America will undergo a witch hunt as divisive and destructive as that of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) during the next two decades. The cause and target of that witch hunt will be Climate Change deniers.
During the 1950s, McCarthy and his allies could brand almost anybody a Communist sympathizer and make the charges stick. McCarthy could get away with his persecution because of the behavior of American leftists and intellectuals.
For three decades, the American left and many respectable opinion makers denied the ugly realities of Communism. For example, they hailed Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin as a genius, a friend of the common man, and a humanitarian.
Lenin was a terrorist who established a brutal dictatorship; the Soviet Union; that openly murdered and tortured innocent people. In particular, evidence of Lenin’s thuggery, brutality, and oppression was easily obtainable from the beginning. Yet, American intellectuals went out of the way to deny it.
For example, Lincoln Steffens, a famous “investigative journalist;” reportedly said: “I have been over into the future and it works,” after visiting the Soviet Union in 1919.
In reality, even Lenin himself admitted that the early Soviet economic policies were a failure. Therefore, it is hard to see what Steffens was praising.
How Communist Denial resembles Climate Change Denial
The sorry truth was that Communism denial was the gospel of the American left for over 30 years from 1917 to 1950. The more evidence of the terrible reality of Soviet Union piled up the louder and more blatant the denials came.
Communist Denial, like Climate Change Denial went through stages. During the first stage, they widely accepted it because the claims against the Soviets were unsettling. The reality that modern revolutionaries had become a pack of bloodthirsty barbarians was too horrifying for many (especially Marxists) to accept.
Therefore, it was easy for propagandists like Walter Duranty to insert Communist denial into even the most respectable of mainstream media. Disturbingly, Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for his “reporting” on the Soviet Union for The New York Times. The reports included blatant denials of Stalin’s effort to starve millions of Ukrainians to death.
For instance, years later The Times itself admitted that Duranty’s articles made up “some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper.” Yet in 1932, the paper’s editors saw nothing wrong with Duranty’s “work.”
The Communism deniers; like the Climate Change deniers, succeeded because the reality they were trying to whitewash was too unsettling. No 20th Century intellectual wanted to admit that his ideas were inspiring atrocities. Few modern Americans want to admit their lifestyles are harming the planet.
Like Duranty, Climate Change deniers understand that pleasant fantasies sell better than unsettling truths. Moreover, like Duranty Climate Change deniers discovered that once somebody commits to a lie, it is almost impossible for them to admit the truth.
How Communist Denial created McCarthyism
Communist denial, hit its lowest and most destructive level during World War II. By 1940 Communist deniers had reached the second stage.
They admitted that there were a few things wrong with the Soviet Union; such as the Nazi Soviet pact, but claimed the USSR was good. Climate Change Deniers echo this when they admit there is a little truth to global warming but claim dangers are exaggerated.
Pearl Harbor allowed the Communism deniers to revert to stage one. America desperately needed to keep the Soviets in the war to tie down German troops. Communist deniers took advantage of the situation by making their fairy tale about the social democracy in Moscow national policy.
Wartime propaganda told Americans that Stalin was our friend and he was working for the good of humanity. All we had to do was trust Stalin and we would have peace after Berlin falls. For instance, the disgusting Warner Brothers movie Mission to Moscow apologized for Stalin’s bloody purge trials.
When Berlin fell, and all the world got was Cold War, Americans realized someone had deceived them. Things got worse when clear evidence that many intellectuals; including some of FDR’s advisors, had spied for Stalin and promoted pro-Soviet policies surfaced. Worst of all, federal authorities discovered evidence that American Communists had passed information about the atomic bomb to Moscow.
McCarthyism was Mainstream
In such an environment scapegoats were necessary, and the intellectuals in the Stalin fan club were readymade scapegoats. For example, the makers of Mission to Moscow found themselves under Congressional investigation after the war.
Therefore, anybody who had ever said a good word about Stalin became a traitor. It was not long before opportunists like McCarthy were finding Communists everywhere even in the Pentagon.
Even some of America’s greatest heroes found themselves under suspicion. In particular, McCarthyists went after Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. For example General George C. Marshall architect of victory in World War II was a target of McCarthy.
