The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

2 February 2003

The ghosts of Tailgunner Joe

If there's one twentieth-century historical figure whose name is bandied about with a frequency approaching Hitler's, it's Joseph McCarthy. It's been more than fifty years since the Wisconsin senator first stood in a room and announced the existence of a list; and ever since then, it seems like everyone who's ever seen himself as being singled out for verbal abuse, however trivial, has shuffled the Deck of Delusion and played the McCarthyism card.

This might be a useful metaphor had Joe McCarthy been a silly-but-cute character like Ko-Ko from The Mikado, who had a little list of his own. He wasn't. McCarthy meant business. And while there actually were, as he had charged, some real-life Communists and fellow travelers uncomfortably close to the seats of power, McCarthy was ultimately censured by the Senate for his wholesale destruction of reputations.

This weekend on Usenet, some person with an exaggerated sense of his own importance (no need to identify him here; if you need to, you can Google the thread later), slapped down in a discussion, played the McCarthyism card and further likened himself to one of the Hollywood Ten. This, of course, was a serious anachronism — the House Un-American Activities Committee first took steps against the Ten in 1947, and McCarthy didn't open his mouth until 1950 — but the complainant apparently presumed that the rest of the world, or at least the rest of the newsgroup, would pick up on the historical references and smile.

He was wrong. Enter Al Moore, whose father was on the receiving end of a McCarthy-inspired witch hunt. And Moore was in no mood to listen to this guy's whining:

My father finished engineering school at Stanford, leaving when his GI Bill benefits ran out in 1954, to go to work for a local electronics firm. He was employed for about a year before the blacklisters caught up with him. He was tried (by a court-martial, for "disloyalty") and was found not guilty, but was never employed other than self-employed thereafter. I can still recall the day he was given notice at work. My mother told us kids "We may not be eating so well for a while."

So when you find you can't feed your kids because of something someone posted to the internet, then you can talk about McCarthyism.

Until then, keep it to yourself, please.

And that goes for the rest of you poor souls who think that because no one is buying your argument, it's because you're being suppressed. Actually, it's more likely because you're being idiotic.

Posted at 6:01 PM to Political Science Fiction


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Excuse me while I stand up and applaud.

Nicely said.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at 4:34 PM on 3 February 2003

Yes.

I'll link that tomorrow morning. :-)

Posted by: Dean Esmay at 6:24 AM on 4 February 2003