Wonder Woman archenemy?

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Red Courage

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Joseph McCarthy of Earth, you have the ability to instill great fear… The nuclear eruptions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki left an indelible scar in the geopolitical climate that never completely healed. Nothing would ever be the same. Witnessing the destructive nature of two atomic bombs, the thought in the wrong hands was something to loose sleep over. For the U.S, the wrong hands belonged to their historically unstable, begrudging, treacherous ally: Russia. National and strategic secrets needed to put on lockdown, and McCarthy brought the palpable fear of Soviet subversion to the American public consciousness. Very quickly, however, this fear degenerated into a straw man against an associated ideology. The fear of the subversive overthrow of the government in the name of fascism still pollutes much worthwhile debate on the matter. It is a grave insult to be called a Communist in the political arena. Nothing generates more contention and regression in a political debate than the accusation of harboring Communist sympathies. I am not a Communist myself, but I believe that Americans ought to finally transcend this institutionalized fossil from the Cold War if we are ever to engage in any worthwhile discussion on the matter. I believe Marxian thought has a lot to offer even if one does subscribe to all of his ideas. With both credible and incredible sources, it will become abundantly clear that Communism deserves fair consideration and thought before being rejected and tossed aside (which is just fine after taking a fair look at the concept).

The historical context is very important for building justification for America’s permeating attitude about Communism. The course of previous events lent itself to a very frightening picture of what was happening to their country. Their godless Soviet adversaries were using ideas and concepts to recruit people all over the world to subvert governments in the favor of totalitarian expansion. Communism was seen, as a bloodless, silent-but-deadly breed of imperialism they were at war against. The USA during the Cold War was essentially trying to destroy the influence of an idea within their borders, an idea that had become synonymous with the U.S.S.R. With that perspective, their attitude is a completely rational response to a secret invasion. To be fair to McCarthy and everyone else involved in this “witch hunt,” there did indeed exist Soviet Spies they successfully found. All the while, I would argue that to automatically condemn a Communist is equivalent to automatically condemning a Muslim for partaking in terrorism. The main difference being that Soviet Russia had not done anything of the magnitude of the 9/11 attacks, and were active in the eventual defeat of Hitler near the end of World War II.

George Orwell reportedly first used the term “Cold War” in 1945. To articulate what were once inexpressible feelings gives him the title of unofficial declarer of War. Granted, he was merely speaking from his heart in his “You and the Atomic Bomb” essay to describe what was already happening, we do not often realize something about ourselves until it’s stated and contextualized from an outside source. In context, Orwell’s essay gave three points in “You And The Atomic Bomb” that put the period into context in a way that proved its relevancy time and time again:

“From various symptoms one can infer that the Russians do not yet possess the secret of making the atomic bomb; on the other hand, the consensus of opinion seems to be that they will possess it within a few years. So we have before us the prospect of two or three monstrous super-states, each possessed of a weapon by which millions of people can be wiped out in a few seconds, dividing the world between them… Unable to conquer one another, they are likely to continue ruling the world between them, and it is difficult to see how the balance can be upset except by slow and unpredictable demographic changes… We may be heading not for general breakdown but for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity. James Burnham’s theory has been much discussed, but few people have yet considered its ideological implications — that is, the kind of world-view, the kind of beliefs, and the social structure that would probably prevail in a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of ‘cold war’ with its neighbors.

Had the atomic bomb turned out to be something as cheap and easily manufactured as a bicycle or an alarm clock, it might well have plunged us back into barbarism, but it might, on the other hand, have meant the end of national sovereignty and of the highly-centralized police state.”

(George Orwell, 1945.)

