Senator Joe McCarthy perfected the technique in the United States: whenever you disagree with anybody, don’t debate ideas, go right into name calling. In McCarthy’s day, the epithet of choice was “Communist.” In recent years, it has morphed into “racist, sexist, homophobe, latinophobe, Islamophobe, xenophobe etc., etc.”
There were Communists in McCarthy’s day, which made his technique seem to work for a while. Richard Nixon was accused of being a McCarthyite because he thought State Department employee and Georgetown upper crust favorite Alger Hiss was a Stalinist agent, but eventually Soviet records confirmed that Hiss was indeed a Stalinist agent. Because there are racists and sexists in our society, it makes it easier to try to destroy people with these epithets whether they fit or not.
Hillary Clinton called this “the politics of personal destruction.” She complained that it was being leveled at her, but she gave at least as much as she got. The whole recent campaign was consumed by it, and one had reason to hope that the end of the campaign would provide some relief. But apparently, this is not to be. The mainstream media won’t let it go.
Today’s NPR Evening Edition discussed some recent Trump appointments. Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, was described as a racist. Anybody with any familiarity with Sessions knows that this is a complete falsehood. He isn’t remotely a racist.
The basis for using the label is the claim of a single person, now dead, that in the 1970’s Sessions had used the phrase “white folks,” which Sessions said had been just “folks.” There was also a joke from the same era about KKK’ers smoking pot. Note that this was over a quarter century ago.
Evening Edition then moved on to interviewing someone from Foreign Policy Magazine who described Trump White House senior staff appointee Steve Bannon as an “ethno-nationalist.” At first hearing, this sounded tame compared to the flood of recent epithets flung at Bannon: “racist, anti-Semite,” etc. But none of this has a shred of evidence behind it. I have had some experience of Bannon myself and as his colleague Peter Schweizer very accurately said, “ he doesn’t have a racist or bigoted bone in his body.” If this isn’t defamation and libel, I don’t know what is.
This is a rather minor quibble, but also consider the term “ethno-nationalist.” What does it mean? What can it mean? America is famously a nation that is not an ethnicity. So if I am an American nationalist, I cannot be against any American ethnic group.
Why then is this illogical terminology being used on this show and accepted without demure by the host? Because it is a sneaky way to convey the shameful falsehood that Bannon is a white racist whose allegiance is not to the nation but to his so-called race. I say so-called race because no one ever has or ever could define exactly what a white person is in scientific terms.
Bannon himself couldn’t care less about anybody’s race. Nor is he anti-semitic, Islamophobic, or any other “ ist” or “phobe.” It is all a witch hunt with not a shred of factual basis. Tolerance of other people and other views is one of his cardinal beliefs. Just look at his staff at Breitbart. He has hired and promoted gays, Jews, and Muslims.
Sessions and Bannon were just warm-ups. Following the segments on Sessions and Bannon, NPRs Evening Edition then moved to interview the grandson of a Jew who escaped Austria before World War Two to go to Palestine and thereby saved his life. The grandson’s lesson seemed to be that we should regard Trump as some kind of Hitler figure and protect ourselves before it is too late.
To suggest in this manner that Trump is some kind of Hitlerian anti-Semite is ludicrous. One of his closest advisors, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, is an orthodox Jew, and his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism.
NPR made no effort to balance any of these blatant McCarthite lies and insinuations. It is ironic. The media won plaudits from historians for going after McCarthy when most politicians feared to confront him. For years, there was no greater smear word among left journalists than McCarthyite. And now it is they who are practicing it and won’t give it up.
Perhaps the only way to make the mainstream media reconsider is for consumers to complain to their advertisers. (Yes, NPR has advertisers.) That might get their attention. Evidently the credibility they have lost with such infantile behavior does not bother them.
As an aside, an emphasis on “political correctness” and in particular the frequent use of the epithets “racist and sexist” in conjunction with “class” (classist?) is sometimes described as “ Cultural Marxism.” The background for this is that Marx himself said that everything about us is determined by class.
For example, in this view, there is no such thing as human logic. There is only the logic of the working classes and the quite different logic of the bosses. Another term for this, rebutted by Mises in Human Action, is polylogicism.
Paul Cantor recently observed that the left had become so fixated on “race” and “gender” that it didn’t notice Trump stealing “class” from them. Those of us who don’t think that anything is absolutely “determined” by race, gender, class, or you name it can especially appreciate the joke.
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.