Lessons from George Clooney’s ‘Good Night and Good Luck’: Part One
While watching Good Night, and Good Luck, I couldn’t help but sense a familiarity about the society and attitudes depicted. After thinking about it for awhile, I realized where that feeling was coming from. The Red Scare and the fear that Americans felt during the McCarthy Era is very similar to a post-9/11 America. When I say that, I’m not talking about the time right after the attacks of that tragic day, I’m talking more about some time after the shock of what had happened finally cleared.
In response to the rising Soviet power and presence after WW II, the American people were scared and looking for answers and a way to protect themselves from the Red Threat. That was the perfect environment for Junior Senator Joseph McCarthy to step up. In fear of losing his seat in Senate, McCarthy has had accusations of lying and bribery, strategies to win back the voters were found.
This is when Edmund Walsh, a Roman Catholic priest, suggested the idea that Sen. McCarthy, a Republican, begin a campaign against ‘known’ communists and their supporters in the Democratic administration. During a 1950 speech in West Virginia, McCarthy claimed he had a list of more than 200 people in the State Department that were known to be members of the American Communist Party. This was the beginning of the McCarthy Era.
Senator McCarthy went on to speak out and agitate the country against communism and the people who may be its supporters. The fear within the American psyche at the time gave McCarthy almost unlimited power, which he used during the McCarthy Trials, which were to convict suspected communists, usually with a predetermined conclusion. Even the press didn’t speak out too much for fear that if they did, they would be targeted next.
With this brief history of the McCarthy Era, some likenesses to modern America is already standing out, but allow me to look a little more closely at these issues. We are held in a constant fear of terrorism, especially from the Middle East. This fear entitles the government to do whatever it wants, with little question as to the real reasons.
Heightened security at the airports was the first noticeable effect of the terrorist attacks. The fact is that we have to be nearly strip searched just to fly across the country, but worse if we are leaving the country. Now many people don’t consider this airport security to be a violation of our rights, but fear allows this ‘security’ to cross the line in many critics’ minds.
Racial profiling at the airport checkpoints is the heated topic of debate in many circles. We are told that passenger searches are done at random, with no regard to race or nationality, but with the terrorists being of mostly Middle Eastern peoples, the urge to search mostly by nationality is growing. And that is because we are scared. Scared of attack on, or due to, our way of life, which is not unlike the Red Scare of the 40’s and 50’s.
Another form of government control in the name of national security is the wire-tapping debate that was raised recently. To better monitor suspected terrorist cells living and operating in this country, the government has brought up the idea of listening in on phone conversations of American citizens, without use of court ordered warrants of probable cause, when any suspicion of working with terrorists is present. There are a few problems with this idea.
In this country we take our freedoms very seriously, and our Freedom of Speech will be under attack now that this plan is executed. Since it is up to the government to decide what suspicious talk or behavior will constitute an invasion of our privacy, what we can or cannot say is anybody’s guess. And with this all encompassing law, who’s to say that it will be used only for national security issues. But again, some supporters believe that we need to give up some freedoms for our own safety and security. This, again, is similar to the national opinion of the McCarthy Era against communism.