The Guardian

The Guardian October 11, 2000


Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

Communist puppets

If you thought invoking the "Red Menace" was an old-fashioned Cold War 
relic that had probably been consigned to the scrap-heap of history, think 
again. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania State 
Police recently used it to justify a raid on activists protesting against 
the Republican Party convention.

The demonstrators were protesting against the Republicans' attacks on 
welfare recipients, jobs, democratic rights, affirmative action and more.

They were objecting to vastly increased military spending and handouts of 
great gobs of money to large corporations (derisively labelled "corporate 
welfare", the only welfare the Republicans wholeheartedly support).

Apparently these were deemed insufficient reasons as far as the 
Pennsylvania troopers were concerned: there just had to be something more. 
So they dug into their old files and (probably filed under "M" for 
McCarthyism) they found something that had stood their forebears in good 
stead: the Red smear.

"In state police affidavits justifying [the] raid ... troopers alleged that 
communists were behind the demonstrations", reported the Inquirer. 
Not only that, they even resurrected the spectre of the notorious "Moscow 
gold".

According to the affidavits: "Funds allegedly originate with Communist and 
leftist parties and from sympathetic trade unions. Other funds reportedly 
come from the former Soviet-allied World Federation of Trade Unions."

The WFTU is headquartered in Prague, so I suppose that strictly speaking 
that makes it "Prague gold", but the smear remains the same: honest 
Americans wouldn't protest outside a Presidential convention unless they 
were stirred up by foreign agents.

Actually, there was intrigue and conspiracy, but it was on the part of the 
right wing.

Apparently the red-baiting allegations came to the police from the Maldon 
Institute, an ultra-reactionary private organisation funded by 
multimillionaire banker Richard Mellon Scaife, who probably thinks 
Clinton is a red agent.

Scaife became well known in recent years by providing the financial support 
for several private investigations of Clinton.

Other leading figures in the Maldon Institute include Florida televangelist 
D James Kennedy, a co-founder of the Reverend Jerry Falwell's Moral 
Majority.

Also involved with it is Robert Moss, a journalist and novelist so 
suspicious of "liberal influence in the media" that in the 1980s he claimed 
the KGB was "using Western media to manipulate public opinion".

That must have been a nasty shock to Rupert Murdoch who surely would have 
assumed that he was using it to manipulate public opinion!

Moss's view of the media is one that John Howard and the Libs would have 
shared, at least as far as the ABC was concerned!

The shadowy Maldon Institute makes a habit of providing "intelligence 
information" to police departments about "left-wing radicals".

The director of the Maldon Institute is John H Rees, a British-born 
contributor to the notorious ultra-right John Birch Society and publisher 
of a newsletter devoted to "exposing" terrorist and left-wing groups.

According to a spokesman for the Pennsylvania state police: "We have found 
in the past that the Maldon Institute generally presents reliable 
information."

The Maldon Institute's "reliable information" was not all the police relied 
on: some of their officers had courageously "infiltrated" the protesters 
and had participated in the activities at the warehouse they subsequently 
raided.

"Known as `the puppet warehouse', police called it a centre of illegal 
activity", wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"Activists said it was a workshop in which they made more than 100 puppets 
and a large satirical float, Corpzilla."

The police infiltrators took part in workshops on first aid and puppet 
making, decided the activists were "dangerous" and raided the warehouse. 
Seventy-five people were arrested.

It may sound a bit silly, but actually red baiting has never ceased in the 
US. If anything, it's bigger than ever.

The religious right and the Republican right and the corporate right have 
numerous organisations that "track" left-wing groups.

These private spies produce newsletters circulated to right-wing groups, 
government agencies, the FBI and police forces, and selected journalists.

They see vast communist conspiracies wherever people stand up for their 
rights against the new world order of the transnational corporations.

Their view of the world is shared, to greater or lesser extent, by right-
wing politicians everywhere. So don't be surprised when our local pollies 
start talking about communist influence/agents/subversion.

* * *
Parasites afloat
Did you see the fawning TV coverage of the opulent yachts that the super rich brought into the harbour to house them in luxury during the Olympics? They were all berthed at the same marina, built specially for the super rich and equipped with a really high-priced jewellery store and an extra-posh restaurant. While the homeless of Sydney were being hustled away lest they blemish our image, TV honcho Reg Grundy turned up in a yacht costing just under $100 million and with a crew of 24 to look after his every need. Grundy bought the yacht, and all his other residences, cars, businesses, etc, with the profits from producing and syndicating lowest-common- denominator TV gameshows. Mind you, the idea of someone becoming filthy rich by spreading crap television all over the world does rather encapsulate capitalism and culture, doesn't it?

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