Righty: Senator Joseph McCarthy was a hero for helping his country unmask all those filthy Communists lurking in the federal government. His methods were harsh but necessary, comparable to cutting out a tumor. He performed his invaluable service during a critical phase of the Cold War, after the Soviet Union had spread its tentacles over all of Eastern Europe, toppling one legitimate government after another in the years following World War II. The leftist [read “Jewish”] press brought him down and indirectly caused his premature death. The fact that this patriotic martyr is still widely reviled today shows us how completely our culture is dominated by left-wing propagandists. They’re still sore that McCarthy exposed their precious friends and foiled the Communist plot to destroy our Christian way of life.
Lefty: McCarthy was a monster and a fascist demagogue whose nefarious witch-hunt tore the United States in half during the early 1950s. A vicious philistine and a drunken slob, McCarthy ruined the careers of countless men and women whose talents were immeasurably superior to his. He went after Communists, suspected Communists, friends of Communists, and suspected friends of suspected Communists with equally demonic fervor. His methods were reprehensible, even evil. He was a brutal master of intimidation (even President Eisenhower was afraid to stand up to him), terrorizing his victims into betraying their own friends. He had no authority to force any of these people to avow their loyalties in public; doing so was a blatant violation of their civil rights. McCarthy was without doubt a greater threat to our liberty than any of the so-called Communists he persecuted. We must never allow his like [read “right-wing Christians”] to threaten our way of life again.
The New Moderate:
Dare I say it? McCarthy’s goals were laudable: to weed out Communists from the federal government and other centers of influence during a highly volatile phase of the Cold War. The aggressive Soviet Communist expansionism in Europe and Asia, coupled with the presence of a robust Communist movement in the U.S. at the time, lend credence to my belief that McCarthy and his fellow right-wingers were justified in their paranoia.
The operative word, though, IS paranoia: Nobody of civilized instincts can justify McCarthy’s vicious scattershot approach to rounding up the usual suspects. He struck terror into the souls of innocent people who merely dined with Communists or attended the meetings of collegiate leftist organizations. Sympathy for left-wing causes should never be equated with treason.
McCarthy’s undoing was his wild-eyed assault on the U.S. Army, of all institutions. He had previously impugned the loyalties of as great a man as Gen. George C. Marshall. Then he ran up against Army Attorney General Joseph Welch, who famously retorted, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” That was the beginning of the end. CBS News icon Edward R. Murrow hastened McCarthy’s slide with a memorable televised editorial, and the U.S. Senate finally sealed his doom by censuring him. Virtually nobody listened to the disgraced senator during the three years left to him.
A few popular misconceptions about McCarthy need to be cleared up. He doesn’t appear to have been a homosexual, closeted or otherwise. He was never associated with the House Committee on Un-American Activities (known as HUAC). It was HUAC that went after suspected Communists in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. In fact, McCarthy never blacklisted anyone. The Hollywood studios and other vessels of commercial culture, terrified that their revenues would suffer if they used politically tainted talent, did McCarthy’s dirty work for him. McCarthy helped create the climate of terror and suspicion, but it was the studios that ultimately wrecked the careers of all those suspected pinkos. When you think about it, what difference did it make if actors and screenwriters were Communist, Nazi or Mormon? They had no power to bring down our government. Power to influence our culture, yes — but since when is cultural influence a crime?
The New Moderate blames McCarthy for firing the opening salvo in the destructive culture war that persists to this day in the form of “red state/blue state” polarization. What if a more moderate and civil spokesman (President Eisenhower, for example) had led a rational assault on Communist infiltration? Would we still be as polarized as we are today? Probably not. McCarthy’s wanton attacks inflamed the left with a raging self-righteousness that propelled it through the 1960s and beyond, into the age of special-interest politics with its smorgasbord of ideological follies. The leftist surge eventually helped spawn an even greater political backlash: today’s rumbling right-wing juggernaut of fundamentalist Christians, radio talk-show hosts and war-whooping neocons. In other words, McCarthy inadvertently made our New Moderate movement necessary. I suppose I should thank him, but I’d really rather be birdwatching.
Summary: McCarthy was right to track down Communists in the federal government and seriously wrong to inaugurate a reign of terror. His witch hunt provoked the right-left culture war that persists to this day in the U.S.