"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the world's second largest religion?"
McCarthyism is the most common charge heard from critics of Representative Peter King's (R-NY) Homeland Security Committee hearing on radicalization among American Muslims. The 1950s era witch hunt for American Communists led by Senator Joseph McCarthy ruined countless lives, fed anti-Communist hysteria, ultimately found nothing, and led to McCarthy's censure. While both McCarthy and King were shameless self-promoters, McCarthy famously having padded his war record to qualify for a medal and forged a letter of commendation signed by Admiral Chester Nimitz, the comparisons are limited.
For one thing, McCarthy had never been a Communist, or a Nazi sympathizer, or an Italian Fascist himself. King is well-known for having been a fervent supporter of the internationally-recognized terrorist organization Irish Republican Army. A judge in Northern Ireland once branded him an IRA collaborator.
To King, the IRA was not a terrorist organization. This view is shared by many, who considered the IRA to be patriots resisting the foreign occupation of their country. But beyond this, many in America view "terrorist" as a racial term. A "terrorist" is someone of Middle-Eastern descent. In this view, "American" is also seen as a racial term, meaning "white." Therefore, IRA terrorists, or German neo-Nazi skinheads, or Russian mobsters are all "Americans," while American blacks, Latinos, Asians, and persons of Middle-Eastern descent are not "Americans."
King doesn't consider neo-Nazis or white separatists to be any threat to Americans, despite proof to the contrary. This is not surprising, as white hate groups are an integral part of the GOP coalition, providing the numbers and the muscle to back the Republicans' plutocratic masters.
Whatever value there may be to hearings on the patriotism of American Muslims or the extent to which individuals have been or may become "radicalized," which we take to mean to be made to attack America, is annihilated by the legitimization of Muslim-bashing a Congressional hearing would lend to the millions of racists and haters in America.
Those denizens of the Southern Poverty Law Center's hatewatch pages, including Neo-Confederates, white supremacists and separatist militias, have a clear understanding that IRA gunmen, German skinheads and Russian mobsters are "Americans," while Muslims are "terrorists."
Across America, the hysterical have attacked anyone they remotely considered to be Muslim, including Indian Sikhs, who are not Muslims at all. These haters have attacked mosques and protested to block the construction of new mosques. They have beaten and fire-bombed and raped innocent people they considered to be sub-human "terrorists."
King hopes to capitalize on anti-Muslim hate and add to it. Clearly, determining the existence of real terrorists in the U.S. is the province of the FBI. His race-baiting hearing is cheap grandstanding that does nothing to add to the nation's security, and does everything to put King atop the 24-hour news cycle. His claim that Muslims don't co-operate with law enforcement in uncovering extremists plots is a bald-faced lie refuted by countless examples from law enforcement. His claim that 85% of mosques are led by radical imams out to get America is unadulterated trash.
Whether either King or McCarthy really cared about threats to the U.S. can never be known for sure. Certainly, neither King nor McCarthy cared whether they ruined innocent lives. Adding legitimacy to anti-Muslim hate will certainly result in more hectoring, more rock-throwing, and more beatings of innocent Muslims.
Of course, King doesn't really care about attacks on Americans. In state houses across the nation, his Republican party daily attacks Americans' rights to organize and negotiate wages and benefits. His Republican party daily attacks Americans' access to affordable health care, education, and fair business practices. His Republican party daily attacks America's ability to preserve clean air and water, and to fight global climate change. His Republican party has been attacking the very fabric of Americans' lives and the society in which they live every day for thirty years.
His hearings are, in fact, another direct attack on Americans. He is attacking American Muslims with lies and deceit, and promoting physical attacks on American Muslims by right-wing thugs. By inflaming hate and fear, he is even attacking the right-wing thugs themselves, who will end up in state penitentiaries if they act out as a result of King's hearing.
Republican politicians. Now, there's a threat to all Americans.