Embedded McCarthyism

Joel Bleifuss

Writing under the nom de plume of Jackson Thoreau, a Texas journalist has created a roster of journalists who, transgressing conventional media wisdom, opposed the Bush Administration’s war in Iraq and were fired. Everyone has heard of how MSNBC sacked Phil Donahue, but consider the following cases. The San Francisco Chronicle fired Henry Norr, its technology columnist, for marching in a demonstration against the war. In Oregon, the Grants Pass Daily Courier sacked Dan Guthrie for a column in which he described Bush as “hiding in a Nebraska hole” rather than returning to Washington after 9/11. The Texas City Sun fired city editor Tom Gutting for writing that Bush “was flying around the country like a scared child seeking refuge in his mother’s bed after having a nightmare.” Ed Gernon, a veteran TV producer, was fired by the company that produced Hitler, a CBS mini-series, after he told TV Guide: “It basically boils down to an entire nation gripped by fear, [that] ultimately chose to give up their civil rights and plunge the whole nation into war. I can’t think of a better time to examine this history than now.” NBC dismissed Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent Peter Arnett for granting an interview with Iraqi television in which he said that the Pentagon had “misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces” and that there was “a growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the war.” The Fort Worth Star-Telegram fired Steve McLinden after he sent a private e-mail to Young Conservatives of Texas, in response to a mass e-mail that promoted a demonstration against Bill Clinton, who was to speak in Austin in February. (The Young Conservatives of Texas had previously labeled affirmative action “anti-white” and filed complaints against Texas hospitals that provide care to undocumented immigrants.) McLinden wrote, “Ah, the heartless, greedy, anti-intellectual little fascists are mobilizing again. Let me guess. All you frat boys saved up your allowances and monies from your McDonald’s jobs for those Beemers you’ll be driving to the protest, and those new jackboots you’ll be sportin’ en route. Hey, don’t forget all the nasty little deals that Reagan’s henchmen cut with Middle East figures that got us directly into this mess today. I’m sure you’ll be protesting the Reagan household any day now.” The Young Conservatives of Texas publicized McLinden’s e-mail. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram promptly fired McLinden and apologized to the Young Conservatives of Texas.

Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.

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