Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Age of Anxiety: McCarthyism to Terrorism: Haynes Johnson (Harcourt paperback, 2006). In the wake of the recent elections, some casual commentators suggest the political worm has turned, that the descent toward neo-fascism has been diverted. Indeed many of the forty thieves are unseated, indicted or in a few satisfying instances, locked up in prison. Yet, most of the worst of them are still around. Right-wing power holds fast. Arguably the two most important branches of the government remain in the hands of the Republicans. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is effectively de-fanged. The Age of Anxiety shows we have been here before, and how we survived and defeated the American proto-fascists the last time around. Haynes Johnson is hardly a newcomer to historical journalism. He made his mark as a journalist covering the civil rights movement, specifically the Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965. Since then he has published more than a dozen books on subjects ranging from the Bay of Pigs to Clinton’s aborted health care initiative. Nevertheless, most of his previous efforts have not been as opinion laden as this latest excellent effort. The Age of Anxiety is Johnson’s philosophical masterwork, and yet it remains firmly based in journalism. He knows how to tell a story, and with great care he retells the story of Joseph McCarthy and his demagogic rise to power and his rapid shameful fall. Recently some revisionists have attempted to revamp McCarthy’s pitiful image, but Johnson shows how misguided such fanatics really are, despite the fact that these revisionists are the current vanguard of what remains of the party of Lincoln. Johnson’s historical analysis was one of the crucial works of 2005. Now it is finally available in this more affordable, easier to handle paperback format.


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