Tea Party Crazy Has a History
Editor’s Note: There are times when hearing the inchoate anger of some Tea Partiers – and the political appeal that their “message” seems to have – one is inclined to think that many of today’s Americans just like their crazy.
However, the phenomenon is not entirely a new one. As historian William Blum notes in this guest essay (published originally at “the Anti-Empire Report”), the American Right has long embraced crazy notions, especially during the Cold War:
If you shake your head and roll your eyes at the nonsense coming out of the Teabagger followers of Sarah “Africa is a country” Palin and other intellectual giants like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh ...
If you have thoughts of moving abroad after the latest silly lies and fantasies like “Obama the Marxist” and “Obama the antichrist” ... If you share Noam Chomsky’s feeling: "I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime” ...
Keep in mind that the right wing has long been at least as stupid and as mean-spirited.
Consider some of the behavior of the same types for half a century during the Cold War with its beloved -- albeit imaginary -- "International Communist Conspiracy.”
--1948: The Pittsburgh Press published the names, addresses, and places of employment of about 1,000 citizens who had signed presidential-nominating petitions for former Vice President Henry Wallace, running under the Progressive Party.
This, and a number of other lists of “communists”, published in the mainstream media, resulted in people losing their jobs, being expelled from unions, having their children abused, being denied state welfare benefits, and suffering various other punishments.
--Around 1950: The House Committee on Un-American Activities published a pamphlet, “100 Things You Should Know About Communism in the U.S.A.” This included information about what a communist takeover of the United States would mean:
Q: What would happen to my insurance?
A: It would go to the Communists.
Q: Would communism give me something better than I have now?
A: Not unless you are in a penitentiary serving a life sentence at hard labor.
--1950s: Mrs. Ada White, member of the Indiana State Textbook Commission, believed that Robin Hood was a Communist and urged that books that told the Robin Hood story be banned from Indiana schools.
--As evidence that anti-communist mania was not limited to the lunatic fringe or conservative newspaper publishers, here is Clark Kerr, president of the University of California at Berkeley in a 1959 speech:
“Perhaps 2 or even 20 million people have been killed in China by the new [communist] regime.”
One person wrote to Kerr: “I am wondering how you would judge a person who estimates the age of a passerby on the street as being 'perhaps 2 or even 20 years old.' Or what would you think of a physician who tells you to take 'perhaps 2 or even twenty teaspoonsful of a remedy'?”
--Throughout the cold war, traffic in phoney Lenin quotes was brisk, each one passed around from one publication or speaker to another for years.
Here's U.S. News and World Report in 1958 demonstrating communist duplicity by quoting Lenin: “Promises are like pie crusts, made to be broken.”
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles used it in a speech shortly afterward, one of many to do so during the cold war.
Lenin actually did use a very similar line, but he explicitly stated that he was quoting an English proverb (it comes from Jonathan Swift) and his purpose was to show the unreliability of the bourgeoisie, not of communists.
--“First we will take Eastern Europe, then the masses of Asia, then we will encircle the United States, which will be the last bastion of capitalism. We will not have to attack. It will fall like an overripe fruit into our hands.”
This Lenin “quotation” had the usual wide circulation, even winding up in the Congressional Record in 1962. This was not simply a careless attribution; this was an out-and-out fabrication; an extensive search, including by the Library of Congress and the United States Information Agency failed to find its origin.
--A favorite theme of the anti-communists was that a principal force behind drug trafficking was a communist plot to demoralize the United States. Here's a small sample:
Don Keller, District Attorney for San Diego County, California in 1953: “We know that more heroin is being produced south of the border than ever before and we are beginning to hear stories of financial backing by big shot Communists operating out of Mexico City.”
Henry Giordano, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1964, interviewed in the American Legion Magazine:
Interviewer: “I've been told that the communists are trying to flood our country with narcotics to weaken our moral and physical stamina. Is that true?”
Giordano: “As far as the drugs are concerned, it's true. There's a terrific flow of drugs coming out of Yunnan Province of China. ... There's no question that in that particular area this is the aim of the Red Chinese. It should be apparent that if you could addict a population you would degrade a nation's moral fiber.”
Fulton Lewis, Jr., prominent conservative radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist, 1965: “Narcotics of Cuban origin -- marijuana, cocaine, opium, and heroin -- are now peddled in big cities and tiny hamlets throughout this country. Several Cubans arrested by the Los Angeles police have boasted they are communists.”
We were also told that along with drugs another tool of the commies to undermine America's spirit was fluoridation of the water.
--Mickey Spillane was one of the most successful writers of the 1950s, selling millions of his anticommunist thriller mysteries.
Here is his hero, Mike Hammer, in “One Lonely Night”, boasting of his delight in the grisly murders he commits, all in the name of destroying a communist plot to steal atomic secrets.
