Steve Benen has a good summary of some of the McCarthy revisionism that’s been going on recently:
In Texas, for example, far-right activists are trying to rewrite the state’s school curriculum standards, part of which includes an effort to rehabilitee Joe McCarthy. In Congress, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) described McCarthy as “a great American hero” a few years back.
And then there’s Fox News’ Glenn Beck, who launched a bizarre tirade on the air yesterday, accusing FDR of hiring Communists to serve throughout the U.S. government, and lauding McCarthy for taking the threat seriously.
It would be a mistake to think it was only the fringers doing this: a few years ago, Bobo attacked “Good Night and Good Luck” for being unfair to Saint Joe as well.
Controlling today’s news cycles isn’t enough, history must be rewritten as well. We can all look forward to 50 years of Bush II revisionism.
Soviet communism is alive and well in the American right wing (see Lysenkoism et al).
We’ve already been through over 20 years of Ronald Reagan revisionism. Hopefully the others won’t work so well.
Recently? Hasn’t Andrew McCarthy always revised history? … oh wait.
Not to rain on their parade or anything, but part of the reason that Joe McCarthy finally lost total credibility was because he accused THE MILITARY of being taken over from the inside by Communists.
You’d think conservatives, with their rah-rah military force rhetoric about the best and the brightest, would be disgusted with the concept of Joe McCarthy.
Of course, you’d be wrong to think that they’d understand the contradiction.
They do this all the time. Reinvent the past. Slavery was good for the slaves. The civil rights era was all hedonism and tyranny. Reagan lowered taxes and balanced the budget and single-handedly ended communism….
They’re simply unflagging in their devotion to their bizarrely fantastical belief system. The rest of us aren’t in ours. This is a problem.
Krugman made a related point in the New Yorker profile: “Some of my friends tell me that I should spend more time attacking right-wingers,” he wrote in 1998. “The problem is finding things to say. Supply-siders never tire of proclaiming that taxes are the root of all evil, but reasonable people do get tired of explaining, over and over again, that they aren’t.”
It’s just relentless.
Maybe Stanley Fish’ll give us the definitive story next week in the New York fucking Times…
Lots of potential post titles on that album.
If they get to exhume McCarthy, can we exhume Arthur Miller? Seems only fair.
16 shells from a thirty aught six
There are days I find these people less worthy of mockery and more terrifying. Beneath the clowny stuff lurks something kind of sinister.
They can try to rehabilitate McCarthy, but I think that history’s verdict is going to be difficult to reverse.
We’ve always been at war with….. LINE! Who are we at war with again?
I read a pithy comment somewhere, hope it’s not yours: Orwell’s 1984 was supposed to be a cautionary tale, not an instruction manual.
Grumpy Code Monkey
Everybody’s so worried about the soshulists that they haven’t noticed the fascists taking everything over.
Would it be unfair to Saint Joe to speculate that he had a Kaus-ian affinity for goats?
W kept us safe!
No terrorist attacks during his Presidency!
I wonder… has anyone looked into the possibility that McCarthy got a lot of support becuase his accusations and investigations did such an effective job of gumming up congress?
Looking back it’s an excellent “do nothing” tool.
Media is focused on “the Red threat” opposition gets great cover for being “unwilling to proceed until the accusations are looked into”.
All you needed was someone’s nephew who was a union member that might have had contact with “known socialists” and you’re all set.
Speaking of Glenn Beck, he announced on his radio program this morning that on Monday he would be sharing the names of two socialists who are close to Obama. In practically the same sentence, he started in on churches, saying how for many of them the phrase “social justice” is really just code for socialism.
If he’s not careful, he’s going to overreach soon.
But this is what people always do. S/he who writes history often gets to write the future — so we try to be the one writing History.
This is why Israelis and Palestinians struggle so mightily over individual words. Are the Jewish communities in what was once Palestinian Jerusalem “neighborhoods”? Or “settlements”? One implies the Jewish Israelis belong there, the other implies occupied territory. Whatever the answer, it has implications for the rest of the city, the rest of the country, the rest of the Middle East.
