The Rise of the New McCarthyism

From the Archive: On March 9, 1954, Senate Republicans criticized Joe McCarthy’s overreaches and took action to limit his power, marking the end of McCarthyism. On the anniversary of that event, we republish an article on the New McCarthyism by Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry (first published Sept. 26 2017)

Make no mistake about it: the United States has entered an era of a New McCarthyism that blames nearly every political problem on Russia and has begun targeting American citizens who don’t go along with this New Cold War propaganda.

Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisconsin, who led the “Red Scare” hearings of the 1950s.

A difference, however, from the McCarthyism of the 1950s is that this New McCarthyism has enlisted Democrats, liberals and even progressives in the cause because of their disgust with President Trump; the 1950s version was driven by Republicans and the Right with much of the Left on the receiving end, maligned by the likes of Sen. Joe McCarthy as “un-American” and as Communism’s “fellow travelers.”

The real winners in this New McCarthyism appear to be the neoconservatives who have leveraged the Democratic/liberal hatred of Trump to draw much of the Left into the political hysteria that sees the controversy over alleged Russian political “meddling” as an opportunity to “get Trump.”

Already, the neocons and their allies have exploited the anti-Russian frenzy to extract tens of millions of dollars more from the taxpayers for programs to “combat Russian propaganda,” i.e., funding of non-governmental organizations and “scholars” who target dissident Americans for challenging the justifications for this New Cold War.

The Washington Post, which for years has served as the flagship for neocon propaganda, is again charting the new course for America, much as it did in rallying U.S. public backing for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and in building sympathy for abortive “regime change” projects aimed at Syria and Iran. The Post has begun blaming almost every unpleasant development in the world on Russia! Russia! Russia!

For instance, a Post editorial on Tuesday shifted the blame for the anemic victory of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the surprising strength of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) from Merkel’s austerity policies, which have caused hardship for much of the working class, or from her open door for Mideast refugees, which has destabilized some working-class neighborhoods, to – you guessed it – Russia!

The evidence, as usual, is vague and self-interested, but sure to be swallowed by many Democrats and liberals, who hate Russia because they blame it for Trump, and by lots of Republicans and conservatives, who have a residual hatred for Russia left over from the Old Cold War.

The Post cited the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which has been pushing much of the hysteria about alleged Russian activities on the Internet. The Atlantic Council essentially is NATO’s think tank and is financed with money from the U.S. government, Gulf oil states, military contractors, global financial institutions and many other sources which stand to gain directly or indirectly from the expanding U.S. military budget and NATO interventions.

Blaming Russia

In this New Cold War, the Russians get blamed for not only disrupting some neocon “regime change” projects, such as the proxy war in Syria, but also political developments in the West, such as Donald Trump’s election and AfD’s rise in Germany.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

The Atlantic Council’s digital lab claimed, according to the Post editorial, that “In the final hours of the [German] campaign, online supporters of the AfD began warning their base of possible election fraud, and the online alarms were ‘driven by anonymous troll accounts and boosted by a Russian-language bot-net.’”

Of course, the Post evinces no evidence tying any of this to the Russian government or to President Vladimir Putin. It is the nature of McCarthyism that actual evidence is not required, just heavy breathing and dark suspicions. For those of us who operate Web sites, “trolls” – some volunteers and some professionals – have become a common annoyance and they represent many political outlooks, not just Russian.

Plus, it is standard procedure these days for campaigns to issue last-minute alarms to their supporters about possible election fraud to raise doubts about the results should the outcome be disappointing.

The U.S. government has engaged in precisely this strategy around the world, having pro-U.S. parties not only complain about election fraud but to take to the streets in violent protests to impugn the legitimacy of election outcomes. That U.S. strategy has been applied to places such as Ukraine (the Orange Revolution in 2004); Iran (the Green Revolution in 2009); Russia (the Snow Revolution in 2011); and many other locations.

Pre-election alerts also have become a feature in U.S. elections, even in 2016 when both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton raised questions about the legitimacy of the balloting, albeit for different reasons.

Yet, instead of seeing the AfD maneuver as a typical ploy by a relatively minor party – and the German election outcome as an understandable reflection of voter discontent and weariness over Merkel’s three terms as Chancellor – the Atlantic Council and the Post see Russians under every bed and particularly Putin.

Loving to Hate Putin

In the world of neocon propaganda, Putin has become the great bête noire, since he has frustrated a variety of neocon schemes. He helped head off a major U.S. military strike against Syria in 2013; he aided President Obama in achieving the Iran nuclear agreement in 2014-15; Putin opposed and – to a degree – frustrated the neocon-supported coup in Ukraine in 2014; and he ultimately supplied the air power that defeated neocon-backed “rebel” forces in Syria in 2015-17.

