BLOG: McCarthyism Revived

From March 1, 1953, “McCarthy and McCarthyism”

It was the hope of many last fall that Joseph McCarthy would not be re-elected to the Senate of the United States. Sharing this hope were Republicans as well as Democrats… and included were some who had given support and early approval to McCarthy’s initial election to the Senate in 1946 and had been quickly disillusioned. In his first term of office, McCathy had established a record of brazen disregard for truth, vicious character assassination and unethical practice. The hopes for his defeat were dashed in November when he was re-elected to office on a general wave of Republican unity and by a typical McCarthy campaign of blasting all opposition as being communist inspired or controlled.

There are some who would prefer to ignore McCarthy as a distasteful spectacle upon the American scene. Someone asked me the other day, ‘why lavish attention on McCarthy when there are so many decent people who are worthy of consideration?’ Well for one thing, because it grows increasingly difficult to ignore a demagogue whose charges spread everywhere, and because ignoring McCarthy at this stage of the game does not remove him from his position of influence any more than ignoring disease removes it, or the past attempt to ignore Hitler made Hitlerism any less real.

Peter Viereck, in a recent book “Shame and Glory of the Intellectuals,” says that “every balloon ogre looks terrifyingly enormous until the right person pops it.”  Maybe so. But as yet no one has succeeded in popping the balloon ogre named Joseph McCarthy.

McCarthy has become the symbol for America cast adrift from democratic moorings, blown by the wind of intimidation, lost in a fog of fear, and moving toward reefs that threaten the destruction of many once-prized values. Today McCarthy is a power more dangerous and ruthless than ever before. He has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.

… What he is doing is playing into the hands of communism by undermining morale at home and making us appear more frightened and foolish than we can afford to appear in the eyes of the world.

McCarthyism in the person of Joseph McCarthy is a combination of brazen arrogance, insatiable ambition, the exercise of the big lie and the multiple untruth.


From 1961, “McCarthyism Revived”

When Senator Joseph McCarthy, from our neighboring state of Wisconsin, finally went into decline, after censure proceedings in the Senate, and not long afterwards passed from the earthly and political scene, there was a wide-spread sigh of relief. For a decade and more, he had ridden rough-shod, not only over the common decencies of life, but over legal procedures and Constitutional safeguards; and had bullied into silence, if not submission, a considerable part of the population.

There is an element of demogogy ever present in our politics because in our somewhat open political framework there is the felt freedom of any politician to be in H.L. Mencken’s phrase ” the pumper-up of popular fears and rages.”

It was too much to hope or believe that with the decline and physical disappearance of McCarthy, that McCarthyism had completely come to an end.

We have the growing crises of the present moment: Berlin and Red China, nuclear tests, desegregation, a struggling United Nations — all of which creates worry and concern, but fortifies those who presume to righteous simple answers. If no one else knows what to do or where to go, at least they can speak with certainty and they can denounce and they can say what to do.

… Almost completely ignored and certainly not publicized by Goldwater, Thurmond, and Mundt was the finding of a House investigating committee last year that 762 former top-ranking military officers were currently employed by the county’s 100 leading defense contractors. And likewise not emphasized was the fact that President Eisenhower in his talk to the nation in January very unexpectedly but very bluntly warned of the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” and went on to say “we must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”

… In a recent commentary article, Alan Westin, associate professor of Public Law and Government at Columbia University, lists characteristics of the fundamentalists — whether left or right.

  • “They assume that there are always solutions capable of producing international victories and of resolving our social problems, and when such solutions are not found they attribute the failure to conspiracies led by evil men and their dupes.”
  • They refuse to believe in the integrity… of those who lead the dominant social [undecipherable] — the unions, the churches, elements of the business community] and declare that the American “establishment” has become part of the conspiracy.
  • They reject the political system; they lash out at “politicians,” the major parties, and the give-and-take of political compromise as a betrayal of the fundamental Truth and as a circus to divert the people.
  • To break the neck of conspiracy they advocate “direct action” often through push-button pressure campaigns and front groups. Occasionally “direct action” will develop into hate propaganda and calculated violence.

…. There is finally appearing once again on the campuses and in the halls of Congress a sense of liberal social purpose. Whatever one may think of the Kennedy Administration, and its first year in office has been a good deal less than spectacular, nevertheless there is little likelihood that it will allow itself to be bullied and cowed in the degree that the Administration was under McCarthy.

The right fundamentalists are in no way to be lightly dismissed. They constitute a real threat to democratic rights and procedures. But there is reason to believe that with courage and conviction they can be exposed and curbed, and can be kept from running away with the ball. We have plenty of problems, but hate-mongering and the big lie provide no constructive answers or solutions.

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