So why the continuing lies? The reason is this: The truth is too embarrassing. Imagine what it would be like for Betty Friedan (the name actually is Friedman) to admit that as a Jew she opposed America’s entry into the war against Hitler because Stalin told her that it was just an inter-imperialist fracas? Imagine what it would be like for America’s premier feminist to acknowledge that well into her 30s she thought Stalin was the Father of the Peoples, and that the United States was an evil empire, and that her interest in women’s liberation was just a subtext of her real desire to create a Soviet America. No, those kinds of revelations don’t help a person who is concerned about her public image.
Which is why it probably has seemed better just to lie about this all these years. The problem, however, is that lying can’t be contained. It begets other lies, and eventually becomes a whole way of life, as President Clinton could tell you. One of the lies that the denial of one’s Communist past begets is an exaggerated view of McCarthyism. Fear of McCarthyism becomes an excuse that explains everything. That McCarthyism was some gigantic “reign of terror” (to use Carl Bernstein’s sappy analogy), as though thousands lost their freedom and hundreds their lives while the country itself remained paralyzed with fear for a decade is simply not true. McCarthy’s personal reign lasted but a year a half, until Democrats took control of his committee. Being an accused Communist on an American college campus in the ’50s, moreover, was only marginally more damaging to one’s career opportunities than the accusation of being a member of the Christian Right would be on today’s politically correct campus, dominated as it now is by the tenured left. Bad enough, but reign of terror, no.
– Feminist Icon Debunked, January 19, 1999
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