President Barack Obama meets with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice listens at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

So, the Post and the neocons want Putin gone – and they have used gauzy allegations about “Russian meddling” in the U.S. and other elections as the new propaganda theme to justify destabilizing Russia with economic sanctions and, if possible, engineering another “regime change” project in Moscow.

None of this is even secret. Carl Gershman, the neocon president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, publicly proclaimed the goal of ousting Putin in an op-ed in The Washington Post, writing: “The United States has the power to contain and defeat this danger. The issue is whether we can summon the will to do so.”

But the way neocon propaganda works is that the U.S. and its allies are always the victims of some nefarious enemy who must be thwarted to protect all that is good in the world. In other words, even as NED and other U.S.-funded operations take aim at Putin and Russia, Russia and Putin must be transformed into the aggressors.

“Mr. Putin would like nothing better than to generate doubts, fog, cracks and uncertainty around the German pillar of Europe,” the Post editorial said. “He relishes infiltrating chaos and mischief into open societies. In this case, supporting the far-right AfD is extraordinarily cynical, given how many millions of Russians died to defeat the fascists seven decades ago.”

Not to belabor the point but there is no credible evidence that Putin did any of this. There is a claim by the virulently anti-Russian Atlantic Council that some “anonymous troll accounts” promoted some AfD complaint about possible voter fraud and that it was picked up by “a Russian-language bot-net.” Even if that is true – and the Atlantic Council is far from an objective source – where is the link to Putin?

Not everything that happens in Russia, a nation of 144 million people, is ordered by Putin. But the Post would have you believe that it is. It is the centerpiece of this neocon conspiracy theory.

Silencing Dissent

Similarly, any American who questions this propaganda immediately is dismissed as a “Kremlin stooge” or a “Russian propagandist,” another ugly campaign spearheaded by the Post and the neocons. Again, no evidence is required, just some analysis that what you’re saying somehow parallels something Putin has said.

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

On Tuesday, in what amounted to a companion piece for the editorial, a Post article again pushed the unproven suspicions about “Russian operatives” buying $100,000 in Facebook ads from 2015 into 2017 to supposedly influence U.S. politics. Once again, no evidence required.

In the article, the Post also reminds its readers that Moscow has a history of focusing on social inequities in the U.S., which gets us back to the comparisons between the Old McCarthyism and the new.

Yes, it’s true that the Soviet Union denounced America’s racial segregation and cited that ugly feature of U.S. society in expressing solidarity with the American civil rights movement and national liberation struggles in Africa. It’s also true that American Communists collaborated with the domestic civil rights movement to promote racial integration.

That was a key reason why J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI targeted Martin Luther King Jr. and other African-American leaders – because of their association with known or suspected Communists. (Similarly, the Reagan administration resisted support for Nelson Mandela because his African National Congress accepted Communist support in its battle against South Africa’s Apartheid white-supremacist regime.)

Interestingly, one of the arguments from liberal national Democrats in opposing segregation in the 1960s was that the repression of American blacks undercut U.S. diplomatic efforts to develop allies in Africa. In other words, Soviet and Communist criticism of America’s segregation actually helped bring about the demise of that offensive system.

Yet, King’s association with alleged Communists remained a talking point of die-hard segregationists even after his assassination when they opposed creating a national holiday in his honor in the 1980s.

These parallels between the Old McCarthyism and the New McCarthyism are implicitly acknowledged in the Post’s news article on Tuesday, which cites Putin’s criticism of police killings of unarmed American blacks as evidence that he is meddling in U.S. politics.

“Since taking office, Putin has on occasion sought to spotlight racial tensions in the United States as a means of shaping perceptions of American society,” the article states. “Putin injected himself in 2014 into the race debate after protests broke out in Ferguson, Mo., over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an African American, by a white police officer.

“‘Do you believe that everything is perfect now from the point of view of democracy in the United States?’ Putin told CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ program. ‘If everything was perfect, there wouldn’t be the problem of Ferguson. There would be no abuse by the police. But our task is to see all these problems and respond properly.’”

The Post’s speculative point seems to be that Putin’s response included having “Russian operatives” buy some ads on Facebook to exploit these racial tensions, but there is no evidence to support that conspiracy theory.

However, as this anti-Russia hysteria spreads, we may soon see Americans who also protest the police killing of unarmed black men denounced as “Putin’s fellow-travelers,” much as King and other civil rights leaders were smeared as “Communist dupes.”