After a night of carnage, the triumphant Hammer gloats, “I shot them in cold blood and enjoyed every minute of it. I pumped slugs into the nastiest bunch of bastards you ever saw. ... They were Commies. ... Pretty soon what's left of Russia and the slime that breeds there won't be worth mentioning and I'm glad because I had a part in the killing. God, but it was fun!”
--1952: A campaign against the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization because it was tainted with “atheism and communism”, and was “subversive” because it preached internationalism.
Any attempt to introduce an international point of view in the schools was seen as undermining patriotism and loyalty to the United States.
A bill in the U.S. Senate, clearly aimed at UNESCO, called for a ban on the funding of “any international agency that directly or indirectly promoted one-world government or world citizenship.”
There was also opposition to UNESCO's association with the UN Declaration of Human Rights on the grounds that it was trying to replace the American Bill of Rights with a less liberty-giving covenant of human rights.
--1955: A US Army 6-page pamphlet, “How to Spot a Communist”, informed us that a communist could be spotted by his predisposition to discuss civil rights, racial and religious discrimination, the immigration laws, anti-subversive legislation, curbs on unions, and peace.
Good Americans were advised to keep their ears stretched for such give-away terms as "chauvinism", "book-burning", "colonialism", "demagogy", "witch hunt", "reactionary", "progressive", and "exploitation".
Another “distinguishing mark” of “Communist language” was a “preference for long sentences.” After some ridicule, the Army rescinded the pamphlet.
--1958: The noted sportscaster Bill Stern (one of the heroes of my youth) observed on the radio that the lack of interest in "big time" football at New York University, City College of New York, Chicago, and Harvard "is due to the widespread acceptance of Communism at the universities."
--1960: U.S. General Thomas Power speaking about nuclear war or a first strike by the U.S.: "The whole idea is to kill the bastards! At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!"
The response from one of those present was: "Well, you'd better make sure that they're a man and a woman."
--1966: The Boys Club of America is of course wholesome and patriotic. Imagine their horror when they were confused with the Dubois Clubs. (W.E.B. Du Bois had been a very prominent civil rights activist.)
When the Justice Department required the DuBois Clubs to register as a Communist front group, good loyal Americans knew what to do. They called up the Boys Club to announce that they would no longer contribute any money, or to threaten violence against them; and sure enough an explosion damaged the national headquarters of the youth group in San Francisco.
Then former Vice President Richard Nixon, who was national board chairman of the Boys Club, declared: “This is an almost classic example of Communist deception and duplicity. The 'DuBois Clubs' are not unaware of the confusion they are causing among our supporters and among many other good citizens.”
--1966: “Rhythm, Riots and Revolution: An Analysis of the Communist Use of Music, The Communist Master Music Plan”, by David A. Noebel, published by Christian Crusade Publications, (expanded version of 1965 pamphlet: “Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles”).
Some chapters: Communist Use of Mind Warfare ... Nature of Red Record Companies ... Destructive Nature of Beatle Music ... Communist Subversion of Folk Music ... Folk Music and the Negro Revolution ... Folk Music and the College Revolution.
--1968: William Calley, U.S. Army Lieutenant, charged with overseeing the massacre of more than 100 Vietnamese civilians in My Lai in 1968, said some years later:
"In all my years in the Army I was never taught that communists were human beings. We were there to kill ideology carried by -- I don't know -- pawns, blobs, pieces of flesh. I was there to destroy communism. We never conceived of old people, men, women, children, babies."
--1977: Scientists theorized that the earth's protective ozone layer was being damaged by synthetic chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons. The manufacturers and users of CFCs were not happy.
They made life difficult for the lead scientist. The president of one aerosol manufacturing firm suggested that criticism of CFCs was “orchestrated by the Ministry of Disinformation of the KGB.”
--1978: Life inside a California youth camp of the ultra anti-communist John Birch Society:
Five hours each day of lectures on communism, Americanism and “The Conspiracy”; campers learned that the Soviet government had created a famine and spread a virus to kill a large number of citizens and make the rest of them more manageable; the famine led starving adults to eat their children; communist guerrillas in Southeast Asia jammed chopsticks into children's ears, piercing their eardrums; American movies are all under the control of the Communists; the theme is always that capitalism is no better than communism; you can't find a dictionary now that isn't under communist influence; the communists are also taking over the Bibles.
--The Reagan administration declared that the Russians were spraying toxic chemicals over Laos, Cambodia and Afghanistan -- the so-called "yellow rain" -- and had caused more than ten thousand deaths by 1982 alone, (including, in Afghanistan, 3,042 deaths attributed to 47 separate incidents between the summer of 1979 and the summer of 1981, so precise was the information).
Secretary of State Alexander Haig was a prime dispenser of such stories, and President Reagan himself denounced the Soviet Union thusly more than 15 times in documents and speeches.
