Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Moral Panic of 2017

Michael Lumish

{Also published at Jews Down Under and The Jewish Press.}

This is a moment of "moral panic" in the United States.

All this yelling and screaming and crying and whining about Nazis and Klansmen and White Supremacists is like nothing so much as the Red Scare of the 1950s.

As you will remember from either personal experience or from the classroom, the early Cold War is often understood and discussed as a period of anti-Communist "witch hunts."

Even Lucille Ball, of all people, was dragged before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1953 to answer for her Communist grandfather and her brief moment in the Party in the late 1930s.

Both Democratic and Republican politicians followed "Tail Gunner Joe" McCarthy into scaring the holy hell out of the American public to such an extent that hard-right Republicans were able to challenge no less a revered figure than President Dwight Eisenhower... former Supreme Allied Commander for the invasion of Europe in 1944... who they considered soft.

Of course - as it turns out after the fall of the Soviet Union and the opening of their archives in the early 1990s - there was a bit more truth to the notion of Communist infiltration than anybody who grew up within the American Jewish Left is eager to admit.

What I suspect, and what professional historians tend to believe, is that Joe McCarthy, more than anything else, was a politician with his finger to the wind.

He saw the early Cold War political zeitgeist and recognized a terrific opportunity. This is not to say that he was insincere but the hour was there for the taking and he absolutely took it.

In doing so, he and the political establishment more generally - Democratic and Republican - whipped up fear and hatred in the heart of the American public toward the Russians and the "Commies." They did so in some measure for political gain and in some measure because they honestly believed that by staring down the Soviets they were serving the American people.

It must be noted, obviously, that the Soviet Union was an honest threat to the lives of the American people. Although we chuckle at it in retrospect when the new, post-war suburbanites built bomb shelters in their backyards (in lieu of swimming pools) it was not entirely out of irrational fear.

Nonetheless, Cold War architects from Truman to Reagan used the "bully pulpit" to drive that fear into the minds of as many Americans as possible.

And this - 2017 - is just such a moment.

{Here we are again.}

"The Race Scare"

The irony, of course, is that instead of searching beneath every bed sheet for a Communist Infiltrator we are now conducting an American "witch hunt" for Nazis.

It is a Race Scare.

We gather in great numbers to pat ourselves on the back, marching against HATE and congratulate one another for our virtues of tolerance as we encourage fear and loathing toward an insidious green fascist frog man.

The truth is that we hate hate so much that some of us feel a moral imperative to dress up in black and hide our faces for the purpose of beating the holy shit out of anyone bold enough to listen to a Gay Jewish Conservative speak at UC Berkeley or, say, a traditional religious conservative like Ben Shapiro.

That is how much we hate hate.

Even well-meaning, upwardly-mobile, Champaign Socialists - who would never dare physically confront a man on the street merely because that person was wearing a red baseball cap - generally support such good, old-fashioned ass-whoopins' in the name of "anti-fascism" by the Kids in Black.

{Nothing, after all, suggests a political attitude opposed to fascism so much as clobbering people in the streets like it's late 1920s Berlin.}

And, now, following the lead of those "progressives" in ISIS and the rest of political Islam, we are ripping down historical monuments that remind us of a past that we want nothing to do with and we are signaling our virtue and goodness and progressive-left social inclusion by donning "pink pussy hats" and encouraging Black Lives Matter to call for the murder of cops.

{"Fry 'em like bacon! Pigs in a blanket! Fry 'em like bacon! Pigs in a blanket!"}

And, so, yes, this is the most insidious political moment in my lifetime.

One would have to go back to 1968 to find this level of vitriol.

The difference is that over 58,000 young American soldiers died in the Vietnam War.

The draft yanked young American men out of their lives for the purpose of killing the Viet Cong... who they did not know from a hot pastrami sandwich.

What the counterculture and the New Left wanted was to end that war.

What Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted was the franchise for African-Americans and to promote anti-racism.

This, unfortunately, is in direct opposition to the contemporary progressive-left which worships ethnicity above all.

