I’m old enough to remember when the “Red Scare” referred to American concerns over the influence of Communism and the power of the USSR.
Today, I would submit that the term is once again useful, but because it addresses a very different source of threat: red states and the lunatics who’ve been elected by their voters. Here in very red Indiana, for example, we have our Attorney General, Todd Rokita, who recently launched an investigation of Valparaiso University and the Confucius Institute for…no kidding…promoting Communist propaganda.
Now, I know that there is a spirited debate about Rokita among the people who follow our local politics. His “defenders” attribute his anti-constitutional forays into culture war to his obvious and overweening ambition, rather than mental illness. They see his bizarre positions as strategies intended to play to the increasingly loony GOP base while keeping his name in the news. (He’s already booked himself on Newsmax to discuss his “investigation,” an outlet likely to be more supportive than others that have covered this clown show, although In his frantic desire for any attention, Rokita, like Trump, apparently doesn’t care if coverage is positive or negative as long as they spell his name right.)
The attorney general’s office declined to tell IndyStar what specific evidence it has supporting the insinuation that Beijing is attempting to brainwash Hoosiers through the Valparaiso University-Confucius Institute relationship, which partially relies on funds from the Chinese government. “We are not able to comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation,” a spokesperson said.
“The societal and political cost of the Chinese Communist Party infiltrating our universities and K-12 education institutes to indoctrinate our students is incalculable,” the spokesperson said, when asked how much this investigation will cost taxpayers in Indiana. “Comparatively, the cost of our investigation is minimal, but will depend upon the details of the investigation.
Some 100 American colleges host Confucius Institutes; IUPUI (where I taught) has had one for several years, although given its lack of prominence on campus, most students have probably never heard of it. It’s one of a wide range of campus organizations intended to introduce students to a diverse set of global cultures. Valparaiso University’s Confucius Institute was founded in 2008 and its website says it “aims at helping Northwest Indiana citizens learn about China and its people and culture and study the Chinese language, and promoting cultural, particularly music, exchange between the US and China.”
But what if Rokita’s paranoia–or pandering– was actually based in fact? What if these Institutes actually were “promoting” a communist philosophy? (Obviously, in Indiana they aren’t doing that very well.) The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would protect that activity–something you would like to believe an Attorney General would know. After all, Rokita went to law school and somehow graduated; he also took an oath of office requiring him to pledge allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, which you would like to assume he’d read.
If the government actually had the authority to seek and destroy “propaganda,” sometime in the future a Democrat holding office could launch a similar “investigation” of Fox News or Newsmax…Even a non-lawyer can see the problem.
So why, exactly, is our embarrassing buffoon of an A.G. wasting the resources of his office on an “investigation” of propaganda that he couldn’t shut down even if it existed somewhere other than in his fevered imagination? Here’s a clue: Toward the end of the linked story, it notes that Rokita has also been referring to COVID as the “Chinese virus.”
In order to appeal to the current GOP base, you must whip up fear. Fear of “the other.” Fear of “uppity women” getting control of their own bodies. Fear of scary Black people and that evil Critical Race Theory. Fear of (an undefined) “socialism.” Fear of those Chinese “commies.”
At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter whether Rokita is as loony as he seems (a la Marjorie Taylor Greene et al), or just pursuing what he considers to be a savvy strategy of appealing to uninformed and loony voters. He’s a prime example of everything that’s wrong with contemporary American politics.
He is “the Red Scare.”