It couldn't happen now -- cell phone cameras are ubiquitous -- but the event that brought a man whose name is synonymous with fearmongering and false accusations to the public attention wasn't recorded. No audio or film exists and the text of the speech was not saved. The best I can do is quote Wikipedia:
[Sen. Joseph] McCarthy experienced a meteoric rise in national profile on February 9, 1950, when he gave a Lincoln Day speech to the Republican Women's Club of Wheeling, West Virginia. His words in the speech are a matter of some debate, as no audio recording was saved. However, it is generally agreed that he produced a piece of paper that he claimed contained a list of known Communists working for the State Department. McCarthy is usually quoted to have said: "The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205 -- a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department."
Some people trace the birth of the modern right back to Barry Goldwater's loss in 1964. But I put it here, in Wheeling, West Virginia, 1950. Demagogic, fearmongering, and authoritarian, Joe McCarthy was the template for the modern conservative. Goldwater just came along later and filled in the details.
So it shouldn't surprise us to learn that McCarthy's politics rise from his grave from time to time. McCarthyism has become the fallback position for many Republicans. We saw it in Sarah Palin, with her accusations of terrorism aimed at Barack Obama. We saw it in Michele Bachmann, who once called for a media investigation of liberals' "anti-American views." We saw it after 9/11, when then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer warned "all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do" -- because Bill Maher told a joke the White House didn't like.
And now we have this:
Republican members of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus said the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have tried to plant "spies" within key national-security committees in order to shape legislative policy.
Reps. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), citing the book Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that's Conspiring to Islamize America, called for the House sergeant at arms to investigate whether CAIR had been successful in placing interns on key panels. The lawmakers are specifically focused on the House Homeland Security Committee, Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee.
"If an organization is connected to or supports terrorists [and] is running influence operations or planting spies in key national security-related offices, I think this needs to be made known," said Broun, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee. "So I join my colleagues here today in calling for action."
Of course, it wasn't so much "calling for action" as it was grandstanding on BS. The Hill took the extraordinary investigative journalistic step of calling the House sergeant at arms to see what they had to say. "But the Office of the House sergeant at arms said that it has received no such request from any of the four Republicans and declined to speculate on how a request of that nature would be addressed," the paper reported.
"We have not received any request at this time," said Kerri Hanley, a spokeswoman for the House sergeant at arms office. "Until we know of the exact request, a determination cannot be made on how it will be handled."
So they didn't so much call "for the House sergeant at arms to investigate whether CAIR had been successful in placing interns on key panels," as they did just pretend they made the call. But never mind that, there are radical Muslim terr'ists in Washington... As interns!
How worried should you be about this? The book they're using for the basis of their claims is published by the wingnut WorldNetDaily, so not very. WND is basically the web headquarters of the birther movement, so they're not only claiming that secret Muslim terr'ists have infiltrated the lunch rooms in congressional office buildings, but the White House itself. Myrick, Shadegg, Broun, and Franks don't seem especially freaked out about that claim.
Neither do they have any actual names of these terr'ists. Other journalists did some journalism and found out that, despite having absolutely iron-clad proof in the form of a book written by a right wing frootloop, none of these four would-be McCarthys have in their hands a list.
"[D]on’t get too worried. I just checked with a spokesperson for Rep. Myrick, who seems to be leading this charge, and she confirmed to me that the group does not have a list of names of the infiltrators," writes Greg Sargent. "Though if the investigation does turn up a list, one imagines it just may be waved around at a press conference one of these days."
And, of course, the investigation won't turn up any names because the investigation is being conducted within the borders of the Land of Make-Believe.
It'd be easy to laugh this off -- it is, after all, ridiculous -- but we've seen where McCarthyism leads and we know what the consequences to actual, non-imaginary people is. If you go to WorldNetDaily, you'll see that their editorial position is that Muslims are evil. Period. That these four Republicans are playing to WingNutDaily's intolerance and bigotry should be alarming.
This is also where this "America is a Christian nation" crap leads; witch-hunts looking for infidels. There are Muslims in Washington and we should all be freaked out about that. In fact, there are Muslims in our schools and our neighborhoods. They write stories in our newspapers and books our children read. They treat patients in hospitals and hand out drugs in pharmacies. They are everywhere.
So now is the time for all good Americans to soil themselves in fear and let the Republicans protect them. There are Socialists in the White House and Muslims in the halls of Congress. The end is near. As always with Republican political axes, this one is ground on divisiveness, paranoia, and flat-out lies. The enemy -- entirely of the accusers' own invention -- is out to destroy our way of life. They're gays and atheists and liberals and feminists and environmentalists and socialists and communists and labor unions and trial lawyers and community organizers and illegal aliens and legal aliens and college professors and the poor and abortion providers and people who drink lattes and the media and -- probably -- people who put out those "thin ice" signs in the winter (how do they do that without falling through? It must be Satanic magic).
And now Muslims. The only plus to all this is that it really limits the groups attracted to the Republican Party. Remove any group they've ever attacked collectively and you're left with wealthy white Christians -- and even then, not all of them. No wonder the GOP is shrinking.
McCarthyism may not be dead, but it's killing the GOP.
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