We’ve known for some time that the new politics involves a good deal of Newspeak. That would be the Orwellian term for creating words or recreating existing words that mean exactly the opposite of what they do or should mean. We’ve had “peacekeeping” missiles, “clean” coal, and a bunch of other nonsense terms that find their way into the political lexicon via endless repetition by partisan media hacks with ideological agendas. No monsters seem as selectively reconstructed in modern history as the term “socialism” which actually has a distinct definition in economics and political science and “communism” which is another unique and utopian (i.e. imaginary) system altogether.
Just when you think we are way past the idea of the red menace, right wingers reinvent the threat. If you read much stuff coming from the Tea Party movement, you would think that the USSR is still in existence, no market reforms occurred in the PRC, and every libRUL is a secret commie. Well, reality and data-based thinkers know there is no such thing as a Soviet-style system in place in Russia or China any more. But then, when has this ever been a problem for the folks who prefer magical thinking to reality?
Let’s review the evidence starting with Michelle Bachmann. Remember this one from last year?
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said Thursday that Americans are alarmed that President Barack Obama may cut defense spending at a time when the Soviet Union is becoming a power in the world.
“When you are traveling — I know you are in South Carolina now, you’re obviously in Iowa, you’re up in New Hampshire — are you hearing different things in these states?” Christian radio host Jay Sekulow asked the candidate.
“I would say it’s a unified message,” Bachmann explained. “It really is about jobs and the economy. That doesn’t mean people haven’t [sic] forgotten about protecting life and marriage and the sanctity of the family. People are very concerned about that as well.”
“But what people recognize is that there’s a fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union and our loss militarily going forward. And especially with this very bad debt ceiling bill, what we have done is given a favor to President Obama and the first thing he’ll whack is five hundred billion out of the military defense at a time when we’re fighting three wars. People recognize that.”
BTW, India is the world’s largest democracy with a rule of law and economic system based on English common law. How did they get lumped in with Russia and China? It’s very interesting to see that so many elected officials seem oblivious to history and reality. There is–of course–no such thing as the Soviet Union. But, lo and behold, just last week we learned that Romney has advisers on foreign policy that also have forgotten there is NO SUCH THING AS THE SOVIET UNION.
Attacking the Obama administration for “withdrawing in leading the free world,” former Navy Secretary John Lehman argued on the call that the president’s policies open the nation up to “huge new vulnerabilities.”
“We are seeing the Soviets pushing into the Arctic with no response from us. In fact the only response from us is to announce the early retirement of the last remaining ice breaker,” Lehman said.
Also, in a discussion on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Pierre Prosper mistakenly referred to a country that no longer exists.
“You know, Russia is another example where we give and Russia gets, and we get nothing in return,” he said. “The United States abandoned its missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia, yet Russia does nothing but obstruct us, or efforts in Iran and Syria.”
Czechoslovakia split into two countries–the Czech Republic and Slovakia–in 1993.
Neither country served as a site for the proposed U.S. missile defense system. The U.S. wanted to put part of the system in the Czech Republic, but the country’s prime minister canceled a vote in 2009 that would allow the move to take place.
Later that year, the Obama administration decided to scrap the plan in Eastern Europe, which was first proposed by the Bush administration.
The advisers’ remarks came after Romney’s campaign has had to beat back consistent attacks targeting the candidate as out of touch on matters of foreign policy. The criticism largely stemmed from Romney labeling Russia as the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe” last month.
Of course, the biggest example of Republican baseless fears has been Representative Allen (I see communist democrats) West from Florida. Evidently, he believes liberals, progressives, socialists, and communists are everywhere and basically interchangeable. One would think we learned nothing from our past lives of red baiting. We had two major periods of them. One occurred in the 1920s. The other was the infamous McCarthy version of the 1950s that led to loss of people’s livelihoods, rampant paranoia, and trampling of civil rights. Is this the America that the Tea Party and other right wingers envision?
Bill Moyers resurrects “The Ghost of Joe McCarthy” for those of us that didn’t get a front row seat to the atrocities. He also begins with a reference to 1984–although not the Newspeak one–where we see “amnesia that sets in when we flush events down the memory hole, leaving us at the mercy of only what we know today”. Is this sudden rebirth of the red menace from amnesia or dishonest thinking and belligerence? Scaring people with fully baked lies seems to be the hobgoblin of Republican minds.
Sometimes, though, the past comes back to haunt, like a ghost. It happened recently when we saw Congressman Allen West of Florida on the news.
A Republican and Tea Party favorite, he was asked at a local gathering how many of his fellow members of Congress are “card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists.”
By now, little of what Allen West says ever surprises. He has called President Obama “a low level Socialist agitator,” said anyone with an Obama bumper sticker on their car is “a threat to the gene pool” and told liberals like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to “get the hell out of the United States of America.” Apparently, he gets his talking points from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or the discredited right wing rocker Ted Nugent.
But this time, we shook our heads in disbelief: “78 to 81 Democrats… members of the Communist Party?” That’s the moment the memory hole opened up and a ghost slithered into the room. The specter stood there, watching the screen, a snickering smile on its stubbled face. Sure enough, it was the ghost of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin farm boy who grew up to become one of the most contemptible thugs in American politics.
There are a number of ways to disagree with a person’s politics. Goodness knows you can comb through the posts here and find a good long list of all the problems I have with Obama and the Democratic Party. I don’t need to resort to things like “show me your Birth Certificate” or names like “Kenyan Muslim Usurper” to get a point across. Why are we going back to these tactics of our ugly past?
Like McCarthy, the more Allen West is challenged about his comments, the more he doubles down on them. Now he’s blaming the “corrupt liberal media” for stirring the pot against him – a trick for which McCarthy taught the master class. And the congressman’s latest fusillades continue to distort the beliefs and policies of those he smears – no surprise there, either.
To help him continue his fight for “the heart and soul” of America he’s asking his supporters for a contribution of ten dollars or more. There could even be a super PAC in this – with McCarthy’s ghost as its honorary chairman.
Plenty of kindred spirits are there to sign on. Like the author of the book The Grand Jihad, who wrote that whether Obama is Christian or not, “The faith to which Obama actually clings is neocommunism.” Or the blogger who claims Obama is running the country into the ground “by way of the same type of race-baiting and class warfare Communism cannot exist without,” and that his policies are “unbecoming to an American president.”
From there it’s only a short hop to the kind of column that popped up on the right wing website Newsmax hinting of a possible coup “as a last resort to resolve the ‘Obama problem.’” Military intervention, the author wrote, “is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for ‘fundamental change’ toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America.” The column was quickly withdrawn but not before the website Talking Points Memo exposed it.
The closer we draw to national elections, the more the “silly season” starts. We look to the media and to interviews and debates to separate the good from the bad and the ugly. We need a lot more than that these days. We need folks that are willing to separate the fact from the fiction, the dystopian fiction, and the science fiction. How can any one take any one seriously that still believes there’s a Soviet Union and a communist under every bed? How can a presidential candidate who has no experience in the foreign policy area be taking lessons from people that can’t even get their history right?
At the time, the media had Edward R. Murrow who famously said:
This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a Republic to abdicate his responsibilities.”
There was also Boston Lawyer Joseph Welch who defended the US Army when McCarthy was trying to witch hunt there.
“You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency? … If there is a God in heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good.”
I wonder where our modern counterparts to these two brave men are these days?