I know that seems OT, but to me it feels very relevant — people are forever trying to shape their own narrative and that of their society to better fit what they want the world to look like. We like to say that facts are stubborn things, but sometimes, they’re not stubborn enough.
Speaking of Glenn Beck, he announced on his radio program this morning that on Monday he would be sharing the names of two soc**lists who are close to Obama. In practically the same sentence, he started in on churches, saying how for many of them the phrase “social justice” is really just code for soc**lism.
If he’s not careful, he’s going to overreach soon.
(In BeckWorld, progressive, soc**list, and communist are interchangeable.)
THAT is the scary one. Stuff that happened less than a decade ago is well on its way down the memory hole. How can we hope to learn from history if we can’t even remember what happened a few years ago?
The Grand Panjandrum
You can add this interview of Karl Rove on BBC to the history revisionism tour. I personally think we should waterboard Karl and Marc Thiessen so they can at least get a sense of how tough SERE training really is.
Hell, that’s just the start. Did you see this
Oh, give them a couple of years, especially after DADT gets repealed.
Looking on the bright side, Joe McCarthy’s nickname “Tailgunner Joe” might be misunderstood today in ways that would make the drunken bastard spin in his grave.
Rovere‘s account of McCarthy’s rise and fall is a pretty good one.
I have yet to read the post, but as usual, kudos on the song reference.
But it turns out a few of McCarthy’s targets were working for the Soviets, therefore his ruining hundreds of innocent lives was all worth it!
Same as the right-wing justification for torture and indefinite detention w/o due process.
The real problem, looking at this from a future teacher’s viewpoint, is how important Texas is to the textbook industry. Losing Texas is a huge blow to any textbook publishing company, so they tend to take the State Board of Education’s standards to heart. When that State Board is dominated by people like Don McLeroy and Gail Lowe, this is the result.
NYT had a good piece on them working on how Christian the Founding Fathers were.
There actually were quite a few communists in government in the 40s an early 50s, some of whom were in fact engaged in espionage for the Soviet Union and other seditious intents. They were also quite active in the labor movement. But the FBI had done an effective job of counter-espionage and pretty well tracked down anyone who was up to anything really illegal long before McCarthy started demagoguing the topic. I don’t believe his efforts resulted in a single genuine threat to national security being uncovered.
carlos the dwarf
Rage Against the MachineGeorge Orwell once sungwrote: “Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.”
Didn’t this round of revisionism start with Coulter’s book?
kommrade reproductive vigor
Pretty sad when people who fit the definition of “Real” Republicans have gotten so scarce they’re reduced to fluffing Joe’s corpse.
I suppose this could be a prelude reinstating HUAC, but cannonizing Joe in order to do so seems a bit dense. Even for the GOP.
This was a great song, from REM’s best album.
Texas being in charge of school books is like Lysenko being named Secretary of Agriculture.
Just for the record, I knew personally someone directly damaged by McCarthy (John Service, one of the “Three Johns” who lost China, and someone else who had to be smuggled past the CA legislature to get his job as a professor of Chinese history at Berkeley, (my dad).
Service, illegally fired from the State Dept., who, on reinstatement was parked as consular officer in Liverpool, despite being the single best Chinese linguist in US employ, represented a genuine, on the ground resource of extraordinary value to the United States — if you think it would be useful to have the insight of someone who speaks the language of one of the most strategically important nations out there better than most natives of that country do, and who knew personally Chou Enlai and Mao Tsedong. Other than that, he had nothing to offer of course….
McCarthy was a vicious drunk lying scum who did immense damage to our country and to hundreds of Americans in its service whose crime was to tell the truth as they saw it to those whom they were charged to inform. Anyone who attempts to paper over that blunt truth is an accessory after the fact.
That is all.
