiting is on the increase, even some being directed at progressives from other progressives. I will not be surprised if Venezuela is soon coupled with the latter.
“McCarthyism,” of course, refers to the use of government investigations to destroy one’s enemies. Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy is famous for brandishing this tactic and will forever be associated with the question, “Are you now or have you ever been” a member of the Communist Party?
Finally, on June 9, 1954, Joseph Welch, special counsel to the U.S. Army listened during a hearing in which McCarthy accused the Army of being “soft on communism.” In dramatic fashion, the usually mild-mannered Welch asked “Have you no sense of shame sir, at long last?” When combined with CBS News correspondent Edward R. Murrow’s reporting, this was McCarthy’s downfall from politics. He was officially censored by the U.S. Senate on December 2,1954.
Of course, the Red Scare’s legacy wasn’t over. The FBI secretly provided files to the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) which proceeded to destroy the careers of countless people. Another example was the National Defense Education Act of 1958 which required signing a loyalty oath to obtain a college loan. I could not have attended college if I hadn’t signed one. Teachers were forced to sign an oath stating,”I have not and will not lend my aid, support, advice, counsel or influence to the Communist party.” Is it implausible to suggest that variations on this anti-democratic attack on civil liberties will re-emerge?
In the past, the FBI has carried out countless, politically-motivated investigations. In the 1930s and later under President Truman, the liberal, pro-peace Vice President Henry Wallace was believed to have suspect loyalties for suggesting the government was exaggerating the Soviet threat. Wallace’s mail was opened and photocopied, his phones were tapped and his movements constantly shadowed. A short list also includes: Democratic Presidential nominee George McGovern, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Woodie Guthrie, Albert Einstein, Gil Scott-Heron, the NAACP, opponents of South African apartheid, The Catholic Worker, Quaker activists, and even Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole. Later, Black Lives Matter, Occupy and hip-hop artists have joined the list and the FBI has set up a task force to monitor social media.
So why are these nefarious tactics being employed against Trump? The first McCarthy era used red-baiting to destroy the U.S. labor movement. This second one is different. It’s an intra-elite effort to discredit a president whose erratic behavior has rattled the political/military/intelligence/corporate establishment who much preferred the dependable warmonger and compliant Hillary Clinton.
By pledging to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, attempting to officially end the Korean War, raising questions about NATO’s utility and so far refusing to rekindle the Cold War with Russia, Trump crossed a line. For many of Trump’s enemies, this constitutes treasonable behavior, deserving of a soft coup or worse. In short, those with direct economic interests in the global status quo know their empire is in decline and desperately want to retain America’s 800 military bases. They’re vexed that Trump’s “America First” agenda may not fully embrace that objective.
Finally, there are no “good guys” in this conflict as neither side gives a fig about ordinary citizens here or abroad. This struggle pits the interventionist, endless war, “We rule the world capitalists” against the xenophobic, ugly, racist nationalistic capitalists. But that’s not to say there isn’t something of critical importance at stake here. That is, fighting the good fight must include resisting what resembles an FBI/Police state operation — no matter who is the target.
I submit there’s more than a whiff of neo-McCarthyism in the air and it will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and speech. If politically motivated, evidence-free allegations can be leveled against the president of the United States, what can’t be done to the rest of us? In sum, this isn’t about Trump’s fate but our own. I would submit that we need another Joseph Welch or Edward R. Murrow.