February 9th, 1950. Senator McCarthy stands in West Virginia and gallantly declares “I have here in my hand a list of 205 people that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department”. With this revelation comes a national hysteria over the idea that the red devil of the East may very well be infiltrating American democracy.
We all know what followed, a witch hunt of such enormous proportions that it shook America to its core. Despite having very little evidence to support his claims, McCarthy’s declaration struck a chord with the American people who were – justifiably so? – petrified of the looming communist threat. Careers ruined, reputations in tatters and lives irrevocably changed -all under the auspices of maintaining stability and preventing “subversive” behaviour within the republic.
Fast forward to February 9th, 2016 and we see the same culture of witch-hunting and profiling, in addition to the concept of compiling lists of subversives and potential ‘radicals’ within society – whether they be politically or religiously radical.
In the UK we find our own version of McCarthyism taking shape. School boys across the nation targeted by our government, all under the charge that they are Muslim and “at risk” of becoming radicalised by members of their community, or through accessing dangerous material online.
Similarly, in the United States, it was revealed by VICE News that “a confidential service, used by over 300 government and intelligence agencies, 49 of the 50 biggest banks, pre-employment vetting agencies and 9 of the top 10 global law firms” has compiled a list of potential subversives – one of which happens to be the former World Bank and Bank of England adviser Mohammed Iqbal Asaria, granted a CBE in the Queen’s Honours list of 2005.
Another name on this fabled list happens to be Maajid Nawaz, founder of counter-extremism think tank Quilliam. As a fan of Mr Nawaz and a follower of his social media profiles, I find his thoughts on extremism particularly engaging and interesting. Having appeared on BBC Question Time it seems he has very progressive views on how to tackle the issue of religious extremism yet, we see him on a list that suggests he is in some way a risk.
Our culture has deteriorated to the point where we monitor not only extremists and those who present a danger to public safety, but also those who offer an alternative narrative to those who could go down the path of extremism. Furthermore, we see our governments monitoring and profiling children based on some Minority Report style “well they could end up being terrorists” system.
Worse still, the people of western democracies are all too happy to support their governments in these absurd policies and often do little to oppose legislation being brought in by Parliament or Congress. See: The Patriot Act, GCHQ activities and generally most policies endorsed by the regressive left.
Upon reflection, it is obvious that McCarthyism was a scourge upon democracy in America and an affront to freedom of speech and thought. However in the 66 years following, we appear to have changed very little. We are still profiling those who do not toe the party line, we still compile ludicrous watch-lists based on completely baseless ideas and stereotypes, we still have not learned our lesson.