They are just sensitive to the Mccarthy accusation, so they want to spin it, so that he was doing the right thing. This way they can tell themselves they are doing the right thing accusing Americans of being terrorist supporters. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength..etc.
Indeed. It’s already starting
In fairness to McCarthy, he did keep a significant portion of our nation’s vital liquor store industry in business through the 1950s. If I were going to revise a textbook, I’d have to credit him for that one.
Why can’t we just let the morons have Texas, and be done with it? If they insist on re-learning history’s lessons over and over again, why do we need to go along with it?
I swear to God, trying to form a functioning society with these idiots is like trying to learn Shakespeare when the kind next to you is rubbing Elmer’s glue in his eyes and making animal noises.
There is a reason schools don’t allow kids with an IQ of 60 into general education. Sooner or later the slower kids learn that you get sick from eating the gum under the desk, but do the rest of us really have to suffer while they do?
This is why I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t a larger pushback by the historians when Jonah the Hack dropped his Liberal Fascist turd.
It was merely the beginning of a sweeping effort at historical revisionism.
His pustulations have been adopted as fact by large swathes of the moronic masses.
a) School board decisions in Texas don’t stop with Texas. This, I believe, has already been noted in previous comments.
b) I live in Texas. Fuck if I’m just going to give in and say “Shit, everyone here is a fucking moron and I can’t do anything about it, so I think I’ma just bend over and take it.” Your mileage may vary on this one, of course.
In all fairness, the revisionist history has a lot less “history” and a lot more “rah-rah!” in it than most lessons. I’d be surprised if half the guys pimping for the Wisconsin Windbag could pick him out of a lineup. The guy died in 1957. Most of his cheerleaders today were barely in grade school by then. The guy’s a relic. And the cheerleaders are fast becoming relics too.
I have a hard time seeing McCarthy revisionism doing much better than the fringe wingers in the Constitution Party did in rehabilitating Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. At best, they’ll get a few throw-away lines shoved into text books that no one remembers. It’s a nasty exercise in history manipulation, but so was the Sainting of Andrew Jackson and General William Custard, and the nation somehow managed to survive all of that.
That should be all in scare quotes, of course. There were more than three Johns among the China hands victimized by McCarthyite thuggery, but that number is down to the first of them John (his friends knew him as Jack) Service, who joked that folks blamed the situation in China on himself, John King Fairbank, my father’s advisor and for one semester, my teacher, and “John” Kai-shek. Linkie here.
Not to mention that knowing who’s an actual sympathizer means that you can control the information leaked to the other side.
Hm. That means McCarthy wrecked a lot of counter intelligence work, hm?
Speaking of revisionism, I wonder what the wingnuts are going to do with the news that Obama has selected the domestic and international charities to receive his Nobel Prize money:
Don’t you just know that Limbaugh, Beck, and the rest of them will be howling because (1) it took him three whole months to give the money away, (2) the money is going to brown people, and (3) he never deserved it anyhow. Can’t wait to check MMFA later to see what they’re saying about it.
Has anybody compiled a master list of all the right wing historical revisionism projects? We’ve got:
McCarthyism = patriotism
The Conservative Bible
The deification of Reagan
Adolph Hitler: Total left-winger
W kept us safe!
The New Deal was a commie failure
I’m sure there are plenty of others I’m missing.
OT Im so sick of this massa story, and this Republican attempt to connect it to Pelosi is the last straw. Every little dem scandal the republicans come out and say “what did Pelosi know??” it is just such crap. What did Mcconnell know about Enzi cheating on his wife and bribing people? When did he know? what did he do about it? Should he resign? It is just such a bullshit way to take the story, and the media just loves to repeat the question “what did pelosi know?”
Bubblegum Tate: I think you can add “fiscal conservatism” to that list.
@jrg: Indeed, that might even top the list, because most of them appear to patently believe it (well, second to the deification of Reagan).
Speaking as both an ardent patriot and an ardent sinophile, thank you for your family’s service to our country. Having been targeted by Joe McCarthy only adds to the honor.
