Hyman's ACLU Smears 1
Say what you will about Joseph McCarthy, but at least when he practiced red-baiting, he limited himself to attacking those people who were alive at the time.
The same cannot be said of Mark Hyman who, in his most recent editorial, begins his weeklong attack on the ACLU by charging that one of its founders, Roger Baldwin, was a communist. That Baldwin has been dead for a quarter century and stepped down from his official post at the ACLU in 1950 doesn’t stop Hyman from insinuating that today’s ACLU is somehow tainted by Baldwin’s politics.
The obvious fallacy here is that there’s no logical connection between the politics of one of an organization’s founders and its current politics. It’s a case of both ad hominem and transfer fallacies being combined into a clumsy, patently absurd claim. If one actually believed the ACLU is a communist organization (the tacit accusation made by Hyman), the obvious way to prove the point would be to point to policies or actions taken in recent times by the ACLU that suggest communist leanings. The fact that he must exhume poor Mr. Baldwin to conduct this smear is proof in and of itself that Hyman has no evidence to back up his claim.
But it gets even worse. Hyman’s argument is invalid even if one grants that his premise (Baldwin was an unrepentant Red) was true. But it’s not. While Hyman does everything in his power to suggest that Baldwin’s political beliefs were radical, uniform, and unchanging, the facts contradict him.
Baldwin did indeed have communist sympathies in the 1920s and 1930s (not terribly unusual during the Depression Era). However, the Soviet pact with Nazi Germany 1939 did away with that. In fact, Baldwin wrote an entire book, A New Slavery, about the evils of Soviet totalitarianism, calling the political climate in the U.S.S. R. “inhuman communist police state tyranny.” Such virulent anti Soviet rhetoric is practically Gipper-esqe. For Baldwin, communism was no better than fascism; both threatened the essential freedoms he felt were the birthright of all individuals.
So strongly did Baldwin feel that, in a controversial move, he actively sought to rid the ACLU of communist members and ban them from any leadership roles in the organization. Hyman doesn’t tell you that because the facts don’t happen to coincide with the myth he’s spinning.
Hardly a subversive, Baldwin was invited by General Douglas MacArthur to help foster a sense of civil liberties in postwar Japan. Baldwin even apparently was on friendly terms with J. Edgar Hoover, despite the fact that the FBI director had the organization maintain its file on Baldwin.
So, Hyman’s argument is invalid given its premises, and its major premise is itself demonstrably false. On top of all that, in a post Cold War era, does anyone truly believe that organized communism is a threat to America? Nope. Not even Hyman does. Rather, communism is simply a “Devil term” used in association with a group Hyman doesn’t like. Because he can’t argue his case on its merits, he resorts to name calling.
Not that there isn’t a threat that America might be led down a path that resembles Soviet-style totalitarianism. True, communism as a political/economic philosophy is a non-starter, but the tactics used by communist governments still exist. Government spying on citizens, pathological secrecy, rewriting history to avoid political embarrassment, trumping up of evidence in order to launch preemptive military action in an effort to force other countries to adopt a particular style of government, the jailing of citizens without charges, the use of torture, suppressing dissent, equating political opposition to disloyalty to the country, election fraud, and the use of empty patriotic sloganeering are all hallmarks of communist totalitarianism that still represent a threat to democracy.
The ACLU actively works to protect people from all of these. Hyman champions an administration that actively engages in all of these.
So who’s more of a threat to our democracy?
And that’s The Counterpoint.
Hyman Index: 3.51