Labeling and a Red Scare redux

The crescent moon and star have replaced the hammer and sickle as symbols of fear.

On this day 54 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a New York state law that prohibited communists from teaching in public schools. The 6-3 decision, reflected the nation’s mood at the height of the Red Scare, as well as the government’s obsession with labeling critics as “subversives.”

What was most insidious about this decision, and period in history itself, was that many citizens who were blacklisted had nothing to do with communism or the Communist Party. The decision to uphold the Feinberg Law legitimized hate for those labeled as “un-American” and bred a culture of fear.

Today it seems that history is doomed to repeat itself. Haven’t you heard? Muslims are the new communists. Just as communists were ostracized and discriminated against during the McCarthy era, Muslims are today.

Muslims and the religion of Islam wrongfully have become synonymous with terrorism. As a result, Muslims are openly ridiculed in the media, portrayed in ways that would be considered nowhere near tasteful or acceptable for any other group and denied rights by the U.S. government. Unless, that is, it suits their economic interests (read: Dubai Port World).

Similar to the illegal domestic spying that occurred during the Red Scare and the meritless labeling of U.S. citizens as subversives, American Muslims with no connection to terrorism are being illegally wiretapped and electronically surveyed. The only difference between then and now is that the U.S. government has more technology at its disposable.

Indeed, it has become our own modern Crucible, and the White House already has argued that Congress does not have authority to interfere in domestic spying because it does not have the “means and methods of engaging the enemy.” Although the hate against Muslims hasn’t reached the fever pitch of the Red Scare, we already are seeing the same telltale signs. Journalists are being barred from printing images from the so-called war on terror. Academics are being censured for teaching materials that are deemed inappropriate. When will the witch hunt stop?