There isn’t universal agreement about the origins of the War, but it’s generally understood that it began soon after World War II (1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945). As “Snake” from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater poignantly put it, “After the end of World War II, the world was split into two: East and West. This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.” When the public could be readily and tangibly in on the war too. When Orwell published his essay on October 19, 1945, he publicized the concept of a “Cold War.” In a similar manner on March 13th, 2011, IfNotNow_ThenWhen, tweeted: “It’s not awkward until you say it is, amirite?” I sincerely doubt this… nonentity was the originator of this phrase, but if we reapply the same principle, we can safely declare that “It’s not The Cold War until you say it is, amirite?”

The Cold War era was characterized by a lack of physical altercation between the contenders. Instead, they supposedly fought with information and espionage. McCarthy was afraid of successful espionage against the United States. Even though anti-Communist sentiments existed long before McCarthy’s rise to prominence, his antics gave that sentiment a name: “McCarthyism.” State sponsored seizure of individual rights for the sake of the common good, well being, and safety from a Communist takeover.

The intricacy of Marxian thought was not necessarily the source of the contention. That arose from its close association with Soviet Union. In 1945, J. Edgar Hoover warned that:

“The Communist Party of the United States is a fifth column if there ever was one. It is far better organized than were the Nazis in occupied countries prior to their capitulation. They are seeking to weaken America just as they did in their era of obstruction when they were aligned with the Nazis. Their goal is the overthrow of our government. There is no doubt as to where a real Communist’s loyalty rests: their allegiance is to Russia, not the United States.”

Joseph McCarthy’s more famous speech in Wheeling, West Virginia was not recorded or consistently transcribed. What made it remarkable was the reported list of Communists working within the government influencing America’s policy in their favor. Coupling these two ideas generated the institutionalized fear made manifest in The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), The Smith Act (criminalizing avocation of the overthrow of U.S. government), The McCarran Act (requiring registry of Communist organizations and members therein, restricting governmental employment, and international travel), and The Communist Control Act of 1954 (the act the ultimately outlawed the Communist Party of America and criminalized support). Interestingly enough, section 3 of the McCarran Act defines “Communist organization,” “Communist action organization,” and “Communist front organization,” but never defines “Communism.” It is also worth noting that HUAC decided against investigating or persecuting the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) at the suggestion of panel member John Rankin, who stated: “After all, the KKK is an old American institution.” This the first point that warrants philosophical examination: what constitutes being “American.”

The anti-Communism laws have an abundantly clear thesis: “Communist loyalty does not lie with America, ergo, the Communists are not American.” Though this was their platform, the actions thankfully did not follow the logical extreme where treason was met with the death penalty. Unlike Stalin’s regime over Russia where ideological traitors were indeed executed, only convicted spies were executed in the United States.  This may be evidence of inconsistencies within McCarthyism, or a glimpse of our underlying progress in an otherwise regressive state of affairs.

When we talk about “loyalty to America,” we must first define “loyalty” and “America (n).” My mathematic answer to “what is America (n)?” is: “the nation that declared its separation from Great Britain in 1776, and expansions and subsections thereof,” while “American” being defined as “anything of, or relating to the United States or citizens thereof.” The position the McCarthyists seem to take is identifying themselves and the country within certain unquestionable beliefs. This enforced embroidery between ideas and self-identity is not uncommon. It shows itself in the form of anger or fear in an otherwise civil debate topic. When “American” is defined as such, any ideas apparently conflicting with those ideas and beliefs are necessarily defined as “conflicting with America.” If I believed entire Nations are necessarily cohered to certain ideas, then an idea’s pervasion can be logically identified as an invasion. When all this is factored in, then adoption of an idea becomes the indicator of national loyalty. When we take the erroneous perspective of individuals, organizations, and nations being necessarily cohered to certain ideas (i.e. Soviet Union and Communism), then the growing conceptual invasion by the Soviet Union is a common sense danger that must be stopped at all costs.

