Paging Joe McCarthy

There's a conspiracy to undermine the government. Sound familiar?


David Horowitz
February 24, 1998 1:00AM (UTC)

An old writer friend of mine called the other day to say that he had been
advised by a senior editor at the New Republic not to have anything to do
with my partner Peter Collier and me because we were "Nazis."

The reason? We had organized a fund to defend Matt Drudge, the Internet
gadfly who told the world about Newsweek magazine's Monica Lewinsky story
before Newsweek did and is being sued by White House aide Sidney
Blumenthal, one of the architects of Hillary Rodham Clinton's "vast right-wing
conspiracy" scenario. Every day, I get calls from the press about my
connections to two names on the White House chart of right-wing
conspirators, as reported in this week's Newsweek: Drudge and
philanthropist Richard Scaife. In this week's edition of the leftist the
Nation, I am also listed
on the chart (in a box with Drudge and Rush Limbaugh) for a sentence I
wrote in a Salon
article
referring to President Clinton's sojourn in Russia during the Cold
War.

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So, how does it feel to be a target of this latter-day witch hunt?
Actually, it feels quite familiar. I grew up in the Cold War '50s in a
family of American Communists. The FBI used to hang around our
neighborhood, charting people's comings and goings. My parents lost their
jobs as high school teachers because they would not answer the question,
"Are you now, or have you ever been," etc. Once in a junior high school
auditorium, when I was 13, a gang of toughs put a drape cord around my neck
and started shouting, "String him up, he's a red!"

Unfair as the treatment of my family and our Communist friends was during
the McCarthy era, there was an element of truth in the conspiracy charges
then. My parents, both Communists, were willing enlistees in a highly
disciplined and secretive movement dedicated to overthrowing American
democracy, a movement that took its orders (and its money) from Moscow with
the express purpose of undermining this country's security vis-á-vis the
Soviet Union.

Yet most people agree, and I am one of them, that McCarthy's campaign was a
reckless witch hunt that injured people who had no connection to the actual
Communist conspiracy, and those who, while they believed in the cause, were
innocent of any criminal and/or subversive deeds. McCarthy's true targets
were not Communists, whom the FBI already had under surveillance, but his political
opponents in the Democratic party.

Why then the seeming tolerance for the current White House witch hunt,
whose purpose is to smear and destroy its political critics? There is no
conspiracy behind the events that prompted the first lady's accusations.
There is no subversive party of the right with secret codes and ruthless
discipline that gives orders to go out and destroy people. If Monica
Lewinsky was planted in the White House, she was planted by Democrats,
beginning with a big party donor and ending with the president himself. It
was Newsweek -- hardly a conservative rag -- that worked on the story for a
full year. Yes, Richard Scaife, one of the conspiracists'
villains-in-chief, bankrolled private investigations into the suicide of
Vincent Foster, in the belief that something more sinister occurred. (So
what, isn't that what freedom of inquiry entails?) Kenneth Starr, the
billionaire's supposed right-wing pawn, refuted the speculations that
Scaife was pushing and supported the original suicide finding. What kind
of a conspiracy is this?

As for my minuscule role in the plot, I was barely aware of Drudge's
existence when I first heard of the Blumenthal suit. I offered to introduce
Drudge to a lawyer, Manny Klausner, a well-known civil liberties advocate
with deep (and very public) ties to the Libertarian Party. The Center for
the Study of Popular Culture has long been interested in free speech issues
and has defended feminists and Afro-centrists as well as conservatives on
First Amendment issues. We spearheaded the battle against speech codes on
college campuses some years ago. We even attained some humorous notoriety
when we forced a vice chancellor at the University of California to undergo
First Amendment "sensitivity training" when he banned a fraternity from
distributing a T-shirt the campus PC crowd didn't like. We were even
criticized by George Will, who clearly didn't get the joke.

We do get funds from the Scaife foundations in addition to 20 other
foundations and 15,000 individuals. So why is Scaife, whom I have
met and talked to twice in my life, being demonized as though he were the
mastermind of a coup d'état against the president? Why is the Center for
the Study of Popular Culture, which has sought only to defend a journalist
from what it perceives as a punitive and chilling legal attack, being
dragged into the "conspiracy"?

Advertisement:

The answer is obvious from witch hunts of the past. It is to deflect
attention away from the real issues. It is to conjure fantasy demons in
order to smear and then cripple real opponents. The question that should be
asked is: Why, given what Americans know about witch hunts, are they so
tolerant of this latest outbreak?

