I’ve said for years, and taught in my classroom, that history echoes itself often; the problem is the generation of a particular time period generally has little recollection of the circumstances, facts, or conditions that led to the current situation. That general lack of knowledge gives rise to events and conditions that recall similar facts over and over; the conditions or circumstances are not exactly the same, but the results mirror closely what once was.
For example, the conditions that led to the French Revolution were, in general, heavy government debt, an unfair taxation system (the poorest people paid whilst the wealthy were generally exempt), an over privileged nobility and as a result, a non-responsive government refusing to deal with overarching government debt – along with various bouts of famine and food shortages.
The rise of Leninism in the Soviet Union mirrored many of those same problems, made worse by the dismal failure and ineptness of the Russian effort in the First World War. The same might be said for many of the Marxist revolts in the Americas, or even the rise of totalitarianism in Europe in the first part of the 20th century. They are not exactly the same, but borrowing an idea from Mark Twain – “they rhyme.”
In the 1950’s, Senator Joe McCarthy, and others, became swept up by the fear of Communism rising in the United States, part of the second wave Red Scare. Senator McCarthy went so far as to have hearings and investigations into a variety of people he (and others) thought were communist “plants” or “subversives” put in place by the Soviet government in an effort to undermine and eventually topple the United States government. In the process, Senator McCarthy accused, smeared, and in some cases ruined the lives of many people associated with or in some cases, not, the government.
Even Hollywood, that bastion of political theatre which had done so much to bolster the war effort during the Second World War, was not spared the rod of Senator Joe McCarthy. He accused, harangued, and drove many out of Tinseltown by the mere accusation of being associated or commiserating with members of the Communist party. Some were screen writers who were “blackballed” because of the accusations, unable to work in Hollywood for a time.
Many of the accusations, not all, were unfounded or supported with such flimsy evidence that close scrutiny revealed little in the way of actual “connections” or subversive action…the accusations were seen, at the time, to be little more than deep red paint splattered about without regard for what, or who, it might stain. The object was to sully…something…and increase the election chances of the Republican Party.
Things got bad for Senator McCarthy when he went after the United States Army – accusing many in that hallowed institution of collaborating with or being engaged with, members of the Communist Party attached to the Soviet Union. When the hearings were televised, they generated much ire towards Senator McCarthy and his “witch hunt” show trials.
The backlash against Senator McCarthy and his Army hearings was overwhelming, and eventually for fear of losing seats, the Republican Party turned on Senator McCarthy, himself now a pariah among the Republicans, eventually driving him from office in disgrace. Senator McCarthy died not long after – a broken man in every conceivable way.
I can’t help but think, on some level, these January 6th proceedings are similar – not exact – in what they’re trying to accomplish, and my concerns are rather numerous.
First, the “tribunal” is handpicked by Speaker Pelosi. None of the people nominated by minority leader McCarthy are on the “panel”. To suggest that Liz Cheney or Adam Kinzinger (who is not running for re-election as his seat was eliminated by redrawn boundaries) are representative of Republicans is so far from the truth as to be laughable. Anyone that cannot see that is simply uber-partisan and doesn’t wish to see that misstep. Much better for Speaker Pelosi to add dissonant voices to the panel, for balance, but that was not her goal, and if the shoe were on the other foot, Republicans may have done the same.
Second, where is the countervailing evidence? The other side? Much like the McCarthy hearings, there is only one side presented, a harangue on the television set for the nation without cross-examination. For example: Why is Ray Epps, he who is on tape exhorting, née, insisting the capital be stormed, not on the FBI wanted list? Why was he not even brought in for questioning? Why were the national guard or even the DC police not allowed to intervene? Why were we told that 5 officers died while protecting the capital when none did – one had a stroke and others died of suicide – related or unrelated to the incident?
Third, why is the event being televised? Like the McCarthy hearings, which Republicans at the time thought would boost their re-election chances, the Democrats know there is a looming problem on the horizon – that of an election year wipeout – and they’re doing all they can to stem the coming tsunami. Significant inflation due to poor monetary policy (not Putin), rising crime rates due to poor policy, supply shortages, massive gas prices (again, not Putin) are all on the docket for this cycle. Anyone who can’t see that, like the McCarthy hearings, this is bordering on little more than a show trial is simply, again, an uber-partisan who will not see the forest for the trees.
If this were truly to be a hearing, there should be a cross-examination, if, for nothing else, lending credence to the accusations. A failed cross-examination would reveal what the Democrats want, and would bolster their chances. On the other hand, an unsuccessful one….
Are there some important things to come out of this event? Sure…But like the McCarthy hearings, it is much more show than anything else, and anyone with even a slight bit of non-partisanship can see that. Remember, just because it’s on television or printed in your high school textbook doesn’t make it true. That’s the magic of propaganda – sprinkle just enough truth in the bowl to give some flavor, but not too much.
Until the American populations becomes fed up with such theatrics on both sides of the political aisle, we will continue to be plagued with events such as this “hearing”, along with theatrics similar to the Roman games – all designed to placate the population and take their eye off of the more damaging themes of the day, namely, the poor state of the economy, inflation, and the failure of government monetary policy over the last two years.
In case you’re wondering – there was a secret Senator McCarthy and others kept to themselves, only now all these years later being spoken about openly. The paper was called the Venona Project, a secret document that tracked cables and communications from Russia to many people who were part of the McCarthy hearings. Some were family members of those in McCarthy’s sights, others government officials, still others from Hollywood. Guess what the outcome of these once secret papers is…McCarthy was right.