Intellectual McCarthyism

By John F. Josiah, ESQ

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 11, 2002

The greatest battle that awaits Liberia is far beyond the military battle that we have experienced for a little over a decade. The anti-intellectual culture that is rapidly developing and been politicized in every aspect of our society must be vehemently dealt with. The titillating background to this anti-intellectual propaganda has blurred the profound issues that engendered our current political crisis. The campaigners of the anti-intellectual culture, will want the Liberian people to believe that the cause of our political dilemma entirely rest on the "PhDs of our society. It is this anti-intellectual sentiment that I refer to as "intellectual McCarthyism."

In order to understand what intellectual McCarthyism is all about, it important to unfold a brief history that led to the birth of this political concept - McCarthyism. The Turmoil of the communist movement in America in the late forties and early fifties had its beginning in two developments in the early 1930s. The first was the expansion of the federal government to give effect to the new concept of economic regulation and social service associated with the new deal. The second was the change in the political line for the communist movement with its high respectability. At this time membership in the communist party increased, and there was an expansion of the federal civil service. The respectability of the communist movement during this period witnessed the employment of some members of the communist party in government offices.

However, the toleration of members of the communist party in government's agencies lasted for a short period. Immediately after the Second World War, when the need for alliances was no longer necessary, Communism became an antagonist ideology in America. Consequently official measures were taken to suppress the communist movement. These measures gave birth to the "HATCH ACT" of 1938. With the enactment of the "Hatch ACT", membership in the communist party was a ground for refusal and dismissal from federal employment. By 1940, another act was enacted called the "Smith Act". The Smith Act made it a federal offense to advocate the violent overthrow of the government. In 1941, the first loyalty of employees in the executive branch started. In 1947, the first general loyalty program was established by executive order throughout the federal government.

The problems of members of the communist party in federal employment increasingly ignited two major concerns. (1) The hostility of the conservatives toward the new deal. (2) The independence of congress from the executive branch of the government. The anti new deal elements of the government were scrupulously careful to distinguish between liberals and the communists. Some anti new deal elements link social reform to subversion. Conservative hostility concentrated in a coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats in congress.

It was at this point of the height of anti-Communist aversion, that Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin became a focus point of the uproar over communist members in federal employment. In 1950, Senator McCarthy charged that the State department knowingly harbored communist agents and members. And for four months the press was filled with the acrimony of the argument that ensued. In this verbal combat with the State department and others agencies of federal government, Senator McCarthy established the style of political antagonism that was to be admired by his supporters and to be deployed against his political opponents.

His style principally consisted of reckless accusation of his political opponents as communist sympathizers or agents of communism. Senator McCarthy was also noted for careless and inaccurate statement against his opponent. To back his inaccurate charges and allegations, Senator McCarthy would shamelessly produce false document to support his lies.

Other overt acts in demonstration of his anti-Communist campaign were the conviction of eleven top leaders of the communist party under the Smith Act of 1940. In essence, McCarthyism is simply lying and blending your political rival with aversive concepts to score a political. This irresponsible form of political tactics did not remain in America, but unfortunately imported into Liberia.

Under the Tubman's regime, special agents were paid from the tax payers coffers to engage in spreading lies innuendoes against political opponents of President Tubman. Immediately after the world most fraudulent election of May 3, 1955 when a total of 244, 873 voters voted in the presidential and general elections, and President Tubman won the Independent True Whig Party by a vote of 530,623 votes, receiving more votes than the total number of voters voting, a commission was established, by the Tubman government to investigate the use of personnel and other logistics to in government to determine waste and misallocation of government's resources. While the purpose for establishing the commission was good, the Public Relation Officer (PRO) and other anti-opposition political party's members use the commission to prune every political opponent from the government.

Two notoriously known personalities in the war against political opponents were Messrs. C. Wellington Campbell and James Bestman. Those who advocated change in the exiting form of governance were lied on an accused as communists. One of the first victims was Journalist Tuon Wreh. He was arrested and placed behind bar and subsequently made to carry stools of other prisoners from prison cells.

In the early seventies, when President Tolbert took over the presidency, a new code of social reformers appeared in our society. They were the highly educated elements of our society, most of them PhDs and Masters holders. We know who these great men were; we need not mention them by names. For the Tolbert government to successfully battle these young fresh scholars, the proper route was not to take them on political and social issues but to deploy McCarthyism. All of these men who earned their education from the United State of America were labeled Communists; Communists, simply because they advocated for social change. Change not for communism but change from exploitation and oppression to justice and political freedom; a change from gross inequalities to equitable distribution, and a change from deprivation of choosing your own leaders to allowing one to choose freely those the people want lead them.

But at the end of the cold war, communism was no longer a long range weapon for political battle, the battle shifted to anti-intellectual culture that is now building up.

The PhDs and the Masters are the germinators of our current problems. This anti-intellectualism that is rapidly gaining ground poses a serious problem in the future. It destroys the potentials of our youths. It discourages education on the part of our people. For one to blame ALL of those who advocated for change in an exploitative and oppressive society such as ours, is to blame Dr. Martin Luther King for advocating the abolition of injustice in discrimination against the blacks in America. A friend of mine once defined PhD as "People hindering Democracy". This is a blatantly misleading statement! The intellectuals are the one who in the past defined the struggle and continued to lead the fight for democracy in our society. This group does not only consist of PhDs and Masters holders, they consist of people who want to exercise their rights as citizens. It is that PLAN and SIMPLE! Therefore, all of these assertions are forms of McCarthyism. McCarthyism against those who want REAL CHANGE, some of whom who happen to be PhDs and Masters’ holders. The problems of Liberia were not the creation of the highly educated elements. Most of the Americo Liberians could barely read.

The problems were created by the exclusive behaviors of those who were in power. Therefore, to place the blame only on the intellectual alone is unjust. Intellectual McCarthyism must be avoided because it promotes division in our society. Instead, we should concentrate our ever efforts to deal with Taylor and partners that are destroying our country.

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