Joe “I have here in my hand” McCarthy Meets his Match at Harvard

When it’s time to shove social theory down the throat of people, things get tough:

Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana held what was promoted as a run-of-the-mill meeting to ensure the groups were aware of the latest school policies on alcohol and sexual assault, but the meeting quickly took another direction, according to the lawsuit reported by the Harvard Crimson.

The suit alleges that, at the meeting, Khurana waved a sheet of paper in the air that he said contained accounts of sexual assault: “Khurana said that the papers in his hand were very embarrassing to the clubs and that he could not guarantee that they would not be leaked. But, Khurana said, if some clubs became co-ed — systematically and soon — that would help the situation. It was an unmistakable threat.”

That, to me at least, echoes the speech that really launched Joe McCarthy into national prominence.  Speaking at a Republican Women’s Club (a single-sex organisation!) in Wheeling, WV, he made this statement:

I have here in my hand a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.

There’s been a great deal of discussion of the exact number on McCarthy’s list, or whether it was a laundry list he was using as a prop.  It would be interesting to call Khurana’s bluff and see whether his list was genuine.  But bullying and intimidation is what the two speeches have in common, and in both cases it worked.  For a while, at least…let’s hope that the fall of Khurana and his ilk is as spectacular as Joe McCarthy, their MO is the same.

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