McCarthyism not only destroyed the lives and careers of many Americans but also the innocent image of the country. Senator Joe McCarthy from Wisconsin was the same as any man. But when he cried Communism the world seemed to listen.
Following the Cold War between Russia and the United States there came many hardships, such as unemployment and high inflation. These hardships produced a restless society. The society then looked for something or someone to blame (Fried, 39). They found someone to blame. Communists. Throughout the country there was a witch hunt known as the Red Scare. A basic idea was formed: Communism was evil. Anyone who participated in such evil was considered illegitimate and were to be excluded from such things as sharing ideas, and jobs (Reeves, 136). This fear of Communism or anti-Communism as it was called could be described as a type of “virus.” When all was calm in America the virus would fade, but the moment a crisis struck, the virus came back stronger than ever (Feuerlicht, 35). Communism was a threat not only for countries overseas but a threat for America and its people. It was a threat on the American way of life, a bruise on the phrase “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Feuerlicht, 45) And McCarthy helped spread this fear.
McCarthy and his ways challenged the Bill of Rights. “When free speech or due process are denied to any individual everyone s rights are jeopardized. Today s oppressors may become tomorrow s accursed group.” (Feuerlicht, 154) And nothing is guaranteed more than the destruction of America when the freedoms promised by the Bill of Rights are denied (Feuerlicht, 154). McCarthy installed a fear in the people. But people feared tremendously the loss of their jobs. They feared that their political afflictions would reflect on their job status (Reeves, 99). By trying to keep America from becoming a Communist nation, McCarthy and his followers turned the country into an anti – Communist nation. A country that thrived on freedom and was kept in tact by laws would become a country that was moved by fear alone. Laws would hold no meaning and innocent people would be accused (Feuerlicht, 154).
Communists were everywhere. But they were hard to identify because Communism was a philosophy. There was no way a person could provide supporting evidence that someone believed in something (Feuerlicht, 154). According to McCarthy there were over 200 Communists in the State Department (Feuerlicht, 55). And some 57 cases of people who fall into the category of card – carrying Communists, loyalist of the Communist Party, or risks to the nation (Divine, 265). Despite the issue of Communists in America there was a bigger issue, Communist spies. Though the truth of the matter is that all countries spy and are spied on, even America. The shock felt by the nation was not lessened (Feuerlicht, 54). Communist spies were the worst kind because they were not the type that stole plans for new weapons they worked from within. They were the people helping us build our policy (Divine, 265). These Communist spies were also hard to find because very few made it easy and confessed to being a spy. One such a person was a German named Klaus Fuchs. He confessed to spying for the Russians while he worked on the development of the atom bomb (Fried, 120).
Many Americans lives and careers were lost due to McCarthy and his accusations. Hollywood s leaders resisted allowing politicians to regulate their hiring practices, but following the HUAC hearings the “blacklists” began in Hollywood. No one who was known to be a communist would be employed (Fried, 77-78). Producers started questioning their employees on many topics including politics and affiliations. In the case that the employee s answers did not fit with the Waldorf Statement which was that no known Communist would be hired, the employee was fired, or let go (Fried, 78). With one exception anyone who confessed, and gave the names of other “Communists” were spared (Garraty, 531). After the blacklists, and the scare of Communism films started containing only anti-Communist themes. Somewhere around forty of these anti-Communism films were made. None of them being very popular or profitable (Fried, 78).
The blacklists continued in Hollywood while in the Government offices more than 2,000,000 men and women were subject to loyalty investigations no matter what their status was. The investigations were also required to be done on any person who applied for a federal job (Feuerlicht, 47). Lists of subversive organizations and groups were compiled. Its members weren t even given a chance to defend themselves. If they belonged to one of the groups listed, they were guilty of “Sympathetic association” and were fired (Feuerlicht, 47). People even began to be punished for things they hadn t even done. They were punished for what they might do (Feuerlicht, 47-48). Soon almost everyone found their loyalty being questioned. Anyone who liked Russian music, had ever read or owned a book on Communism, especially those who stood up for equal rights of African Americans, and those who stood for civil liberties for Communists (Feuerlicht, 48). Even having a political opinion that was not popular gained you the treatment of a criminal (Garraty, 531).
No Part of Society was left untouched. Companies like General Electric, General Motors, CBS, the New York Times, New York City Board of Education, and the United Auto Workers followed Hollywood s example and fired employees for being Communists. In fact very few companies didn t fire people (Reeves, 99). Even the schools went along with the dismissal procedures outlined by McCarthy, HUAC, and the FBI. Anyone who did not fit their standards was fired (Reeves, 99). Quite a few people ended up falling victim of these firings. And an estimated 20 percent of these fired people came from the educational system (Reeves, 99).
McCarthy was a fraud from the beginning. He never had anything to go on. In fact “the shakier his evidence got the bolder he became.” (Feuerlicht, 57). Although McCarthy didn t have a shred of evidence it didn t stop him from making reckless accusations (Sawtelle,1). McCarthy didn t even know what he said half the time in fact even he didn t know exactly what he said in the speech at Wheeling but because accusations were beginning to take off, McCarthy could think of no reason not to follow and take off with them (Feuerlicht, 56). And as the public attention grew McCarthy made more speeches condemning Communists ( Garraty, 531). McCarthy never showed any evidence of his accusations. This was in part because he never had any. There was no list of names and the numbers he came up with were the result of good math skills (Feuerlicht, 55). And if anyone ever tried to catch him in a lie he would accuse them of being a “Communist sympathizer.” (Sawtelle, 1) Many things contributed to the fall of McCarthyism but probably the most significant was the condemnation of McCarthy by the U.S. senate in 1954. This condemnation ultimately led to the end of McCarthy s power over the people and destroyed McCarthyism (Sawtelle, 2).
Even after the fall of McCarthy people and countries still spy on each other. Only now the spying has passed the level it was at during the McCarthy years (Feuerlicht, 152). The spying reached its peak when in 1967 it was ordered by president Lyndon Johnson s administration officials for the Army to spy on civilians who were involved in the antiwar, anti poverty, and civil rights movements (Feuerlicht, 152). The government continued its “snooping” by putting wire taps on telephones with no court approval. They strongly opposed anyone who tried to put a stop to their “snooping” (Feuerlicht, 152).
Even after McCarthy was gone, the fear lingered. People feared a comeback. They were afraid, afraid that behind each corner could be McCarthy (Feuerlicht, 139). Although McCarthy s attack on freedom was defeated the possibility of future attacks could not be ignored (Sawtelle, 2). One of McCarthy s victims was quoted saying that “to write freedom into a law is not enough. Unless freedom is practiced, it withers. It must be affirmed and reaffirmed in every generation.” But in McCarthy s case it was not (Sawtelle,2). Even the consequences of his hate teachings were felt long after McCarthy s time. They were still fresh in the mind of Lieutenant William Calley when he was found guilty of Murder he was quoted saying that the Army taught him only that the enemy was Communism. “They didn t give it a race, they didn t give it a sex, they didn t give it an age,” sobbing. “They never let me believe it was just a philosophy in a man s head.” (Feuerlicht, 153). ” But Communism was a philosophy, and like all philosophies it needs to be examined and understood. Instead of declaring a holy war against the concept of Communism, America might have defended freedom more successfully and more honorably if she had declared war on the oppression and injustice that make men Communists.”
Communism was indeed a philosophy but it was a philosophy that controlled the American people for years. It left its menacing mark on a society that was otherwise good. America may never fully recover from Senator Joe McCarthy and his McCarthyism.