Monday, November 07, 2005


A review of three recent movies on the 1950s. If we must teach students about the blowhard who was Joseph McCarthy, then this paragraph should be copy and pasted into every American history textbook:

Put simply, McCarthy and his ilk, with their ludicrous hunt for communist subversion, created a climate of unease in certain narrow circles but never an all-pervasive climate of fear in the nation. He never attracted more than 50% support among the electorate. And that only lasted a brief moment. From the outset, Murrow's contempt was matched everywhere in the media and within four years McCarthy was censured by the Senate and politically marginalized. Four years later he was dead of alcoholism. As reigns of terror go, McCarthy's was paltry and not as historically instructive as the movie's director, George Clooney, thinks it is. And, contra William Butler Yeats, the whole decorous center held.
I wouldn't call the entire hunt for communist subversion "ludicrous," but overall, Amen.


NOTR said...

Yet, as the Venona Project proved, he was right more than wrong.

Tom said...

Well, not exactly. The other anti-communists were right more than wrong, but one of the defining characteristics of Joe was that he was accusing all the wrong people. He should have been strung up just for suggesting George C. Marshall was a red.

The point stands, way too much ink has been spilled, too much film has been exposed, and too much breath has been wasted discussing a guy who everyone knew was a blowhard pretty much from the get-go. Like the authoe says, "McCarthyism" doesn't tell us nearly as much about America as George Clooney, John Frankenheimer, David Oshinsky, Richard Reeves, and Ellen Schrecker like to think.