18 August 2016

McCarthyism Redivivus

There have been numerous reports as of late that have rightly charged the Trump campaign with Neo-McCarthyism. His 'Extreme Vetting' which when dissected starts to sound like a loyalty test. Trump is more or less advocating the renewal of HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was basically a standing inquisition-type commission with great powers to investigate and destroy. Vetting would likely lead to deportation of alien residents and it isn't hard to see that expanding into a domestic Blacklist directed against citizens.

The implications of this combined with the current culture of law enforcement and the Patriot Act is a cause for great concern.

And it's no great surprise. Many on the Right have defended McCarthyism and not a few (especially in the Christian Right) have advocated its return. They believe that McCarthy was essentially correct and are not disturbed by his criteria or methodology. Further they feel vindicated by the release of the Venona Cables in the 1990s which all but verified the widespread existence of Soviet spies in the United States.

Critics at this point will argue that it was well known there were many Soviet spies and yet Joseph McCarthy was about the last person in the United States able to locate them. As an investigator he was a train-wreck devoted more to grandstanding and buffoonery than any serious inquiry or investigation. He was a bully who destroyed people for the sake of his own fame and status. There are obvious parallels with the current GOP candidate.

That's one form of McCarthyism or one aspect of it that seems to be making a comeback.

But there's another and it's coming from the Democrats and the Establishment at large. This variation is akin to Red-baiting but in this case it's not Communism per se, but Russia and in particular Vladimir Putin. Everything from the Olympics, the DNC email hacks and the narrative regarding the Syrian War are being focused on the 'wicked' machinations of Vladimir Putin and the Russians. If you're not a proper Russia-hater then your loyalty and validity are suspect.

This is now becoming a criterion for the Establishment wing of the media and the political class. Russia is the new enemy and if you want to survive in the Washington mainstream you had better get on board with that. The media has endlessly paraded current and former government officials and Establishment connected academics to attack Russia and argue for US militarism, all the while making Putin out to be the aggressor. Like a broken record they're trotting out terms like 'appeasement' in order to justify their argument for war. Just this morning I laughed as I heard an academic speak of Russia 'pushing against NATO's borders'. This analysis is absurd and the media has once more exposed its lack of journalistic integrity.

While Putin is a devil to be sure, the reporting and narrative in the United States is almost entirely built on lies, deception and revisionist re-writes and whitewashing of history.

Trump's ambivalence toward militarism, which is probably more schizophrenia than an actual lack of commitment, has rendered him 'unqualified' by the American Establishment. And yet he's already beginning to transform, just recently weaving a great lie about the European response to terrorism and a revision regarding his previous criticisms of NATO.

While Red-Baiting is all but dead, the spirit of it is still alive on both the Right and the Left, and the fact that the Democratic Party has now embraced it tells you how far they've drifted to the Right. Hillary Clinton is running the most Right-wing Democratic campaign in memory. She's closer to George HW Bush than someone like FDR or even Lyndon Johnson.

This election is in many ways a referendum on the past 15 years of US militarism but in another sense it's a referendum on the past 35 years, the entirety of the Reagan revival and its vision of US militarism and Hyper-Capitalism in the form of deregulation and globalisation.

The problem is, the bulk of the disgruntled population have failed to rightly understand this history. They're frustrated but in most cases lack the apparatus to frame it or express their frustration. They don't really know who to be mad at and unhappily they don't realise that neither of the two mainstream candidates are offering a remedy. In different ways they represent the very forces that brought US society to this point.

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