1 Jan 2011
A "campaign to defame" Joseph McCarthy?
No one defamed Joseph McCarthy. He was one of those political crooks and thugs routinely thrown up, and givena platform, for a time, one of those who – to quote who more sinister than George Washington Plunkitt -- "seen his opportunities, and he took 'em." Had John Roy Carlson wanted to update "Under Cover,” his celebrated report on his infiltration of many different pro-Nazi, pro-Axis, antisemitic groups in the early years of World War II, a book that went through thirty printings – to take account of demagogues during the first years of the Cold War, he might well have devoted a chapter to Joseph McCarthy.
Fortunately, back then, there was near-universal agreement on the menace of Soviet Communism, A.D.A. (Americans For Democratic Action) was led by such people as J. K. Galbraith and Arthur Schlesinger; The leaders of the A.F.L-C.I.O. were such anti-Communists as George Meaney and Walter Reuther, advised by former Communists such as Jay Lovestone; the Democratic Party, especially such Senators as Henry Jackson, were more intelligently anti-Communist than many in the Republican Party
Had Joseph McCarthy not been put out of his misery by the Army hearings, and by bow-tied courtly Joseph Welch of Hale & Dorr, and an untouchable Brahmin, and above all by McCarthy himself, he might have done even more damage to the cause of intelligent anti-Communism than he managed to do.
Joseph McCarthy was so reckless, shrill, wantonly cruel in his charges, that he surely delayed the day of recognition for some of those who still needed to be educated in understanding the use of front groups and other aspects of Soviet propaganda; some had their understanding put on hold. He was not an agent of the Soviets, but he certainly aided them inadvertently, as did his unseemly retinue, consisting of such appalling people as Roy Cohn. Distaste for McCarthy, and for Martin Dies and HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee) may have delayed the day of recognition for some. Certainly their antics were exploited, in Western Europe, by those ill-inclined to find fault with domestic Communist parties.
Among those who write or speak about the meaning, and menace, of Islam, some are good, and some not so good, or even harmful. Those who are shrill, or hysterical, or who overstate, or who view their anti-Islam efforts part of something much greater – a Return to Christian Values, for example, or the War To Prevent A Socialistic Takeover Of America, which socialistic takeover apparently includes, among other things, the recent health-care legislation, Medicare, and Social Security, not to mention the sacred right never ever to go back to, or even approach, the marginal tax rates that were perfectly accepted during the period in which Dwight Eisenhower socialistically reigned over us.
Many who might listen, and heed, intelligent expositions about Islam, attempts to convey its contents, and the reasons for not taking at face value the protestations of Muslim apologists that it is they who are victims, even as they refuse to ever discuss the contents of Muslim texts, and what perfectly orthodox Islam matter-of-factly inculcates, do not because they are repelled by the presentation. And by the presenters, whose unseemly self-promotion, and transparent political parti-pris, and foolish claims (no, George Soros has not taken over the American government, and Obama is not a “secret Muslim”) get in the way of what they do say about Islam that makes, or would make if presented in a different way, by different people, sense. Not infrequently, the feverish exaggerations are connected to the apparent need to keep appealing to a certain kind of donor, one who needs to have an upping of the ante, a continuous exaggeration of The Threat, in order that more and still more money may be forthcoming. Thus we see these transparent and crude "help-us-stop-the-takeover-of-America-by-lefties" appeals, for example, which are not exactly going to win converts to the cause of limiting the power and presence of Islam all over the West.
Think of what would have happened in Italy had not Oriana Fallaci, the anticlerical, republican, anti-fascist famously left-wing Oriana Fallaci, taken the lead herself in denouncing Islam and the large-scale presence of Muslims in Italy, but someone on the right, someone such as the late Giorgio Almirante (an unreconstructed Fascist), or Alessandra Mussolini.
And think of how, in France, Le Pen, with his "the Holocaust was a detail" of World War II, has prevented so many from recognizingforthrightly the meaning, and menace of Islam, and has allowed the defenders of Islam to caricature and dismiss critics of Islam – everyone of sense should be alarmed about Islam, and about the rise in the Muslim population in Western Europe – as “far right, far right, far right” – a term also used, now, and conveniently, for such people as Geert Wilders, who have nothing “far right” about them.
Another point: I find curious the argument that Joseph McCarthy gave no sign of antisemitism. Many of his most devout followeers -- people who admired Father Feeney, for example -- certainly exhibited such a pathology. And the argument that because he employed some Jews -- Roy Cohn being the main example (Cohn employed Schine) -- that proved he was not antisemitic fails to convince. Didn't the antisemitic Nixon employ the craven Kissinger? And haven't we just had revealed to us how Kissinger curried favor with his antisemitic boss by showing an ostentatious indifference to the fate of Jews in the Soviet Union?
