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Taking a Stand Against McCarthyism

Arrow Image This is a report I did for Natioinal History Day, which is this big contest and it's going to county so I figured it could go here



Taking a stand against McCarthyism: The fight to protect he first amendment.

Written By Matthew Cox A.K.A Neo_Chalchus

Since the beginning of America, people have spoken their mind and stood up for what they believed in. This is not only encouraged, but in fact is the basis on which our country was built. The first amendment states that people in the United States shall have the right to free speech, the ability protest in a reasonable manner, and to have the freedom and liberty to believe what they believe. One man once stood in the way of that right. His name was Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy. This man almost single handedly derailed the American way, in his own quest for personal power and influence.
McCarthyism was an idea introduced by Sen. Joseph McCarty to describe the weeding out of communist or communist affiliated employees and persons in the government. This was introduced during the anti-communist movement, and the Red Scares which left Americans frightened of communists. Although the idea of McCarthyism was introduced by McCarthy, the actual term was coined by Herbert Block of the Washington Post in one of his editorial cartoon. From 1950 to 1953 McCarthy spoke out that government wasn't doing enough to stop the communists inside the government and government run facilities. These accusations were welcomed by the anti-communist followers, which were increasing in number each day, and his approval ratings increased dramatically, and gave him a following. He was appointed Chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations after the Republican electoral in 1952. There, his talk of the Communist influences helped him claw his way up. But he was never completely trusted. He was unreliable and he dodged away from many accusations. This is how he earned a reputation as someone who could weasel his way out of trouble. McCarthy insisted that communists should be weeded out and fired, or in some of the more radical of his speeches, arrested or thrown out of the country. Many people were against this, as it disregarded the first amendment to the constitution.
Those who were accused, or blacklisted, often couldn't get jobs, and were rejected socially. This mass ostracism was enough for some to take notice, especially those who were blacklisted themselves. McCarthy himself only attacked people of large standing, who were in a seat of political power, or were known by many people. Although this was a secluded and small amount of people, the trend caught on, and people who frequently saw the McCarthy Army Hearing sometimes noticed irregular behavior and those people were marked as communists in social groups or neighborhoods.
Most of what was allowed to happen was fueled by the fear of communism that permeated the thinking of Americans at the time. The Second Red Scare, or period of intense fear of communists, started in the late 1940's. Many events led up to the mounting tension including the Soviet Union acquiring of an atomic bomb which showed that America was no longer the only one with knowledge on nuclear weapons. Another factor was the fall of allied China, and the start of the Korean war. The actions of the Soviet Union and Northern Korea were used as justification of the 'evil communist' idea.
Freedom of the press as well as ideology, was under attack. In 1953, an admitted ex-communist by the name of James Wechsler was summoned to court by McCarthy, mainly because he wrote an editorial on how he did not approve of McCarthy's methods. This caused great concern among those who wrote editorials and newspaper articles. Wechsler boldly accused McCarthy of committing "as flagrant an attack on the newspapers as I have ever seen because the press refused to equate Mccarthyism with patriotism..." (From the Encarta Reference Library Article: "1952: Newspaper Industry") He also went to the American Society of Newspaper Editors for help in spreading the word on what McCarthy had done and his blatant disregard of the freedom of press.
Those who tried to speak out against Sen. McCarthy and his constantly increasing group of supporters were normally ignored, or possibly labeled as communists or communist sympathizers who wanted this ideal out of the way. Only a handful of common people were heard and taken seriously outside of close friends and family. On the other hand, some of those accused by McCarthy, who were famous and respected (at least before the accusations), fought back with there own ways of protesting, reaching large numbers of people quickly with their own fame and resources. Some people who were blacklisted that had been well known and worked to cease this mass concept, secretly or openly, include David Bohm, Charlie Chaplin, Aaron Copland, Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Paul Robeson, Waldo Salt, Paul Sweezy, John Garfield, Elia Kazan, John Hubley, Humphrey Bogart, and others (list found on Wikipedia, McCarthyism article). Many of these people were play writes or actors, others respected physicists. One was even an actor, athlete, singer, writer, civil rights and political activist, and the winner of a Stalin Peace Prize.
Some, if not most, of McCarthy's accusations had unsubstantial if any hard evidence. But the statement that some communists had infiltrated the government and were passing information along to the soviet union, was proven true. After the fall of the Soviet Union, American soldiers uncovered some important and confidential files apparently originating from the U.S. Government offices. These papers also showed that CPUSA (The American Communist Party) had been paid by the Soviet Union. Harry Dexter White was a spy for the Soviets, he founded and lead the International Monetary Fund. Nuclear and scientific secrets were passed along to the Soviet Union by way of Theodore Hall and Julius Rodenberg. Even the Secretary General of to the founding charter conference to the United Nations, Alger Hiss, was convicted of espionage. So it seems that McCarthy’s quick tongue and stinging accusations seemed somewhat qualified, but those who were accused often had committed no acts of espionage or even open dislike to the United States.
