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[Editor’s note: We were astonished recently to recognize the late Senator Joe McCarthy, shopping for women’s shoes. Initially denying it, McCarthy eventually conceded his identity and agreed to this interview on the condition we score him some heroin.]
How are you even here?
Well, periodically I’m granted a leave of absence from Hell to consult with election campaigns that the boss is pulling for. Usually the RNC contacts him, and he’s pretty friendly with them, they have some shared interests. So I get out for a while occasionally, which is always nice.
And you’re consulting for McCain?
Well, I can’t confirm or deny that.
All right. But—hypothetically—what’s your area of expertise?
Oh, you know—personal attacks, guilt by association, fear tactics, that kind of stuff. You’ve heard of me, right?
Yes, of course.
So how does that pan out now? Are you planning to call Obama a communist?
Well yes, there is some of that. I have a small side project, a bit of a vanity project really, involving a picture of Che Guevara, and also this “black liberation theology” thing is a gift to us. But people don’t really see Marx as the kind of existential threat they once did. No, the new communism, in terms of loathing, is terrorism, of course. But it is essentially the same thing, you know. You just throw some rumors around, find some association with a disreputable character—everyone in public life has been in the same room with somebody you can smear them with. With a Negro politician it’s particularly easy, because there are naturally more radicals in an oppressed community.
So you see the war on terror as a means of social control, the same way red-baiting was?
No, no. I think both of them stem from legitimate fears of the wealthy. Look, anticommunism wasn’t just about the Soviets, or totalitarianism or what have you. The basic fear, the primal fear from the established powers of the United States and the West in general, was mainly just that poor people, working people, would come to understand that they could simply seize control of the system. I mean, it didn’t bear out historically, because there is always corruption, always abuse and consolidation of power. But at the time, those things were not at all clear. So, you know, the people who had always been on top of the heap in capitalist societies really were deathly afraid of communism, the very idea of it, and the idea of it spreading to America struck real fear into our hearts. So to say we just used red-baiting as a means of control is, I think, reductionist and cynical, and doesn’t take into account the fact that we really were sort of pissing our pants about it.
And you can see that, while the commies were in ascendancy, workers in America enjoyed very robust labor protections. They had pensions; they had safety regulations and so on. This was in part because we had to keep workers happy to avoid them switching to the reds. It’s sort of like how a non-union shop has to treat its workers relatively well, just to avoid unionization. Whether they know it or not, those non-union workers are still being helped by the unions, just by the threat of unionization.
So now that communism is seen as defunct—
We can kind of drop the nice guy act, right. And you see that happening in very short order since the Soviets fell.
Economic disparity is back up to pre-Depression levels.
Right. So it’s like, you have to just ride the edge, you know? How much poverty and hardship will people endure before they start rioting? That’s the line you have to find, and just hold back an inch from it.
Do you think you’ve gotten a bum rap?
It’s funny, you know. My name is mud these days, but my tactics are alive and well. I mean really, communism, Islamic terrorism, what’s the difference? It’s still the same principle of guilt by association.
Do you feel you deserve more credit for pioneering these tactics?
Well, yes and no. I mean, I probably do, but then again I wasn’t the first. The phrase “witch hunt” didn’t come from me after all. And to me, it’s never been about personal fame; it’s about smearing the left as treasonous anti-Americans. It’s always been about the work.
Do you think McCain was wise to press the idea that Obama is the Hamas candidate?
Oh, yes. The Hamas thing is a great strategic move. It’s funny; you see, if you look at what that guy said, it was pretty benign, you know--“we like him, he’s like JFK, he’ll bring the world together” and so forth. And of course, it’s completely unfair to blame anyone for their least likable supporters. I’m sure there are plenty of white supremacists supporting McCain, but it wouldn’t be fair to blame that on him.
But it’s still effective?
Of course it is. Because, you know, people are already of the understanding, fair or not, that Hamas are evil, that Muslims are evil. So if Hamas likes Obama, then you know, he’s evil. And if there’s just a whiff of Islam to Obama, whose name and ethnicity certainly doesn’t help him in that regard, it’s enough to alienate people. Just like in my day, mere suspicion is enough; you don’t need any actual evidence. To go back to racists for McCain though, it might not behoove Obama to do that, because there are, we should face it, a lot of serious racists in America.
