My Bar Mitzvah came four days after attorney Joseph Welch delivered his immortal line on June 9, 1954 at the Army-McCarthy Commie witch hunt hearings. (Full context)
“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
It was the knockout blow to Sen. Joe McCarthy, coming just a few months after Edward R. Morrow’s historic “See It Now” broadcasts on CBS exposing McCarthy’s fascist mindset.
Three weeks after that broadcast, the senator, given the chance to respond without questions or commentary, accused the legendary broadcaster of being a “symbol, the leader and the cleverest of the jackal pack which is always found at the throat of anyone who dares to expose Communists and traitors … Mr. Edward R. Murrow as far back as 20 years ago was engaged in propaganda for Communist causes.”
Despite the heroics of a few, the witch hunts chilled the political activism of millions of Americans who grew up being taught to never sign petitions, never join anything but status quo political activities and crouch under their desks in case of nuclear attack.
To a 13-year-old reading “Catcher in the Rye” for the second time, the lesson didn’t fully hold and might have more than a little to do with my decision to become a journalist, and something of a provocateur in my own right.
All this came to mind today listening to your City Council spend more than an hour defaming KFI, John and Ken and the news media in general for promoting “racist and sexist slurs.”
Paul Krekorian, whose eloquence is being put to use in service of the City Hall political machine, denounced vile, disgusting, hate-filled speech on their airwaves and even brought up Welch’s famous quote, adding: “At long last, folks, have we no decency as a society?”
Clearly, brilliant legal mind that he has aside, he didn’t see the contradiction between his insistence the controversy over John and Ken has “nothing to do with the First Amendment” that we all are somehow guilty by association — the core of McCarthyism — for what others say.
I, too, am disgusted with much of what I hear on talk radio and agree that the success of so many talk show hosts who run roughshod of the boundaries of good taste says a lot about the “coarsening of our society,” as Krekorian put it. The simple answer is don’t listen to them.
What I do listen to is the City Council meetings and I find them vile, disgusting and filled with lies that make me angry enough to write about on this blog every day for the last four years just as I drove coverage of City Hall’s disgraceful betrayal of the people of this city for the previous 30 years.
This was a Council meeting that began with a long presentation honoring the well-paid and highly-benefited General Services mechanics who maintain the 10,000 city vehicles under their care as heroes for doing their jobs every day in difficult times, symbols of the kinds of middle-class jobs that should be available to all, according to several Council members.
A sub-text that brought lots of snickers but no explanation involved references to those mechanics who got transfers in the hard times to Department of Water and Power jobs where the pay is so much higher and the expectations so much lower.
The irony of all this praise for these middle class city jobs brought not even a titter from anyone. After all, these are the last middle class jobs in the city since policies made by this Council and mayor and their predecessors have chased away the good jobs. In fact, they have reduced the number of any kind of job by nearly 100,000 even in the time the city’s population has grown by one million.
No. the stupid and reprehensible “crack, ho” remark of John & Ken doesn’t stack up against the cruel and destructive policies that have made life so much harder for the poorest among us, the very people these phone posturing politicians pretend to care so much about.
The final hypocrisy of this awful session came near the end when Jan Perry — the good Jan Perry who is smart and tough and courageous — stood up to the 14 men who surround her on the horseshoe and refused to yield an inch until they voted down her motion with Bernard Parks to give the Koreans and blacks of this city the chance to be heard on how they want new Council district to be drawn.
She dared them to “man up” and at least vote the motion down instead of leaving it locked up in Herb Wesson’s committee or filed into oblivion — a comment that unbelievably inspired Richard Alarcon to defend his manliness and suggest she was being sexist.
No, my friends, John and Ken are big-time jerks but these people, they are worse.
I can’t help thinking that maybe if Joe McCarthy was just a talk show host and not a senator who could convene a powerful government committee to destroy the reputations of so many honorable people, it might not have mattered so much.
Lest we forget, he was a pal of the Kennedy family, dated Patricia and Eunice, and hired son Bobby to be part of his team.
As you can read on Wikipedia: “McCarthy became a close friend of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., himself a fervent anti-Communist, and was a frequent guest at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port .. (He)was godfather to Robert F. Kennedy’s first child, Kathleen Kennedy. Robert was chosen by McCarthy as a counsel for his investigatory committee.
You see this is all about free speech, not the repression of free speech.
Murrow and Welch and the American people sorted out the truth after a long and tortured public debate and we got it right, sort of at least.
What the LA City Council did today was not to speak freely against what was more than a month old transgression but to chill the right of free speech, free association and free thinking of all of us.
This is worse than McCarthyism; it is mindless totalitarianism — if there were an ounce of integrity in any of it. John and Ken and their corporate masters will do anything for a buck just as these second rate Council members will do anything for political advantage.
Here’s the famous historic Murrow broadcast:
You can watch McCarthy’s response on “See It Now” by clicking here. The only difference between his rhetoric and what I hear from City Hall is they don’t have the courage of their convictions, don’t even have the courage to use the tough language he uses.