This is clipped from Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition by Griffin Fariello (1995). I often catch myself saying that the American public has been “dumbed down,” but know better. It’s always been like this. Public opinion is never anything more than a reflection of leaders and the media.
In 1954, Samuel Stouffer of Harvard University attempted to measure the breadth of [American] thought with a national poll. His finding revealed that 73 percent of the respondents would turn in their neighbors or acquaintances “whom they suspected of being Communists.” Seventy-seven percent of those polled wanted to strip admitted Communists of their citizenship, while 51 percent were in favor of imprisoning them.
Yet only 3 percent of Mr. Stouffer’s respondents had ever met an admitted Communist, even though 10 percent harbored suspicions about certain acquaintances. “He was always talking about world peace,” responded a housewife from Oregon. “I saw a map of Russia on the wall in his home,” said a locomotive engineer from Michigan. “I just knew. But I wouldn’t know how to say I knew’” said a Kansas farmer. “She had more money to spend and places to go than seems right,” reasoned a woman from Iowa. “He had a foreign camera and took so many pictures of the large New York bridges,” said another housewife from New York.
Nevertheless, these statistics may well reflect the shallow roots of the Red Scare, measuring only the uncritical ease with which many Americans take on the attitudes evinced by politicians and the media. For when asked, “What kinds of things worry you most?” 80 percent responded in terms of personal or family problems, with the largest block expressing concern over business and economic problems – less than 1 percent worried about the threat of Communists in the United States. In fact, 30 percent of Stouffer’s sample could not even identify Senator McCarty.[emphasis added]
The purpose of 9/11 was merely to take the above attitudes and superimpose the word “Terrorist” over “Communist.” The United States is military aggressor state and needs an overarching source of evil to justify our attacks, subversion and terror. The collapse of the Soviet Union caught Washington by surprise, as they weren’t even paying attention to this supposed Evil Empire. They were floundering, desperately in search of enemies. (I even remember reading an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in the early 90′s speaking of Libyans in the same tone once reserved for the Soviets.) The “Drug War” was a similar cover, but did not inspire the fear and loathing as evinced by Stouffer above. Something better was needed.
Terrorism works. After 9/11 there was surely to be heard a clicking of champagne glasses in the Pentagon, along with the toast, “Gentlemen, we’re in business again.”