Red Scare Retro
Wednesday, April 13, 2005


I didn't like Fifties nostalgia the first time. In 1985, the fifth grade talent show was rife with girls singing that Chordettes song - "O, lollypop, lollypop" - puckering in unison, wafting a cardboard palm tree back and forth and making me embarrassed to be a human being. But now that the early Fifties are hot again, I should probably just go with it.

How hot? Time was, Senator Joe McCarthy was considered so yesterday, you might have thought that seeking out hidden currents of sinister Communist influence was as unhip as Velcro shoes and the shirts with those irrepressible alligators sewn to them. And the master Red Baiter seemed forever banished to the far side of "what's hot/what's not" lists after the original "Manchurian Candidate" likened the dead senator's list of "57 card-carrying Communists" to the flavors of Heinz Ketchup.

No one could have predicted that in 2005 Tailgunner Joe would be causing more hearts to throb than Josh Hartnett, revived by books like Ann Coulter's Treason and others written by Republicans older than her, who used to be crazy Communists and now want to take it out on everyone.

Ten professors at a college in Northern California discovered the Fifties retro craze this February, when they got to their offices and found Soviet stars plastered on the doors. Each star bore a stark warning, citing a '50s law still on the books that outlawed "Communist indoctrination." Swell! One of the professors, explaining his infamy, confessed to displaying a "Fahrenheit 9/11" poster to his window for anyone to see.

Ringleader Molly McPherson, the giggly head of the Santa Rosa Junior College Republicans, confessed Feb. 28 on her Livejournal to the deed. Her online diary covers many of the things that young, conservative teens are into today - including flirting with boys and Red baiting history professors.

"All we need to do now is wait for them to oppress us more, like try to take away our charter," she wrote, "and we'll smack Sean Hannity and the O'Reilly Factor on them."

She added: "This is just in time for one of our senators introducing the academic bill of rights in April :)"

To be sure, elected officials across America aren't going to let the teens have all the fun. "Card-carrying Communists," state Senator Larry Mumper told the Columbus Dispatch of Ohio, are teaching at our universities. For those of you at home who want to join in, but aren't sure if you're late to the game now that the Soviet Union has collapsed and is no longer offering membership cards, Mumper offered a reporter his definition of Commies: "People who try to over-regulate and try to bring in a lot of issues we don't agree with."

And he's just one of several Fifties buffs who have taken their hobby to state legislatures, introducing bills to outlaw "indoctrination," in assemblies from California to Florida.

I recently caught up with the brainchild of the "Academic Bill Of Rights," as it's known. That's campus crusader David Horowitz, who says he was raised by crazy Stalinist parents, did human resource work for the Black Panthers and, as a result, understands the "Mind of the Left." I spoke with him recently. A major popularizer of the Fifties craze, he's also a Forties buff who has written a whole book, Unholy Alliance, arguing that college professors and Arab terrorists have formed an alliance eerily reminiscent of the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939-1941.

Only this time the professors do not actually have armies or factories, just these senior citizens' eerie power to control people's minds.

I asked him if he meant the pact was going to collapse, that the two would become bitter enemies, and end in something like Stalingrad, the deadliest battle of all time.

"Your tone is not encouraging," he wrote back in an e-mail.

I explained I was just trying to explore his metaphor.

I was left to call up the head of the California College Republicans, Michael Davidson, to find out more about the '50s retro craze.

"Yeah, I could see that going further," he said. He was talking about the red stars on the professors' doors. The act was heralded as "Operation Red Scare" on the CCR's Web site. He explained why. "A lot of the college professors are leftovers from the Seventies - and Communist sympathizers," he told me.

"For Pete's sake," he said. And then he related the clinching, tragic story of a Kuwaiti student who turned in a very badly written pro-American paper, only to receive a bad grade.

None dare call it treason.

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Copyright 2005 John Gorenfeld

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