A Conversation for McCarthyism

A timely reminder....

Post 1

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")

First, congratulations on an excellent and informative article!

I think it's a good time for everyone to remember the Macarthy era, as disturbing reports are eminating from academics in American universities of attempts at censorship of those who challenge the bombing campaign in Afghanistan. Here's some of the text of an email I recieved yesterday. I can't vouch for its truth, but it's doing the rounds in the academic community in the UK at the moment.

"Unfortunately, some participants in these events have been threatened and attacked for speaking out. Trustees of the City University of New York are planning formal denunciations of faculty members who criticized U.S. foreign policy at a teach-in during the first week in October. There have been similar efforts to silence criticism and dissent at the University of Texas at Austin, MIT, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and elsewhere."

Similarly, in the UK there have been attempts to silence opposition to the bombings from backbench MPs.

A reminder of the effects of attacks on freedom of speech and of opinion is definitely in order!

Best wishes


Otto.


A timely reminder....

Post 2

Sol

Hear hear. Very interesting. Hadn't realised how far the whole thing went, to tell the truth or how unscrupulously the 'trials' were carried out. Sent shivers up my spine. Definite paralles with what the Soviet Union was doing at the time, too, for much the same reasons. A timely reminder indeed...


A timely reminder....

Post 3

Two Bit Trigger Pumping Moron

Of course, this gets comments, but the Berlin Airlift article doesn't.

I wouldn't worry too much about free speech on American college campuses. I assure you, they're still the same hotbeds of communism that they've always been. Any crack pot who wants to free Mumia or have a worker's rally is still going to have their say.


A timely reminder....

Post 4

Researcher 168963

Thanks smiley - smiley
My pet project, all grown up...*sniff*

I started writing the original back in August because I thought it was always relavent, but recent events have made it strike a bit more of a chord.

Hey Two Bit, don't begrudge the commentssmiley - smiley. My last two proper articles were the stuff of tumbleweed- a counter would most likely still be in single figures. So it's nice to know that someone still reads form the front page.


A timely reminder....

Post 5

Two Bit Trigger Pumping Moron

Sorry, duidn't mean to take anything away from you. You made top slot, with a picture and everything.


A timely reminder....

Post 6

Tashalls, Muse of Flights of Fancy (Losing Weight at A858170)

Very timely.

Free speech is getting a bit of a belting lately in supposedly democratic countries. We would all be well advised to heed the following quote (can't remember who from, though)

"While I disagree with your opinion, I will vigorously defend your right to express it."

Those who are currently expressing opinions that counter the tide of pro-US sentiment (while they may be ill-timed, ill-advised, etc) are being howled down in a frenzy.

On a differet tack, there is a saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think Macarthyism was used by US government officials to get rid of prominent people they did not like. I can easily see the same type of situation occurring in the next few years in the name of anti-terrorism, can't you?


A timely reminder....

Post 7

Two Bit Trigger Pumping Moron

As long as h2g2 is here, there's a place for people to express anti-American sentiments.


A timely reminder....

Post 8

DoctorGonzo

Are you serious? Maybe it's just the universities I have attended, but the (very worthwhile) campaigns that students are free to join and publicise, just ain't happenin'. All everyone wants to do is get a fairly decent degree, so they can scrabble a bit nearer their dream job, and the car, wife and kids that come as standard.

As an employee of a company, I have to be careful what I say, for fear of my job. You're an employee of the government - ditto. Students and Academics are free to criticise what they wish, and publicise any campaign they please - the fact that they don't have their free speech reined in by higher powers is most valuable. Sure, you may not agree with the Marxist theory they sometimes spout, and you may occassionally regard them as being a bit, well, silly. But dissent is the lifeblood of democracy - let those that can express their dissent without fear of reprisal do so.

I've put a link on http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/A651296 to George Monbiot's article on The New McCarthyism. I found it interesting...


A timely reminder....

