The Red Scare and Whistleblowers

The real danger to our present republic is the ascendant interpretive hypocrisy of our American elite.  One of the enduring mythologies of elite revisionism of American history is the dangerous figure of Joseph McCarthy.  In the popular telling, congressman Joe McCarthy unleashed terror on all Americans for making overly broad generalizations about the threat of Russian communism in America -- a Red Scare.  Students are taught to demonize McCarthy’s overwrought concerns of communist spies in our nation. 

Today our interpretive elite are giddy to compel us to believe the Russian delusion of the 21st century.  The President is a Russian stooge and a threat to our nation.  The President is an authoritarian nightmare abusing his executive authority to punish whistleblowers seeking to stop his corrupt dealings in foreign affairs such as Ukraine. 

Our interpretive elite tell us that the hearings directed by a modern-day McCarthy -- Adam Schiff -- provided a parade of noble whistleblowers who deserve not only public reverence for speaking truth to power but institutional protection from any direct criticism or disagreement with their views. Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, Gordon Sondland, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman are heroes of exceptional patriotic valor and beyond all reproach.  Vindman is a military hero injured by an IUD in Iraq and dressed in impressive military uniform.  The President viciously attacked one great patriot by disagreeing with her testimony in a tweet.  Chairman Schiff indicated that this was witness intimidation.  To understand how wrong the President’s conduct is, we should compare it with one of our nation’s greatest Presidents in American history:  President Barack Obama. Experts indicate that President Obama is easily among the top ten Presidents the nation has ever had.  Observe President Obama’s standard for the proper treatment of whistleblowers:

“In the annals of national security, the Obama administration will long be remembered for its unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers. Since 2009, it has employed the World War I-era Espionage Act a record six times to prosecute government officials suspected of leaking classified information. The latest example is John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer serving a thirty-month term in federal prison for publicly identifying an intelligence operative involved in torture. It’s a pattern: the whistleblowers are punished, sometimes severely, while the perpetrators of the crimes they expose remain free. “-- The Nation, March 26, 2013

“…several investigative journalists attest in “War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State,” a timely documentary directed by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Foundation that premieres this week in New York and Washington. The film details the ordeals of four whistleblowers who turned to the press in order to expose waste or illegality.

“The Obama administration’s been extremely aggressive in trying to root out whistleblowers within the government,” NBC News investigative reporter Michael Isikoff says in the film. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, describing the secrecy required in her reporting for a profile of whistleblower Thomas Drake amid government prosecution, said the experience didn’t “feel [like] America, land of the free press.”

Drake, a former senior executive of the National Security Agency, says in the film, “it’s extremely dangerous in America right now to be right as a whistleblower when the government is so wrong.” He adds: “speaking truth to power is now a criminal act.”-- Huffington Post, December 6, 2017

“White is black and down is up. Leaks that favor the president are shoveled out regardless of national security, while national security is twisted to pummel leaks that do not favor him. Watching their boss, bureaucrats act on their own, freelancing the punishment of whistleblowers, knowing their retaliatory actions will be condoned. The United States rains Hellfire missiles down on its enemies, with the president alone sitting in judgment of who will live and who will die by his hand.

The issue of whether the White House leaked information to support the president’s reelection while crushing whistleblower leaks it disfavors shouldn’t be seen as just another O’Reilly v. Maddow sporting event. What lies at the nexus of Obama’s targeted drone killings, his self-serving leaks, and his aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers is a president who believes himself above the law, and seems convinced that he alone has a preternatural ability to determine right from wrong.”-- Mother Jones, June 12, 2012

Our interpretive elite holds that President Obama was free to jail whistleblowers and to selectively leak and prosecute whistleblowing sharing to achieve Presidential re-election. Moreover, the current President may not publicly criticize the named whistleblowers, or he should be removed by impeachment and hopefully put in jail after he completes his term as President. Is President Obama facing prosecution for his crimes? No, and he will not. Additionally, the rules of whistleblowing were changed by the elite in August of 2019 to explain that a whistleblower is not limited to someone with direct knowledge of wrongdoing. Nor do whistleblowers need to limit their reports to the chain of command.  Whistleblowers may infer judgments from second and third-hand conversations leading to personal inferences about why the matter might lead back to indiscretion by the President. Special protection is being offered to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman because of a perception that harm might come to him.

We are a nation in a culture war.  Whether limits on abortion, dissent on gay marriage, findings of innocence in accusations of war crimes, or the necessary conditioning of foreign aid, the civil rights of Red State advocates is nil.  Red State citizens will obey the master State or find their machinations to the contrary subverted in Washington D.C.  It is no wonder that the Senate is racing to replace the American judiciary because the coming war will utilize the courts to further abrogate the rights of those who do not live on the coasts or in the cities, thereby objecting to those deigning themselves our philosopher kings.

Ben Voth is an associate professor of communication and director of Debate and Speech at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He is the author of three academic books on the role of dissent in preserving human freedomThe Rhetoric of Genocide:  Death as a Text, Social Fragmentation and the Decline of American Democracy with Dr. Robert Denton, and James Farmer Jr.:  The Great Debater.  

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