It has been said that history repeats itself. Usually, hundreds of years pass before mankind forgets about the lessons of the past but now it seems we may be speeding up the process. I’m starting to see some unsettling trends that remind me of the McCarthy Era of the 50’s. For those who may have missed this ugly period in American history, I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia article about Senator Joseph McCarthy. Here’s the link to the complete article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_McCarthy
As an infant in 1954, I was one of the few Americans alive that Joe McCarthy didn’t try to incriminate with his hearsay evidence, blatantly false statements and outrageous accusations. The Senator from Wisconsin was famous for his ability to prove guilt by association. All he had to do was create a chain of relationships leading back to someone else who was potentially a communist sympathizer and then all the subsequent links were painted with the same broad brush of guilt. Refusing to name others who might be seen in this same light was no better than admitting your own guilt. McCarthy never bothered to produce evidence to support his claims but being investigated by the Senate Subcommittee on Un-American Activities was nearly the same as being convicted in a court of law. McCarthy got away with this egregious behavior for years before Joseph Welch, an attorney representing an Army officer, brought him down with his famous rebuttal, “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
Edward R. Murrow, a well-respected CBS newsman, took up the cause of challenging McCarthy and clearly defined why this matters to all of us when he made this statement,”We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men … We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” Murrow’s impassioned retort to McCarthy’s fear mongering led America out of the darkness of the 50’s and into a brighter future.
Now for the current edition of this same debate. As much as I love the best parts of the Internet, I hate the plague of anonymity that gives people the chance to say any vile thing they want while hiding their true identity. This is no different than the tactics McCarthy used to intimidate good people in the 50’s. Hearsay is rampant on the Web and unattributed accusations are a daily occurrence. If we don’t take steps to restore some sense of truth and responsibility to this medium, we will surely devolve into bitter partisans who trust no one. In many ways, I think our government has already reached this end and it scares me to death. Disinformation has replaced rational thought and we no longer have any confidence in our elected officials or the media charged with keeping track of governmental proceedings. Edward R. Murrow was giving us a warning 60 years ago when he said, “We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.” If we can’t trust each other to speak the truth and live up to our words, what chance do we have of solving our national problems?
I would strongly urge everyone to take a stand on this issue by inflicting shame on those who hide their names and misuse the Internet for their own selfish purposes. The best way to do this is to terminate their Twitter feeds immediately. If enough people turn off these voices of dishonesty they will have no audience for their hate-filled speech and their words will evaporate without any harm being done. This is freedom of speech in its purest form, the right to stop listening when necessary. Let’s hold ourselves accountable for the things we say and the things we do as fellow citizens. If we find the courage to affect this change then we can reasonably expect our elected officials to do the same. Let’s remember the lessons of the past and vow to act responsibly, now and always. Elbert Hubbard expressed this moral obligation best when he said, “Responsibility is the price of freedom.”
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.