The "yellow rain", it turned out, was pollen-laden feces dropped by huge swarms of honeybees flying far overhead.
--1982: In commenting about sexual harassment in the Army, General John Crosby stated that the Army doesn't care about soldiers' social lives -- “The basic purpose of the United States Army is to kill Russians,” he said.
--1983: During the U.S. invasion of Grenada, the home of the Cuban ambassador is damaged and looted by American soldiers; on one wall is written "AA", symbol of the 82nd Airborne Division; beside it the message: "Eat shit, commie faggot." ... "I want to fuck communism out of this little island," says a marine, "and fuck it right back to Moscow.”
--1984: During a sound check just before his weekly broadcast, President Reagan spoke these words into the microphone: “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I have signed legislation to outlaw Russia, forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” His words were picked up by at least two radio networks.
--1985: October 29 BBC interview with Ronald Reagan: asked about the differences he saw between the U.S. and Russia, the president replied: “I'm no linguist, but I've been told that in the Russian language there isn't even a word for freedom.” (The word is “svoboda”.)
--1986: Soviet artists and cultural officials criticized Rambo-like American films as an expression of “anti-Russian phobia even more pathological than in the days of McCarthyism”.
Russian film-maker Stanislav Rostofsky claimed that on one visit to an American school “a young girl had trembled with fury when she heard I was from the Soviet Union, and said she hated Russians.”
--1986: Roy Cohn, who achieved considerable fame and notoriety in the 1950s as an assistant to the communist-witch-hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy, died, reportedly of AIDS. Cohn, though homosexual, had denied that he was and had denounced such rumors as communist smears.
--1986: After American journalist Nicholas Daniloff was arrested in Moscow for “spying” and held in custody for two weeks, New York Mayor Edward Koch sent a group of 10 visiting Soviet students storming out of City Hall in fury.
“The Soviet government is the pits,” said Koch, visibly shocking the students, ranging in age from 10 to 18 years.
One 14-year-old student was so outraged he declared: “I don't want to stay in this house. I want to go to the bus and go far away from this place. The mayor is very rude. We never had a worse welcome anywhere.”
As matters turned out, it appeared that Daniloff had not been completely pure when it came to his news gathering.
--1989: After the infamous Chinese crackdown on dissenters in Tiananmen Square in June, the U.S. news media was replete with reports that the governments of Nicaragua, Vietnam and Cuba had expressed their support of the Chinese leadership.
Said the Wall Street Journal: “Nicaragua, with Cuba and Vietnam, constituted the only countries in the world to approve the Chinese Communists' slaughter of the students in Tiananmen Square.”
But it was all someone's fabrication; no such support had been expressed by any of the three governments. At that time, as now, there were few, if any, organizations other than the CIA which could manipulate major Western media in such a manner.
NOTE: It should be remembered that the worst consequences of anti-communism were not those discussed above. The worst consequences, the ultra-criminal consequences, were the abominable death, destruction, and violation of human rights that we know under various names: Vietnam, Chile, Korea, Guatemala, Cambodia, Indonesia, Brazil, Greece, Afghanistan, El Salvador, and many others.
[Sources for almost all of the above examples can be found in William Blum, “Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire” (2005), chapter 12; or the author can be queried at email@example.com]
Even after the end of the cold war, anti-communism continues to have a detrimental effect upon the intelligence and honesty of Americans.
In April, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the Castro brothers "do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States because they would then lose all the excuses for what hasn't happened in Cuba in the last 50 years." [Agence France Presse, April 25, 2010]
She doesn’t believe that herself. But she thinks the rest of us are stupid enough to swallow it.
If she did believe it, she’d advocate normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations just to stick it to the Castros and show them up for the frauds she says they are.
In effect the American Secretary of State declared that the central element of U.S. Cuba policy for 50 years has done exactly the opposite of what it was intended to accomplish.
Washington, for all practical purposes, has been a loyal -- if unwitting -- ally of the Havana regime.
As to “what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years” -- to add to the mountain of other evidence of the benevolence of Cuban society we now have Save the Children's “State of the World's Mothers Report 2010".
Save the Children, an internationally acclaimed children’s advocate organization, annually ranks the best and worst places to be a mother.
Amongst the 81 “Less Developed Countries” analyzed, Cuba is ranked number one; i.e., the best place to be a mother. (Amongst the 43 “More Developed Countries” analyzed, the United States is ranked number 28.)
Cuban National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon responded to Clinton’s statement by saying: "If she really thinks that the blockade benefits the Cuban government -- which she wants to undermine -- the solution is very simple: that they lift it even for a year to see whether it is in our interest or theirs."[Agence France Presse, April 25, 2010]
William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. For more of Blum’s commentaries and other books, go to http://killinghope.org .
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