Academia, too, is a veritable compost heap of Bolshie brainmulch. Beardo the Weirdo may have been laughed out of real life during the 1970s, but he found a home in our nation’s colleges, where he whiles away the wait for the next Woodstock Nation by pestering undergraduates with collectivist twaddle when they should be thinking about better car stereos. And fellow travelers in the State Department? Jeez, the situation is so bad at Foggy Bottom that we’d better hope it’s caused by spies. If it’s stupidity, we’re really in trouble.
So how come the HUAC staff isn’t returning my phone calls? Who’s keeping I Led Three Lives from being remade starring Tom Selleck and Arnold Schwarzenegger? And why aren’t we making sure that that Fidel-snuggler Ron Dellums never works again? Whoops, we already did that. We elected him to Congress. And come to think of it, there are other problems with an up-to-date nineties-style witch-hunt. For one thing, it’s no use going after real, card-carrying Communists anymore. Hard-core party apparatchiks have already been persecuted by organizations more brutally efficient than anything we’ve got in the U.S., organizations such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Plus, accusing somebody of being a “comsymp” just isn’t the same since Gorbachev began his three-hankie perestroika performance. Even Margaret Thatcher says she sympathized with Ole Splotch-Top. And when it comes to the International Communist Conspiracy to Enslave Europe, Asia, and the Third World–well, somebody’s got to do something with those people. Good luck to the Patrice Lumumba University Class of “89.
No, a modern McCarthyism is going to have to concentrate on other things besides the Big Lie and the Red Menace. In fact, if we examine even a brief selection of people who should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail (or, to be more contemporary, oat branned and goose downed and jogged out of the condominium complex on an exercise track), we see that they are not necessarily Marxist or even socialist in their thinking because that would presuppose thinking in the first place. Nobody is ever going to accuse us of being thought police for going after the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Phil Donahue, Mario Thomas, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Yoko Ono, Dave Dellinger, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, the World Council of Churches, Ed Asner, Michelle Shocked, Lenora Fulani, Robert Redford, and people who think quartz crystals cure herpes.
The distinguishing feature of this cluster of dunces is not subversion but silliness. If we hope to wreck careers, destroy reputations, and drive holistic Ortega fans into exile in Sausalito and Amherst, we’re going to need tactics very different from those used by Roy Cohn, Bobby Kennedy, and the distinguished senator from the great state famous for its La Follette and cheese. A “blacklist” will never work. Put some Sandalista on your blacklist and you probably guarantee him a MacArthur genius grant and a seat on the ACLU national board of directors. But maybe we can tear a page from the Tr’s Riches Heures of Tipper Gore and insist upon a rating system for music, film, television, and the Boston Globe editorial page. A warning would have to be prominently displayed: “OH-OH, A PERSON INVOLVED WITH THIS UNAPPEALING ITEM OF MASS COMMUNICATION HOLDS SILLY OPINIONS ON MATTERS ABOUT WHICH HE OR SHE IS LARGELY OR ABYSMALLY UNINFORMED.” There’d be three ratings:
S = Silly
VS = Very Silly
SML = Shirley MacLaine
Thus a rerun of M*A*S*H featuring Alan Alda would get an ‘s’ rating. Any public pronouncement by a member of the innumerable Phoenix family, such as River, Leaf, Summer, Stump, Ditch, or Pond Scum Phoenix, would get a “Vs’ rating. And the new Tracy Chapman album gets an ‘sML” with oak-leaf cluster.
But, no, this isn’t going to work either. You can’t shame or humiliate modern celebrities. What used to be called shame and humiliation is now called publicity. And forget traditional character assassination. If you say a modern celebrity is an adulterer, a pervert, and a drug addict, all it means is that you’ve read his autobiography.
We have to come up with more clever ways to ruin these people. Perhaps we can spread rumors that they performed in South Africa. I was in South Africa myself a few years ago, and I’m almost certain that was Jessica Mitford singing backup for Frank Sinatra at Sun City. Or perhaps we can direct the wrath of the remarkably terrifying animal rights activists against them. I’m going to write a letter to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals about how Susan Sontag allows her ideas to be tried on innocent laboratory rabbits before humans are exposed to them. (As for the animal rights activists, we can turn some animals loose on them later.)
