Becky Garrison: Over at Killing the Buddha, Garrett Baer addresses the current controversy over Park51 by raising the question, “at what time in American history have particular groups not been the subject of bigotry? He reminds us that “The Tea Party, of course, is defending American values, as are the Minute Men, as was the John Birch Society, as was Joe McCarthy’s Cold War witchhunt, as were the opponents of FDR, who insisted that he was a Jew and called him ‘Jewsevelt.’”

Merriam-Webster defines McCarthyism as “a mid-20th century political attitude characterized chiefly by opposition to elements held to be subversive and by the use of tactics involving personal attacks on individuals by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges.”

Given this current climate, is it correct to state that the United States has entered into an era of New McCarthyism? Is there a correlation between Senator Joseph McCarthy‘s (R-Wis.) unsubstantiated claims that hundreds of Americans — such as Arthur Miller, Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, Lena Horne, Leonard Bernstein, and Charlie Chaplin — were Communists who had infiltrated the U.S. government bear any resemblance to the current Islamaphobia expressed by Beck and Palin as they try to exploit post 9/11 fears into mounting a tea party movement? People for the American Way, and  The Progressive answer this in the affirmative, while Reason begs to differ.

The question remains:  are enough voters in on the joke that they realize Beck-Palin are performance artists who have perfected a schtick designed to attract a disenfranchised demographic into buying whatever they’re selling?