How the Red Scare left US “politics” brain-dead (Chris Hedges)

Hedges: We’re Losing Our Intelligence — How the Purge of True Dissent Has Starved Our Discourse
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig
Posted on November 15, 2010, Printed on November 16, 2010

The blacklisted mathematics instructor Chandler Davis, after serving six months in the Danbury federal penitentiary for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), warned the universities that ousted him and thousands of other professors that the purges would decimate the country’s intellectual life.

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2 replies on “How the Red Scare left US “politics” brain-dead (Chris Hedges)”

Mr. Hedges’ history is not convincing. In the long term, radicals have not been expunged from academia. Noam Chomsky stayed at MIT during and long after his anti-Vietnam War activities. Marxists and leftists are published by university presses all the time. How long has Fredric Jameson been at Duke? A conference on socialism was held at USC recently. At USC!

When I was in college in the 1980s–at the height of Reaganism–I was assigned Terry Eagelton’s “Marxism and Literary Criticism.” The teacher who assigned it to me did not seem particularly nervous about it and was not fired for it. Most of the committed Marxists left in the Western world are probably employed in academia.

Like many politicos, Hedges writes as if his beliefs are already held by everyone but are unfairly repressed by some external agent. He confuses personal aspiration with social fact. Socialism and communism, no matter how much Hedges values them, have always been minority beliefs in the United States. Interest in them have waxed and waned over time for numerous reasons–including the government repression Hedges describes. But that repression is not the main reason for socialism’s decline. Market capitalism is deeply rooted in the American soil and radical leftists haven’t figured out how to dislodge it.

That there are leftists in the universities I’m sure Chris Hedges knows. Their influence on the broader political discourse is nil, since very few of them have dealt with public issues in a language understandable beyond the graduate seminar—as Chomsky is still doing. His status, BTW, refutes your argument, since he has long been shut out by the mainstream media, exerting influence only on his readers. (His primary interest is in foreign policy, moreover, not economics.)

On the other hand, your thumbnail history of the US public discourse on “market capitalism” is a tad simplistic, as there was, in fact, a large and vigorous socialist movement in the US until WW1; and, throughout the Thirties and the Forties, it was possible to talk out loud, and without flinching, about social welfare policies and public funding of all kinds—subjects that gradually became taboo, or came to seem eccentric, from the Fifties on.

The current hysteria over “socialism” on the right is an outright revival of the anticommunist propaganda of our prior Red Scares. Glenn Beck has made the link explicit time and time again.

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