In propaganda, to attack the idea of Communism was a necessary extension of attacking a rival nation. It was wartime, after all, “cold” wartime. Even if we are not consciously aware of the mental association between two, very distinct things, the two objects will elicit the same reaction (See the conditioning experiments of Ivan Pavlov). What follows is distinct from any reasoned debate between two disagreeing ideas, but as stream of self-justifying rhetoric to either retaliate in response to an apparent attack or shield from an apparent, outside threat. The rhetoric itself becomes a less interesting, predictable, and irritating barks of a raving attack dog. But the Cold War made use of government trained attack dogs that used Communism as the scent to track down Soviets (figuratively speaking, of courses…). Much like an attack dog that outlived it’s intent, the attack dogs have still not lost the scent, and will attack anything that sets off the Pavlovian trigger. Fear manifests as a biological response to danger to self, but what constitutes a danger or a self changes depending on the thoughts and perspective of the individual in question. This is the link between thinking, brain emotional states, brain chemistry, physical states, behavior, opinions, and legislature. It’s why philosophy ought to be given more representation in education earlier on in life.

Communism is a very nuanced theory that is best understood as reductionist. Marxism, certain schools of feminism, and Freudianism may all be classified as reductionist theories. A reductionist theory works by claiming that all aspects of life are a reflection of X theme. For Freud, it was mankind’s quest for orgasm. A type of feminism I would take issue with would reduce human history as a permeating struggle between the masculine and feminine. And Carl Marx famously declared that from the annals of human history until Communism can be in effect, humanity would be in an endless state of class warfare. The story of Communism reaches its happy ending at the deterioration of classism, the end to the wars between classes, and everyone is truly equal. This has traditionally been attempted by means of Socialism (complete economic regulation by the government).

Conversely, examples of non-reductionist theory includes Carl Jung psychological theories that attempted to map out human’s personal self-identifying narratives as “complexes,” whereas, a reductionist may try to explain and articulate the story of humanity into a smaller, thematic narrative. Reductionism also takes the form of McCarthyism, which for the special needs of this paper (and because “Hooverism” and “Edgarism” just sound stupid), I’m defining as “The belief that Communism is necessarily embroidered to the Soviet Union, and the fear of Communism has been inherited from that belief.” Quite frankly, life has elements of every possible story ever told and ever will be told. All stories can find things they have in common. People mark sport-finding similarities between sexuality and other things seemingly unrelated. I take this as evidence that these things aren’t wholly unrelated despite our attempts to sequester them. I think this “perverted humor” would lose its novelty if this perspective permeated more thoroughly, forcing satirists to become more creative.  (Hail Freud!)

Modern day McCartheism rears its head when Socialism and/or Communism is shouted as an accusation to just about any governmental policy that one does not approve of, usually an economic or regulatory policy (as if it only shows up where it actually applies…) Ironically it’s even been used as an accusation against McCarthyistic accusations. In 1962 case, trail lawyer Louis Nizer declared that his client’s accusers were guilty of “Communism in the guise of fighting Communism.”

Completely dispelling McCartheism will require much deeper argumentation than any figures in the proportion between baseless and accurate accusations. It will require challenges to many commonly accepted (half) truths about the nature of identity, self, nationality, our underlying relationship to our emotions, our relationship to ideas, our attitude about the treatment of enemies, and our relationship to “the other.” Unless the underlying ideas behind these historical incidents of internal fear, then they’ll just manifest in some new way that the majority sees no initial problem with. Ultimately, it seems the only safe targets for demonization from just about every group (with the exception of Nazis) are Nazis.

No modern philosophical debate and discussion is complete without some reference, parallel, or comparison to Adolf Hitler and/or the Nazi Party. Any two human beings or ideas will have some similarity. This little realized fact is often used to exploit for the sake of drawing an association as evidenced by the above quote by Edgar Hoover. However, only a few similarities are causational, or even correlational. Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg almost consists entirely of drawing non-correlational similarities between Fascism (Nazi Party, Communist Party, Socialist Party), and Liberalism in America. In the introduction, he admits to there not necessarily a link, but that the liberals ought to “account for the similarities.” The four-star rating of the book on Amazon.com… upsets me greatly.

