In the mid 1950’s, Senator Joseph McCarthy was perhaps the most powerful man in the world. During the height of his tenure in Congress, the Cold War ushered in new threats. Anti-communist fear, referred to as the “Red Scare,” spread like wildfire around the world. Out of that fear, McCarthyism was born.
More than five decades later, Democrats are resurrecting a new form of McCarthyism. One that could prove even more dangerous to the future of America.
What is McCarthyism?
“Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity. The modern champions of communism have selected this as the time, and ladies and gentlemen, the chips are down — they are truly down.” – Joseph McCarthy
The term “McCarthyism” referred to the “act of accusing someone of supporting or spreading communism.” These allegations were most often based entirely on assumptions, void of any credible evidence.
After World War II ended, fears of communism remerged as Joseph Stalin sought to expand his reach beyond the Soviet Union. At that time, Mao Tse-tung took over and China, and Eastern Europe was reeling from the aftermath of Hitler’s Nazi regime.
Capitalizing on growing anti-communist sentiments, McCarthyism began when Joe McCarthy asserted that more than 200 communists had integrated into the federal government. Soon after making that claim, McCarthy followed the model of the House Un-American Activities Committee to weed out communists in the United States
For thousands of Americans, life would never be the same.
In 1938, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was formed to investigate private citizens, public employees, and organizations suspected of having ties to or supporting the Communist party.
Using the power of subpoenas, the committee commanded witnesses to “name names” or otherwise incriminate innocent people. Those who were hesitant, or outright refused to answer the often-leading questions were labeled as “reds.”
Moreover, HUAC held many witnesses in contempt of Congress. One of the committee’s most famous investigations involved HUAC member and future president, Richard Nixon. After weeks of theatrical hearings, Nixon revealed that Alger Hiss had lied about “ever having been a communist.
In the 1950’s, McCarthy employed the same tactics, known as “redbaiting,” used by HUAC.
The Rise of Joseph McCarthy
Between 1950 and 1956, a second “Red Scare” emerged during which McCarthyism reached its peak. Besides targeting the government and military, McCarthy set his sights on private companies, schools, and the entertainment industry.
The Wisconsin Senator spent almost five years stoking the fears of communism, ruining thousands of lives in the process. Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin, Lena Horne and Arthur Murray were among some of the more famous Hollywood victims of McCarthyism.
By 1953, in his second term in the Senate, McCarthy chaired the Committee on Government Operations. His penchant for intimidating witnesses in hearing after hearing made everyone reluctant to speak out against him.
Yet, without any evidence they did indeed support communism, more than 2000 government employees lost their jobs. Countless other Americans, including actors, writers, and producers were blacklisted due to McCarthyism.
However, his reign of terror came to an end when McCarthy took aim at the U.S. Army.
In early 1954, McCarthy picked on the wrong group of American patriots. He claimed the U.S. Army had lax security at one of their top-secret installations. McCarthy’s unfounded accusations prompted the Army to go on the defensive.
Army officials responded to the accusations by revealing that McCarthy sought preferential treatment for an aide drafted to Vietnam. The Army subsequently hired Boston lawyer Joseph Welch to take on McCarthy.
During a nationally televised hearing on June 9, 1954, the senator accused Welch’s aid of supporting communist organizations. Welch’s blistering response is frequently credited for ending McCarthy’s career.
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness,” Welch fired back. When McCarthy tried to attack again the lawyer angrily interrupted saying, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”
Immediately after the hearings, Americans began to see the destruction McCarthyism was causing. After the Army debacle, Congress censured McCarthy and he quickly returned to relative obscurity.
An embarrassment to the Republican party, an enemy of Democracy, and a disgrace to Congress, McCarthy died three years later from the cirrhosis of the liver. He was 48 years old. Along with his death, came the end of McCarthyism.
Flash-forward to 2018 and Democrats seem to be ushering in a new and more dangerous McCarthy-esque witch-hunt. The following are just a few examples that would surely make Joseph McCarthy very proud.
The MeToo Movement
At the end of 2017, allegations of sexual assault and harassment dominated headlines around the world. The New York Times broke the story of decades of rampant sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
The “Weinstein effect” quickly took hold and led to numerous accusations of abuse against men in all fields, including politics and mainstream media. At least three members of Congress resigned over allegations, beginning with Minnesota Senator Al Franken.
President Trump is also on the list of men accused of sexual misconduct. Although, all the allegations remain unproven and he vehemently denies the claims. And, suspicions about the credibility of his accusers and their motives continue to complicate the problem.
Nevertheless, critics are starting to argue that “MeToo” has gone too far. Women outside the feminist sphere are questioning whether the movement is really tacking the problem of sexual harassment, or are they targeting men in general.
As America saw with McCarthyism, innuendo, rumors, and accusations, in the absence of proof, ruins careers and destroys lives. Power grabs, however they may present themselves, generally lead to war, not peace.
Another rising faction among progressives is evident of that.
It’s incredibly ironic to see young people in America protesting fascism and communism, using the same tactics made famous by fascists and communists. Acting with violence and attempting to silence opposing viewpoints, is contrary to the very essence of democracy.
Slandering, ridiculing, and bullying individuals who don’t align with one’s own political or social views are things you expect to see in places like North Korea or Iran. Yet, it happens every day in America. That is how most leftists respond to dissent.
The attacks on the Trump family are a perfect example. Never in the history of this great nation has a president been treated with such contempt and disrespect. Just as McCarthy sought to destroy people he viewed as communists, today’s liberals seek the destruction of conservatives.
And, if lies, misrepresentations, and blacklists serve that purpose, progressives are all for it. The enemy must be revealed and reviled on a global stage. We’re certain a few Hollywood Trump supporters can attest to that.
Hollywood in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s was very different from what it is now. Back then, although still predominantly liberal, celebrities feared being labeled as a “red” by McCarthy. And yet today, they have no problem ostracizing their fellow artists because they support President Trump.
McCarthyism, albeit in a new form, literally rules the stars. Actors Tim Allen and James Woods, both staunch and outspoken conservatives, have called out the hypocrisy. Allen went so far as to liken Hollywood to Nazi Germany. Woods admitted that work has been scarce since he revealed his conservative leanings.
Additionally, Allen saw his popular show Last Man Standing canceled by ABC. The network’s abrupt decision came despite ratings being at an all-time high leading many to suspect the decision was politically motivated. ABC’s less than convincing explanation no doubt fueled that speculation.
Many progressives just haven’t figured out that ignoring history leads to more regret.
Learning From the Past
Some people may find it difficult to see the comparison between the actions and attitudes of today’s Democrats and McCarthyism. In some ways, it might be a stretch. But, what if isn’t?
With fears of nuclear war looming large and the very fabric of our society ripping at the seams, as McCarthy said, now is the perfect time for evil to slip in. Maybe, it’s already here.
Either way, the words of Senator James William Fulbright are as fitting today as they were when he spoke them to Joseph McCarthy:
“When public men indulge themselves in abuse, when they deny others a fair trial, when they resort to innuendo and insinuation, to libel, scandal, and suspicion, then our democratic society is outraged, and democracy is baffled. It has no apparatus to deal with the boor, the liar, the lout, and the anti-democrat in general.”
Generations past failed to heed his warnings. We can only hope present and future generations will not make the same mistake.