Ignoring Reality

So, instead of Democrats and Chancellor Merkel looking in the mirror and seeing the real reasons why many white working-class voters are turning toward “populist” and “extremist” alternatives, they can simply blame Putin and continue a crackdown on Internet-based dissent as the work of “Russian operatives.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel with her hands in the characteristic Merkel-Raute position. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Already, under the guise of combating “Russian propaganda” and “fake news,” Google, Facebook and other tech giants have begun introducing algorithms to hunt down and marginalize news that challenges official U.S. government narratives on hot-button issues such as Ukraine and Syria. Again, no evidence is required, just the fact that Putin may have said something similar.

As Democrats, liberals and even some progressives join in this Russia-gate hysteria – driven by their hatred of Donald Trump and his supposedly “fascistic” tendencies – they might want to consider whom they’ve climbed into bed with and what these neocons have in mind for the future.

Arguably, if fascism or totalitarianism comes to the United States, it is more likely to arrive in the guise of “protecting democracy” from Russia or another foreign adversary than from a reality-TV clown like Donald Trump.

The New McCarthyism with its Orwellian-style algorithms might seem like a clever way to neutralize (or maybe even help oust) Trump, but – long after Trump is gone – a structure for letting the neocons and the mainstream media monopolize American political debate might be a far greater threat to both democracy and peace.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and


23 comments for “The Rise of the New McCarthyism

  1. mike k
    March 9, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    We miss you Robert! But those carrying own in your place are doing a great job, and deserve a lot of praise and gratitude for continuing this essential learning forum.

    • mike k
      March 9, 2018 at 1:21 pm

      And financial support!

      • john landis
        March 10, 2018 at 2:00 am

        oh they get plenty of that from putin

        • MusicalE
          March 19, 2018 at 6:33 pm

          With that comment you just proved the writer’s point that anyone that disagrees with the official narrative is a Putinbot.

  2. Realist
    March 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    Unless the American intelligence agencies poisoned Russian targets and blamed the deaths on the KGB to gain political traction back in the 1950’s, the non-stop current sniping at Russia is even worse than classic McCarthyism.

    The recent sarin attacks in London, which now brings howls from the British government to impose more sanctions on Russia, expel more Russian diplomats and to boycott the World Cup soccer tournament, is a case in point. Russia stood to gain nothing by killing the two individuals, and to lose everything if caught trying to do so. Does any sane person really believe that Putin has suddenly become so ruthless and reckless? Of course not, common sense says that those who benefit did the deed. This is just the CIA or the MI5 out trying to frame Russia yet again in the weak minds of their suggestible citizens.

    What the episode DOES prove is that the most recent purported sarin attacks in Syria were not real. The villainous White Helmets who reported the incident and included videos of themselves ministering to the afflicted wore no gloves, masks or other protection as they made intimate contact with the victims and their clothing, yet suffered no ill effects whatsoever, whereas numerous British officers who treated or were in the proximity of the two Russians were sent to hospital violently ill from the nerve agent.

    If perchance any actual Russian tried to knock these two off, it was probably one of the double agents they betrayed to the West, i.e., it was personal, not a hit job ordered by Putin ten days before the presidential election. I mean, doesn’t this whole caper stink like a week-dead beached flounder? Or, have I simply fallen for one of Putin’s great deceptions again? I’ve already got you down for option number two, Rachel.

    • Joe Tedesky
      March 9, 2018 at 2:00 pm

      The U.S. & the U.K. especially are hitting this attack Russia thing way to hard. I mean if this noise from the American and British inteligencia is all about nuclear and convention wespons budgets then okay then we hear ya MIC, but if these DC critters want a rumble with Vlad well then not so cool.

      What is conflating is that Putin’s Russia advanced their weaponry capacity and efficiency on the cheap. This expense saving technology growth was done against all the matrix’s that America’s MIC set before us, and that was the most powerful Military was determined by how much a country spent on war products…well, Putin’s laid that idea to rest. Even I’m flabbergasted that the Russians accomplished so much with so little.

      Yeah Realist the bully’s are itching for a rumble, where they should begin their starting to become a little more humble. Joe

    • Skip Scott
      March 9, 2018 at 4:49 pm

      I too am very suspicious about this latest sarin episode. It seems too coincidental with the upcoming election, and Putin’s latest speech touting Russia’s latest weapons. The victim most likely outlived his usefulness to the western intel agencies, and became useful yet again as a victim of the “evil Putin”. Ka-ching for the MIC.

    • Zachary Smith
      March 9, 2018 at 9:20 pm

      The Brits are milking the hell out of this incident, and keeping the news accounts as fuzzy as possible. Won’t surprise me if – after squeezing the story dry – there is not a quiet “never mind”.

