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Quite the World, Isn't It?


Rep. West, Joe McCarthy, and the flames that won't die

April 14, 2012

Tags: current events, history

Maybe someone should get Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) a copy of my last book, The Fear Within, to get a sense of the lunacy he was channeling during this appearance (see the clip below). And not surprisingly, the Tea Party folks in attendance didn't laugh at the absurdity of his comments. So maybe they should order in a couple of boxes of the books.

The Fear Within is about a slice of the Red Scare era after World War II. It's a narrative retelling of the criminal trial of 11 overt leaders of the Communist Party-USA on charges that their political beliefs, the articles and books they wrote, and the classes they taught, were illegal under the 1940 Smith Act. The law banned advocating the necessity of overthrowing the U.S. government, or teaching about it, and the U.S. Department of Justice's case was bizarre: Communism as a theory calls for the violent overthrow of capitalism; the U.S. government is part of a capitalist system; ergo, the CPUSA was trying to overthrow the US government by violence. There were no overt acts, mind you, beyond the exchange of ideas. No plots were hatched.

They 11 defendants were convicted in Dennis v. U.S. (the case I write about) despite the obvious conflicts with the First Amendment, a wrong that wasn't righted until Yates v. U.S. about six years later.

So for a time, a specific political belief was, in effect, outlawed in the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave (remember, our enemies hate us for our freedoms). You'd think political extremists - including Tea Partiers - would be very sensitive to that, and to the kind of shunning implied by West's absurd allegation.

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About me


A third-generation journalist, I was born in Scarborough, Maine, and grew up there and in Wellsville, New York, about two hours south of Buffalo. My first newspaper job came at age 16, writing a high school sports column for the Wellsville Patriot, a weekly (defunct), then covering local news part-time for the Wellsville Daily Reporter.

After attending Fredonia State, where I was editor of The Leader newspaper and news director for WCVF campus radio, I worked in succession for the Jamestown Post-Journal, Rochester Times-Union (defunct), The Detroit News and the Los Angeles Times, where I covered presidential and other political campaigns, books, local news and features, including several Sunday magazine pieces.

An active freelancer, my work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Sierra Magazine, Los Angeles magazine, Orange Coast magazine, New York Times Book Review (books in brief), Buffalo News, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Teaching Tolerance (Southern Poverty Law Center), Solidarity (United Auto Workers) and elsewhere. I teach or have taught journalism courses at Chapman University and UC Irvine, and speak occasionally at school and college classes about journalism, politics and writing. I've appeared on panels at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and the Literary Orange festival, moderated panels at the Nieman Conference in Narrative Journalism and the North American Labor History Conference, among others, and been featured on C-SPAN's Book TV.

I'm also a co-founder of The Journalism Shop, a group of journalists (most fellow former Los Angeles Times staffers) available for freelance assignments.



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