An old writer friend of mine called the other day to say that he had been
advised by a senior editor at the New Republic not to have anything to do
with my partner Peter Collier and me because we were "Nazis."

The reason? We had organized a fund to defend Matt Drudge, the Internet
gadfly who told the world about Newsweek magazine's Monica Lewinsky story
before Newsweek did and is being sued by White House aide Sidney
Blumenthal, one of the architects of Hillary Rodham Clinton's "vast right-wing
conspiracy" scenario. Every day, I get calls from the press about my
connections to two names on the White House chart of right-wing
conspirators, as reported in this week's Newsweek: Drudge and
philanthropist Richard Scaife. In this week's edition of the leftist the
Nation, I am also listed
on the chart (in a box with Drudge and Rush Limbaugh) for a sentence I
wrote in a Salon
article
referring to President Clinton's sojourn in Russia during the Cold
War.

So, how does it feel to be a target of this latter-day witch hunt?
Actually, it feels quite familiar. I grew up in the Cold War '50s in a
family of American Communists. The FBI used to hang around our
neighborhood, charting people's comings and goings. My parents lost their
jobs as high school teachers because they would not answer the question,
"Are you now, or have you ever been," etc. Once in a junior high school
auditorium, when I was 13, a gang of toughs put a drape cord around my neck
and started shouting, "String him up, he's a red!"

Advertisement:

Unfair as the treatment of my family and our Communist friends was during
the McCarthy era, there was an element of truth in the conspiracy charges
then. My parents, both Communists, were willing enlistees in a highly
disciplined and secretive movement dedicated to overthrowing American
democracy, a movement that took its orders (and its money) from Moscow with
the express purpose of undermining this country's security vis-á-vis the
Soviet Union.

Yet most people agree, and I am one of them, that McCarthy's campaign was a
reckless witch hunt that injured people who had no connection to the actual
Communist conspiracy, and those who, while they believed in the cause, were
innocent of any criminal and/or subversive deeds. McCarthy's true targets
were not Communists, whom the FBI already had under surveillance, but his political
opponents in the Democratic party.

Why then the seeming tolerance for the current White House witch hunt,
whose purpose is to smear and destroy its political critics? There is no
conspiracy behind the events that prompted the first lady's accusations.
There is no subversive party of the right with secret codes and ruthless
discipline that gives orders to go out and destroy people. If Monica
Lewinsky was planted in the White House, she was planted by Democrats,
beginning with a big party donor and ending with the president himself. It
was Newsweek -- hardly a conservative rag -- that worked on the story for a
full year. Yes, Richard Scaife, one of the conspiracists'
villains-in-chief, bankrolled private investigations into the suicide of
Vincent Foster, in the belief that something more sinister occurred. (So
what, isn't that what freedom of inquiry entails?) Kenneth Starr, the
billionaire's supposed right-wing pawn, refuted the speculations that
Scaife was pushing and supported the original suicide finding. What kind
of a conspiracy is this?

Advertisement:

As for my minuscule role in the plot, I was barely aware of Drudge's
existence when I first heard of the Blumenthal suit. I offered to introduce
Drudge to a lawyer, Manny Klausner, a well-known civil liberties advocate
with deep (and very public) ties to the Libertarian Party. The Center for
the Study of Popular Culture has long been interested in free speech issues
and has defended feminists and Afro-centrists as well as conservatives on
First Amendment issues. We spearheaded the battle against speech codes on
college campuses some years ago. We even attained some humorous notoriety
when we forced a vice chancellor at the University of California to undergo
First Amendment "sensitivity training" when he banned a fraternity from
distributing a T-shirt the campus PC crowd didn't like. We were even
criticized by George Will, who clearly didn't get the joke.

We do get funds from the Scaife foundations in addition to 20 other
foundations and 15,000 individuals. So why is Scaife, whom I have
met and talked to twice in my life, being demonized as though he were the
mastermind of a coup d'état against the president? Why is the Center for
the Study of Popular Culture, which has sought only to defend a journalist
from what it perceives as a punitive and chilling legal attack, being
dragged into the "conspiracy"?

The answer is obvious from witch hunts of the past. It is to deflect
attention away from the real issues. It is to conjure fantasy demons in
order to smear and then cripple real opponents. The question that should be
asked is: Why, given what Americans know about witch hunts, are they so
tolerant of this latest outbreak?

Advertisement:

David Horowitz

David Horowitz is a conservative writer and activist.

MORE FROM David Horowitz

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Communism Fbi Matt Drudge

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