And why should organized Jewish groups not have distanced themselves from, or denounced McCarthy? Are they not to denounce him if it turns out – which I doubt – that he was not an antisemite himself? For god’s sake, if one reads the writings of those who were pro-McCarthy at the time, there is hardly one of them who does not fit into, at the very least, the joseph-sobran mode. That was McCarthy and McCarthyism – something for the Joe Sobrans of this world.
As for J. T. Matthews, when he published in American Mercury, that magazine – which under different editors and owners had had several distinct incarnations -- had long been connected to antisemites. Not at the obvious non-stop level of Gerald L. K. Smith's "The Cross and the Flag" but with much more than winks, about Jewish Bolshevists and fifth-columnists. And whether or not Matthews was once on the side of the angels – I suppose that is the point of the story about his having a gathering at which blacks and whites could mingle, and it apparently got him into trouble -- he ended up, did he not, in the galere not only of McCarthy, but of Martin Dies and HUAC.
No doubt there were among the holier-than-thou clerics, a certain number who were unable to recognize the full threat of Soviet Communism, as today there are some – but their numbers are I think diminishing – who have convinced themselves that those who defend Islam are not smooth propagandists or fools, and the Interfaith Healing Racket has a life, alas, of its own. But not all clergymen, or teachers and students at divinity schools, are necessarily fools, though fools there be aplenty, not least because of the thoughtlessness of so many who think they can continue to make pronouncements about Islam without actually having read, and re-read, and studied the texts of Islam, and what Muslim scholars say those texts mean, and what the many ex-Muslims testify as to what Muslims – when they are among themselves – think about Infidels.
McCarthy did damage to the cause of anti-Communism. And in the same way that Le Pen, or the BNP, have done in deflecting attention away from Islam, and onto those who may be easy targets for criticism.
2 Jan 2011
It is useful to separate personalities from rational arguments. Dislike for individuals too often leads to dislike for their opinions and tastes. We see this in the world of music, as one cultural example, where the works of Wagner have been shunned in certain quarters because the nazis liked them. Ad hominem arguments attack the man and not his ideas and policies.
Having said that, I'd like to know to what extent Senator McCarthy was accurate in his accusations about red conspiracies in America and to what extent he defamed artists, cineastes and others whose lives were without reproach. Was he overreaching himself by posing as a grand inquisitor? Did his hyperbolic speechmaking and posturing endanger the democratic process? Did the Wisconsin senator have a personal philosophy of social fairness and compassion for the underpriveleged, possibly inspired by Catholic social teaching? The general portrayal of his personality during the House unamerican activities hearings does not hint at fairness.
12 Jan 2011
Gabriel Bonnor has indeed responded to my article as I intended by questioning whether ...it is useful to separate personalities from rational arguments: and concluding that . .... Ad hominem arguments attack the man and not his ideas and policies." This was precisely my intent. For Hugh Fitzgerald, there is no distinction nor does he hesitate to use the very same arguments frequently used against Senator McCarthy of "guilt by assocaition" to smear innocent people.
I made several substantitive points in my article none of which was answered by Hugh. They are:
1.There is not a shred of evidence in the life and career of Senator McCarthy that he said or did anything that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic.
2. That most American Jews were not concerned by McCarthy's valid charges that the Voice of America had dropped its Hebrew Broadcasting Service precisely at the time of the Prague trials and the worst examples of anti-Semitism in the Stalinist USSR.
3. That the only public opinion poll that explored the matter demonstrated that anti-Semitism was more prominent among McCarthy oppponents than McCarthy supporters..
4. The anger of the Religious Left dominated by the the most prestigious mainline Protestant Chuches and clergy was aroused by what they considered the "wild charges" of J.B. Matthews and that a large part of the condemnation of McCarthy was directly related to the prejudices of wealthy and conservative mainline Protestant Republicans that McCarthy was an embarrasment to the Eisenhower administration and were turned off by his boorish, Catholic and lower class background.
Because all these facts go aginst what I called the Woody Alan interpetation of history, Hugh ignores these points or counters them with contrasting the 'evil', 'brutal', 'shrill', wrecklessly cruel' McCarthy with his chief opponent the 'courtly' Joseph Welch of the distinguished Boston Law firm Hale & Dorr whom Hugh refers to as an 'untouchable Brahmin', the same language used to described the Harvard educated Alger Hiss and several others revealed by the Venona Papers to have been Soviet agents operating in the highest echelons of the U.S. government who due to his polished Ivy League upper class background and was regarded as infinitely more refined and cultured and therefoire above suspicion.
Nevertheless. history has proven that McCarthy and yes the detestable Richard Nixon were right in the Alger Hiss case.
Hugh Fitzgerald is a brilliant scholar, a highly valued contributor to NER and an unmatched polemicist in the struggle against the real threats and dangers of radical Islam. He is not however an expert on every subject under the sun and therefore qualified to use his own variety of political correctness.