I do suspect that there may have been a little systematic causation between the old moral panic movies of the 1930s and the hysteric paranoia of anti-communism from McCarthy to John Birch to Goldwater to Breitbart. But since this is an idea that literally came to me over the last few days, I don’t exactly have a huge pile of pre-existing scholarship backing me up.
|The paranoia of modern American culture is one of the strangest|
social phenomena I've ever thought about. Such fear of all aliens is
only possible through profound and thorough solipsism.
My thanks to the source.
Anyway, this one is for fun. A set of reflections.
Thought One. The dominant mode of Cold War anti-communism was paranoia. This was the engine of Joseph McCarthy’s hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee. HUAC had existed for decades, but McCarthy’s leadership brought it into legend.
Those hearings and the cultural atmosphere they created basically burned the socialist left out of American consciousness as a society.
Thought Two. That paranoia was a reactive fear. Obviously – its name is ‘anti-communism.’ But the wildest delusions of the anti-communist paranoid was precisely that of McCarthy. They could be anywhere; It’s possible they’ve infiltrated everywhere; Won converts who keep their actions secret; A demoniacal cabal.
I never saw this in action in my own lifetime until it became about Islamist terrorists, not communists. Terrorism paranoia differed quite a bit from anti-communist paranoia. Mostly, the paranoia I experienced in 21st century Canada (watching America on TV) had an extra racializing flavour.
|Invasion of the Body Snatchers was the expression of McCarthy's|
paranoia in techno-horror cinema.
Thought Three. Lots of Americans were anti-communist in the 1930s, the same time those moral panic films first exploded. But that was actually the United States catching up with Europe’s anti-communism – it was oligarchical and right-wing opposition to the trade union movement.
This first American anti-communism strikes me as very much like the European version. Communism at the time was the farthest left wing of the trade union movement. Radical communists as fellow travellers with Eugene Debs, Woody Guthrie, and Jimmy Hoffa. Mostly, it was a vehicle for America’s money’s WASP class to remix their traditional anti-Semitism.
Thought Four. The hysterical lunacy of it all. That’s the only way I can think to describe the tone of that paranoia. I’m talking about McCarthyism, but it shared the same tone, the same deranged outlook on the world as those moral panic films.
Reefer Madness and all those others. It could be weed, cocaine, sex. Eventually, it was motorcycle gangs. Above all, those films were about fear. Fear that ordinary looking people could turn their whole lives upside-down – one act of deviancy was all it took to send your life to hell.
|The Puritan bides his time through eras of liberalism until at last, the|
more moderate among them reaches a breaking point of even their
disgust. Public acceptance of homosexuality is too much for them.
A group of Evangelical extremists published The Nashville Statement
standing against LGBTQ rights yesterday, and I saw one social media
exchange. "How could you condemn Christians praying for gays
when Muslims kill gays all the time?" Well, Christians kill and
persecute LGBTQ people all the time. The American money goes
to Africa so their sensitive domestic audience doesn't see the blood.
The Puritan was the most extreme ascetic ideology. Beyond the traditional asceticism of an elite, powerful holy one’s path. No, Puritanism and the temperance movement was devoted to mass asceticism. The denial of all deviancy was necessary to save the soul.
Electric fear of total destruction – death, murder, the surrender of your own identity to a deterritorializing desire. “Play faster! Faster!”
They were education-exploitation films. Reefer Madness was itself first financed by a church organization. Did that Puritan energy somehow mutate through McCarthy and John Birch to become hysteric anti-communism?
Thought Five. I don’t actually know. But the possibility intrigues me.