Friday August 31, 2012
Great Moments in Right-Wing Paranoia: Swinging Sixties Edition
The following examples of right-wing paranoia are all from the late 1950s and early 1960s as seen in the book, “Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Dream,” by Rick Perlstein. It's a good reminder that right-wing paranoia isn't new. It's been around a while. It's almost always wrong.
- “A private outfit, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, bankrolled by the conversative Richardson Foundation, was being retained by military bases worldwide... Among their teachings was that Defense Secretary McMamara's project to replace bombers with missiles as the centerpiece of American nuclear strategy was in fact a deliberate, covert plan for unilateral disarmament.” (pg. 146)
- “In Pensacola....the chief of naval air training set up a series of mandatory, weeklong seminars for officers that taught that the progressive income tax, the Federal Reserve, and increased business regulations were, just as Robert Welch believed, part of the Soviet takeover of the United States.” (pg. 147)
- “Day after day, fanatics pressed into [Nixon's] hand yet another copy of that damned little blue pamphlet with the United Nations insignia on the cover, Department of State Publication 7277, which they claimed was proof that the government was about to sign over America's armed forces to a Soviet colonel. (Actually it was a woolly UN report setting a course for atomic disarmament over something like a century...) (pg. 167)
- ”On May 10 , the same day as the Birmingham settlement-cum-riot, the far right returned to the news when Tom Kuchel stood up in the Senate to declare that 10 percent of the letters coming into his office—six thousand a month—were 'fright mail,' mostly centering on two astonishing, and astonishingly widespread, rumors: that Chinese commandos were training in Mexico for an invasion of the United States through San Diego; and that 100,000 UN troops—16,000 of them 'African Negro Troops, who are cannibals' [sic]—were secretly rehearsing in the Georgia swamps under the command of a Russian colonel for a UN martial-law takeover of the United States.“ (pg. 210)
- ”[TV host Steve Allen] decided to get Goldwater's reaction to a far-right hotline, 'Let Freedom Ring.' ... The nation heard a frantic voice say: ... 'The pattern in this country is very closely following the events which took place during the internal takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1946. ... Keep yourself well-informed. Do not trust newspapers, radio, TV and newsmagazines for your information. These are the main weapons the enemy has to use against us.'“
- ”In Mississippi, vigilantes were setting upon black churches, tearing them apart for 'weapons' they assumed were being stockpiled as a prelude to the Communist takeover, then burning them to the ground at the rate of one a week when no weapons could be found.“ (pg. 363)
- ”Goldwater delegates were at the top of Nob Hill at the city's WPA-style Masonic Temple screamng their heads off when Michael Goldwater explained how his father had taught his children to 'be wary of any man who tries to take our land away from us or our God away from us,' and that Johnson's self-professed Great Society 'can only result in dictatorship.'“ (pg. 380)
The book contains some left-wing paranoia, too, such as this letter sent to John F. Kennedy's press secretary, Pierre Salinger, on Nov. 19, 1963:
- ”Don't let the President come down here. I'm worried about him. I think something terrible will happen to him.“ (pg. 241)
Salinger tried to quiet the woman's fears: ”I appreciate your concern for the president,“ he wrote back, ”but it would be a sad day for this country if there were any city in the United States he could not visit without fear of violence. I am confident the people of Dallas will greet him warmly."