In the short yet painful period of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s prominence, he accused people who disagreed with his views of being Communists and many were ostracized in society. People became afraid to challenge him, fearing for their reputations and livelihoods.
McCarthy’s relentlessly overreaching tactics included investigating various governmental agencies, universities, and even the United Nations. He routinely coerced individuals and institutions to march to his orders or else suffer the consequences.
When the Secretary of the U.S. Army refused to intercede on his behalf for a favor, McCarthy ordered the investigation of that branch of the military. On June 9, 1954, at a Senate hearing during that investigation, , Joseph Welch, Special Counsel for the Army, stood up to the fear-mongering, turning the tide of history.
He addressed the controversial Senator with these immortal questions that would ultimately put in perspective the unbearable nature of the Senator’s abuses and would awaken America’s conscience from its deep slumber: “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” Just before this remarkable moment, he told the Senator, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness.” This would mark the beginning of the end of the blight of McCarthyism.
McCarthy-type tactics were used in the following decades in COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program.) The Program was initially aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States. The COINTELPRO operations were broadly targeted against organizations that were at the time considered to have politically radical elements, ranging from those whose stated goal was the violent overthrow of the U.S. government to non-violent civil rights groups such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The three main goals driving the program were to : 1) prevent a coalition of nationalist groups 2) prevent the rise of a “messiah” type charismatic leader who could unify and electrify the nationalist movement such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King; and 3) prevent these groups and their leaders from gaining respectability by discrediting them in three fronts: their own community, the larger community, and among their supporters and close allies.
Once again, history seems to be repeating itself.
But today, it is the Muslim and Arab communities in the United states that are suffering under McCarthy-like political fear-mongering and scare tactics.
These groups in America today, both as individuals and as institutions, are relentlessly demonized and harassed by fear-mongers who employ the all too familiar McCarthy-like tactics and borrow the worst out of the playbook of the infamous COINTELPRO.
In his recent Washington Post OpEd, Zbigniew Brzezinski stated that “the "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America.” He adds that “such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum.” “The atmosphere generated by the "war on terror" has encouraged legal and political harassment of Arab Americans (generally loyal Americans) for conduct that has not been unique to them.”
Likewise, Hans Kung, in his book Islam addresses the “hostile image” of this religion as not only the sum of consciously constructed perceptions, notions, and feelings aimed to demonize an individual or a group but of prejudices.
The hostile image, according to Kung, creates a dichotomous condition of “us” against “them.”- The latter is taken as a dangerous monster that never deserves to tell his side of the story; that is why it is necessary for the first to be the definer and the sole conveyer of the incriminating narrative and as such is always described by the first. And this, needless to say, would not only intensify Islamophobia but also Anti-Americanism.
As the rhetoric of hate intensifies both in the U.S. and in some pockets of the Islamic world, more and more Muslims will likely come to perceive that America is at war with Islam and Muslims.
A recent BBC poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries that sought respondents’ assessments of the role of states in international affairs showed Israel, Iran and the United States being rated (in that respective order) as the states with "the most negative influence on the world.”
After one of the most disastrous foreign policy adventure in the U.S. history, — the Iraq War — the Neocons and their allies in government and the extreme right-wing media have turned inward with a vengeance. They have become the masters of politics of hate-silencing the mainstream voices, and legitimate criticism of bankrupt foreign and domestic policies became a crime.
It seems that the Neocons and their friends have forgotten that America’s Constitution has a very important First Amendment and, as history attests, those who thrive on the destruction of others and work in the shadows of malice would not prevail.
If there is a lesson to be learned from the black marks in the history of this great country, it is that we must never be silent about injustice .
People of conscience and goodwill must work for liberty and justice for all and not be intimidated by those who seek to spread hatred and silence them. As Americans, we must stand together against those who spread fear and promote prejudice. Is the darkest moment of the night not right before dawn?