Whistleblowers, traitors, or patriots?

Watching and listening to Rep. Trey Gowdy during last week’s House Intelligence Committee hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSC Director Mike Rogers was  deja vu for those of us old enough to remember Joseph McCarthy’s use of the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917.

Trey-Gowdy-1200x6301With stern face and the determined voice of a righteous prosecutor Gowdy shifted the focus of the hearing away from the question of outside foreign interference in the election process to the leaks coming from inside the intelligence community itself, and the need to find and prosecute the leakers under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917. A breach of secrecy of classified material is punishable by as much as 10 year prison sentence.

A google search led to an article by a whistleblower published by The Guardian criticizing the Obama Administration with prosecuting whistleblowers while turning a blind eye to leaks of classified material by members of the Administration itself. Click “Obama’s abuse of the Espionage Act is modern-day McCarthyism” for The Guardian story from 2013 that moves the conversation beyond partisanship to the issue of the national security state and the new McCarthyism.

mccarthy1McCarthyism began with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s conviction that the communists had infiltrated the federal government as well as the left-leaning entertainment industry and the media. He was looking for spies and traitors, American citizens whose nefarious purposes posed the greatest threat to the United States of America.

Twenty years later, Daniel Ellsberg was charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 and charges of conspiracy and theft for “leaking” to the New York Times what became known as the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War, a crime with a total maximum sentence of 115 years. On May 11, 1973, the judge in the case dismissed all charges on the grounds of  government misconduct and illegal evidence gathering.

What we had then, and what have now, is an ethical issue of the first order.

Edward_Snowden-2Are there times when a government employee’s loyalty to the U.S. Constitution and and the duty of conscience supersedes the vow of secrecy under which she works? Are whistleblowers traitors? Patriots? Or something in between?

“Sometimes the scandal is not what law was broken, but what the law allows.” – Edward Snowden [quoted from Brainyquotes.com]

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 25, 2017.

 

Ted Cruz and demagogic innuendo

Notice how it works in this speech attacking President Barack Obama. The President stood, said Ted Cruz, on the EAST side (i.e. the former Communist side) of the Brandenburg Gate. Ted Cruze’s Subtext: “Obama is a Communist.” That’s the 21st Century voice of Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

ObamaCare

They want you to believe that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a sinister plot. They do not call the Act by its name. They call it “ObamaCare” after the man they love to hate, President they paint as either a secret Muslim or Socialist or Communist. We’ve seen this kind of demagoguery before. Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

This 1954 video of Joseph Welch brought the tsunami of demagoguery, led by WI Senator Joseph McCarthy, to a screeching halt. An exasperated Welsh, Chief Counsel for the Army in the Army-Senate Hearings, finally put the question directly to McCarthy: “Have you no decency, Sir?” The same question pertains to the Right Wing ad scaring the public about a lecherous Uncle Sam (government). Views from the Edge posted that video an hour ago.

FOX and the Scapegoat Mechanism

Today’s post on FOX News is inspired by Rene Girard’s “Mimetic” theory and an Aesop’s fable. First the fable.

THE FOX AND THE CROW

A Fox (read FOX) saw a Crow (the American people) fly off with a piece of cheese (real information) in its beak and settle on a branch in a tree.

“That’s for me, as I am a Fox,” said Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree.

“Good day, Mistress Crow,” he cried. “How well you are looking today: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds (parties, races, countries), just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of all Birds.”

The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth, the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox.

“That will do,” said he. “That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese, I will give you a piece of advice for the future: ‘Do not trust flatterers.'”

THE SCAPEGOAT MECHANISM AND SOCIAL CONTROL

Rene Girard’s theory of “mimetic” desire, mimetic rivalry, and the scapegoat mechanism explains the secret of the appeal and success of FOX News. The Fox takes the cheese it extols by flattering its viewers as the true patriots, the lovers of goodness and truth.

FOX News is the 21st Century voice of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). Joe McCarthy and what came to be known as “McCarthyism” scared the American public in a search for neighbors who might be closeted communists or communist sympathizers until news anchor Edward R. Murrow ended McCarthy’s witch-hunt with a single newscast.

