In the run-up to World War II, when FDR was locked in a political struggle with his conservative Republican opponents, Roosevelt’s “brain trust” came up with a scheme to win the war of ideas and get rid of the President’s bothersome critics. Today, we call it the “Brown Scare.”
It was a campaign of vilification and smearmongering unprecedented in American history, one that mobilized the mass media and law enforcement to target, malign, and neutralize conservatives as “extremists,” Nazis, and seditionists who didn’t want merely to roll back the New Deal and keep us out of war, but to overthrow the government.
There were a few genuine extremists in the ranks of the anti-Roosevelt opposition, but they were without much influence. The Rooseveltian technique was to magnify their importance and focus on their alleged links to the more mainstream critics of the New Deal—to tie in Nazi sympathizers and other oddballs with conservative organizations, such as the America First Committee, and denounce them as all part of the same “plot against America,” as the title of one smear book put it.
We are witnessing the same technique being used by the left to neutralize the grassroots populist movement known as the Tea Party. When a madman gunned down U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), the bodies were still warm on the ground when a veritable tsunami of media...