McCarthyism – – 2017

The year is 1954.   The government seems packed with Russian sympathizers. The prospect of subversion is frighteningly real. Even high-level US military personnel have become suspect of having inappropriate contacts with Russia. It is hard to defend those who have had interactions with America’s adversary, without risk of incrimination, or at the least loss of reputation.   Joseph McCarthy’s relentless questioning of ties to the Communist Party was enough to destroy many. That was 1954, but there is a striking similarity to 2017. The Washington Post headline “Brennan’s explosive testimony just made it harder for the GOP to protect Trump” brings back that national paranoia of the cold war. We study Joseph McCarthy and his accusations with the assurance that that dark phase of our history is over. But unfortunately that is hardly the case. At least McCarthy had the law to provide a rationale for his attacks, the McCarran Act of 1950, which was passed over President Truman’s veto. Brennan’s testimony laid out the possibility that there “were interactions and contacts between U.S. persons and the Russians” that needed further investigation. Did we pass a new McCarran Act making contacts with the Russians an activity that requires investigation? Probably not, especially since the Act of 1950 was struck down by the Supreme Court.   But a law is not necessary when fear is gripping the country that Russia may be manipulating some of our leaders.   The left claims this manipulation is real because of the numerous “contacts” between members of the Trump team and the “Russians”. It started with an allegation that the Kremlin was responsible for Hillary’s loss.   When that was shown not to be true, it became “Trump colluded with the Russians”, again nothing to back that up. By now, however, the idea that these allegations must be true because of “contacts and interactions” is nothing more than a circular theory that relies on the oft-repeated allegation to be proof itself. It is now baked into the national psyche through clever manipulation by Democrats and the media, who dislike Trump. There are no laws alleged to have been broken. Nor is there even evidence of any activity that would be in violation of such non-existing law. All we have is “contacts and interactions”. The case has been built on non-existing laws and non-existing evidence of violations of those “laws” to conclude there’s some smoke there. We keep hearing that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. No, where there’s smoke there’s smoke. Believe it or not, talking to a Russian isn’t a felony, yet. Some Washington elites are channeling their inner McCarthy to build a case that just having those contacts means there is a sinister intent. And just like in those good old days, if one defends those contacts, that person should be suspect. Hollywood suffered most from the McCarthy Blacklist, but has either forgotten or is just trying to get even. The media frenzy shows just how a narrative without much more than some innuendo and speculation can be built into an all-consuming obsession. Arthur Miller, who wrote The Crucible, “was inspired to write a drama reflecting the mass cultural and political hysteria …in America.” Is there another Arthur Miller willing to stand up to the media today?


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