If I fulfill my dream of were ever to teach philosophy or debate to a kindergarten class, I would use the most common, anti-Communist arguments as a basic exercise in refutation. To go through them one by one would turn this essay into an easy-but-long-and tedious homework assignment. If I just transcribed the anti-Communist propaganda’s arguments, it would take a special breed of irrationality for the fallacies not to be abundantly clear.

As Herbert A. Philbrick said in the propaganda short film, What Is Communism:

“As I travel around I still here people say: ‘Why are you so hard on Communists? They’re just another political party like any other- and a poor minority at that- and so misunderstood.’ Well, we don’t want them misunderstood, and that’s why we’re making this film. … Too long we’ve been thinking of Communists as misguided, but human, beings with humane feelings and responses. What we have just shown you exposes them for what they really are: lying, dirty, shrewd, godless, determined, … international, criminal conspiracy. This is the true nature of the enemy. This is Communism.”

This excerpt is worth focusing on because it directly tries to refute any appeal to compassion or shared humanity in dealing with Communists, especially by highlighting what they consider to be humanity’s worst traits (or neutral traits that become frightening in the wrong hands.) However, one will be hard-pressed to find any society or large body of people that aren’t guilt of most of these ills. Philbrick used “godless” as the key explanation of the negative traits. It’s worth pointing out that one would be even harder pressed to find a Christian nation that isn’t guilty of most of these ills. It is theoretically possible for an individual guilty of all of these to be considered relatively admirable in the right circumstances.

Someone who made a living from telling the absolute truth of any given situation would largely be considered strange, rude, anti-social irritant by many standards. Lying is considered a necessity when we rehash the tired, predictable “murderer at the door scenario (if a murder appeared at your door asking for the location of a loved on hiding in your house, would you lie?). I have often thought this scenario was asinine.  We never know at what point the protagonist discovers the person at the door is a murderer. If it were before the door was opened, then basic laws of self-preservation would dictate that you do not open the door. The scenario raises too many questions and requires a long, drawn out story to be of any practical use. For more pedestrian use lying is often addressed in the form of the question: “If asked, would you tell your significant other that her outfit was unflattering?” The answers are more varied and the discussion is less morbid. There is a reason why so many would admit to lying to the second question. Gloria Steinem, whom I sporadically disagree with, once said “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” Often, a logically consistent or factual statement will destabilize someone’s comfortable conceptual framework or be interpreted as an attack on their identity (it is not often mentally articulated as such, but their emotional reaction will be an indicator of what is taking place subconsciously.

The meaning behind “dirty” and “shrewd” are less obvious. In context, Philbrick declared:

“…dirty, mean, despicable, ruthless. Slander, blackmail, corruption of character, their stock and trade. They recognize no such things as human dignity or any rights of the individual. Class hatred and open class warfare are their specialty… at this, they are not only dirty, but they are oh, so shrewd. Give them credit. They know Americans better than most Americans know Communists…” (It would be more honest with both himself and the audience if he just called Khrushchev a “big, fat, meany face.”)

In a more American context, shrewdness might instead be labeled as “being careful with your words.” He directly refers to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, American Youth For Democracy, Citizens Committee for Constitutional Liberties, American Committee for the Protection of Foreign Born, and The American League for Peace and Democracy as “Commie front” organizations. The internal Security Act of 1950 defines a Communist front organization in Section 3 Paragraph 4 as:

“…any organization in the United States (other than a Communist-action organization as defined in paragraph (3) of this section) which (A) is substantially directed, dominated, or controlled by a Communist-action organization, and (B) is primarily operated for the purpose of giving aid and support to a Communist-action organization, a Communist foreign government, or the world Communist movement referred to in section 2 of this title.”

The Communist sympathizers had very legitimate basis for changing their names post-1954 (after the Communist Control Act of 1954, See paragraph 5 of this essay).

