In the midst of the Clinton years, political satirist P. J. O’Rourke, in conjunction with the conservative magazine The American Spectator, launched into a gleeful project: carrying on the grand tradition of McCarthyism by compiling a New Enemies List. Their goal: to reveal the utter silliness of politicians, celebrities, and “everyone to the left of Edmund Burke” (Booklist). From Noam Chomsky to Yoko Ono to all the people who think quartz crystals cure herpes, this list is the result—and the book also include O’Rourke’s treatises on why Jimmy Carter was a better president than Bill Clinton, and why the author of Parliament of Whores and Give War a Chance is a conservative in the first place.
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A Call for a New McCarthyism
The American Spectator, July 1989
Our era is supposed to be the 1950s all over again. Indeed, we are experiencing anew many of the pleasures and benefits of that excellent decade: a salubrious prudery, a sensible avariciousness, a healthy dose of social conformity, a much-needed narrowing of minds, and a return to common-sense American political troglodytism. But there's one delightful and entertaining feature of the Eisenhower years which is wholly absent from the contemporary scene — old-fashioned red-baiting. Where's our McCarthyism? Who's our Tail-Gunner Joe? Why don't we get to look for Communists under our beds or — considering the social changes of the past thirty-five years — in them? ("Good night, honey, and are you now or have you ever been a member of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador?")
God knows the problem is not a lack of Commies. There are more fuzzy-minded one-worlders, pasty-faced peace creeps, and bleeding-heart bed wetters in America now than there ever were in 1954. The redskis have infiltrated the all-important exercise-video industry, not to mention movies and TV. Academia, too, is a veritable compost heap of Bolshie brainmulch. Beardo the Weirdo may have been laughed out of real life during the 1970s, but he found a home in our nation's colleges, where he whiles away the wait for the next Woodstock Nation by pestering undergraduates with collectivist twaddle when they should be thinking about better car stereos. And fellow travelers in the State Department? Jeez, the situation is so bad at Foggy Bottom that we'd better hope it's caused by spies. If it's stupidity, we're really in trouble.
So how come the HUAC staff isn't returning my phone calls? Who's keeping I Led Three Lives from being remade starring Tom Selleck and Arnold Schwarzenegger? And why aren't we making sure that that Fidel-snuggler Ron Dellums never works again? Whoops, we already did that. We elected him to Congress. And come to think of it, there are other problems with an up-to-date nineties-style witch-hunt. For one thing, it's no use going after real, card-carrying Communists anymore. Hard-core party apparatchiks have already been persecuted by organizations more brutally efficient than anything we've got in the U.S., organizations such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Plus, accusing somebody of being a "comsymp" just isn't the same since Gorbachev began his three-hankie perestroika performance. Even Margaret Thatcher says she sympathized with Ole Splotch-Top. And when it comes to the International Communist Conspiracy to Enslave Europe, Asia, and the Third World — well, somebody's got to do something with those people. Good luck to the Patrice Lumumba University Class of '89.
No, a modern McCarthyism is going to have to concentrate on other things besides the Big Lie and the Red Menace. In fact, if we examine even a brief selection of people who should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail (or, to be more contemporary, oat branned and goose downed and jogged out of the condominium complex on an exercise track), we see that they are not necessarily Marxist or even socialist in their thinking because that would presuppose thinking in the first place. Nobody is ever going to accuse us of being thought police for going after the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Phil Donahue, Mario Thomas, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Yoko Ono, Dave Dellinger, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, the World Council of Churches, Ed Asner, Michelle Shocked, Lenora Fulani, Robert Redford, and people who think quartz crystals cure herpes.
The distinguishing feature of this cluster of dunces is not subversion but silliness. If we hope to wreck careers, destroy reputations, and drive holistic Ortega fans into exile in Sausalito and Amherst, we're going to need tactics very different from those used by Roy Cohn, Bobby Kennedy, and the distinguished senator from the great state famous for its La Follette and cheese. A "blacklist" will never work. Put some Sandalista on your blacklist and you probably guarantee him a MacArthur genius grant and a seat on the ACLU national board of directors. But maybe we can tear a page from the Très Riches Heures of Tipper Gore and insist upon a rating system for music, film, television, and theBoston Globe editorial page. A warning would have to be prominently displayed: "OH-OH, A PERSON INVOLVED WITH THIS UNAPPEALING ITEM OF MASS COMMUNICATION HOLDS SILLY OPINIONS ON MATTERS ABOUT WHICH HE OR SHE IS LARGELY OR ABYSMALLY UNINFORMED." There'd be three ratings:
S = Silly VS = Very Silly SML = Shirley MacLaine
Thus a rerun of M*A*S*H featuring Alan Alda would get an "S" rating. Any public pronouncement by a member of the innumerable Phoenix family, such as River, Leaf, Summer, Stump, Ditch, or Pond Scum Phoenix, would get a "VS" rating. And the new Tracy Chapman album gets an "SML" with oak-leaf cluster.
