I was up in Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin, on October 16, giving a little talk on the war and the threat to our civil liberties, and I made a wisecrack about getting out your Hula-Hoops because we're going back to the 1950s. Afterwards, someone came up to me and asked if I knew about Todd Persche. Never heard of him, I said. Well, he's a local cartoonist who lost his job for drawing anti-war sketches, I was told.
Right then, it hit me. This is not funny anymore.
And so I began to gather material about people who have been fired for speaking out against the war, or who have had the misfortune of being visited by the FBI or the Secret Service because of their views. I present what I found in this month's cover story, "The New McCarthyism."
The threat of McCarthyism is not a new concern to The Progressive. Back in April 1954, the magazine devoted its entire issue to exposing Senator Joe McCarthy. That issue was by far our single biggest seller of all time, and it played a part in turning the tide against Tailgunner Joe. "McCarthy has struck repeatedly at the letter and the spirit of our Bill of Rights by using methods of intolerance and intimidation in an effort to create a national climate of hysteria, fear, and suppression," Editor Morris Rubin wrote. "The `ism' added to his name has become a generic symbol of guilt by accusation, character assassination, the big lie, and the repudiation of our country's traditional devotion to fair play and a fair trial."
George W. Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft are trampling on that tradition today. We need to take heed, and we need to protest, as loudly as we can, against these new threats to our liberties.
A little more than a year ago, Oscar Olivera, the Bolivian water activist, paid a visit to our office. Looking a bit like Harpo Marx with a cap on, Olivera explained how he and a powerful grassroots coalition of unionists and peasants were able to defeat the water...