The recent Missouri State Highway Patrol profiling of third-party supporters as potential terrorist militia threats to officer safety looked vaguely familiar, and now I know why. I saw it last time.
If you have an interest in American history, political warfare, Irregular Warfare, or Psychological Operations I heartily recommend Dr. Philip Jenkins’ Terror Begins at Home.
Some excerpts to pique your interest:
It’s difficult to understand modern American political history without appreciating the florid conspiracy theories that so often drive liberals, and by no means only among the populist grassroots. Time and again, Democratic administrations have proved all too willing to exploit conspiracy fears and incite popular panics over terrorism and extremism. While we can mock the paranoia that drives the Left to imagine a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, such rhetoric can be devastatingly effective—as we may be about to rediscover.
However thin the underlying charges, the Brown Scare clearly helped to promote a New Deal agenda at home and interventionism overseas. For interventionists, the Terror Crisis suggested that fascist powers already were attempting to subvert America, forcing the nation to confront the foreign danger. Above all, the scare provided a powerful weapon for defaming anyone on the Right who opposed FDR’s drift to war. Targets included not only isolationist senators and congressmen but also the potent antiwar organization America First, which drew support from a broad and reputable cross-section of public opinion—conservative, liberal, and socialist, Catholic and Protestant. By 1941, though, the antiwar movement was battered by allegations of fascist and anti-Semitic ties. Under Cover portrayed America First as an aboveground front for the most extreme and lethal paramilitary fascist groups. As so often before and since, a burgeoning antiwar movement was crippled by charges that it was covertly allied with the nation’s enemies. So successful was this tarring that in popular memory, America Firsters stand alongside Nazis and Klansmen as traitors, subversives, and bigots. In terms of achieving its goals, the Brown Scare worked superbly.
After JFK’s election in 1960, the devoutly anti-Communist Minutemen took first place in liberals’ demonology. As in the 1930s, the far Right was supposed to be closely tied to out-of-control military officers. Remember fictional treatments of the time like “Dr. Strangelove” and “Seven Days in May”? Once more, too, the supposed threat from far-Right extremism surfaced in mainstream politics, especially during the 1964 elections. Most political observers know that Barry Goldwater was denounced for advocating “extremism in the defense of liberty.” Few know exactly what kind of extremism he was supposedly invoking. The ensuing controversy makes no sense except in the context of the John Birch Society, which was pushing the Republican Party to harder anti-Communist positions, and also the well-armed Minutemen. As in the 1930s, the extremists existed, and some hotheads contemplated violence. But once again, a yawning gulf separated the reality of the threat from the public perception.
Read the whole thing.