McCarthyism rears its ugly head

Back in the 1950s, the House Un-American Activities Committee was running wild. It was blacklisting journalists, militant unionists, authors, playwrights and anyone who opposed the Korean War or signed the Stockholm Peace Pledge to outlaw the atomic bomb.

It reached into the heartland as well. An active unionist by the name of Roy Webb, who worked at the American Motors plant in Milwaukee, took a petition into the plant asking workers to sign against the atomic bomb. Spearheaded by the foreman, hysteria rang out. Several workers grabbed Webb and bounced his back down 44 concrete steps, from the third floor to the first floor, breaking his spinal cord. This kind of hysteria was rampant, and people were frightened to speak out.

Meanwhile, the McCarthy Internal Security Committee invaded Hollywood, conspiring with studios like Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Progressive and pro-union screenwriters, directors, actors and other film talent were viciously redbaited, blacklisted and jailed. The most famous case became known as the Hollywood Ten.

Today, we have in our government a group of people who profess to represent democracy but in reality are of the same ilk as the fascist-like politicians of the ’50s. Then it was the Korean War, today it is the war in Iraq.

The Patriot Act is horribly curtailing our civil liberties. It violates many parts of the Bill of Rights.

The Bush administration has created an atmosphere in which government officials and corporations feel they can violate the First Amendment with impunity. One example of that was Disney’s refusal to distribute Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Greg Palast, author of the bestseller, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” commented, “When the fat cats at Disney put the kibosh on Moore’s new film, they did more than censor an artist. Gagging Moore is only the latest maneuver in suppressing some most uncomfortable facts: the Bush administration’s killing off investigations of Saudi Arabian funding of terror including evidence involving the bin Laden family in the United States. I know because of my investigative team at BBC television and The Guardian in Britain. I wrote and filmed the original reports on which Moore’s new documentary are based.”

Palast outlined documents that FBI agents withheld about the bin Laden family. Articles he had written on the Saudi/Al Qaeda connections are front-page news in Britain and worldwide, but not in the U.S., he noted. Why? he inquired.

He concluded, “Go ahead Mr. Mickey Mouse mogul, censor the guy in the baseball cap, let the movie screen go dark, spread the blindness that is killing us. Instead show us fake fly-boys giving the ‘mission accomplished’ thumbs up … Tube news in the USA is now thoroughly Fox-ified and kow-tows to the prevaricating pronouncements of our commander in chief.”

Now that Moore found a way to distribute his film, and “Fahrenheit 9/11” has turned out to be a blockbuster, many may feel this point is moot. The system works, some may conclude.

But the attempt to censor this movie, and the slander Moore has faced with its release, are all part of a dangerous drive towards a fascist America.

The American people stopped such drives in the ’50s and we can stop them again now. Get the word out to your friends and neighbors to vote out this fanatical right gang. Demand that our troops be brought home now. Stop the slaughter of our troops and the Iraqi people. Peace now.

John Gilman is a longtime peace and justice activist in Milwaukee, Wis. He was summoned twice before HUAC and appeared in his WWII uniform. A highly decorated veteran, Gilman told the committee that they themselves were un-American. He can be reached at johngilman @ aol.com.