William F. Gavin: "McCarthyism" is a Bigoted Term Offensive to the Irish

Roundup: Talking About History

[William F. Gavin is a former assistant to Sen. James L. Buckley.]

As we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, it is useful to remember the Irish definition of a true Irishman: someone who will go fifty miles out of his way to receive an insult. Yes, grudge-bearing is among the traits we are known for, no less than charm, wit, and loquaciousness. We believe in forgiving our enemies the same way the unconverted Augustine believed in chastity: a fine goal, Lord, but not yet.

I’ve had my own Irish grudge against liberals for decades, and perhaps now is the time for me to extend the hand of friendship — if they will apologize. Liberals in the media, universities, and politics: Emulate the great saint who, we are told, drove the snakes from Ireland, by driving the reptilian word “McCarthyism” from your vocabulary. It is bigoted, and I’m sick of hearing it.

McCarthy is an ethnically identifiable Irish Catholic name, yet it describes despicable political behavior that transcends ethnic and religious backgrounds. No other American ethnic, religious, or racial group has been so stigmatized for so long, with so little public outcry, by a word that is acceptable in polite society....

The fact that Irish Catholics did not immediately complain when the word was coined in 1950 by Herb Block, the hard-left cartoonist of the Washington Post, is a mystery to me. In any event, acceptance of the term “McCarthyism” by Irish Catholics over the decades is not proof that the word is legitimate; it only serves to demonstrate the truism that if you don’t get what you like in politics, you start liking what you get.

Consider the following thought experiment: In 1953, around the same time the term “McCarthyism” was coined, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for conspiracy to commit treason by passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. Suppose that some hard-right anti-Communist polemicists had coined the word “Rosenbergism” to describe such acts of treason. We know what would have happened: Men and women of good will — left and right, Christian and Jew — would have raised an immediate and justifiable uproar over the slur. Editorials would have quite properly pointed out that the word served to degrade politics by attaching ethnic connotations to a terrible act — treason — that transcends ethnicity. There would be thundering sermons from pulpits from coast to coast reminding congregations that even if the word was used merely in a descriptive sense, its ethnic specificity put it beyond the pale. Why didn’t this happen to “McCarthyism”?...

So, the next time some liberal uses the word in public or private, I hope others of the Left will demonstrate allegiance to the pieties of political correctness by reminding him of the sensitivities involved. It’s bad enough that we still hear about Irish tempers, the curse of the drink, and that idiotic nonsense about the “luck of the Irish,” who are among the unluckiest people in history. Things like that are enough to make a man hold a grudge.

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Arnold Shcherban - 3/19/2010

Insult to Irish people?
Dull as a joke, dumb as serious request. One more example of clownish obsession with the worst tendencies in political correctness craze.
Although, what I think the author really wants to have is the public reinterpretation of McCarthyism as
positive social and political phenomenon, just to poke in the eyes of those Liberals he apparently shares no love with.