The Civil War = War of Northern Aggression.
Ha! True. You’ll catch quite a bit of “supply-side economics has never failed and will never fail!” over in Greater Wingnuttia.
Rage Against the Machine said it best: he who controls the present now, controls the past, he who controls the past, controls the future.
There is never one person who writes history. There always will be multiple perspectives on one event, one historical period, one issue or set of circumstances, etc. What is increasingly missing is dialogue about the different interpretations, and individuals actually standing behind what they say or write. If you believe McCarthy (both Andrew and Joe) are heroes, fine. But, then you have to agree with the kinds of principles they stood for — guilty until proven innocent; circumvention of the rule of law; large government, etc. Or, if you believe Reagan was a fiscal conservative (!), then let’s look at deficit figures.
This week my students have an activity to “map” out a particular community. They are supposed to map what they believe are community assets and deficits. It will be interesting to get the results — and dialogue and debate the different perspectives.
Also, what @slag: said:
@KG: I think that line originated with George Orwell.
Grumpy Code Monkey
I wasn’t kidding about the fascists taking over:
@Grumpy Code Monkey:
Dunbar is an idiot. To remove Jefferson from that equation misses entirely the point that he took the ball handed him by the likes of Hobbes and Locke and added to them. Without Jefferson, the full expression of religious freedom in this country may never have come about. You certainly won’t find the idea of removing from the state the power to determine the “proper” religious flavor by simply reading Jefferson’s “source material”.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
RFK worked for McCarthy and supported the rooting out of communism from the government. McCarthy, while correct to worry about the threat, and correct that the Soviets had been very successful at placing agents at the highest reaches of our government, would have been better served at trying to ferret them out without the self aggrandizing that was also his hallmark.
It’s too early for me, thanks. I just had breakfast.
Liberals did it, too!
I admire your willingness to protect yourself from dissenting opinion, even on those occasions when the opinion is not so dissenting. It is a brave man willing to announce to the world his plan of self imposed ignorance. OTOH, I do hear it is bliss.
I like that you are able to reduce a more complex comment, on what was and is a complex issue, down to a statement that allows you to insulate yourself from the realities of the larger world around you. Have you met Origuy? He claims to have some sort of delicious fruit pastry.
Yeah, that was the problem, Makewi. His presentation of the issue was “self-aggrandizing”.
His problem was he made accusations that cost reputations and careers. He was judge, jury and executioner.
Once again, conservatives miss the entire point of any given historical Episode of Shame.
It’s like how you focus on whether the slaves were fed properly. Jesus. I don’t know that’s there’s a cure for this.
You haven’t figured out the difference between “dissenting opinion” and the “smacking of diseased pustulated gums.”
You have issues. I worry that you, as a lawyer, have such a clear problem with understanding the written word and what appears to be a compulsive need to create arguments out of straw. I mean, allusions to slavery apologists? Really?
And yes, the problem with McCarthy was his tactics. As to the judge, jury and executioner problem, is this not a problem with the power we give to our representatives that exists to some degree even today?
Whose life did he ruin? Name names.
Not saying you’re wrong, just curious if this is just another knee jerk “Republicans” bad moment for you.
Says the one with the need to reduce everything down to the amount of wisdom that can fit on a bumpersticker.
Ah, yes, McCarthy. Ann Coulter’s favorite dead boyfriend.
The US is a Christian nation.
@Grumpy Code Monkey:
My god, I recommend everyone take a gander at that link; it’s fucking insane. These are some of the most ideological reactionaries I’ve ever seen. An example:
. . .
. . .
And it goes on and on. By the time this is done, I think civics classes in Texas will consist of NRA pamphlets and Bibles.
Well, no, it’s not a problem with the power we give to our current leaders.