Post 9

Tashalls, Muse of Flights of Fancy (Losing Weight at A858170)

I have seen people who have done just that get virtually banned! If not, they are "shouted" down! Again, while these remarks can be distressing in light of human tradegy, these people have the right to express them.

I would also like to point out some irony that is escaping CNN and other media channels. While the loss of American life was devastating and did send a chill throughout the world, there are now US military spokespeople casually referring to "collatoral damage" with this war...

This is probably not the forum to start that discussion, though, so I would like to invite anyone who is interested in chatting about this (I see it as a massive disconnect between sympathies) to drop me a line on my homepage.


A timely reminder....

Post 10

Two Bit Trigger Pumping Moron

I haven't seen that at all. I've gone to the point of Yikesing two posts without result. This place is filled with anti-American posts. I'll take you up on that. http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/F45390?thread=149306


A timely reminder....

Post 11

Sol

Two-Bit. I'm sorry if you felt that my post was anti-American too. Actually, I thought I was paying America a huge compliment in being profoundly shocked that such a thing could go on in this country. Sorry.

I do feel that the show trials, methods of extracting info, assumption of guilt, dodgy reasons for picking the people to be invesitgated and especially guilt by association, and the insistance of naming names are very similar to what the Soviets were doing, though, obviously, from the other end of the spectrum.

Having said that, your version was a much milder one, and according to this article, was nipped in the bud by public outrage, both of which, and especially the latter, are fairly positive traits too I feel.

And it is a timely reminder, but I don't think that's something which applies to America, particularly. I was also thinking about Russia and the human tendancy to point the finger at outsider groups in general when I wrote that. I certainly didn't intend that it should be taken to mean only America, and I am annoyed if it seemed that way.


A timely reminder....

Post 12

PhilFogg

And if you take a real deep look at McCarthism and the fifties in general, you will realize that the image we have of that period today is not entirely accurate. The fact is, the political landscape was much more diverse than we imagine today. A lot of people had dissenting opinions, it just took a (long) while for the panic to wear off. This is how the extreme turn of public opinion during the sixties is explainable.
Also about McCarthy himself: Eisenhower hated him from the outset, and was only waiting for an opportunity to get rid of him. That opportunity finally came when McCarthy attacked the army, and a lot of high-ranking people took a massive interest in his downfall.
So, McCarthism poses a very dark chapter in America's history (a mild episode of fascism, in my humble view), but the way it ended also tells you that liberty, freedom of speech and the entire grabbag of democratic values are also a very powerful factor in this society.
In my experience, it is exactly when you look at the more uncomfortable periods of American history that you will find that while things have a way of going horribly wrong, the exact opposite is just as true.
Currently, I don't really think that dissent from America's foreign policy is equated with treason, the way a lot of people (rightly) fear. To be sure, this country has more than its fair share of idiots, such as Falwell or Lousiana's governor (who proposed that anyone wearing diapers on his head should be pulled over and taken into temporary custody), but I also read a lot of articles whose content suggests a pretty diverse - and critical - landscape of opinions.
When the speaker of the president suggested that people should be very careful not to say the wrong things, the result was an immediate public outcry.
Susan Sontag, one of America's most promiment writers, provoked a huge public outcry when she claimed that the terrorists had been anything but cowardly. But I don't see her in jail yet.
The same goes for Paul Auster, who immediately said that whatever steps must be taken now, military action should not be the answer. As far as I know, he's still happily writing away.
To be sure, there are a lot of people who would like to see HUAC or something similar reinstalled immediately. What I just cannot see is that idiotic segment of American society have their way, just as I cannot see Germany becoming a Nazi dictatorship, or Italy electing a new Mussolini (in spite of Berlusconi), or England occupying India (despite the Falklands). I could go on.

Is it possible that quite a number of people is more worried about America than the Taliban?


A timely reminder....

Post 13

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")

Hi all,

Tashalls, that quote is attributed to Voltaire, but he said it rather than wrote it, as I discovered when I tried to find a reference for it for my thesis!