But, no, this isn't going to work either. You can't shame or humiliate modern celebrities. What used to be called shame and humiliation is now called publicity. And forget traditional character assassination. If you say a modern celebrity is an adulterer, a pervert, and a drug addict, all it means is that you've read his autobiography.
We have to come up with more clever ways to ruin these people. Perhaps we can spread rumors that they performed in South Africa. I was in South Africa myself a few years ago, and I'm almost certain that was Jessica Mitford singing backup for Frank Sinatra at Sun City. Or perhaps we can direct the wrath of the remarkably terrifying animal rights activists against them. I'm going to write a letter to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals about how Susan Sontag allows her ideas to be tried on innocent laboratory rabbits before humans are exposed to them. (As for the animal rights activists, we can turn some animals loose on them later.)
But the worst punishment for dupes, pink-wieners, and dialectical immaterialists might be a kind of reverse blacklist. We don't prevent them from writing, speaking, performing, and otherwise being their usual nuisance selves. Instead, we hang on their every word, beg them to work, drag them onto all available TV and radio chat shows, and write hundreds of fawning newspaper and magazine articles about their wonderful swellness. In other words, we subject them to the monstrous, gross, and irreversible late-twentieth-century phenomenon of Media Overexposure so that a surfeited public rebels in disgust. This is the "Pia Zadora Treatment," and, for condemning people to obscurity, it beats the Smith Act hollow.
Anyway, I'm sure we'll find some way to chastise these buggers of sense, to bully, torment, harry them, and generally make a workers' paradise of their lives. In the meantime, the fun part of McCarthyism is, as it always was, making out the enemies list. Heh-heh:
Sting Gore Vidal The Institute for Policy Studies Tom Hayden (Hope you didn't give Jane your ideals in the divorce settlement, Tom.)
And let's not forget that most subversive of all organizations in America, the American government:
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
And from Michigan — an improbable place to find a nest of jacobin no-good-niks — these Not-the-Reagan-Democrats:
Rep. David Bonior Rep. John Conyers
And that's just a beginning. Readers of the American Spectator were invited to submit their own suggestions — and lots of them. Prepare for a bloodbath — well, a phlegm and bile bath anyway.
Maybe we can reconquer our body politic. Maybe we can sweep the ideologically homeless from the streets of our Shining City on a Hill. Or maybe we can't. It might all backfire the way the splendid fifties backfired and led to the wretched and unspeakable sixties. Still, it's worth a try. At the very least, "Red Scare — The Sequel" will rile the lefties and get them out demonstrating again so policemen can hit them on the head. The police have been having a rough time lately, what with crack and Miranda rights. They need some fun. And one other great good will have been accomplished. We will have found a job for J. Danforth Quayle. He's the perfect point man for Nouvelle McCarthyism, a Senator Joe Lite if ever there was one. Besides, I'm sure he'd much rather have a reputation for evil than the reputation he's got now.CHAPTER 2
The Readers Respond
The American Spectator, October 1989
I've got a little list — I've got a little list Of society's offenders who might well be underground, And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!
... the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone, All centuries but this, and every country but his own;
... And apologetic statesmen of the compromising kind, Such as — What-d'ye-call-him — Thing'em-Bob, and likewise — Never Mind,
And 'St —'st —'st — and What's-his-name, and also — You-know-who —
(The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you!)
— W. S. Gilbert
We need some means of persecuting neuterers, nutters, and screaming greenies, some way to abuse entitlement tramps, participants in Gorby orgies, men who think the government is their mother, and women who think government can do the mothering for them. Let's give a wedgie to the whiners, criers, and wet smacks in mortarboards. Let's soap the windows of those who would beggar achievement, vandalize the lawn ornaments of magical thinkers, and heave rotten fruit at haters of beef, gin, and cigars. Let's tell ghost stories to the mollycoddles who fear atomic power, military strength, and the very puissance of Western Civilization itself and turn the garden hose on people who can't bear their freedoms, their selves, or their society and want to vent those pathetic loathings on us, their betters.
Such was my call to action, and the reader response was heartening. Almost a thousand individuals, institutions, and categories of morons were proposed for execration.
