So-called «liberals» and «progressives», who once derided those on the political right who accused their ideological forbearers of kowtowing to the «Reds» and «Soviets» during the era of Senator Joseph McCarthy, have dusted off McCarthy’s playbook and are using the very same tactics against Donald Trump and his supporters. The modern-day McCarthyites, mostly neo-conservative Republicans and Hillary Clinton Democrats, are hitting the airwaves, print media, and the Internet hard with accusations of Russian links by Trump and his advisers while haphazardly throwing around lists of alleged «Russian agents».
There is very little difference between what McCarthy told the Ohio County Republican Women’s Club in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1950:
«I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department».
In November 2016, a shadowy and anonymous group of self-described «nonpartisan» public policy wonks, computer scientists, and national security specialists calling themselves «PropOrNot» (Propaganda or Not) published a list of 200 websites cited as «peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans». The Washington Post, Associated Press, and other corporate-controlled media outlets dutifully reported this diatribe as «news». At least during the witch-hunting days of McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), those accused of being Communist agents knew who their accusers were and could face them down publicly.
Rather than condemn the modern-day witch-hunting by faux liberals and progressives, the American media has provided the accusers with maximum support. When CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow called out McCarthy for his bullying tactics on nationwide television, he received support from America’s major newspapers:
The conservative Washington Evening Star wrote: «everyone… resents and detests the bully boy tactics which Senator McCarthy so often employs.
The New York World Telegram: [describing McCarthy’s tactics] «Bamboozling, bludgeoning, distorting way».
The New York Times: [Condemned] «the unwarranted interference of a demagogue».
Today, The New York Times has been leading the charge against Trump and his transition team, citing an unfounded U.S. Intelligence Community report calling out the news network RT and Sputnik News for «interfering» in the U.S. election by pushing «fake news». The Times is engaged in a sort of demagoguery that Murrow, if he were alive today, would assuredly condemn. After exposing McCarthy before the nation as a dangerous demagogue, Murrow summed up his broadcast by issuing a stark warning the American public:
«We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home».
The list of 200 «pro-Russian» websites produced by an anonymous entity and endorsed by the corporate media also crept into the U.S. intelligence report on alleged Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee computers and private email of Clinton campaign officials. The U.S. Intelligence Community, which is well-known for marketing false intelligence on the former USSR, North Vietnam, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya, and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, added its own opinionated «chapeau» on the intelligence report’s screed about RT and Sputnik: the election interference was all personally directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin! Just as the Central Intelligence Agency’s dirty hands were all over the «Prop or Not» list, as they were on McCarthy’s phony list of 205 State Department «Red» employees, they were also on the personal attack on Putin.
Just as a number leading «progressives» were wedded to CIA propaganda efforts during the McCarthy era, they also surfaced to defend the CIA’s «Russia» witch-hunt against Trump. Bill Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich was among the CIA sycophants. Acting like a left-wing version of old Joe McCarthy, Reich wrote on his blog:
- «[A] CIA assessment found that Russian operatives covertly interfered in the election campaign in an attempt to ensure the Republican candidate’s victory.
- Several of Trump’s key campaign aides have close ties to Putin — including his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
- Trump has picked for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, who is also close to Putin.
- After becoming CEO, Exxon bet billions on Russia’s vast oil resources through a partnership with Russian oil giant Rosneft, owned partly by the Kremlin. Putin himself attended the 2011 signing ceremony for the deal».
Reich’s «list» is no different than the one Joe McCarthy waved in his hand while speaking to the old GOP biddies in Wheeling in 1950. Reich, in one fell swoop, netted all of his perceived Russian agents-of-influence: Trump, Putin, Manafort, Tillerson, ExxonMobil, and Rosneft. Former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid added another name to the neo-McCarthyite «list»:
- Trump adviser Carter Page, who had, before the election, committed the egregious infraction of visiting Moscow.
Two of Reid’s Senate Democratic colleagues, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, called for a full investigation of Trump’s national security adviser-designate, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, during his time as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Blumenthal and Shaheen, mustering up their best signature Joe McCarthy tactics, all-but-accused Flynn of passing U.S. secrets to foreign actors. The senators did not limit their witch hunt to Flynn’s time leading DIA but widened it to include his entire Army career. Without a shred of evidence, Blumenthal and Shaheen charged that Flynn provided «highly sensitive compartmented information and code word classified information about the Haqqani terrorist network to Pakistan». This was classic McCarthyism: toss out a charge without proof and await the damage to the political opposition.
For the record, in 2010 Blumenthal lied about serving in the military in Vietnam. After receiving more than five draft deferments between 1965 and 1970, Blumenthal received a commission in the Marine Corps Reserve in Washington, DC, where he organized a Marine «Toys for Tots» campaign. Senator Shaheen’s husband, New Hampshire Lebanese-American Democratic political operative Bill Shaheen, may have more than passing acquaintances with Lebanese-American supporters of the Saudi-supported Future Movement party run by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
During the McCarthy era, several leading lights of the progressive literati and glitterati class condemned the witch-hunting tactics of the right wing. Playwright Arthur Miller brought to the stage «The Crucible», a dramatic rendition of the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials in colonial Massachusetts. Miller’s intent was to show the American people that the anti-Communist hysteria of the late 1940s and early 1950s was no different than that displayed by the public during the Salem trials of the 17th century. The familiar «Are you now or were you ever a Communist?» refrain posed to Hollywood performers and directors by congressional committees was roundly condemned by such well-known actors as Humphrey Bogart, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Burt Lancaster, Danny Kaye, and Edward G. Robinson. It is beyond shameful that many of their not-as-talented Hollywood successors, individuals such as Rob Reiner, Jessica Chastain, Andy Richter, Whoopi Goldberg, and Albert Brooks, are now leading the neo-McCarthyite «Russian agent» charges against Trump and his incoming administration from the altar of Twitter.
In her famous 1950 «Declaration of Conscience» speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Maine Republican Margaret Chase Smith hit out at the McCarthyites of her day. She said the scourge of McCarthyism «spread like cancerous tentacles of ‘know nothing, suspect everything’ attitudes». Today, it is not the right that is spreading its «cancerous tentacles» of suspicion, but the fake «progressive left».
About the author: Wayne Madsen is an Investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club