You may think from reading the title of this article that I’m a sensationalist, few of you may believe me to be an upstart “leftie” with his knickers in a twist and head in the clouds – but having been involved in a production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible during the time of Jeremy Corbyn’s election and first few weeks as leader of the Labour Party, some might say that I am in the ideal position to draw parallels between the 1950’s ‘red scare’ in the United States of America and the ensuing political landscape following the UK general election.
Whether it be the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 or the HUAC (The House Un-American Activities Committee) Hearings of the 1950s, humanity has a history of witch-hunts. Some in more serious bouts than others, but nonetheless they are a constant throughout our timeline – it seems to me that since the summer a new wave of Neo-McCarthyism has emerged in Britain.
In February 1950, Senator Joseph McCartney of Wisconsin, gave a speech that alleged he had a list of 205 known members of the Communist Party who were “working and shaping policy” in the State Department – so began the ‘red scare’ hysteria that swept the nation. Although he failed to make a plausible case against anyone, his colourful and cleverly presented accusations led to more than 2,000 government employees losing their jobs and brought popular condemnation to many other prominent figures, especially within the entertainment industry.
McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence.
Back to the United Kingdom in 2015, the Conservative party achieved an election victory that not even they thought they would achieve. They did this by firmly being the ‘nasty party’, spreading fear via their huge publicity machine – they have since continued with the fear mongering, with the help of their mainstream media allies: cue the buzzword ‘security’ spouted every other sentence from Tory representatives and journalists since May.
In 2014, Arch-Thatcherite Tory MP (and at the time Defence Secretary) Liam Fox shouted “communist” at Green MP Caroline Lucas , after she argued nuclear weapons are “making us less safe, not more safe.”
The torrent of abuse from the media upon the new Labour leader, has been vicious and can be described as nothing short of an attempt to shape public opinion and systematically undermine democracy: such is the power the media are allowed when the majority of the sector are owned by the same company. The Conservative Party, with the aid of media allies, continue their attempt to besmirch Mr Corbyn with their rhetoric that he is “a threat to our national security” and aim to make the label ‘socialist’ as toxic as the label ‘communist’ was in the time of the Cold War.
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it – Joseph Goebbels
In the wake of the threat of terrorism, David Cameron unveiled measures to protect children and youngsters from being radicalised, including plans to close down mosques where extremist meetings have taken place in his ‘One Nation Counter-Extremist Strategy’. The plans critics were outspoken in their condemnation of the plans, fearing preconceived notions, and perceived threats would isolate Muslims.
During the summer Mr Cameron described refugees fleeing war-torn Syria as “swarms”, an attempt to dehumanise those very people who need our humanity the most. During the House of Commons vote on extending airstrikes into Syria, Mr Cameron denounced all opponents of his plans to bomb Syria as “terrorist sympathisers”. You can see the parallels emerging from the 1950’s ‘red scare’ and the devices used by Senator McCarthy.
The establishment are trying their best to put the shackles on a new political movement at all costs, whilst using the threat of extremist attacks to aid in their plan to govern by fear and set about their own agenda unchallenged – this might be described as the ‘new political era’ by some, but these are the same old tactics from the past rearing their ugly heads once more.
“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson
However they need to be aware that the McCarthy era’s anti-communist trials destroyed lives and friendships, and similar actions today are polarising society in Britain: Islamaphobic attacks and hate crimes are the rise – the question is, how damaging and long lasting will the damage be, and at what cost are we spreading fear and hatred?