Karl Marx’s aversion to religion is another prevalent argument against it. Communism is inherently atheistic, but most political ideologies apart from a Theocracy are not dependant on the existence of God. The metaphysical stance of the originator of social, political, or economic theory has no bearing on the non-theistic assertions. The train of thought of Communism as an affront to religion is remarkably similar to Communism as a form of treachery detailed in paragraph 7 of this essay. If the United States of America was founded as a “Christian Nation,” then God’s active existence would be one of the fundamental, unshakable American ideas that are embroidered onto the national identity. An idea of mutually exclusive theological origin is logically perceived as an opposition to one’s own theological foundation, and by extension, a threat to your nation.

The Russian’s apparent, rampant Atheism was used as a rationalization for the other negative character traits. I watched an Atheist/Theist debate online once. It was asked if people would necessarily be moral or “good” without religion. One of the responses was: “Can we be good with religion?” In its worst form, religion is the use of a culturally perpetuated, psychological myth to perpetuate desired behaviors in whoever is convinced. This becomes dangerous when sociologically positive thoughts and behaviors are held up solely by a logically inconsistent foundation. When it collapses, the newfound, godless “freedom” allows for just about anything initially forbidden to them. With this in mind, atheists do not necessarily behave in a way theists would consider amoral. When Atheists behave familiarly, it is for reasons apart from the prescribed narrative. I do not believe all religion is rapt with the aforementioned fatal flaw, so it need not be eradicated, but there is some reasonable critique of how they have historically kept themselves in line.

Determination is only a vice when misdirected. I have never once used that term to denounce any of United States historical events, apart from Manifest Destiny, perhaps. The image of a large spider on a keyboard is scary because it juxtaposes dread with familiarity. It is the only somewhat positive characteristic listed along the negatives. This fear of compromised familiarity closely coincides with Hitler’s fear of Jews. Similar to the fear of subversion keenly felt by the McCarthysists.

“There were very few Jews in Linz. In the course of centuries the Jews who lived there had become Europeanised in external appearance and were so much like other human beings that I even looked upon them as Germans. The reason why I did not then perceive the absurdity of such an illusion was that the only external mark which I recognized as distinguishing them from us was the practice of their strange religion. As I thought that they were persecuted on account of their faith my aversion to hearing remarks against them grew almost into a feeling of abhorrence. I did not in the least suspect that there could be such a thing as a systematic antisemitism. Once, when passing through the inner City, I suddenly encountered a phenomenon in a long caftan and wearing black side-locks. My first thought was: Is this a Jew? They certainly did not have this appearance in Linz. I carefully watched the man stealthily and cautiously but the longer I gazed at the strange countenance and examined it feature by feature, the more the question shaped itself in my brain: Is this a German?” -Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

As I said… No modern philosophical debate and discussion is complete without some reference, parallel, or comparison to Adolf Hitler and/or the Nazi Party.

Communism is indeed international, but it is only a criminal conspiracy because the Communist Control Act of 1954 made it criminal. Essentially, it wasn’t a crime until they said it was (amirite?). The outlawing of Communism contributed to the Party’s reported “shrewdness” and “dirtiness” from having to survive being while being outlawed. Our nation’s violent foundation was upon the attitude of law’s conditional power over the people. They broke the law and the law lost, and then they made better ones. We glamorize national benefits of once-broken laws, so the Communist Party’s superimposed criminality cannot be logically condemned on that basis alone. The organization did not become a conspiracy of their own power, it was declared as such by the lawmakers, and the only why that could cease to be was by ceasing to exist. By shutting up.

I believe that it is un-American to shut somebody up. Older siblings do it. Parents may do it. Psyche patients may do it. But when the United States government does it to a specific group of people, it is suppression of dissidence, a prominent feature of fascism. There is a relevant quote from the 2009 animated Green Lantern: First Flight:

“The Green Lantern Corps is an ideal, Sinestro, you don’t save it by ignoring what it stands for.”

