Sen. Joe McCarthy led a crusade against communism in the 1950s, which at first blush may seem like a noble cause considering the very real threat posed by the Soviet Union at the time.
That perception peels away the instant you start looking at the actual witch hunts, which were carried out with little or no proof of any wrongdoing whatsoever. Character assassinations, blacklists, slander and every dirty trick in the book was fair game when it came to suspected communists. The method was systematically used as much to punish as to deter others; stay away from the Reds, or we’ll destroy your life!
Now, let’s not beat around the bush here. Communism is a vile, toxic ideology that must be actively opposed whenever encountered. But the way to combat it is in open challenge, not through lies and deceit. Because when you resort to dirt as your weapon of choice, you become dirty yourself. Eventually, you become the very evil you once set out to fight.
Over time, the McCarthy reign of terror got increasingly hysterical as the blacklists grew longer, and by the time it finally imploded at the end of the 1950s, McCarthyism had established itself as a scary definition for posterity.
McCarthyism: “The practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.”
Today, there is a perverse revival of McCarthyism, only this time the target isn’t the communist party; it’s the Swedish nationalist party SD. Anyone even remotely associated with the party is immediately branded as Satan himself and runs a serious risk of jeopardizing his career, union membership, social standing and integrity as a private citizen.
The most recent example of this phenomenon brings back an old acquaintance, Marcus Birro. As I wrote about last year, Birro triggered a magnificent media storm by sending a Tweet criticizing Islam. This resulted in dozens of death threats, losing his job, getting his book contracts cancelled and even forced him to flee the country for a while. The hatred was so intense you could cut steel with it, and the barrage was orchestrated by the “good guys” supposedly standing up for tolerance, empathy and humanitarianism.
Now, months later, Birro was finally getting back on his feet. Last week he signed a contract with sports website Solo Calcio as a staff blogger. No politics, nothing remotely controversial, just a sports site writing about soccer.
Then he went to lunch.
In the restaurant, a reporter from newspaper Expressen — the very same that fired him last year — suddenly barged in while a photographer started snapping pictures. Birro declined talking to the reporter, but they hung around outside to take more pictures and harass him further when leaving. Within the hour, the “story” was a big headline, even though Birro had said nothing and done nothing besides eating a plate of food.
Why? Because the two men across the lunchtable were members of Swedish parliament. Specifically, they were Sweden Democrats, the third largest party. Birro is not a party member and has publicly stated that he does not vote for SD, nor has any intention of writing for SD or collaborate with the party in any way. He simply had lunch with a couple politicians in a restaurant frequented by dozens others, since the restaurant is located right by the parliament building.
Still, the “scandal” sent shockwaves through mainstream media. Suddenly there were dozens of reporters chasing Birro on the phone, talking about the “incident” as if it was a crime and demanding a public apology (!).
That same afternoon his new employer Solo Calcio panicked as the inquisition descended and terminated the contract effective immediately, only six days after it was signed. It is uncertain which employer or publisher will dare take calls from Birro in the future, now that he is added to the unofficial blacklist.
How soon will we hear a paraphrasing of McCarthy’s standard question everywhere you turn?
“Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Sweden Democrat party?”