Mike Masterson of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is not an ignorant man. Far from it, in fact, even though his columns sometimes take the reader down paths into dark woods that I’m not sure that even Mike knows what dwells within.
This was evident this past Sunday, with his column, “Overreactions from 1958,” which sort of makes the case that Mike really, really does like to hit the gas pedal when he travels down the Conspiracy Autobahn.
Quoting from the 1958 book The Naked Communist, by W. Cleon Skousen, a former FBI agent who has inspired the likes of Glenn Beck, Mike wrote about how parts of the book were read into the Congressional Record in 1963.
Before we go into the dark wood ourselves (but unlike Mike, we’ll take a flashlight along with us) a brief word about ex-FBI agent Skousen, the man who seems to have made such an impression on Mike.
In The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, which Glenn Beck thought so highly of that he promoted the book as part of his 9/12 Project, Skousen wrote about slavery in a way that surely warmed the cockles of the heart of folks who might prefer that children not be taught that the Civil War had anything at all to do with slavery.
Skousen described slave owners as “the worst victims of the system,” and also claimed that white schoolchildren “were likely to envy the freedom of their colored playmates.”
He also wrote that “the slave had a deliberateness of motion which no amount of supervision could quicken.”
Yes, Jubilant Reader, he was saying that black people are lazy.
But back to Mike’s Magical Mystery Tour, in which he tells his readers of the Skousen warnings of the plans then afoot in the Soviet Union to manipulate and ultimately overthrow other nations. So, in the interests of coherency, I will paraphrase Mike’s paraphrasing of Skousen’s predictions.
The United States would have to accept co-existence as the only true alternative to nuclear war.
Resist any and all attempts to outlaw the Communist Party. Of course we should do that, because if you ban something, it automatically makes it really unpopular, and nobody has any interest in it any more.
Get control of schools and begin to spread commie and socialistic propaganda. Uh, yeah, that’s like all we ever talked about in class. Those damn Edward Albee plays we had to study . . .
Putting the party line in text books? The party line about what?
My absolute favorite is the part about the Soviet plan to somehow seize control student newspapers. I can just imagine SMERSH having whole departments of agents learning touch-typing and the art of covering high school football games just so they could somehow insert communist propaganda in the school papers.
By this point, one can imagine Mike deep in the woods, armed only with the Gospel according to Skousen to keep him on the path.
Oh, yeah, Comrade Skousen also thought that Republican President Eisenhower may have had a little bit too much red dye in his diet, as well.
The Soviets had plans to infiltrate the press, including the reviewing of books. And all these years I have been reading book reviews because I have enjoyed the writing style of the writers, and because they seemed informed about their subject. Now that I realize I was being manipulated by SMERSH, my blood runs cold.
Mike goes on to write about Skousen’s warning about how the art world would be infiltrated, and people would be manipulated into rising up against “censorship.”
Then there’s them homosexuals. Skousen warns that the Soviets had plans to make us all believe it was (is? Who knows? This isn’t "The Logical Song" we’re listening to here) somehow, normal. Maybe they had special departments where they trained agents to “recruit” people to become homosexual? I wonder how that worked out for them.
And promiscuity? Oh, promiscuity, thy name is treason! Like homosexuality, promiscuity had to be made to appear as normal, natural and healthy, for a country - like the United States - to fall.
So sex gets to be political and fun. Sort of a win-win.
Yeah, W. Cleon Skousen, I am thinking, was a guy who just didn’t get out very often.
And the churches? Well, the commie rats had special plans for the churches. Once again, red agents would infiltrate places of worship and convince folks, I suppose, that organized religion is bunk, and maybe we should all become, like, maybe, Wiccans, dude.
Get rid of prayer in school. Boy, my friends and I were glad they did that, back in the 1960s. We all hated saying the prayer every day, especially when teachers would single out individual students to lead the class in prayer - something you don’t see happen with, say, the Pledge of Allegiance. Then again, maybe we were sleeper agents, and we just hadn’t been activated yet.
Oh, yes, well of course we have to come to despise the Founding Fathers, maybe we could accuse them of having no real feeling for the common man. Maybe we could talk about their complicated personal lives?
Discourage the teaching of American history?
Well, that seems to have happened, doesn’t it? I’ve long felt that a lot of folks on the Right only know about the founding of our country, maybe a little about the Civil War (state’s rights, never about slavery!) and the years after 1980 - though of course the Reagan years they refer to seem to have taken place in an alternate universe.
Oh, and the evils of FDR.
Eliminate the House Committee for Un-American Activities? Don’t worry, lunatic fringe, it may well make a comeback any time now.
Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce? Honestly, I’m surprised that Skousen didn’t write a passionate essay somewhere making the claim that drive-in movie theaters were a communist plot.
Here is an interesting line:
“ . . . that students and special interest groups should use united force to solve economic, political or social problems.”
Well, if you aren’t talking about violent force, what’s your beef? This is how we get things done here in America, and thank god for it.
There is a strain running through here of distrust, almost fear, of young people, and their involvement in politics or social movements. There is a certain smug arrogance to that in that young people should stand aside and let their betters (people with wisdom) guide them and not even have an opinion, or perhaps not even vote until they are “mature.”
Well, it starts with those damn school newspapers. I worked on a school paper in high school. Folks thought I was the humor editor, but I wasn’t listening to Radio Albania (really, I actually did sometimes) just for the music. I as getting my instructions.
As he likes to do sometimes, Mike ends the piece with a sort of dewy-eyed innocent query:
“Wow! What do you suppose this deluded former federal agent and professor was drinking when he believed such radical subversions could ever happen here in the land of the free and home of the brave?”
There now, we’re out of the scary woods, though I have a feeling that Mike is still there, and he may be for some time to come.
Quote of the Day
A letter is a soliloquy, but a letter with a postscript is a conversation. - Lin Yutang