Well, it’s not like it was in the ‘50s—
Oh yes it is. Don’t be silly.
You really think so?
Well, I can see you’ve been in the Northeast too long. Did you see that 81% of Hillary voters in the West Virginia primary cited race as a factor?
Yeah, I did.
Well? I mean think about it: Usually, when that figure was lower in other states, analysts would say the true figure is actually significantly higher, because a lot of people would be too ashamed to tell an exit pollster, basically, that they’re racists. But at 81%, it’s hard to imagine, but that might mean basically 100%. Or, alternately, they’re just not ashamed at all, which is also more likely to be true in Appalachia. You see, the main difference in race relations in America from my time to now is not a reduction in actual racism, although I’m sure there’s been some. The real difference, though, is simply that it is no longer okay to openly express or implement racist thoughts and feelings. This has a stifling effect: People feel muzzled, they see that public figures who so much as say “boo” on the subject are subjected to vicious public humiliations, often unfairly, for just wording things artlessly, you know.
I mean, what if John McCain’s campaign manager, for instance, were to refer to Obama as, say, an “Afro-American”? You know, it would be his, uh, he would be trying to be sensitive, but just revealing himself to be out of date, using a passé term. Well, he would be thrashed, his reputation ruined, and he would have to resign, and everyone knows it. He’d be blacklisted, no pun intended. He’d never get another job of that sort again. It wouldn’t matter that he meant no offense. Well, people see that, and they feel muzzled. And they recognize that they can’t express themselves, their sort of everyday racial complaints or observations or just feelings, even to their white friends in private. It’s really looked down upon, especially up north. And that’s what I’m saying: Racism never left; it’s just been bound and gagged and left in the corner. It’s still there, and now it’s taken on this sense of righteousness, like an oppressed cause, which you can say is absurd, but that’s how people feel.
So you think people are just as racist—
Not everyone, but most, yeah. And that’s kind of because of the stifling effect of the, uh, what’s that...political correctness—love that phrase, wish I’d thought of it—the tendency for people to just avoid the topic altogether. I mean, how do people learn? They learn by talking things out. If we never discuss an issue, how can we change our minds about it, work our feelings out? Clamping down on the subject effectively freezes the nation’s attitudes on it. And if you give voice, however subtly, to that suppressed, unfashionable attitude, if you vent that anger, people who harbor those feelings will respond, they will feel somewhat liberated.
What can Obama do to combat that?
Well, he showed a lot of smarts on that when he gave that speech in Philadelphia about his pastor and race. He coopted those attitudes by giving white racial resentment voice himself, talking about his grandmother, white attitudes toward affirmative action and crime and so on. But then he kind of dropped it, so I don’t know, I don’t think he knows what he had there.
You have been cast as a villain in American history, but in the past few years some pundits have emerged who not only defend you, but echo some of your sentiments and tactics. How do you feel about them? Do you have a favorite?
Well, I really love Ann Coulter. But if I had to pick a favorite it would have to be Sean.
Oh yes. He is really exquisite, really knows what he’s doing. I’m very proud of him. He’s not just an imitator; he has by far surpassed me. Very professional. O’Reilly is great too, but he really is more derivative and doesn’t really add much to the game. Limbaugh’s good too, but he’s no fun since he quit the painkillers.
Ha! Don’t make me laugh. That guy is an idiot.
Any thoughts on Keith Olbermann?
I think he’s kind of nuts, really. I mean, you don’t get to be Ed Murrow by saying “good night and good luck” and throwing tantrums on air. Murrow was completely unflappable, and never blew up or attacked anyone directly. He just coolly, soberly destroyed your ideas with reasoned criticism. Olbermann’s a piker compared to that.
So you liked Murrow?
No, I hated him. But I respect him. Olbermann makes points sometimes, but there’s a lot of bluster. Nobody ever used “bluster” in describing Murrow. But, to be fair, I’d have to say that in the media situation we have today, with all the cable news and the so-called think tanks, and marketing science and whatever, I don’t think Murrow would have stood a chance against me.
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