The Real “Red Scare”

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.

Yeah, comparatively…

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.”


  1. Can we compare the national governmental situation today as an escalated version of the Joe McCarthy Hearings and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee? But will the right (correct) people ever see the inside of prisons?

    “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.”

  2. Ha, you speak of overweening ambition and mental illness as if they’re two different things when the former is clearly an indication of narcissistic personality disorder.

    Also, the correct spelling of his name is RoQita.

    Have a great weekend!

  3. This reminded me of a recent opinion piece by Ezra Klein, that showed how in order to show obeisance to a dictator or autocrat by ever-increasing acts of absurdity and self-humiliation. Todd Rokita, the “embarrassing buffoon”, fits the bill.
    Every time he opens his mouth he reduces the amount of intelligence in the room.

  4. We have the same problem here in Florida, with our governor who would is trying to prevent the public schools from mandating the wearing of masks this Fall. He seems to be afraid that if people are scared of this potentially fatal disease, they might not think that he did a good job in avoiding the worst aspects of the pandemic – which he did not do. So he puts less weight on the health of students than on the effects of the masks on the influx of tourists. After all, no one did anything about guns after the mass shooting at the Margorie Stoneman Douglas school here, so why worry about a few kids dying from a preventable disease?

  5. Isn’t it fair to add “overweening ambition” to the chart for mental illness?

    Yes, Indiana is just another turd in the political punchbowl these days. Even here in Colorado – which saw something along the lines of a 15% population spike since 2010 – the divisions among voters is stark and doesn’t seem to be doing anything except getting wider. In Denver county, the votes go over 80% blue, but in El Paso country, just 70 miles south, it’s virtually the opposite. Then there is the third district covering the western slope of the Rockies and Pueblo… That’s Boebert country and little else needs to be said about delusion politics.

    So, Hoosiers, don’t feel like your experiencing a red tide of disinformation and “overweening” anything by yourselves. Politically speaking, this is where I say I’m glad I’m old, because I don’t see this situation getting any better during the few years I have left. My messages will be read in my books.

  6. Pascal Peter deCaprariis’s observations about Florida’s governor are right, and Florida politics seems so entrenched that I acrimonious treacle that I despair of anything good coming out of Florida. Indianans, you aren’t alone, although that is no consolation.

  7. The irony is we love China because they produce cheap goods for our consumption, especially at our beloved Walmart. Not to mention they are our largest producer of bacon which Hoosiers love so much.

    Maybe we should learn more about China, instead of less. Instead of teaching French and German, our options should be Spanish and Mandarin.

    I think Vladimir’s assessment of the USA was accurate, “Pride does cometh before the fall.” However, we aren’t limping over the cliff — we are running at full speed.

  8. Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War and in this classic literature of China he states that to defeat your enemy, you must understand your enemy. What these classes are doing is helping young Americans understand China’s history and culture. This is essential if the U.S. wants to compete effectively with China on the global stage. Perhaps someone should send this to our AG to help him let go of his inappropriate ideas.

    De Santis is just another version of Trump. He is arguing that parents should decide if their kids wear a mask or not. Well, what decent parent would not want their child to wear a mask in school now that the very contagious Delta variant is running rampant? Some parents, however, are anti-vaxxers. They endanger not only themselves but also their kids. The GOP argues about states’ rights as one of their basic arguments. The local government should not be undermined by the state government when they are trying to protect their children from a deadly disease. Instead of federal over reach, we have state over reach.

    Perhaps we should send the AG a copy of Sun Tzu’s book. I am certain the principles would apply to competition in a free market. He needs to be informed that this book was written before the Chinese government became Communist and that he might want to forward a copy to Gov. Holcomb so that if Holcomb wants Indiana to compete with China, these war strategies might help. Volunteers ?

  9. The only hope for the country is that extreme Republican politicians will die out before they take over. Apparently, they feel that until then more extreme is better for the party. They can’t possibly be right, can they?

  10. The extreme GOP politicians are paid by bizarro Robber Barons to attract enough of their base to get the votes to stay in power. Period.

