In her book Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America, Ellen Schrecker describes the intellectual climate that prevailed in the 1950s as a result of the anticommunist surge led by Joseph McCarthy. The communist, racial egalitarian, laborite far-left had collapsed from intense scrutiny. So-called “activists” (academics, writers, government employees, lawyers, union organizers, directors, screen writers) lost jobs, blacklisting prevailed, and a generation of hardcore Marxists scurried like cockroaches from this intense exposure. Schrecker admits that the anticommunist claims were fundamentally accurate. What she objects to is the repression that occurred as a result of the tactics used to clamp down on communist subversion.
If nothing else, McCarthyism destroyed the left. … It wiped out the communist movement — the heart of the vibrant left-labor Popular Front that had stimulated so much social and political change in the 1930s and 1940s. Though the party itself survived, all the political organizations, labor unions, cultural groups that constituted the main institutional and ideological infrastructure of the American left simply disappeared. An entire generation of political activists had been jerked off the stage of history.
The role reversal could not be more blatantly transparent in today’s political climate.
The $PLC’s Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok are busy applying this history lesson to the political right. This YouTube footage shows Beirich agonizing about the threat of far-right “domestic terrorism” in a MediaMatters.org–sponsored forum on “Mainstreaming Extremism.” It could just as easily have been a symposium titled: “Marginalizing the Right: From Extremists to Domestic Terrorists.”
In essence she links public opposition to the Obama administration (Glenn Beck’s rhetoric, Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, and others) as fostering a “rise” in violent acts even though only a handful of violent incidents were actually mentioned (the forum occurred before Major Hasan took the lives of 13 and injured 30 at Fort Hood although Beirich has said little to nothing about the ideological or political motives of the alleged military psychiatrist-turned mass murderer). If you dissect her message, it is clear she wants to shut down speech that she and her employer disapprove of and label as a “toxic environment” any effective opposition to the egalitarian-activist left.
It’s not a surprise that the ADL is also a major player in this drive to cleanse the mainstream media of “extremism” with the same list of enemies (Beck, Dobbs, Limbaugh, Buchanan) and the same tactics as the $PLC. As Kevin MacDonald noted in “The ADL: Managing White Rage,” “Particularly important is to keep any vestige of “extremism” out of the mainstream media, particularly anything that would legitimate White anger and concerns about the future.”
The real “toxic environment” is the political climate that Beirich, Potok and explicitly Jewish activist organizations like the ADL have cultivated in formulating, among other things, a contemporary “blacklist” of individuals (academics, writers, editors, and commentators) and aggressively marginalizing their adversaries to the realm of the repressed; not to mention pressuring university administrators to punish scholars for their work in a collegiate environment that has been traditionally insulated from political pressures that stifle scholarship and free expression.
The ultimate goal of Beirich and other diehard leftists is to suppress the political right; strengthening political correctness into a force of political repression interchangeable with the anticommunist tactics of the 1950s. The real targets of Beirich’s wrath are not lone gunmen such as James von Brunn, but popular conservative commentators (Buchanan, Beck, Dobbs, and Limbaugh), which she blames for producing a “toxic environment” and greasing the skids for another Tim McVeigh-Oklahoma City bombing.
Schrecker makes an important admission in her book that activists on the right should realize:
The overall legacy of the liberals’ failure to stand up against the anticommunist crusade was to let the nation’s political culture veer to the right. Movements and ideas that had once been acceptable were now beyond the pale. Though Communists and their allies were the direct victims, the mainstream liberals and former New Dealers within the Democratic Party were the indirect ones.
Beirich and other far-left activists understand this lesson (which all-too-often seems lost on right-wing activists): A marginalized, politically ineffective right will steer the nation’s political culture further leftward.