McCarthyism

18 03 2010

Jon Chait caught this from James Gavin over at The Corner:

McCarthy is an ethnically identifiable Irish Catholic name, yet it describes despicable political behavior that transcends ethnic and religious backgrounds. No other American ethnic, religious, or racial group has been so stigmatized for so long, with so little public outcry, by a word that is acceptable in polite society.

This is followed by a lot whinging and handwringing about how, for example, “Rosenbergism” never became a political slur and etc., but there’s not much more to it than that.  Chait reads this as conservative P.C., and I suppose it is, but what it really feels like is a rehash of the defense that tried to posit “neocon” as a codeword for “Jew.”  And, of course, it utterly misses the point.  You could probably interview a thousand Americans and not a single one of them would have received “McCarthyism” for anything else than what it is: A term used to describe the deployment of state power for the pursuit of insanely paranoid and ruinous political vendettas.  And, of course, there’s absolutely no evidence presented to suggest that anyone outside of James Gavin reads the term as any kind of ethnic slur.

I’m not sure why conservatives—always so wary of the excesses of big government!—have invested themselves so heavily in the rehabilitation of a creep and bully like Joe McCarthy, but of all their efforts this one seems to me to be the most embarrassing by a stretch.

—Jason

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