“People have to watch what they say, watch what they do.”
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
In the 1950s, a junior senator named Joseph McCarthy made a speech accusing thousands of government employees of being communists. He moved from that target to Hollywood and smeared the names of dozens of artists including Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Arthur Miller. No one dared stand up to McCarthy out of fear that he would mount a smear campaign against them. These tactics were given a name–McCarthyism–and put into the files of the darkest archives of American history.
A few days ago, former Chief U.N. weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, was accused of trying to lure a teenage girl to a Burger King restaurant presumably for motives less than honorable. Actually, he was accused of this alleged crime in June 2001. He went to court and the case was dismissed and sealed. Usually a dismissal in a criminal case implies innocence of that crime. Usually having a case sealed means that it would never haunt that person again.
Of course, that would be the usual case as long as the person in question isn’t a credible and well-known critic of the Bush Administration’s lust for blood in Iraq. If Ritter had only kept his mouth shut instead of trying to shake some sense into an American public being fed a line of manipulative horse hockey, I’m quite sure his misdemeanor police record would have remained sealed, and his credibility intact.
Then there’s Rush Limbaugh, who went on a shrill rant to expose as communists the housewives and grandmothers that marched for peace in Washington D.C. Rush was immediately followed by his very own “Mini-me,” Sean Hannity, who parroted every line Rush had spouted. Whether these men understand democracy is questionable, and whether their estimated 20 million listeners agree with them is frightening. But I won’t deny them the right to smear as long as they don’t deny me the right to dissent.
The fact that the protestors have the ability to dissent in a democracy should be welcomed by these so-called patriotic talk show hosts, and the idea of smearing anyone who might harbor an alternative point of view as a communist is unbelievable. Healthy debate and alternative views should be aired before we start turning the streets of Baghdad red with the blood of innocents. Next thing you know they’ll be branding protestors with even worse epithets like “people-gassers.” Americans don’t like commies very much, but we hate people-gassers.
I’m quite sure that some of the protestors are communist sympathizers, but communists (and dictatorships) are divided into two groups these days. Those that cooperate and trade with the United States and those that don’t. Put into the black and white terms that Americans have come to require in order to understand any given situation: China good commies, Cuba bad commies. I would venture to guess that the alleged communists that marched on Washington probably practice some form of Capitalism thereby making them good commies. Especially the “Soccer Mom” commies that don’t want their soccer players killed protecting us from driving smaller cars. People often hear about the corporate media controlling the content of what we are allowed to hear, but they never actually catch it in action. After his remarks on “Politically Incorrect,” ABC fired Bill Maher. His ratings had remained the same throughout the tenure of the program, but the network cancelled him anyway. Maher’s words were considered unpatriotic and no one doubts that this controversy was the reason he was cancelled. Can’t have controversy at ABC.
It was just after Maher uttered the infamous remark that Ari Fleischer gave us his take on democracy that I quoted above. One has to wonder what pressure the White House applied to ABC. I’d venture to guess it probably wasn’t much more than a carrot. A communications bill that benefits the corporate networks can be very effective in making sure “people watch what they say.” If you expect to hear anything more than the government line after the hostilities begin, I’d buy a satellite dish.
The French and the Germans are ruffling the Bush Administration’s peacock tailfeathers over it’s latest line that time is running out on Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld has labeled these peacemongers “old Europe”. He’d rather think of Europe as Poland and the Czech Republic because these countries whole-heartedly support any idea that America comes up with. Of course, France and Germany have economies large enough to support themselves (and therefore think for themselves) while Poland is expecting aid from the U.S. in exchange for its advocacy of American policies. Most of us learn at an early age that we can’t buy our friends and you may recall that the federal government has bought more than a few friends over the years. Too many have returned as enemies. As long as the administration allows North Korea to sell SCUD missiles to our “ally” Yemen, I have a feeling more will follow in their footsteps.
Out of nowhere a tape made during the Kennedy Administration conveniently surfaced this week. On it JFK is heard complaining about the French being a bunch of whiners for not supporting American engagement in Vietnam. Whether the French were right is immaterial, but I1m sure this tape gave insight to many Americans on what to think of the nervous Europeans. Now when our allies in Europe start trying to avert our hostile intentions we’ll just say, “Those silly French. They’re always kidding around. Go ahead, Mr. President, ignore them.” Then we can march off to war with our newly-bought friends in tow and leave our true friends and long-time allies to whine about their insignificance. Hopefully we won’t need them. It wasn’t until a few columnists stood up to McCarthy and exposed his lies that McCarthyism was laid to rest in the late 1950s. Newspapers branded him “evil,” but Americans retained their fear of communists until the cold war ended. If you sense a pattern to these events I’ve just mentioned, you are waking up to the new age of McCarthyism being pulled from that dark archive and dusted off. Get used to living in fear of terrorism forever, and get used to smear campaigns being waged against anyone in the way of the government’s agenda. This is Bush’s America for better or worse. And if you’re sensing those patterns don’t mention it to anyone, or I’ll see you at the IRS audit.
JOHNNY BOYD is a columnist living in Aspen, Colorado. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org