Between 1950 and 1954, Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy led one of the most notorious political witch-hunts in U.S. history. Aided by the parallel activities of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade divided politicians, captivated the media, and fanned the flames of anti-Soviet zeal in early Cold War America.
By 1954, when the Senate censured him for his “inexcusable” and “reprehensible” behavior, McCarthy’s name had become synonymous with demagoguery. HUAC’s star waned soon after, and the committee was dissolved in 1975. Paranoid anti-communist organizations like the John Birch Society maintained their vigilance against the (increasingly imaginary) communist threat, but most everyone else moved on.
“This WikiLeaks disaster is proof that we are deeply infiltrated by communists just like Senator McCarthy warned us about. … It would not shock me if [Wikileaks founder] Julian Assange SECRETLY seeks asylum in Moscow to avoid an Interpol arrest,” wrote Steve Cooper, who on Dec. 1 became one of the first of many on the far right to fulminate about the alleged Wikileaks-Communist connection. “McCarthyism is the only thing that will save us.” Assange was arrested in England Dec. 7 on a Swedish warrant in connection with a sex crimes investigation. He was denied bail and remains in custody.
Cooper, a prolific blogger and Internet radio personality who writes and broadcasts at TheConservativeMonster.com, has been working towards a full-blown exhumation of McCarthy’s legacy for some time. During a June 2009 Internet broadcast on the topic, “Did the Soviet Union stage their collapse to lower our guard?” he declared that “global tentacles of Marxism are slowly strangling this world, and people are clueless.”
The day after WikiLeaks announced its most recent document dump, Cooper bought a new domain name to link to The Conservative Monster. Its name: McCarthyismNow.com.
Cooper used a Nov. 29 essay headlined “Senator McCarthy’s Ghost is Watching: Communist Infiltration Behind the WikiLeaks Dump?” to take a swipe at President Obama, his wife and former Weather Underground member William Ayers, whom right-wing extremists have tried to tie to Obama despite their only cursory association.
“Senator McCarthy tried to warn us, but America spit in his face. Senator McCarthy was a U.S. Marine Officer and a patriot, unlike Barry, Michelle and William Ayers,” he wrote. “These leaks are right up Ayers [sic] alley. ... The communists need to be flushed out of this government like the roaches they are before they bring the entire country down, because this is their ultimate goal.”
(Ironically, McCarthy was charged with encouraging government employees to steal classified documents and turn them over to him, as well as misusing FBI documents containing top-secret national security information.)
Cooper isn’t the only far-right mouthpiece calling for a McCarthy revival.
“We are faced with the problem of U.S.-based Marxists supporting our foreign enemies. These are dangerous times for America. The Congress must re-establish a House Internal Security Committee,” opined far-right columnist Cliff Kincaid on Wednesday. (The House Committee on Un-American Activities was renamed the House Internal Security Committee in 1969 in hopes that its gravitas could be salvaged after “Yippies” Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin made a mockery of HUAC hearings in 1967 and 1968.)
Right-wing attack dog and author Ann Coulter, when she's not busy talking up hate groups, has been spreading the love for “Tail-gunner Joe” for years. “The myth of ‘McCarthyism’ is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times. … Everything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie,” she wrote in 2003’s Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terror. She even suggests that McCarthy is the only reason there are virtually no American communists. “Sneering at McCarthy today because the only people who call themselves Communists are harmless cranks is like sneering at the Sabin vaccine because, really, almost no one gets polio anymore.”
Then there’s Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), better known to the far right for his longstanding and baseless claim that undocumented immigrants murder enormous numbers of Americans every day and similar attacks. In an interview with RightSideNews last Monday, King said he agreed with Kincaid’s call for a resurrected HUAC-type committee. “I am often quoted as saying McCarthy was a hero for America. He was. He was right far more times than he was wrong. It is a historical fact.”
America’s favorite self-proclaimed historian of the hour has also weighed in — repeatedly. “It was Republican Senator Joe McCarthy who shined the spotlight on the Communist Party again,” Glenn Beck, the Fox News host and conspiracy theorist, told his viewers in March. “McCarthy was absolutely right. He may have used bad tactics or whatever, but he was absolutely right,” he added in June.
Three weeks later, Beck invited M. Stanton Evans, author of 2007’s Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies, to join him on his radio show, “The Glenn Beck Program.”
“[McCarthy] was right in general. There was a massive penetration of the government and … it was covered up and … he threatened that cover-up. And that is why he was isolated, demonized and destroyed,” Evans told a wide-eyed Beck. “I have something I call ‘Evans Law of Inadequate Paranoia,’ which says no matter how bad you think something is, when you look into it, it’s always worse.”
Beck ate it up. “Please, please get this book,” Beck implored his viewers. “Know the truth. The truth shall set you free.”
Turning back to Evans, he gibbered, “It is — it’s frightening. It’s frightening. But it’s the truth and here is why you need to know history, because it’s repeating itself.”
Beck was still bowled over by Evans the morning after he interviewed the author. “Blacklisted by History. Read it,” he begged his radio audience. “I know how I’m going to end up in history. I know I’m going to be a Joseph McCarthy or somebody like that, if I even make it in history. If I do, I will be smeared and discarded.”
History should be so lucky.