McCarthy could only get away with his witch hunt because of the venality of the left. The leftists had sacrificed their credibility and integrity with 30 years of denial. Nobody would believe anything the leftists said or defend them.
Even those skeptical of McCarthy were afraid to challenge him because they were equally skeptical of his targets. By denying the reality of Soviet Communism for 30 years, the leftists created an environment where everybody was under suspicion.
Moreover, many on the left including President Harry S. Truman (D-Missouri) joined the witch hunt. Nor was McCarthyism a fringe movement, as modern leftists claim.
Many of America’s best and brightest openly supported McCarthyism during the 1950s. For instance, William F. Buckley founder of The National Review and father of modern conservative thought, was an outspoken McCarthyist.
Disturbingly, both President John F. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and his brother Robert were strong supporters of McCarthy. For instance, Bobby Kennedy served on the staff of McCarthy’s committee and regarded McCarthy himself as a friend. In particular, McCarthy was the godfather of Robert F. Kennedy’s first child.
Climate Change Denial Witch Hunt will be worse than McCarthyism
Given this history Climate Change Denial is likely to generate a greater and more destructive witch hunt than Communism Denial.
The menace McCarthy was exposing was theoretical. However, Climate Change is real and already killing Americans. Eventually the people whose families are dying in disasters caused by Climate Change will seek somebody to blame.
The many Climate Change deniers in the libertarian think tanks, right-wing media outlets, boardrooms, and Republican fundraisers form a readymade group of scapegoats. Just one audio of a prominent Climate Change denier admitting he or she knew it was true all the time will unleash an ugly wave of hysteria.
All it will take to launch that witch hunt are a few more climate-linked catastrophes; such as the California fires, and a McCarthy type demagogue (any politician that needs to distract voters from a scandal) with a Twitter account. The Climate Change McCarthy will remind voters that Republicans, big business, the conservative media, and promoted Climate Change denial.
The Koch Brothers and Exxon-Mobil will be obvious targets; but the new McCarthy will quickly move onto Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, CBS, and the Republican Party. President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) who has openly embraced Climate Change denial and tried to make it a national policy will be the biggest target.
McCarthy succeeded because the Stalin-worshipping intellectuals made things so easy for him. In like manner, the Climate Change witch hunters will have an easy time because deniers are blatantly cashing in on their falsehoods.
The Climate Change Witch Hunt will set Americans at each other’s Throats
The new McCarthyists will target Trump’s advisors much as the 1940s witch hunters went after FDR’s inner circle. Trump and the climate change deniers around him are likely to find few friends. During the late 1940s, most Democrats; including President Harry S. Truman (Missouri), enthusiastically joined in the witch hunt.
The Climate Change deniers will be easy to persecute because they are members of already unpopular minorities. For example, some Climate Change deniers are wealthy businesspeople, and many are intellectuals.
Neither group is popular in America today. Therefore, generations of anti-intellectual bigotry and class warfare is likely to come back to haunt many conservatives. Leftist intellectuals seeking payback for decades of conservative abuse are likely to lead the witch hunt.
Like the Communists of the 1950s, the Climate Change deniers will find few friends and many enemies. A likely scenario is Congressional Republicans staying silent, or trying to outdo Democrats in exposing “hirelings of Big Oil” at the EPA.
Likewise, prominent Climate Change deniers like Scott Pruitt will find a new living exposing the evils of Big Oil. During the 1950s, an ex-Communist, sexual predator, Soviet agent, and second-rate journalist named Whittaker Chambers became a “conservative hero” by snitching on Communists.
The Climate Change Denial Witch Hunt has Already Begun
A probable target will be the Koch Brothers, who are major financiers of climate change denial with a Jewish-sounding name. There was a nasty undercurrent of antisemitism in McCarthyism that will be present in the Climate Change witch hunt.
Tellingly, America’s hatemonger-in-chief; Donald J. Trump, is already targeting the Koch Brothers with nasty Tweets. Cynics will wonder if Trump is preparing scapegoats for the inevitable failure of his “coal is wonderful” energy policy.
The Climate Change witch hunt will be ugly, and it will go on for a long time. Americans had better get ready because Greenhouse Gases will threaten both our freedom and our property.