    • Sam F
      March 10, 2018 at 11:40 am

      I am coming to see that these implausible setups by tyrants are necessary efforts to bully their own populations, as part of efforts to demand power as false protectors. .

      The classical tyrant must create fearsome foreign enemies to demand power as the protector and to accuse his opponents of disloyalty (Plato and Aristotle).

      But there is also an essential element of local tyranny, used by many social bullies, which is to threaten the tyrant’s own supporters, that if they do not “go along” with the story, the other “supporters” will turn on them as well. That threat requires that the accusation can be targeted without evidence, and the victimized”supporters” must see that there is really no evidence against those accused, just an accusation that could just as well be made against themselves.

      This random targetability is true of most accusations of heresy, witchcraft, sympathy with foreign enemies, etc. A mere fragment of “evidence” having no connection with the target is assumed by the fearful to be supplied in good faith, and no one will defend the accused for fear that a similar accusation will be promptly made against themselves. This requires only control of mass media to prevent divergent interpretations, which makes the dissident media prime targets themselves.

      This shows that those who control the mass media (zionists etc) fully intend to set up a tyranny.

      • Realist
        March 10, 2018 at 5:10 pm

        “But there is also an essential element of local tyranny, used by many social bullies, which is to threaten the tyrant’s own supporters, that if they do not “go along” with the story, the other “supporters” will turn on them as well. That threat requires that the accusation can be targeted without evidence, and the victimized”supporters” must see that there is really no evidence against those accused, just an accusation that could just as well be made against themselves.”

        That ploy is an underappreciated bit of genius by any resident dictator, and must have been worth a chapter in Machiavelli’s famous work. It’s why Corbyn is kicked around like a stray dog as a message to dissenters in Britain who would like a more reality-based foreign policy, peace with Russia and their tax money spent on their own needs rather than America’s war du jour. People need to know with certainty that they can’t fight city hall and that the city fathers, the chamber of commerce, the donor class, the ribbon cutters and all the other beautiful people may be members of George Carlin’s infamous “club” but that they will never be, for their lives, frankly, just don’t matter. Don’t like it? Take it up with the local gestapo, I mean constabulary. You nailed it, Sam. Rather than cringing in shame over their terrible rep, the legal enforcers actually revel in it. They know they are accomplishing the job they are paid to do.

        • CitizenOne
          March 10, 2018 at 10:33 pm

          OMG its Ted Cruz!

  3. Joe Tedesky
    March 9, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Apparently, and without warning the word ‘globalist, globalism’ is anti-Semitic, or at least it is by the narrative CNN Don Lemon gave to it on 3/8/18 evening broadcast. To make matters worst pundits Jack Kingston got beat up by Lemon, and Peter Beinart, to somewhere from what offends Jews to Trump being a bigot. Beinart actually said something to the effect, that the word ‘globalist’ by itself isn’t anti-Semitic but when Trump uses the word ‘globalism or globalist’ it is then racist…. google ‘Don Lemon speaks about Globalism with Kingston & Beinart’, and see and listen for yourself. Am I not informed or what, is globalism globalist now a ethnic slur?

    People should realize that when one ideology or strategy goes to the one extreme, that just by the laws of human nature, left right brain function, that there is going to be resistance just as extreme against those from the far opposite sides of the total population. In fact the U$A is getting off very, very lightly, as it is with all these wars over the last 25 years, and hardly a dent in these wars with protest. On the other hand no new good ideas may emerge in this culture of absolutism as our culture has devolved into a tribal combative type of angry society. We can do better than this, and no doubt in time we may, but for now this separation of extremes is what’s most harmful to our American world. We don’t need no outside enemy, we have ourselves…’now, go ahead and call me unAmerican because I didn’t say what I should have said, and then as the proud Patriot you are then tell me what I could have said…why not it’s your America’. That last part wasn’t for the ones here who understand me, that was for the other America that wants to shut me down.

    Plus I love reading Robert Parry’s archival file.

  4. Drew Hunkins
    March 9, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Any, and I mean ANY, head of state who runs her or his nation as a sovereign and independent state and has relative autonomy over its own land, labor and resources will be immediately targeted by the Washington-militarist-Zio Terror Network, period. When I say targeted I mean virtually the entire apparatus of Western state-corporate-mass media power will be marshaled to harass, propagandize, browbeat, vilify, encircle and sanction that nation.

