“Every revolutionary ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic.” – Albert Camus
“Every pseudo-revolutionary ends by becoming Jack McCarthy.” – Michael L. Calderon
Jack McCarthy has been a fixture within the Tallahassee leftist community for more than a quarter century. A two-bit peddler of radical agitprop, this Florida State University grad, former writer for the now defunct independent paper The Florida Flambeau, and professional cling-on campus communist now writes for Counterpunch.org, the vile online journal of the unapologetic Stalinist Alexander Cockburn. Jack McCarthy may well be the most amateurish, psychologically ill-sounding, and patently offensive writer this side of Joseph Goebbels’ ashes. A Goggle search on Jack McCarthy in Counterpunch reveals an endless list of published articles that are marked by one distinguished feature: A Titanic-sized dung heap of invective. He is Alexander Cockburn’s hit man in Tallahassee, Florida. His penchant for debasing and destroying is not based on reasoned intellectual dissent but rather envy and the inability to compete. McCarthy’s legacy, if one may call it that, is one of hatred, based on pure resentment. One need only sample a few of his more stellar “commentaries.”
A veritable treasure trove of leftist conspiracy theories, vile personal attacks on opponents, and depictions of “America as genocidal monster,” McCarthy’s screeds are an excess of communist drivel that will forever assure his marginalization in journalism. Perhaps none of his often hysterical drivel reveals such utter implosion the way his scatological rant of October 22, 2002 did against Christopher Hitchens. Letter to a Lying, Self-Serving, Fat-Assed, Chain Smoking, Drunken, Opportunistic, Cynical Contrarian (AKA C. Hitchens) the mildly chubby, one-time chain-smoking, rotten-tooth McCarthy began his assault on his one-time idol:
“Hitchens, you fucking fat-assed drunken slut.
You lying sack of shit.
Sir, have you no sense of personal integrity whatsoever?
Mother Theresa might have been in the "Missionary Position," but you are taking it every which way from people who make poor old Charles Keating look like Kris Kringle.
But I digress--already.…”
Any dime-store psychologist, once informed that Jack McCarthy had a previous bout with alcoholism, could peg this as projection faster than Jack could fill out another unemployment form. And Jack’s obsession with Mr. Hitchens’ alleged boozing is found in more than just one Counterpunch screed:
“I'll Drink to That…Dry drunk Bush's wet drunk apologist Christopher Hitchens announces startling health discovery in Vanity Fair magazine: Drinking like there's no tomorrow and smoking until your teeth and fingers turn jaundice yellow is actually good for your health!
But seriously, oh fellow Hitchens hating Counterpunchers everywhere, enjoy a good and healthy laugh -- at Hitchens's expense and read this unintentionally hilarious piece which should have been titled, ‘Confessions of A Functional Alcoholic’….”
I attended Florida State University and lived and worked in Tallahassee from 1983 to 1992. I had the displeasure of meeting Jack McCarthy on several occasions. There were two indelible impressions McCarthy made on those that either read his work or met him: His obsessive use of personal attacks in his columns – he once referred to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as “a hairy ape” and likened one-time Florida governor Edward Martinez to Dracula — and his strikingly unremarkable features. McCarthy’s homeliness and disheveled appearance suggest the true motive of his ad hominem approach to his subjects: self-loathing projection and a life spent on unrealized journalistic ambitions.
Jack came to Tallahassee from Boston around 1979 or 1980, and quickly perpetuated the stereotype of the imbibing Irishman with his own exploits of liquefied manhood, consuming many a rounds of hard liquor. His first contribution to the Tallahassee leftist community was to promote the Irish Republican Army and introduce Gerry Adams’ Sinn Fein to the gullible students and cowardly administrators that went to great lengths to appease the campus Left. Readers might recall the Irish Hunger Strikers, Bobby Sands, et. al. He parlayed those leftist “revolutionary” commitments into journalism, beginning early on in the 1980s with a writing stint at The Florida Flambeau.
A former director of the FSU student-funded, campus-based far-Left organization, Center for Participant Education (CPE), writer for The Florida Flambeau, member of various organizations, and throughout the 1980s an often-seen presence in the university library or local university eateries and pubs, McCarthy never to my knowledge actually pursued advanced academic work, married, began a family, owned a dwelling, or held a job that required analytical acumen or a high level of skill. Nothing requires anyone to engage in each of these enterprises, but a person’s decision to reject all is rather rare and perhaps telling. McCarthy spent the 1980s living in a small one-bedroom apartment or as a boarder living with friends. Reports from friends that recently visited Tallahassee indicate McCarthy working at Dubey’s and Barnes and Noble Bookstores, respectively.