“During the hearings, McCarthy moved on from his original unnamed Lee list cases and used the hearings to make charges against nine specific people: Dorothy Kenyon, Esther Brunauer, Haldore Hanson, Gustavo Duran, Owen Lattimore, Harlow Shapley, Frederick Schuman, John S. Service, and Philip Jessup. Some of them no longer worked for the State Department, or never had; all had previously been the subject of charges of varying worth and validity. Owen Lattimore became a particular focus of McCarthy’s, who at one point described him as a “top Russian spy.” Throughout the hearings, McCarthy employed colorful rhetoric, but produced no substantial evidence, to support his accusations”
The problem is with producing no substantial evidence, and making accusations.
McCarthy’s demeanor was certainly unpleasant, but I don’t really think that’s the issue here.
IMO he made a series of speeches where he made wild accusations and then had to follow that to it’s natural conclusion, because he had riled up the lunatics, and his own credibility was on the line.
@Grumpy Code Monkey:
As Mark S. says, read the link at Grumpy Code Monkey #57. It’s like watching a coup take place.
Conservatives are in a bind with McCarthy. They know that he is reviled by historians and most of the public, and yet his methods are central to their political project. Without fear-mongering, guilt-by-association, and slander, the conservative project can not succeed. Ann Coulter saw this problem and decided that rehabilitating McCarthy’s image was the logical way to go. While morally repulsive, it was a sensible strategic decision. What other choice do they have?
Ooooh, good one! They’re definitely working hard on that one.
Use of the word substantial is often a weaselly way to pretend that no evidence was offered at all. The FBI had a source claiming that Lattimore was indeed feeding information to the Soviets. I would hope that you could concede the difficulty of providing evidence which could compromise intelligence sources, which given the FBI report I provide you seems to be case.
I disagree about it not being related to the power. They have the power to compel testimony, and as such the power to do what McCarthy did.
Title to this post is a complete win.
Damn, that song (entire album, actually) is SO GOOD.
For our wedding in December, a friend of ours gave us a special-edition vinyl of Document. It’s now framed and presented in a place of honor on our wall.
@Makewi: The difference between “no evidence…at all” and “no substantial evidence” is gigantic. It is the difference between charging a man with murder because his DNA was found on a New York city subway platform that the victim had been known to visit, and not doing so. The DNA alone means that there is not “no evidence…at all” of the man’s guilt. But it sure isn’t “substantial evidence”.
@suzanne: The more I think back on it, I think “Document” freed me from Reagan brainwashing. I was a Reaganbot in 1983; I stopped being one right around the time I started listening to REM, went to college, learned about Honduras, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, etc, etc. “Document” became my newly minted DFH soundtrack. Welcome to the Occupation, indeed.
There, there, dear…don’t project.
Damn, cleek, you are so awesome. I have so much pie speak from Makeweewee that I don’t know what to do. (raises glass)
Doug, you could have used this picture of Coulter in your OP:
You’re still missing my point. It is wrong to make an accusation and then demand the accused disprove it.
I don’t know why this is so hard. We have elaborate rules that we follow where we don’t reveal names until someone is charged with something. They didn’t just spring up as a result of liberal activists. They’re grounded in fairness, and decent human behavior.
Could conservatives sort of take ownership of this general idea? It’s easy. We shouldn’t have to pound this into your head.
Or, do we have to make elaborate rules for each and every instance where some conservative decides to start launching accusations?
You have it backwards. People have no duty to prove they are good Americans, to conservatives. I You can’t go back once the accusation is launched. Show some restraint. No matter the paranoid fantasy you’re nurturing, or the amount of “risk” associated with what you don’t know about “sleeper cells” and such, you can’t just throw shit out there and hope it sticks.
I love, love, love the “providing evidence could compromise intelligence sources”, by the way.
I just adore that conservatives rely on that here too. Must be nice. Easy!
We can’t show the evidence because it’s too secret. Lock ’em up!
If you want to charge people with treason, charge them with treason. Quit screwing around.
LOL! Good one!
