For the brief period that Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy dominated American news, it was rare not to see the latest pronouncements of the dipsomanic legislator on the front page of the daily newspapers that still led and defined the news cycle in those days. McCarthy knew a good thing when he saw it and he squeezed every ounce of publicity out of his anti-communist crusade.
McCarthy worked alone — hence the designation of his political legacy as “McCarthyism” — but his insistence that the communism was a clear and present danger to American society was a theme that the House Un-American Actvities Commitee (HUAC) also used to considerable affect.
It must be said that for all of McCarthy’s bluster and all of HUAC’s investigation, very few lives were wasted and there was probably not one unnecessary fatality that resulted from the “paranoia” of the period. Certainly, the commie-loving lefties never pointed out that the victims of Soviet communism numbered in the millions and the people’s courts in that regime did not just ask impertinent questions of left-wing Hollywood screenwriters — they sent people to the gulag or arranged for the customary NKVD bullet-in-the-back-of-the-head.
So McCarthy and HUAC might have been grand-standers, but beneath all that free publicity was a real issue: that communism was an evil system that was actively working to undermine western democracy.
The current rage against Russia has not been prompted by the ravings of one media-craving politician but by dozens of them on from both sides of Congress. Hence we are not hearing about “McCainism” or “Pelosism.” But we are witnessing the rebirth of HUAC as Washington has become an investigation-happy capitol that will soon promulgate the investigation into the investigation.
The primary difference between then and now is that there is simply no political similarity. During the McCarthy era, it was clear that the Russians were seeking to degrade American leadership. They were spying on the U.S. and other NATO members and stealing atomic secrets. One of the most outrageous examples of Soviet espionage occurred in Canada when Igor Gouzenko walked into an Ottawa newspaper and revealed the existence of a communist spy ring. It was 1945; the Second World War had just concluded. The Cold War was about to begin.
So the evidence of Russian meddling was massive and beyond dispute. Today, we have yahoo legislators in Washington talking about equally massive conspiracy but not offering one shred of supporting evidence. OK, the question needs to be asked again: how did the Russians influence the presidential election? Did they purchase ads, stuff ballot boxes, deliver subliminal propaganda, coerce voters with pushy Russian agents?
Washington is coming apart at the seams because of unfounded rumours and a paranoia that was not even dreamt of by McCarthy.
It is all quite funny really. And nothing is more humorous than the current media campaign that Vladimir Putin has initiated with a passion that rivals even that of those eager Republican media hounds, senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. That ultimate absurdity is seeing Putin sit down with the self-obsessed “reporter” Megyn Kelly. Overpaid, celebrity journalists like Kelly, who are famous for being famous, did not exist in the 1950s — instead they had to make due with serious newsmen like Ed Murrow. Can you imagine Soviet boss Nikita Khrushchev sitting down with Murrow for an episode of “Person to Person” and getting real about Russian intentions?
The Russian madness today is not just much ado about nothing, it is much ado about something stupid. If there are any political casualties in this obsession, they might just be found in a Trump administration that has been completely straightjacketed by investigations that have no reason to begin and will never find a cause to end. Clearly, if there is any collusion going on in Washington, it is the collusion that comes when Republicans and Democrats alike realize how much they enjoy the media attention that comes with making outrageous accusations and their determination to ensure that it doesn’t end any time soon.
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