Friday, November 11, 2005
The 'M' Word
ED.6.1-13. Here we go again with the McCarthy thing. In his new movie Good Night and Good Luck, Rosemary Clooney's nephew continues his inspired political tirade against the evil forces of Republicanism which have for so long oppressed the common people he frequently heard about during his childhood. Ann Coulter calls him on the accuracy of his supposed reportorial treatment of Joseph McCarthy and Edward R. Murrow:
Clooney said of his small contribution to the "McCarthyism" industry: "I realized that we had to be incredibly careful with the facts, because if we got any of them wrong, they could say it's all horse****. So I had to double-source every scene."
I don't intend to see his movie because — except for the McCarthy parts — it sounds like a snoozefest. (Half the reviewers so far have said "good night" to Clooney, and the other half have said "good luck.") And despite all those "double-sources," in addition to getting the big facts wrong (about America and about the Soviet Union), Clooney got all the little facts wrong, too. I guess he borrowed some of Al Franken's "fact-checkers."
As even liberal reviewers have noted, it was hardly an act of bravery for Edward R. Murrow to attack McCarthy. The New York Times was attacking McCarthy, The New York Post was attacking McCarthy and The Washington Post was attacking McCarthy. Every known news outlet was attacking McCarthy. McCarthy was in a pitched battle for his life, his career and the fate of the nation. Murrow merely jumped on the liberal bandwagon — and rather late in the game.
She goes on to demolish other so-called facts presented in the movie, but I'd like to take the discussion in a slightly different direction by proposing that the McCarthy story is intensely relevant today in another context -- the patented Democrat use of the "Big Lie" to fabricate a wholly fictitious alternative history of the war in Iraq. There's an exhaustive fact-checking in Commentary magazine of the real history versus the screaming headline fake history we're being battered with in the MSM every day. I urge you all to read the entire article after you've read what I have to say, but for now I'll quote only this much:
Among the many distortions, misrepresentations, and outright falsifications that have emerged from the debate over Iraq, one in particular stands out above all others. This is the charge that George W. Bush misled us into an immoral and/or unnecessary war in Iraq by telling a series of lies that have now been definitively exposed.
What makes this charge so special is the amazing success it has enjoyed in getting itself established as a self-evident truth even though it has been refuted and discredited over and over again by evidence and argument alike. In this it resembles nothing so much as those animated cartoon characters who, after being flattened, blown up, or pushed over a cliff, always spring back to life with their bodies perfectly intact. Perhaps, like those cartoon characters, this allegation simply cannot be killed off, no matter what.
The reason it can't be killed off is that the party of modern McCarthyism is the Democrats. I wrote extensively about this back in September 2003 when the original Big Lie about Iraq was in the process of being created. It was as outrageous then as now, and I traced its most important and seminal ancestor thus:
The symbolic rite of passage for 20th century American liberals was the period they have succeeded in labeling the "McCarthy Era." If Republicans had been half as rhetorically astute, we would in all likelihood know this time by a different name, as "The Era of Soviet Infiltration." The end of the Cold War has almost universally vindicated the charges by Republicans in the late 1940s and 1950s that Soviet espionage agents occupied critically compromising positions in multiple agencies of the U.S. government and the military. Despite the villainization of Richard Nixon, his target Alger Hiss was, we now know, guilty. The Rosenbergs were guilty. FDR's Chief of Staff Harry Hopkins was guilty. Staggeringly important secrets were passed by American citizens to the Soviets, including plans for both the atom and hydrogen bombs. There is simply no way to deny the truth that the communist conspiracy claimed by the Republicans did, in fact, exist and was consistently denied, dismissed, or provided cover for by the Democratic party.
Nevertheless, the liberal/left elite in this country has succeeded in perpetuating a dramatic myth that is flatly contradicted by the facts. The anti-communist crusade of Joseph McCarthy, by reason of its impoliteness and its incompetence, has become the secular Passion of liberalism, its sanctifying crucifixion, the basis of its arrogant, continuing, and utterly unjustified claims of moral superiority over the conservative opposition. (Lest you regard this as overstatement, please read "The Crucible," Arthur Miller's play about the McCarthyism of the 17th century Salem witchcraft trials -- as we all know, there were no witches/communists . . .) We are supposed to overlook the enormity of the fact that at the very dawn of the nuclear age, American citizens conspired to transfer the deadliest technology ever developed to the mortal enemies of their country. This terrifying event is supposed to pale beside the prospect of a Hollywood screenwriter whose career was damaged by his membership in the 'party' that led the conspiracy. It doesn't -- except in the minds of those who have never quite understood, and probably never will -- the sickening, murderous evil that was the Soviet communist state.
Yet the Democrats won the word war. The term 'McCarthyism' entered the language and has been kept vigorously and determinedly alive. It is, by usage, synonymous with fascism, because it has come to mean the ruthless persecution and demonization of an imaginary enemy for purely political purposes. And ever since the great Democrat Passion of the 1950s, this word has been hurled at every concerted Republican attempt to uncover any kind of wrongdoing in the left/liberal establishment.
It was the Democrats' success in creating the McCarthy Myth that convinced them of the efficacy of the Big Lie, and they have used it ever since -- in conjunction with their diehard fellow travellers in the media -- to trick the gullible and ignorant into believing the most fantastic falsehoods.
In repeating such pernicious nonsense yet again, Clooney reveals himself as a McCarthyite. It's time we all started denouncing the Big Lies for what they are. We're living smack dab in the middle of one of the Biggest ever told, and this time it can't be permitted to stand or go unchallenged.
The rest of my 2003 essay is here. It's scary just how apt it still seems.
UPDATE. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the InstaPundit link and welcome to his readers. Here's a bit more background on the history of the left's weird relation to the truth. Also, check out Michelle Malkin, who's posting a link to Tom Bevan's defense of the Commentary piece referenced above against the usual lefty attacks. Last but far from least, here's our Veteran's Day tribute.
UPDATE 11/12/05. Here's an outstanding essay by Tigerhawk (h/t Instapundit) that meticulously analyzes the moral validity of various types and motives of dissent against the war. It reflects a kind of thought process -- clear, fair, and nuanced -- you simply won't find coming from the left anymore. For the record, we agree that there are morally defensible flavors of anti-war dissent; the current hysterical libels against the administration discussed above do not qualify. This is perhaps an appropriate place for a general response to those commenters who insist on defending the truth of the Big Lie: Nothing here was meant to change your view, which is past reason and beneath contempt, and we couldn't care less how enraged you are, how far afield you'll go to cherrypick your pitiful evidence, or how scornfully you write in the Comments section. One tip, though. If you seek to persuade other readers of your intellectual superiority to InstaPunk, then at least try to spell your vitriol correctly. To those who merely disagree, reasonably and literately, thank you for your participation and contributions.