Recently, the GOP has availed itself of FOIA laws to demand emails from academics they suspect of being involved in the Wisconsin and Michigan protests. While they are probably legally entitled to do so, why would they choose to go after academics, none of whom had any visible role in the protests?
Paul Krugman weighs in, emphasis mine:
Recently William Cronon, a historian who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, decided to weigh in on his state's political turmoil. He started a blog, ''Scholar as Citizen,'' devoting his first post to the role of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC] in pushing hard-line conservative legislation at the state level. Then he published an opinion piece in The Times, suggesting that Wisconsin's Republican governor has turned his back on the state's long tradition of ''neighborliness, decency and mutual respect.''
So what was the G.O.P.'s response? A demand for copies of all e-mails sent to or from Mr. Cronon's university mail account containing any of a wide range of terms, including the word ''Republican'' and the names of a number of Republican politicians.
If this action strikes you as no big deal, you're missing the point. The hard right -- which these days is more or less synonymous with the Republican Party -- has a modus operandi when it comes to scholars expressing views it dislikes: never mind the substance, go for the smear. And that demand for copies of e-mails is obviously motivated by no more than a hope that it will provide something, anything, that can be used to subject Mr. Cronon to the usual treatment.
The Cronon affair, then, is one more indicator of just how reflexively vindictive, how un-American, one of our two great political parties has become.
As to what Republicans are looking for, if you didn’t already know, Krugman has the answer:
The demand for Mr. Cronon's correspondence has obvious parallels with the ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records.
Back in 2009 climate skeptics got hold of more than a thousand e-mails between researchers at the Climate Research Unit at Britain's University of East Anglia. Nothing in the correspondence suggested any kind of scientific impropriety; at most, we learned -- I know this will shock you -- that scientists are human beings, who occasionally say snide things about people they dislike.
But that didn't stop the usual suspects from proclaiming that they had uncovered ''Climategate,'' a scientific scandal that somehow invalidates the vast array of evidence for man-made climate change. And this fake scandal gives an indication of what the Wisconsin G.O.P. presumably hopes to do to Mr. Cronon.
I have to confess…it never occurred to me that they were trying to create another fake scandal via the same tactics they employed in Climategate.
Krugman goes on to make a really important point about the end result of these Republican witch hunts:
Legally, Republicans may be within their rights: Wisconsin's open records law provides public access to e-mails of government employees, although the law was clearly intended to apply to state officials, not university professors. But there's a clear chilling effect when scholars know that they may face witch hunts whenever they say things the G.O.P. doesn't like.
Okay. Clearly, the GOP is practicing the modern version of McCarthyism in order to shut down support for policies they don’t like. If they are allowed to get away with it, what or who is next?