(Martin Dies, 1939 - managed to take the lunatic fringe to the lunatic edge)
A few months ago I ran a piece on Martin Dies, and his infamous Dies Committee for Un-American Activities. An earlier incarnation of Joe McCarthy, Dies also managed to slide off the rails with vicious accusations and wild innuendos about people in and around power. Famously fabricating lists of "known communists", many of whom did not exist.
But just before World War 2, paranoia was rife. We were dangling on the precipice of getting involved. The war had already started by the time this address was given on October 27, 1939 and fear of being overtaken by some evil foreign entity was running rampant in the newspapers on the radio and on Capitol Hill.
So Dies took up the crusade, cloaking himself in Americanism and preaching the gospel of fear, whipping people into a state of frenzy.
Martin Dies: “These enemies within our country are not easily exposed, it is most difficult to expose fearlessly and without partisanship the termites who have ceaselessly gnawed at the pillars of this republic, because there are those who would like for us to be partisan when the question is involved. I said in the beginning of this investigation that I was determined it would be conducted without fear and without favor and that I would not hesitate to expose any man, whether he’s a Democrat or he’s a Republican. Whether he’s a New Dealer or an anti-New Dealer. Whether he works in the government or whether he’s working in industry. Only on that basis can I reconcile my attitude with my conscience. If the time has come when in the interest of political expediency and in behest to demands of party leadership I must qualify my conscience, I’ll surrender my commission and go back to private life. At least with my honor unimpaired.”
Clearly, fear and paranoia haven't gone out of fashion. And the practitioners of that fear will probably never go broke perpetuating it. The times change, the situations change, the enemies change. But the fear hate and mistrust, then as now, are all the same.
Comforting, isn't it?