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John Vorhaus Headshot

It's Time We Started Calling them McCarthy

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Once again, President Obama has done the right thing, and once again he'll be eviscerated by the opinion- (read: noise-) makers on the right. In this case, he's come out in favor of building a mosque in Lower Manhattan, somewhere in the general vicinity of Ground Zero, thereby nefariously supporting "the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances." Dangerous business, that "accordance with local law" stuff. According to the noisemakers, it must be stopped.

According to the noisemakers, Obama must want America to become a Muslim country or, provide operating bases for Muslim extremists (since all mosques are, right?) right here in the heart of America. Clearly, squeak the right, Obama has no respect for the dead of September 11. Obama is an apologist. Obama is weak. Obama is... oh, man it makes my head hurt to contemplate the non-stop vituperation sideshow they'll generate over this one.

But let's break it down. The issue is freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is one of this country's fundamental tenets. I believe in it. Don't you? Of course you do. Not surprisingly, so does our president, who has in this instance once again shown his knack for saying a thing that's simply and obviously right for no other reason than, yeah, it's simply and obviously right. Yet the noisemakers will savage him with it again. And we'll put up with it again. We'll lament their ability to torque any Obama action and make it sound evil, simply by shouting down reason and calling names in a loud voice.

Haven't we had enough of that? Isn't it time we shouted back? Isn't it time to acknowledge that this country's right wing is using the oldest trick in their playbook to advance their cause? It's called McCarthyism, pure and simple. It was self-aggrandizing when Senator Joe McCarthy went witch hunting in the 1950s, and it's self-aggrandizing now. And it lasted right up until the moment Army lawyer Joseph Welch stood up to him and, in a grand gesture of noticing the emperor's nudity, said, "Senator, have you no sense of decency?"

We need a little of that now. We need to start calling the right on their ridiculous nonsense. With my gift for reducing complex concepts to trivial one-liners, I propose we simply start calling them all McCarthy. Make it an insult: "McCarthy!" Raise it to the level of swear or slur. Call it "the M-word." Call it what you like, but use it every chance you get. Let it symbolize your disgust with the faction of opinion-makers in this country who twist reality to suit their political (and, let's not forget, financial) interests.

In fact, let's take it a step further. Play down to their level. Accuse them of using "big lie" tactics promulgated by a certain German named Goebbels. That's right, call them Nazis. And when you're done calling them Nazis, call them McCarthy again. Get right down there in the mud with them. They're so at home there, they won't mind the company, right?

Of course we already know this plan won't work. People like us are too sensible and self-aware to engage in mindless screeds and mean it. We always hear that little voice inside our heads saying, "Hang on a second now, you know that's not fair." Too bad the noisemakers don't hear that voice, or ignore it, giving them a freedom of attack that you and I will never enjoy. It lets them fight not fair.

Nevertheless, I think there's something to this M-word thing. It's a simple, subversive way to signal that you know you're being lied to and you know exactly why.

In this moment I'm reminded of an episode from the original Star Trek TV series, where a bunch of proto-hippies slandered Captain Kirk and other "squares" by calling them the worst insult they could think of: Norman. The word itself was just a word, but it was energized with the power of insult through the consensus reality of those who conspired to use it. Let's do it to the right. Let's call them McCarthy, because McCarthy is what they are. And let's not stop until they come to their senses and engage in fair discourse.

Which means, of course, let's not stop.