    What they’ve been doing the last several months and years will all come into sight soon enough and the Democratic Party has done nothing to stop it. Right now, it’s too blurry…

  11. Rokita’s actions are totally performative. He’s trying to lock up the Trump base before the 2024 gubernatorial primary. That will keep someone like Senator Braun from entering the race.

    Of course if Rokita actually gets the nomination, Democrats can easily win the Governor’s race. That is assuming they can come up with a strong candidate, unlike last time. Indiana has become less Republican in recent years. Rural counties in Indiana have become more Republican but that is more than offset by the more populated counties switching toward the Democrats, which has accelerated during the Trump era.

    The biggest change is in Hamilton County which now has a baseline of about 55% R and 45% D. When you look at HC’s cities, they are even closer. Democrats are close to even in HC’s cities Carmel, Fishers and Westfield. The biggest problem for D’s in HC is a lack of infrastructure for the Democratic Party there and the lack of quality candidates.

    Unlike Gov. Holcomb, Rokita won’t have an appeal to many GOP-leaning suburbanites who don’t like Trump candidates.

  12. Hey, Hoosiers! As the Floridians have pointed out. You are definitely not alone in the bizzarro world of “esteemed” Trumpite Republicans trying to out-Trump Trump.

    In addition to Florida, don’t forget “Clown Show” Arizona and its Cyber Ninjas lunatic recount!

    The long awaited and anticipated Cyber Nijas’ report is expected to come out any day now, which will undoubtedly be greeted with great fanfare by Faux News and other “conservative” media. By all leaked reports, it will prove — definitively and absolutely — that Trump won the election in Arizona.

    Turns out, the Cyber Ninjas discovered it was the tens of thousands fraudulent “bamboo paper” ballots for Biden the Chinese somehow managed to sneak into Maricopa County and get counted (Somewhat oddly, the Chinese didn’t bother to flip the down ballot races to the Democratic candidates). But it was also those Dominion voting machines that were programmed by Hugo Chavez to flip votes to Biden. Or it was (insert whatever totally crazy conspiracy theory you like here).

    Meanwhile, our Governor “Doocee,” like DeSantis and other Repub Governors, and our Republican Legislature have ordered and passed laws prohibiting schools, universities, and local governments from requiring masks, testing for Covid, or requiring proof of vaccination.

  13. With appreciation to Sheila for posting a report on findings after extensive objective evaluation of Confucius Institutes around the nation, there is no evidence CI’s are designed to spread Communist propaganda. Our AG will have to go to another source to find evidence to support his insinuations and criticism of Valparaiso University. Our AG might as well accuse the US Army Reserve Civil Affairs Division for sponsoring teaching of Communist propaganda as part of its counter insurgency training. OR worse yet, accuse me of promoting Communist propaganda with prominent display of a garden statue of Confucius underneath a Japanese Magnolia in my front yard.

  14. I would have liked to believe that “red baiting” would have ended with the cold war, but I would have been wrong.

    “Red Scare” for Rokita is cute, and accurate, but sadly, the GOP has the trademark on “red”, “pink”, and all similar labels.

    I would like to agree with Paul, but I think he underestimates the power of GOP “red baiting” – In the last congressional election, I learned that Kiwanis is a hot bed of “socialism/communism” — at least that’s the opinion among an awful lot of people in Hamilton County.

    Unlike the Confucius Institutes, I had a real “commie” professor when in my university days. As he told it, he was a Calvinist preacher giving a sermon when one day he thought “I don’t believe this [word like balderdash]” – he returned to a state university to study political science and became an avowed Marxist. I liked him and he was an interesting teacher, also very popular, but somehow any attempt at indoctrination failed.

    I want to take a moment to agree with Todd. I have long believed that we should teach Spanish to everyone at an early age. I have read that learning a second language early in life makes it easier to learn other languages later on. Mandarin would be a great third language to learn. There is no reason that this “melting pot” country couldn’t create a ton of polyglots.

  15. Confucius lived a couple of thousand years before the emergence of Communism in Russia and China and supported the Golden Rule and many other values promoted in American houses of worship. We could do a lot worse than studying his example.

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