And to think I was almost starting to take you seriously. Every so often, you remind me that it’s all just a schtick. An annoying schtick at times, granted, but a schtick nonetheless.
Mussolini was really a nice guy. He understood the Communist threat to Italy and dealt with it accordingly. If not for Mussolini, Italy would have turned into a Communist nightmare like Yugoslavia next door.
Oh yeah, that business about running a fascist police state, invading other countries, and so on and so forth? Lies, all lies! For true!
– Badtux the Snarky Penguin
You have this fixation with ensuring you bring some sort of partisanship into each and every topic we discuss. Doesn’t it get at least a little tiring to you, or perhaps you wrap yourself up in it like some sort of safe cocoon.
As to your assertion, aren’t you mixing apples and oranges by comparing our judicial system with a hearing held by members of the legislature? I would expect as a lawyer you would know the difference.
Have you nothing to say regarding the differences between no evidence and substantive evidence? How about the FBI report which would at least in part verify that McCarthy had a right to suspect Lattimore?
I concede McCarthy was a prick, so it seems pointless to keep going down that road.
You doubtless tell yourself that you are willing to discuss the particulars of an issue, but I suspect in your heart of hearts that you know you breathe a sigh of relief when any opportunity arises to claim the other side is unworthy.
One other thing, is it true that they were being asked to prove that they were good Americans or is that just some talking point you like to use to make it seem more insidious? Because it seems insidious enough to me without needing to take it to that level.
My take, as was RFK’s is that they were trying to find the agents that the Soviets had managed to place within our government.
I was three years old in 1983.
Glad you snapped out of your Reagan-induced walking coma. R.E.M.’s music is so prescient. I listen to “These Days” or “The Flowers of Guatamala” off Life’s Rich Pageant or “Ignoreland” off Automatic for the People, and I swear, they might mean even more today.
One of the great bands of the last few decades, in my humble opinion.
No, Makewi, I’m not going to discuss legalities with you. I’m not going to talk about burdens of proof, or the evidentiary differences between a criminal process and a Congressional hearing. You’re forcing me to defend the accused, and that’s not the point, and I’m not doing it. I don’t accept your whole premise. I reject the idea that there are two sides in this fight. I don’t have to defend.
That’s the wrong context, and I’m not falling for it.
I am asking you a simple human question: is it fair to label people as traitors or unamerican without something solid?
Is that the right thing to do? Knowing what we know, that the damage to reputation can’t be undone? Does that call for real restraint ?
Did McCarthy, or the former Vice President’s daughter, use real caution and good judgment? Is it reckless and cruel to do what they have done?
Not illegal, but WRONG?
Interesting that you are willing to discuss the issue with me only under the very strict terms that you alone will dictate.
I’m just curious, did you miss the part where I said I decried the man’s tactics? It seems you have busied yourself fighting for ground I never contested. Why would you do that?
Out of curiosity, do you accept the fact that there were Soviet agents working in the government?
Makewi, if there were Soviet agents working in the government, that was a job for the FBI to handle, not a job for a partisan witch-hunt by a grandstanding political gasbag waving imaginary lists of “known Communists” that in fact were actually blank sheets of paper, who was doing it all for political gain for himself and his partisans. Joe McCarthy never revealed a single Soviet agent working in government, for the simple reason that he never *intended* to reveal any Soviet agents working in government. He was all about creating hysteria for political advantage, and that’s all, and in the process he trampled on the rights of thousands of Americans by scaring Congress and state legislators around the country into infringing upon the 1st Amendment right of freedom of association and in fact managing to get an entire political party outlawed, exactly the same sort of shit that Josef Stalin liked to do.
Indeed, the biggest difference between the two Joes was one of capability, not of desire — Joe McCarthy was a pustulent corpustle of corruption and evil but had no ability to actually send people to gulags or starve entire nations to death, while Joe Stalin did. Other than that, I find little difference between the two — both were more interested in power than in the so-called “principles” they claimed to be defending.