This unequal attitude about American Communists exists to this day. Successfully denouncing someone as a Communist is considered an unfair accusation, despite that the Cold War has been over for decades. You would think this would end now that the Soviet block collapsed under its weight, but we know precisely why it has not: there has been no culturally engrained method of overcoming the fear of an idea.

The largest remaining justifying rhetoric for the fear of Communism remaining is the loss of individuality. Conformity vs. Individuality is a valid debate going on even in American by people other than Communists that aren’t as often demonized. An American Communist ought to be treated with the same open-mindedness and readiness to refute or be refuted as any other debate. We become an with positions and statements we have no articulate response for, because they are in essence a successful strike on your person, while we fear ideas we think to be a grave, anticipated danger. I define “open-mindedness” as “the courage to pursue scary ideas.” Followed by honesty about one’s limitations in the discussion and going home to think or read about it.

The U.S.S.R. was largely omitted with purpose. In accordance the subject of fear, we should reflect on the reality that fear, along with any other emotion, ultimately is not externally imposed source. Communist Russia has a long, violent, sordid history that should cease to be of immediate consequence to us. Our emotional well-being ought not be too dependent on the behavior of the ones we cannot control. If our culturally shared emotional reaction to Communism was merely due to their own incorrectness, then we would meet them the same way we would meet a Monarchist, Flat-Earth Theorist, White Nationalists, or Randian: with laughter or irritation. But the arguments before me paint a logically consistent picture as the nature of our problem.

I stated before that Joseph McCathy had the power to instill great fear. If a healthy fear of totalitarian oppression is what spurred the policies during the Red Scare, then it would have been nice if their fear of power’s corrupting influences struck them similarly, in which case the McCarthyists would have better avoided becoming like the dragon they tried so fervently to destroy. Even if Hitler’s death was staged in order for Khrushchev’s brain to be replaced with his own, that does not excuse the logical fallacies and inconsistencies in dealing with him. In fact, it becomes twice as imperative to react with courage and insight. I hope the reader of this piece has become more psychologically suited to addressing those of seemingly frightening belief set. My hope for the dear reader is that he will now be instilled with the power to overcome that great fear.

BIBLIOGRPHY

Evans, M. S. (2007). Blacklisted by history: The untold story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his fight against America’s enemies. New York: Crown Forum.

Fried, A. (1997). McCarthyism: The great American Red scare : a documentary history. New York: Oxford University Press.

Goldberg, J. (2007). Liberal fascism: The secret history of the American left, from Mussolini to the politics of meaning. New York: Doubleday.

Hitler, A., & Manheim, R. (1943). Mein Kampf. Boston: Houghton Mifflin company.

Konami of America Inc. (2006). Metal gear solid 3: Subsistence : tactical espionage action. Redwood City, CA: Konami Digital Entertainment.

Meloni, C., Garber, V., Helfer, T., Madsen, M., Larroquette, J., Smith, K., Schallert, W., … Warner Home Video (Firm). (2009). Green lantern: First flight. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video.

Newton, M. (2010). The Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi: A history. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co.

Schrecker, E. (2002). The age of McCarthyism: A brief history with documents. New York: Palgrave.

What Is Communism retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wccIqjrGGMk
…and Part 2 retrieved from:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV90Joy1uGw

The complete text of the Communist Control Act of 1954 retrieved from: http://tucnak.fsv.cuni.cz/~calda/Documents/1950s/Communist_54.html

The complete text of the Internal Security Act of 1959 retrieved from:
http://tucnak.fsv.cuni.cz/~calda/Documents/1950s/Inter_Security_50.html

Hoover speech on Communism retrieved from: http://www1.teachertube.com/viewVideo.php?video_id=86136

Opening and closing quotes inspired by Geoff Johns penned issues of Green Lantern.