The McCarthy Reboot
The Censorship-Industrial Complex is new in its scale and expense, but in both language and ambition, a perfect repeat of our history's darkest chapters
The more loyalty oaths a person signed, the more loyal he was; to Captain Black it was as simple as that, and he had Corporal Kolodny sign hundreds with his name each day so that he could always prove he was more loyal than anyone else. — Joseph Heller
As a teenager I read Catch-22 probably a dozen times. My idea of good writing back then was anything that made me laugh out loud, and Joseph Heller’s one-hit satirical wonder is one of the great belly laugh books ever, a sentence-level romp built atop a staccato procession of paradoxical situations and loathsome characters, each of whom each reminded me of a different real-life person I couldn’t stand.
Functionaries like “Captain Black” could only make me think of the principals and vice-principals who (in hindsight, justifiably) sent me to detention for most of my adolescence. When I got to the part about his “Great Loyalty Oath Crusade,” I thought I got the joke — I was laughing, right? — but through the giggling I made the mistake of thinking I was reading a description of something long gone, that the Red Scare had vanished inexorably into the past, like the Jim Crow South in To Kill a Mockingbird.
The phenomenon Heller nailed wasn’t dead at all, however. Both in the accustatory questions thrown at three FBI whistleblowers in congress yesterday and in two new contributions to Racket’s “Report on the Censorship-Industrial Complex,” it’s clear America’s tendency toward debilitating state paranoia, deranged ideological surveillance schemes, and wild accusations of disloyalty are not only not over, but trace more than a hundred years into our past, with no signs of stopping.
At the whistleblower hearing before the House Weaponization of Government Subcommittee yesterday, we saw yet another loud display of the once-disgraced tactic of questioning the loyalty and patriotism of American witnesses, in this case FBI agents who’d taken issue with the Bureau’s handling of J6 cases. The Democratic members’ questions gave off a strong echo of the infamous House Committee on Un-American Activities. A scene involving California Democract Linda Sanchez and agent Marcus Allen was particularly upsetting.
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