Today, New York Representative Peter King held a second round of Congressional hearings concerning “Muslim radicalization in the U.S.” In an era when anti-Muslim rhetoric continues to spew unchecked from the mouths of presidential hopefuls and talking heads on cable, many others and I fear that these hearings are evidence that a new McCarthyism, one targeting Muslim-Americans, is taking root in America.
Generally, when my generation learned in school about McCarthyism in the 40s and 50s, we understood it to be a shameful period in our country’s history. Looking back now on the McCarthy hearings, (which unfairly targeted thousands of Americans, labeling them falsely as Communists,) and the general tone suspicion that permeated our political and civil environment, we recognize that American leadership was acting in response to fears that were purposefully manufactured and inflated in order to be exploited for political gain.
But at Monday night’s GOP debate, the McCarthy hearings were referenced in quite a positive light as Newt Gingrich implied that the U.S. government should subject Muslim-Americans to the same kind of scrutiny that so-called Communist sympathizers experienced decades ago:
“We did this when dealing with the Nazis, and we did this when dealing with the Communists, and it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered after a while, ‘You know, there are some generally bad people who would like to infiltrate our country, and we have gotta have the guts to say, No.’”
In this context, as fear mongering and McCarthy-style hearings seem to be coming back in vogue, the words of Edward R. Murrow are all the more important to share and remember (see below). Advocating for a return to reason and the abandonment of unnecessary fear, Murrow, a journalist, spoke out against the fear and suspicion encouraged by Sen. McCarthy and other public figures. If we substitute Rep. King’s name for Sen. McCarthy’s in the following clip, Murrow could just as easily be speaking to us, the Americans of 2011, instead of the Americans of 1954. Take a listen–let’s hope our own Murrow shows up soon.