As in that sordid history of the Salem Witch Trials in which the Puritans were summoned by their magistrates and clergy to rid themselves of evil (see Kai Erickson’s The Wayward Puritans: a Study in the Sociology of Deviance), McCarthy’s hunt was a convention of social control to maintain the old fraying religious, political, cultural consensus. FOX resurrects those shameful chapters of the American experience.

There is no quicker way to rally people than to create a scapegoat (a shared enemy, the embodiment of evil). All it takes is a FOX to flatter the “Queen of all Birds” into dropping the Cheese.

Rep. Allen West: Joseph McCarthy Reincarnated?

Do you believe in reincarnation?

Rep. Allen West

I didn’t until I read this story of FL Rep. Allen West (22nd District, FL), pictured here, acting like Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose search for closet Communists dominated the era of American politics now remembered for “McCarthyism”.  Click Rep. Allen West says 81 House Members are Communists” – ABC News to read  the story and see the video.

Rep. Keith EllisonClick Rep. Keith Ellison (5th District, MN) for information on the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I know Keith, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress. When Keith left the Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis, I succeeded him as its Executive Director. Keith is always breaking new ground, but becoming the first Muslim member of Congress who is also a hidden member of the Communist Party isn’t part of his ground-breaking. It’s a lie. He is profoundly religious. If being one’s brother’s or sister’s keeper, caring for the poor, makes him a Communist, as Senator Joe McCarthy, once thought…well..McCarthy’s and West’s claims say more about them than about those they fear and love to hate.

U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy

Rep. West’s allegation that 81 members of the U.S. Congress are Communists, leads me to re-post this social commentary previously published by Minnesota Public Radio in September ’09, a year after the crash on Wall Street.

SORROW FLOATS

 Gordon C. Stewart, 9.10 09

“Sorrow floats.”  Perhaps the line from a John Irving novel in which “Sorrow,” the stuffed family dog preserved by a taxidermist, floats to the surface of the lake after a plane crash, helps explain what is happening in America.

Erin McClam’s “5 weeks on the brink: Reliving meltdown of ’08,” (September 5, 2009) recounts the series of chilling events that almost led to a national crash just one year ago.

Something dear to the American family died last year.  Most of us lived in the illusion of economic and financial health until the day it was rushed to the emergency room for a government rescue.

Since then our memories of the pre-September ‘08 world have taken the turn that families often take at funerals where the eulogies bear little resemblance to the reality of the deceased. We’re quarreling over what was real and what is mythical re-construction.

Following the plane wreck that takes the lives of the Berry family parents in The Hotel New Hampshire, the stuffed family pet bobs to the surface of the lake, floating among the wreckage.  Sorrow floats.  So does the thing we lost in September-October 2008.

What died was the assumption that an unregulated free market system was the best way to organize an economy, the natural partner of democracy.  The market almost crashed.  It didn’t because the government intervened before a reoccurrence of the crash of 1929.  Sometime between mid-September and October 7, when Congress passed its bill to stabilize the financial markets, the myth of the virtue of deregulated capitalism died.  It was stuffed by the taxidermy of government intervention, but it still floats.

When a conviction or a myth dies, it doesn’t go away.  It continues to bob to the surface.  Sometimes, as in the case of the Berry family, Sorrow is much easier to love after it is dead.  Sorrow – obese, lethargic, and persistently flatulent in its old age – no longer waddles through the dining room to foul the air.  The real life Sorrow gives way to the stuffed Sorrow, a thing of nostalgia that lives on…even after it’s dead, and long after the plane has crashed.

Sorrow floats every time fear sounds the alarm of “socialism.”  Sorrow floats every time we shout each other down in town hall meetings.  Sorrow floats every time nostalgia forgets that it was only by government intervention that Sorrow is still around.  The stuffed Sorrow floats every time we forget the greedy obesity that led to the deaths of Lehmann Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns, not to mention insurance giant AIG and all the banks that had taken the plunge into a market of deregulated derivatives and mortgages that led to the epidemic of home foreclosures, bankruptcies, pension fund disappearances, and job losses.  Sorrow floats a year after the crash when the mind forgets and nostalgically remembers a system we thought was working in our interest.

Old convictions die hard. The economic forces that grew fat over the years when government was viewed as the people’s enemy will stoke the fires of anxiety and anger, taking advantage of the Sorrow that still floats to remind us of something that we love more in retrospect than we did when the day it died of its own obesity.