There seems to be this intellectual poison in the popular dialog today that every issue must be polarized. This is nothing new, of course, but this past election season has been the most polarized I can remember, with loyalty tests, political catechisms, witch hunts, accusations and condemnations, and the like not seen since the McCarthy days. Maybe G.W. Bush started it with his admonition, “You are either with us, or with the terrorists.” Why can’t I be neither?
I was too young to remember the Red Scare of the 50’s and the House Un-American Activities Committee and I wish I didn’t have to live it now. It’s funny in a decidedly un-funny way; a Russian talk show recently had a segment on Neo-McCarthyism. The audience wasn’t familiar with the origin of the term, so the host explained it. The response was: Oh, yes. We had that, too. He was called Joseph Stalin.
Speakers at universities shouted down for holding illiberal views? Intellectuals and investigative reporters black listed? A list of ‘banned sites’ published by Princeton University? Dissenting views shouted down? People maligned, misquoted, and misnamed? Mantras of disinformation? A propaganda press? And a faraway scapegoat who’s responsible for all of our woes? The twenty first century is shaping up to be just like the twentieth.
Where’s Walter Cronkite and his show, You Were There? It relived historical events. Things like the poisoning of Socrates and the suppression of free thought. All thinly disguised attacks on McCarthyism.
What next, will people who disagree with the party line be deemed mentally ill? Ann Coulter famously said, “…liberalism is on the spectrum of mental illness.” She wants to be heard, and so she should, yet this rhetoric betrays her own bias toward censorship. So who gets to shut up whom?
Things change. Things stay the same.