    This campaign will run the gamut from the neo-con right all the way over, alas, to much of the populist-progressive left. Just witness the otherwise excellent Congressional Black Caucus peddling the Russia-gate canard (one of the most depressing and disheartening political dynamics I’ve ever witnessed.) Even comedy and celebrity entertainment mass media — some of the most effective propagandists — will get in on the charade, witness Jimmy Kimmel taking a side swipe at the Kremlin during last weekend’s Oscars, joking about Moscow fixing elections.

    The way to find yourself on the rusty end of the Washington militarist-Zio Terror Network’s bayonet is to 1.) run your politico-economic system to the benefit of your people and not the predators of Wall Street; and 2. offer diplomatic support to the Palestinians and criticize the grotesque and brutal land grabs and lawn mowing Tel Aviv routinely carries out.

    No matter if the nation is considered “populist”, “nationalist”, “socialist”, or “communist”, if it’s outside the orbit of the Wall Street parasites and Washington militarist empire (or happens to give Israel paranoid delusions), it must remain ever vigilant because the disparagement, threats and ridicule will be absolutely incessant and relentless.

    • Joe Tedesky
      March 9, 2018 at 2:50 pm

      Seeing all of those celebrities being deputized makes me ponder to how far reaching the NSA is, and to how much blackmail or incentives (because we listen in we know what they want) are pushing this narratives promotion. Pretty soon the wheather girl or man will be blaming the snowfall or slippery roads on old dependable scapegoat Vlad. I don’t think half of all this Russia psy-op is real, as the other half is coerced by the great Oz behind the curtain…yeah I had to go there. Nice comment Drew. Joe

    • Anna
      March 9, 2018 at 9:06 pm

      The US is not “a sovereign and independent state.” “AIPAC’s senator and his apparent desire to silence Americans:”
      “In its original form this AIPAC driven proposal would have subjected violators to a 20 year possible prison sentence for the expression of their opinion regarding Israel’s seizures of Palestinian lands and the brutality of the IDF and Shin Bet in those territories held by Israel as spoils of war. As originally written the law would have applied to all Americans as well as corporate America. In other words SST would have become a criminal enterprise for the expression of our opinions and I would have been criminalized as the proprietor of this digital forum.”
      — Is not that clear?
      More: “AIPAC Returns to Washington. Who is interfering with American democracy?” by PHILIP GIRALDI
      “Three months ago, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act was approved by the House of Representatives with 402 affirmative votes and only two libertarian-leaning congressmen voting “no.” The Israel Anti-Boycott Act that is also currently making its way through a Senate committee would set a new standard for deference to Israeli interests on the part of the national government. It would criminalize any U.S. citizen “engaged in interstate or foreign commerce” who supports a boycott of Israel or who even goes about “requesting the furnishing of information” regarding it, with penalties enforced through amendments of two existing laws, the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Act of 1945, that include potential fines of between $250,000 and $1 million and up to 20 years in prison. According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, the Senate bill was drafted with the assistance of AIPAC.”

  5. Dave
    March 9, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    Just because everyone is paranoid about the Russians, doesn’t mean Trumpsky et al did not deal with them financially and politically.

    • farang
      March 12, 2018 at 8:44 am

      You meant Clintonov, yes, comrade?

  6. john wilson
    March 9, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Ironically the Americans targeted chancellor Merkel’s phone and didn’t deny doing it. Personally I doubt if McCarthyism ever really went away. I think today’s McCarthy is the MSM, at least they are the mouth piece for the Ghost of McCarthy behind the scenes. One knew who McCarthy was when he was around, but today he could be almost anyone in the deep state and he doesn’t where a dark suit and Foster Grant glasses. He’s lurking behind every computer screen, monitoring every phone call and text, he knows exactly where you are because of your smart phone and satnav. Today’s Mr McCarthy make the genuine article of the past seem quite amateurish. The deep state is everywhere and the ‘reds under the bed’ are least of our worries

  7. March 9, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    The Clinton Cult is changing the Party of Gene McCarthy into the Party of Joe McCarthy.

  8. GM
    March 9, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    Interesting side note: a preponderance of candidates seeking Democratic Congressional seats in the midterms are either “former” CIA, State officials or military intelligence according to a report posted World Socialist Web Site, if I got the name correct.

  9. Sam F
    March 10, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    All very good points and worth reading (except Davesky the DNC troll).
    The work of Robert Parry will reverberate for decades.
    Thanks be to his successors!

  10. Pablo Diablo
    March 13, 2018 at 4:53 am

    I miss Robert Parry. And this article is one of many reasons why.

  11. Pangola16
    March 18, 2018 at 8:17 am

    Instead of “Red Scare” it is now “Brown Scare”. Republicans now want to witch-hunt latinos.

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