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Good night, and good luck

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, February 1st, 2017 - 24 comments
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The United States of America appears to be going through one of its darker phases, which we haven’t had for a while. It’s not fascism. It’s a long and dishonourable record of House committees that shame, jail, and socially eradicate people:

Overman Committee – 1919

This Committee started off investigating pro-German sentiments in the U.S. liquor industry. It then evolved into a full anti-Bolshevik hunt and become the first Red Scare.

Fish Committee – 1930

This committee examined people and organisations suspected of being involved in communist activities in the United States.

McCormack-Dickstein Committee 1938-1944

Investigated Nazi propaganda, as well as communist propaganda, and anyone associated with either.

Dies Committee 1938 – 1944

Investigated communist affiliations especially in the arts community. Also proposed interning Japanese Americans into camps – which the government then did.

House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) 1945 – 1975

Anti-communist investigations into arts and movie industries, and broad-ranging investigations into government institutions.

HUAC led to the Communist Control Act of 1954. This law, still in force, outlaws the communist party of the United States, and outlaws membership, and outlaws all supporting activities.

According to the Harvard Crimson, “In the fifties, the most effective sanction was terror. Almost any publicity from HUAC meant ‘the blacklist’. Without a chance to clear his name, a witness would suddenly find himself without friends and without a job.”

In June 2016, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich advocated the creation of a new House Un-American Activities, in order to combat Islamic terrorism.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, Good Night, And Good Luck shows the kind of pressure some news organisations successfully brought to bear against this committee:

The precedents are not good, but public pressure and media pressure can be successful in curbing this kind of political investigation.

24 comments on “Good night, and good luck”

  1. mac1 1

    The title of this post recalls the Irish song of parting, especially in the last line.

    How much a better place this world would be if the lyrics below were a model for nation’s behaviour- spending our money ‘in good company’ and the only harm being done is not to others.

    The third couplet about want of it and loss of memory however is far too prevalent amongst out politicians, or so they say.

    But mostly, how good it would be to wish everyone joy with all the effort and action required to bring joy to all.

    “The Parting Glass

    Of all the money that e’er I had
    I spent it in good company
    And all the harm I’ve ever done
    Alas it was to none but me
    And all I’ve done for want of wit
    To mem’ry now I can’t recall
    So fill to me the parting glass
    Good night and joy be to you all”

    In this struggle that we have now with the new iteration of evil and harm in this world, we must not forget the power of song, both to give ourselves support and strength, but also to excoriate the evil-doers, to expose and criticise and shame.

    “Which side are you on?”

  2. Anne 2

    It’s a long and dishonourable record of House committees that shame, jail, and socially eradicate people:

    The HUAC was not just confined to America. It was not uncommon for individuals in countries closely associated with America to also find themselves targeted – and that included NZ. As we now know, the CIA was very active in Australia, NZ, Canada, Britain and other western nations. It was common for individuals who [perhaps] were outspoken or critical of American activities at that time to be harassed, intimidated and in some cases outlawed without ever having any recourse to justice. My father experienced it in the 1970s.

    It may not be fascism yet Ad but it has the potential to become so – especially if leaders choose to be submissive and weak as happened prior to WW2. We have seen it thus far with Theresa May and our newly minted leader, Bill English.

  3. Macro 3

    We are not far removed from another Kristallnacht.
    Yes the witch hunts of the American yesteryear are predictive of the appalling behaviour we are about to witness yet again in the US. There will a long hard fight back against this tyranny. Of that we can be sure.

  4. simbit 4

    I have friends and contacts who experienced fear and oppression under Obama. And Bush (1 & 2). And Clinton. Et cetera et cetera. They are African-Americans and Indigenous. This is what America does. Stop being so surprised…

    • Macro 4.1

      I’m far from surprised as at this escalation of violence and irrational behaviour in the US. Anyone with half a brain knew that this would be the result of placing a spoilt brat in the White House.

  5. Anne 5

    Oh look:

    Pres. Trump is already making waves at the office. Wants to be “the President who will be remembered as a King.” His words, not ours.

    Now we know why he’s so keen to stay with Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain. He thinks he’s royalty… King Dunny Donald of America.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11792405

    • Macro 5.1

      Gezz! And to think thousands of early Americans died to remove themselves from the vicissitudes of a Despotic King!

      • Anne 5.1.1

        To be fair to the Queen I doubt she is looking forward to hosting King Donald. In fact I expect she is filled with horror at the prospect. But she has to do what her prime minister tells her to do.

  6. adam 6

    I agree Ad nothing new from the land of the free. The free to be fearful. Or to quote Erich Fromm “The fear of Freedom”

    Click to access erich-fromm-the-fear-of-freedom-escape-from-freedom-29wevxr.pdf

    If you’d like to read his fine book.

    Hard to guess if this will be worse, I see anonymous are saying it could be in there latest video.

    https://plus.google.com/+Anonymous

    The common thread thought out this wave after wave of reactionary, is the increased power of the centralized state. I think we can call the ‘tea party’ Muppet’s on this about now.

    • Richard McGrath 6.1

      The Tea Partyers were never supporters of greater central government – just the opposite, they supported decentralised power from federal to state governments and from government to the individual.

      • adam 6.1.1

        And yet they support trump…

        And if they had half a brain between them, they would have understood all his rhetoric has one common theme, all power to him – thus a centralized state.

    • Ad 6.2

      Fromm was fine. For then.

      Try Canetti’s ‘Crowds and Power’.
      He got the dynamics cold that still apply now.

      • adam 6.2.1

        I was racking my brain on that book. I think I’ve read it, by the synopsis that I’ve looked at. But I’m sorely tempted to hunt it out, and read again.

        Wonderful quotes from it

        ““It is only in a crowd that man can become free of this fear of being touched. That is the only situation in which the fear changes into its opposite. The crowd he needs is the dense crowd, in which body is pressed to body; a crowd, too, whose psychical constitution is also dense, or compact, so that he no longer notices who it is that presses against him. As soon as a man has surrendered himself to the crowd, he ceases to fear its touch. Ideally, all are equal there; no distinctions count. Not even that of sex. The man pressed against him is the same as himself He feels him as he feels himself. Suddenly it is as though everything were happening in one and the same body.”
        ― Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power

  7. rhinocrates 7

    How to Build an Autocracy
    The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.

    Text version:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/how-to-build-an-autocracy/513872/

    Audio version:

    Video (short):

    https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/515082/can-it-happen-here/

  8. Stunned Mullet 8

    While not disagreeing with the post or Trump’s bigly douchebaginess, it’s interesting how quick ‘we’ all are to chastise ‘merica when they display behaviour that’s pretty much de rigeur for many other major powers.

    Do we hold the US to a higher standard than we have any reason or right to ?

    • rhinocrates 8.1

      Do we hold the US to a higher standard than we have any reason or right to?

      America holds itself to a higher standard through its frequent claims of exceptionalism, leading back to the framing of the constitution itself.

    • Johan 8.2

      To: Stunned Mullet
      Obviously you need a lesson or two in American history. Their behaviour in the last the 240 years has been nothing short of economic bullying and gun-ship diplomacy.

    • Henry Filth 8.3

      Yes. Yes we do.

      And so we should.

      If you claim (long and loud) to be a Saint, expect to be told when you ain’t.

      It’s a shame really. They actually do have the potential to be “the good guys” that they claim to be.

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