In the NY Times Book Review this week, there are several noteworthy articles to read.
Start with Rick Perstein's smack-down
of corporate Democrat Terry McAuliffe's new book. It encapsulates much of what I find most odious about McAuliffe and the harm he did to the Democratic Party during the 1990s and early 2000s--from which the party is still recuperating.
Also in the NY Times Book Review, a thoughtful
review of a book of the history of vaccination curesm, which have not always resulted in a hero's welcome for the scientists who find cures to diseases. It also briefly notes our nation's penchant for fighting science is having some adverse societal consequences.
Another essay in the book review section that might go unnoticed, but ought to be read is this
essay about the cultural and perhaps political effects of Pepsi-Cola reaching out, after World War II, to African-American consumers. (And, while it's not in today's Times, don't miss this
lively essay by Janet Maslin on David Mamet's "Bambi v. Godzilla", about life in the business section of Hollywood).
And finally, let's take a trip down history lane and the demonization of liberals and the left by the right wing in America.
In the letters to the editor in the NY Times Book Review, William F. Buckley, Jr. defends
an acolyte of his who a Times reviewer said had given a new twist to McCarthyite tactics of demonizing one's domestic political opponents (Here
is Alan Wolfe's review of Dinesh D'Souza's "The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its responsibility for 9/11"). And why not? Bill still defends what he wrote defending McCarthy himself in 1954. Here is what he and his then friend L. Brent Bozzell happily described, at page 333 of their book entitled "McCarthy and His Enemies" (Regnery Company 1954), as the real goal in fanning the the flames of anti-Communism:"In October of 1952, Senator McCarthy delivered his widely heralded attack on Adlai Stevenson..."
(MF Blog note: McCarthy was speaking about Democratic Party presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson, and jokingly referred to him this way: "Alger, I mean Adlai..." McCarthy was invoking the name of Alger Hiss, who, at the time, was facing perjury charges relating to Hiss being a member of the Communist Party and potentially a Soviet spy.)
The book continues:"With millions of listensers glued to radio and TV, McCarthy reached, not for a red pain brush, but for a list of Stevenson's top advisors: Archibald MacLeish, Bernard De Voto, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Was his point that these men were Communists? No, that was not McCarthy's point. His objection to these men was not that they were Communists, or even pro-Communists, but that they were Liberals--atheistic, soft-headed, anti-anti-Communist, ADA (MF Blog note: Americans for Democratic Action) Liberals..."Whether the speech was a conscious effort to narrow the limits of tolerable opinion so as to exclude left-wing Liberals, only McCarthy can say...But it may well be we have not heard the last of this idea. Some day, the patience of America may at last be exhausted, and we will strike out against Liberals. Not because they are treacherous like Communists, but because, with James Burnham, we will conclude 'that they are mistaken in their predictions, false in their analyses, wrong in their advice, and through the results of their actions injurious to the interests of the nation. That is reason enough to strive to free the conduct of the country's affairs from the influence of them and their works.'*...
(MF Blog note: The "*" is a footnote in the book that says Burnham was "most clearly advocating social
sanctions" (emphasis in original) against Liberals.)
Buckley and Bozell then conclude their immediate point about "Liberals," stating:"But the real point, for our purposes, is that the mainstream of McCarthyism flows past the Liberals as gently as the Afton; and that the MacLeishs, DeVotos and Schlesingers have no grounds for arguing that any sustained effort is being made to read them out of the community."
Note first the defamation against the three men. Contrary to Buckley and Bozell, the three men were in fact anti-Communist; they were just not pro-McCarthy. Second, Schlesinger et al were not "athiestic", which means an evangelical for atheism--heck, I doubt the three men were more than agnostics. During the Cold War, the term "atheistic" was often used as a qualifer as in "atheistic Communism", which shows us that Buckley and Bozell were in fact demonizing these three respected New Deal liberal gentlemen. And third, but not least, "soft-headed" is a derisive phrase that was eventually refined to simply atacking "liberals" as "weak."
The key point, however, is this: What Buckley and Bozell understood was the importance of allowing the McCarthys and now the D'Souza's space to work their poison in the mass media to delegitimize "Liberals." Even the last portion I quoted from their book is not truly a defense of Schlesinger et al. Buckley and Bozell are merely telling even moderate Liberals like Schlesinger, "Don't worry, it's not a 'sustained effort
' to demonize you!" when in fact, their book and that style of attack had long become a sustained attack. At the time Buckley's and Bozell's book was written, the McCarthy hearings looking for Communists in the Army (!) had reached its peak.
As we also know, the demonization of Liberals became so complete over the succeeding decades that, by the late 1990s, it was sometimes better to be called a "radical" or "communist" because at least that implied you were "tough." Being called a "liberal" meant you were even more weak than you were wrong, and being weak is death for any political candidate among so-called "swing" voters.
The ironic portion of the above quotes, of course, is that perhaps America is now "exhausted" by the right wing which Buckley and friends have been calling "conservative" all these years. The right wing is the movement which has shown it is "mistaken in their predictions, false in their analyses, wrong in their advice, and through the results of their actions injurious to the interests of the nation." All I want, though, is not for them to be demonized, as a whole, but that we simply impeach Bush and Cheney and begin passing some laws that actually help the majority of people in our nation, starting with Medicare for everyone and labor law reform.
The only thing I'll say for D'Souza is that he attacked something he called the "Cultural Left." He did not say "Liberal" or "Progressive," which, in the annals of Red-Baiting, is at least an improvement. However, when one looks at his list of "enemies," one finds the definition of "cultural left" can get mighty wide in scope...