So, my question to the progressive-left today is, just what the hell do you want?

But, in the meantime - after you figure out how to specifically articulate the answer to that question - please stop scaring Jewish people with the ghosts of Nazis, if you do not mind.

It is one of the smaller, but uglier, aspects of this obnoxious political moment.


  1. Unlike McCarthy, today there is actual violence and authoritarianism perpetrated in the name of progressive ideology. Whether it can be stemmed before it results in greater structural damage is an open question, considering the oversaturated culture. Progressivism, a non-American philosophy, has replaced liberalism, which is fundamentally American. In any event, let's hope there are still enough people, including liberals, turned off by the excess and will reject it. There are signs that it will happen, but not without many more examples of illiberalism in the process.

    1. Isn't electing Trump over Hilary and career GOP politicians enough of a sign that America is sick of it?

    2. It was more an event to bring the situation into the open.

    3. It seems that much of the elite is still in denial about this.

    4. I want to beware of overstating.

      One difference between now and the Red Scare is that the Cold War went on decade after decade after decade because the combatant was real.

      The Soviet Union was quite obviously real.

      What I am calling the "Race Scare" will not last nearly as long because there is very little there there.

      Some people have pointed to earlier sources, but I tend to think of the current moral crisis as developing out of a Democratic Party political tactic during the months leading into the last election.

      As soon as the words "alt-right" came out of Hillary's mouth we were on our way and it hasn't slowed since.

      On the contrary, it's gotten worse.

  2. The Jews are always the easiest scapegoat. You know that as well.

    1. Heya man, thanks for dropping in.

      I think that most people concerned about the rise of the New Nationalism are genuinely and honestly concerned and even their concern about right-wing antisemitism is genuine.

      The problem is that they are utterly blind to the considerably worse problem of progressive-left antisemitic anti-Zionism which - if you were to even so much as raise the topic - they would look at you as if you were speaking Swahili.

  3. Much like a criminal defense lawyer's credo is 'you take your clients as they are, not as you hope', activists have to attack the monsters that they see not the ones they don't. The Prague Summer was real, the French riots of 68 where real. The assassinations of King and Kennedy were real. The VN war war real, the draft was real. Today's monsters the left attacks is a reflection of what there's still around to protest about.

    1. You got it, crazy lady!

      They're shadow boxing.

  4. I will never forgive Trump for reviving Stephan Colbert's career.

    1. It must be difficult to be in New York in the entertainment industry and resist the anti-Trump hysteria. It only goes to prove that Colbert is not as extraordinary as he presents himself.

    2. I used to absolutely love the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and thought Colbert was terrific.

      {I miss those days!}


    3. Jeff, it was funny the first second maybe even the the third time, same with all these pseudo-comics but ya know, eventually yawn time ad now I wanna throw up every time I see their faces. Back in my day the Smothers Bros et al did it about Nixon but with panache. Hitler salutes?

    4. Comedy has been heading downhill for a while. I have noticed that remakes of some classics have pushed grossness and vulgarity over humor. So-called political humor has gone the same way. There is a coarseness to it all that I just don't dig.

  5. I remember seeing a film during the '70's about the Alger Hiss case in which Whitaker Chambers was presented as a fruitcake. It's my understanding now that Hiss was proven guilty through the Soviet archives. Is that correct?

    1. It's interesting that you mention that because I was recently wondering the same. I honestly do not know the truth of the matter and I am uncertain that anyone else does either.

      My understanding was that there was significant evidence in the archives to suggest guilt, but I do not know that we have definitive proof.

  6. I love to kid my wife at the end of the day.

    "So, honey, did you have any problem dodging the Nazis today? Did you get harassed by the Klan?"

    And, I tell ya, we really need to take a closer look at this notion of "white privilege."

    Oh, and btw, the word "mansplaining" was apparently coined by Rebecca Solnit who used to live above me in a Victorian at Baker at Page in SF.

    I always knew she was trouble!