But the worst punishment for dupes, pink-wieners, and dialectical immaterialists might be a kind of reverse blacklist. We don’t prevent them from writing, speaking, performing, and otherwise being their usual nuisance selves. Instead, we hang on their every word, beg them to work, drag them onto all available TV and radio chat shows, and write hundreds of fawning newspaper and magazine articles about their wonderful swellness. In other words, we subject them to the monstrous, gross, and irreversible late-twentieth-century phenomenon of Media Overexposure so that a surfeited public rebels in disgust. This is the “Pia Zadora Treatment,” and, for condemning people to obscurity, it beats the Smith Act hollow.
Anyway, I’m sure we’ll find some way to chastise these buggers of sense, to bully, torment, harry them, and generally make a workers’ paradise of their lives. In the meantime, the fun part of McCarthyism is, as it always was, making out the enemies list. Heh-heh:
The Institute for Policy Studies
Tom Hayden (Hope you didn’t give Jane your ideals in the divorce settlement, Tom.)
William Sloane Coffin
Abbie Hoffman (I guess we can cross him off; he was on God’s list.)
William “The Client Is Obviously Guilty” Kunstler
Peter, Paul and Mary (Yes, they’re still alive.)
The Christic Institute
Center for Constitutional Rights
Anybody whose last name is Cockburn
Anybody who inherited so much money and so little sense that her last name might become Cockburn
Cockburn wannabe Christopher Hitchens (Who’s checking the green cards around here?)
The Order of Maryknoll Nuns
The Redgrave family
Daniel and Philip Berrigan (Yes, they’re still alive, too.)
The New York Review of Books
The New York Times Book Review
That poor man’s Walt Kelly, Garry Trudeau
That poor man’s Garry Trudeau, Berke Breathed
Managua’s Herblock, Paul Conrad
New York City Mayor David Dinkins
The National Resource Defense Council
The D. C. Statehood Party
Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Peter Clavelle
The Berkeley City Council
The Village Voice
Any organization with “Peace” in its name
Donald Trump (OK, so he’s not a pinko, but I don’t like him. And if McCarthyism isn’t good for settling grudges, what is it good for?)
The English Department at Duke
The Law School at Harvard
The Liberal Arts Faculty at Stanford
Any educator using the term “Eurocentric” (While we’re at it, let’s reintroduce corporal punishment in the schools–and use it on the teachers.)
Salman Rushdie (Kick “em when they’re down is what I say.)
The rest of the Sheen family plus Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, Demi Moore, Molly Ringwald, and all the other Brat Pack members (Which brings to mind another idea for a modified blacklist–this list would require left-wingers to write movie scripts, but only for Brat Pack movies.)
And let’s not forget that most subversive of all organizations in America, the American government:
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)
Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA)
Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA)
And from Michigan–an improbable place to find a nest of jacobin no-good-niks–these Not-the-Reagan-Democrats:
Rep. David Bonior
Rep. John Conyers
And that’s just a beginning. Readers of the American Spectator were invited to submit their own suggestions–and lots of them. Prepare for a bloodbath–well, a phlegm and bile bath anyway.
Maybe we can reconquer our body politic. Maybe we can sweep the ideologically homeless from the streets of our Shining City on a Hill. Or maybe we can’t. It might all backfire the way the splendid fifties backfired and led to the wretched and unspeakable sixties. Still, it’s worth a try. At the very least, ‘red Scare–The Sequel” will rile the lefties and get them out demonstrating again so policemen can hit them on the head. The police have been having a rough time lately, what with crack and Miranda rights. They need some fun. And one other great good will have been accomplished. We will have found a job for J. Danforth Quayle. He’s the perfect point man for Nouvelle McCarthyism, a Senator Joe Lite if ever there was one. Besides, I’m sure he’d much rather have a reputation for evil than the reputation he’s got now.
Copyright ” 1996 by P. J. o’Rourke. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.