The stands taken by others to criticize McCarthy's methods at the time, although were heard and important, they looked small to the reaction caused by a "Report on Joseph R. McCarthy." Edward R. Murrow, a distinguished CBS journalist, released a harshly critical show on CBS that denounced the Red Scare and Sen. McCarthy. The report included footage of McCarty hassling people under interrogation, putting words in their mouths, and cutting them off before they could answer. Even though this was only a short 30 min. show, it was the first time someone who wasn't blacklisted had said something to a mass audience about the injustice McCarthy was inducing. Also, this was the first time that it was clearly said, in a plain manner, that the communist sympathy charges could be no more than a way to get back at people who didn't approve of McCarthy's way of doing things. This marked the downward slide of McCarthy.
Shortly after, the McCarthy-Army Hearings began. The McCarthy hearings were congressional hearings aired by ABC mostly to fill daytime slots. The accusations by McCarthy were directed to many famous people and those in a seat of power and influence. Each day these interrogations of people were being aired to be seen by millions of people a day. An interesting side affect of the trials was an increased amount of people who didn't really care about politics tuned in to see McCarthy "get another one." He seemed much like a favorite character in a TV show, until he interrogated Welch. The Army Attorney General, Joseph Welch who had an employee under him that was a member of an organization that was a known Communist sympathizer, was being strenuously interrogated. Welch then demanded of McCarthy, "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" The crowd erupted in applause, and a growing number of educated people began to reflect negatively on McCarthy.
Lilian Hellman was one of the few who openly stood up against the HUAC interrogations at the actual trials to McCarthy’s face. Invoking the fifth Amendment, Hellman refused to name anyone who was a communist or associated with them. Part of what she said was:
“To hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions, even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person and could have no comfortable place in any political group”
Lillian was blacklisted and was rejected from working in the Hollywood movie studios for years after. Dashiell Hammett, who wrote some famous mystery novels and Hellman's lover, also refused to answer questions and proceeded later to protest against McCarthy.
President Harry S. Truman also opposed the hearings, but did not do much to stop it other than say that he did not believe in McCarthyism and that he believed McCarthy to be wrong. This created a large impact on people, especially devoted Truman followers. Although his speeches, had small tidbits aimed to cause shame to the idea of McCarthyism, Truman reached some ears. President Truman also vetoed the McCarran-Walter Act. The McCarran-Walter Act did not say anything specifically about McCarthyism, but it required (among other things) that all communist groups needed to register, and parts of this act were used to bar communists or communist-affiliated people from entering the country. This did not matter if they were communist by political ties, liked the economical idea (that goods should be priced based on how much they are needed by the common person) or was a radical. The word “communism” had transformed into a word that had a definition almost equal to an evil person or someone who wanted to corrupt the government. Although Truman vetoed this act, Congress surpassed the President’s veto. Although slight changes were made. Later, in 1988, the ideological sections of the act were repealed.
Arthur Miller was a blacklisted playwright and essayist who wrote many plays that are now famous,. Miller stood before the HUAC and was interrogated, he was convicted of contempt, this conviction was repealed later. The play that has to do with McCarthyism indirectly was, "The Crucible”. This play even goes as far as including similar courtroom techniques and during questioning, such as not giving the person on the stand enough time to respond. Although until later years connection was never said by Miller himself, but many put two and two together and saw McCarthy, and his Communist Trials in a different light.
As in the case of “The Crucible”, some books and screen-plays written in the 1950's or early 1960’s can be interpreted to be about McCarthyism. Fahrenheit 451 is a book about censorship and people in high places controlling things that should be the choice of the person which it affects. The movie Manchurian Candidate could also be about McCarthyism. The movie is about a prisoner of war of the Korean War returns to the United States and starts doing things that he can’t remember doing. The Soviets had brainwashed or hypnotized him and other POWS so at times, when the Soviets willed it, he snapped into a trance and followed orders to do anything and had no recollection of it afterward.
There was no definite end to the McCarthy era and McCarthyism in general. The era is generally described between 1950 and 1960. "The Second Red Scare" started in the late 1940’s but was most intense from 1950 to 1954. The intensity of the fear of communism allowed McCarthyism to reach it’s prime. More people as the years went on, saw through the witch hunts that McCarthy had put together. Although McCarthyism had reached beyond it’s prime, McCarthy stayed on the Senate until his death at age 48.
Now, since the fall of McCarthyism, we are no longer threatened by the government for being a communist or being a friend of one. The first amendment is now unchallenged and we take for granted the ability to say what we please. We are able to say what we like and dislike, and help change those things that displease us. These are liberties that are scarce in the rest of the world, and are liberties we hardly think about. Once again, we truly are, the America of which the founding fathers dreamed.

Comments

godon February 04 2006 - 18:17:23
if anybody read all this plz write a smaller version Pfft
Neo_Chalchuson February 04 2006 - 18:53:07
It was a school report and it had to be between 1500-2500 words.
godon February 04 2006 - 19:05:38
nice.. u got graded ? what'd u get?
Neo_Chalchuson February 04 2006 - 19:57:08
98, but I'm going to county, it's a nation wide thing. And I got the second besty grade so I'm goin' to compitition
godon February 04 2006 - 20:08:47
cool B) good luck
Nubzzzon February 05 2006 - 04:07:35
nice report Smile and also good luck
Neo_Chalchuson April 21 2006 - 01:03:15
I din't make it to state but I only missed by 1/4th of a point. I guess that should be a victory in itself considering I did the whole thing in one night (just writing it...I worked extensively on the research)
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