Jack McCarthy is a member of what Ronald Radosh refers to as the “Leftover Left.” McCarthy belongs to that generation of 1960s/1970s activists who, having watched their revolutionary movements dissipate into squabbling sectarian cults reinvented themselves to make sure a radical negative dissent would always and forever be heard from their quarters. He is an entirely marginal figure, showing up bedraggled at various university functions, and spending considerable amounts of time merely attached to a university, but never attending its classes. McCarthy’s revolution has passed him by, but he remained attached to the location of its anticipated realization, nevertheless. His reportage and columns for the Flambeau came to an abrupt end when, having finally tired of its utterly predictable leftist-bias, the FSU English department and the Flambeau’s Board of Directors led by the late Professor Jerome Stern, fired the leftist staff. By January 1998, the independent paper shut was down entirely, after having accumulated a $150,000.00 debt.
The Florida Flambeau and the unfortunately still viable Center for Participant Education (CPE) provided the daily newspaper and campus-based left-wing student-run, student-government funded agencies, respectively, by which the Left at Florida State University held a nearly uncontested position as campus and community purveyor of Leftist speakers, films, and protest movements. The Florida Flambeau had attained independence from the university by earning a non-profit 501c(3) corporate status, and its official motto, appearing on the masthead of each issue — “To afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted” — was injected into the daily coverage of news events. More to the point, the pseudo-revolutionaries running CPE had a ready-made mouthpiece in the Flambeau, and in their mutual orchestrations, first brought to campus and then covered in adulatory propagandistic prose, the “news story” the following day.
Throughout the 1980s both CPE and the Flambeau were established leftist bastions, and like many other campuses, Ivy League and otherwise, students found themselves “learning” from semester to semester about the monstrous crimes of the United States, its imperialist, racist, and classist nature. At the same time one would learn about the heroic innocence and nobility of the Marxist-Leninist vanguard in Latin America; the massive victimization of vast sectors of the U.S. “proletariat”; the raping and pillaging of the earth by an insatiable military-industrial complex. One could attend on-campus speeches by Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Daniel Ellsberg, Amiri Baraka. Jesse Jackson, Paul Findley, Ramsey Clark, Abbie Hoffman, Dick Gregory, Ralph Nader, the all-too-familiar and readily-available stock-in-trade of anti-American speakers lined up for use on the college lecture circuit.
To my knowledge, having lost his safe-haven at the Flambeau Jack McCarthy never entered the employ of any significant news organization. An utterly marginal figure, a university “cling-on” whose principal accomplishments remained unknown except to the converts who shared his views, is the most that be made of McCarthy’s claim to authority. His is a rather pitiful story of a man whose principal contribution has been to damn a system he never mastered and condemn a way of life that he somehow could never negotiate. Jack’s career has been one akin to taking a sledge-hammer to a car that he could never build, or afford. Little then prepared this feeble man for the shock wave that occurred when many leftists broke ranks in the aftermath of September 11.
Jack had always fancied himself a cross between Alexander Cockburn and Christopher Hitchens while writing for The Flambeau. So imagine the heartbreak when Hitchens became “the god that failed” by first leaving The Nation, and then breaking ranks with the Left over the War on (Islamist) Terrorism and Iraq. Practically every shot McCarthy took at Hitchens must have been fired in a house of mirrors. Jack wrote of his once beloved writer:
“Perhaps you think your readers also wake up swigging Johnny Walker? What a joke. What an insult to your reader's intelligence. Were you serious? Or just drunk again?
But I digress. Let us return to your silly, sorry posturing on Iraq and the Left in the Sunday Washington post [sic]. Boy, you must have been sloshed when you wrote this. I mean this is pink elephant shit….”
You know that old saw, right Jack? It takes one to know one. Why such an intense focus on another journalist’s alleged drinking? In the case of McCarthy’s rabid hatred for Hitchens, it is the only possible explanation to his failed god, the progressive, Marxist-inspired socialist revolution that has yet to triumph anywhere, much less even ferment in Tallahassee.
Whether he is writing such elegant lines like those cited above or this beauty, “Where Were You When Reagan Croaked?” Counterpunch.org’s sophomoric scribbler cannot run away from his loathsome self. Isolated in Tallahassee (pop. 520,000), stuck in mediocre, low-income jobs that offer little status and opportunity for advancement; afflicted by a dwindling circle of friends among his college contemporaries who have by and large moved on to meaningful careers, families, and a level-headed maturity; ensconced in the comforting womb of Tallahassee’s inverted reality-dwelling “progressive community”; Jack McCarthy is the poster child for an infantile left-wing movement of true believers that have never shed their diapers.