Important to note is that with a twist of the timeline, [Whittaker] Chambers could just as easily have been subjected to the “wrath” of the Roosevelt administration or the “wrath” of the Eisenhower administration. Both of these administrations shared with Truman’s the same propensity for suppression when it came to the touchy subject of domestic Communist conspiracy. In the end, this had the effect of protecting the Communist conspiracy itself. In FDR’s case, for example, the president personally tried to shut down Rep. Martin Dies’s investigations into Communist conspiracy—and later his political career. In Eisenhower’s case, as president he was personally involved in efforts to shut down Senator Joseph McCarthy’s quite similar investigations. In all such cases, as with the Hiss case, this meant that both the extent and the impact of the conspiracies were officially downplayed, denied, suppressed, and/or ignored by those elected leaders directly responsible for defending the Constitution. In each and every instance, it was the anti-Communists, the ex-Communists, and the Cassandras who were punished and castigated by the Washington Establishment, and then ostracized for their “crimes” of exposing treason.
This question drove me further past the pat narratives that have sufficed for too long. It is particularly pertinent today as we watch the same Establishment forces coalescing anew to suppress logical and, indeed, patriotic questions about hostile Islamic penetration of the U.S. government particularly since 9/11.
When did this ugly stuff really get going? A related question: When did anti-Communism itself—the philosophical and political drive against state domination of the individual—become a radioactive inheritance of perceived bigotry and mass hysteria to be passed down, gingerly, generation to genera- tion? It must be here where the origins of our indifference to the plight of the anti-Communist witnesses and to Cold War victory and Communist crime lie. What I was looking for, then, was the beginnings of the greatest propaganda coup and flimflam operation in history: the hocus-pocus transformation of liberty-loving anti-Communism into a force of repression to be reviled—not always by the people, who were reflexively anti-Communist, but certainly by the elite expression of public conscience.
There was a flip side to the phenomenon, too: the hocus-pocus transformation of totalitarian Communism into a force of liberalism, later liberation, to be shielded or even fully embraced by that same public conscience. It was almost as if a giant syringe of novocaine had been injected into the body politic at some unknown point and with permanent effect: the numbed sensibility that reflexively reviles the evil of Hitler but calmly accepts that of Stalin, Mao, and other Red thugs and killers.
Among the many manifestations of this weirdly insenate state, my symbolic favorite is the eye-catching frequency with which Warhol’s silkscreen of Chairman Mao pops up as an aspect of chic in lavishly decorated homes, glorious fruits of the freeish market as celebrated in four-color, glossy shelter magazines. And no, irony is not a fig leaf for the mass murderer over the mantelpiece. His pride of place is more evidence of internal rot and betrayal. ...