Best wishes

Otto


A timely reminder....

Post 14

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")

Hi all...

Two points to make.

Firstly, Tashalls, the quote is attributed to Voltaire, but he said it rather than wrote it, so no-one's quite sure.

Second, to Two Bit.

I'm going to subscribe to your discussion thread, because I'm very interested in your opinions. I must admit that I don't understand America. I've never been there, my impressions of American and Americans (both from personal experience, internet contact, and the media) are profoundly contradictory.

On the subject of being "Anti-American", there is an absolutely vital distinction to make here, which a lot of people, particularly Americans and particularly recently, do not seem to make.

If someone were to take issue with my behaviour - say, the way I treat my work colleages, they are not neccesarily "anti-Otto". It could be that actually, this person is rather fond of me, and approves of my behaviour on other issues and admires my achievements, but on this occasion thinks that I am wrong, and need to alter my behaviour, possibly for my own good as much as for everyone else's. This person might actually be rather pro-Otto, and if this person is right, they are actually doing me a far greater favour by opposing my behaviour than by ignoring it. Even if they're wrong, being forced to re-evaluate is never a bad thing.

Of course, this person might actually be my enemy, and despise every aspect of my behaviour, be unimpressed by any of my talents or achievements and think the world would be a better place without me in it. This person is "anti-Otto".

Those who criticise American foreign policy (and I include myself in that number, although I'm undecided about the bombing campaign as of yet) could be of the first kind, and not of the second. So any criticism of American behaviour is not necessarily "anti-American".


Best wishes to all


Otto.









A timely reminder....

Post 15

Two Bit Trigger Pumping Moron

Sorry, didn't mean to bring anyone down. I'm just a little hypersensitve. I've spent too much time over at 'Why DoPeople Hate America?' in the 9/11 forum.

I'll respond in more detail and much kinder spirit after I get some sleep. Be back Saturday.


A timely reminder....

Post 16

Tashalls, Muse of Flights of Fancy (Losing Weight at A858170)

I know what you mean, now. I nipped over to the "Why Do People Hate Americans" thread there after following the link to your home page and was a bit appalled at some of the comments. While there were some reasoned opinions there, the whole thread degenerates quite quickly. I don't blame you for being a bit sensitive after I saw that one.

Otto, your comments on criticism are spot on. Constructive criticism can often be taken as personal attacks (especially online) and my earlier comments were not meant to be taken in that sense. My mum used to say to us kids when we were doing something bad "I love you, but I hate what you are doing." Wise woman.

And thanks to all those responses with the source of that quote, it's one of my favourites.


A timely reminder....

Post 17

ITIWBS

Eisenhower attempted at one point to drum up some support for his presidential campaign and the Marshall plan from McCarthy, evoking much railing of "pinkoe!" from McCarthy, while Marshal on the other hand had been asking more mildly how we were to hold Europe against Soviet aggression without the Marshall plan. The Army/McCarthy hearings followed, Eisenhower took on Richard M. Nixon as his running mate, and the rest is history. Myself, had I been called before McCarthys' 'legislative tribunal', I think I would have waited for a pause then asked Senator McCarthy very loudly, "Senator McCarthy have you ever considered getting psychiatric help for your paranoid schizophrenia?" (classic case). After waiting for the histrionic explosion that would have inevitably followed to subside, continued, "How about your alcoholism?". A friend of mine who served with McCarthy during WWII once told me a story about how McCarthy got his nickname, "Tailgunner Joe". He had a habit, returning from bombing missions, of discharging the tail gun of the plane he was aboard down the length of the landing field during landing, forcing people to take cover. ...by the by, curiously enough, I'm a Nixon admirer... http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/brunel/F77497?thread=8060234


A timely reminder....

Post 18

ITIWBS

TB and Tashalls, posts 15 & 16, can you supply a link? "Why do people hate Americans."


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