THE ENEMIES LIST — THE OVERVIEW
The "New McCarthyism" article was accompanied by a brief muster roll of nitwits — some hundred-odd names with which to chum the waters of indignation. This pilot catalog wasn't meant to be definitive; nonetheless, readers greeted the omission of Teddy Kennedy and Jesse Jackson with howls of indignation. Well, all I can say is, Stalin and Molotov weren't on Senator Joe's original list.
However, neither the Hymietown Rhymer nor In-the-Drink Eddie received the most Enemies List nominations. That distinction belongs, oddly enough, toSenator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH). Howie is a terrific fool, of course, and a typical liberal of stinking wealth who's got his pile and would change the rules so nobody else can get theirs. But there are thousands like Howie. Why did almost a quarter of the American Spectator's Enemies List respondents mention Metzenbaum by name? Maybe it's because the NRA has been targeting the Buckeye Bolshie for his disarm-the-populace legislative proposals. (The events in Tiananmen Square have given liberals new impetus on this issue — just think how many People's Army soldiers might have been killed if China didn't have the benefit of gun control.) Let that American Spectator-NRA overlap be fair warning to the pink-squeeks. Not only do we conservatives support the Second Amendment, we also exercise our Second Amendment rights. We've got a bunch of guns, and all you liberals have is Carl Rowan, who had a trophy-size stoned teenager trapped in his own backyard and couldn't manage a kill shot.
Also surprisingly popular as objects of derision were Linda Ellerbee, Leonard Bernstein, and Ramsey Clark — not exactly America's major trio of power-brokering opinion-molders, if you ask me. But annoyance factor seemed to outweigh public danger in readers' minds. Carl Sagan, Whoopi Goldberg, Mitch Snyder, and C. Everett Koop (that buttinski) each collected a larger number of blackballs than did the ACLU. And Barney Frank was damned with greater frequency than Christopher Dodd or Louis Farrakhan.
More predictably, there was plenty of media-baiting — of Dan Rather and Sam Donaldson in particular and of National Public Radio in general. Ted Turner was repeatedly condemned as a traitor, though not (let free enterprise reign) as a colorist.
Other multiple citations: Al Sharpton, despised as a demagogue. Mike Dukakis, despised as a loser. Molly Yard, despised period (pun semi-intended).
One problem mooted in the original article was inventing a modern punishment to go with a modern McCarthyism. Our jails are too full already. And why should we impose the likes of Howard Metzenbaum on ordinary, decent crack dealers? I had proposed media overexposure as a form of revenge — putting our victims in supermarket tabloids and on television talk shows until the public gagged and condemned them to remote dinner theater productions. But now I'm not so sure. That is, media overexposure worked like a charm on Morton Downey, Jr., but has failed to make the slightest dent in Rob Lowe. (And how much more overexposed can you get?) In this matter the readers were no help at all. In fact, the faint sound of tumbrels rolling can be heard in the background of more than a few Enemies List missives. Hey, dudes, lighten up.
While I'm on the tactless tack of criticizing the paying customers, let me say you folks are a bit rough with black leaders. Sure, they spout nonsense but it's in the great nonsense-spouting tradition of Irish, Italians, and Jews before them. This is the way poor people acquire job skills. How can blacks climb the American socioeconomic ladder and get big jobs in industry and government if they don't know how to be as completely full of crap as the rest of us? A bit of invert-bashing was also detectable in some letters. Now, whatever we (and God) may think about this method of birth control, let us not forget that at the core of conservatism is the sanctity of the individual and the privacy of the conscience. Also, if you think there's no such thing as an influential gay conservative, you sure haven't been reading the Washington Times lately.
That said, the following register of enemies, including reader comments, is presented in the order received and edited only to eliminate repetition. (I've made my own addenda when I thought the correspondent was seriously receiving radio messages from Neptune on his dentures.) Every nomination has been included no matter how wacky, obscure, imaginary, or dead the choice. There are only three exceptions.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Enemies List"
Copyright © 1996 P. J. O'Rourke.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction by Wladyslaw Pleszczynski,
PART I: A Call for a New McCarthyism,
PART II: The Readers Respond,
PART III: The Readers Keep Responding,
PART IV: Shoot the Wounded,
PART V: Insult the Injured,
PART VI: Commies — Dead but Too Dumb to Lie Down,
PART VII: Enemies in the White House,
PART VIII: 100 Reasons Why Jimmy Carter Was a Better President,
Than Bill Clinton,
PART IX: Why I Am a Conservative in the First Place,