Edward R Murrow
Sen. Joseph McCarthy
In the 1950s Sen. McCarthy’s Committee on Unamerican Activities goal was to expose and destroy communist activities in the U.S. [the RED SCARE]. Communism was feared in the way right wing Republican party members now fear “Islamic terrorism” and conflate it with the Islamic religion.
I ask how Trumpism is different from McCarthyism?
McCarthyism [the following four paragraphs are from Wikipedia’s post on McCarthyism] is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.” The term has its origins in the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from 1950 to 1956 and characterized by heightenedpolitical repression against communists, as well as a campaign spreading fear of their influence on American institutions and of espionage bySoviet agents. Originally coined to criticize the anti-communist pursuits of Republican U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, “McCarthyism” soon took on a broader meaning, describing the excesses of similar efforts. The term is also now used more generally to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, as well as demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.
During the McCarthy era, thousands of Americans were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person’s real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment and/or destruction of their careers; some even suffered imprisonment. Most of these punishments came about through trial verdicts later overturned, laws that were later declared unconstitutional,dismissals for reasons later declared illegal or actionable, or extra-legal procedures that would come into general disrepute.
The most notable examples of McCarthyism include the speeches, investigations, and hearings of Senator McCarthy himself; the Hollywood blacklist, associated with hearings conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC); and the various anti-communist activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under Director J. Edgar Hoover. McCarthyism was a widespread social and cultural phenomenon that affected all levels of society and was the source of a great deal of debate and conflict in the United States. [ Many in Hollywood went underground and were forced to use pseudonyms to get their plays staged and their movies filmed and produced – due to defamation of their character as the dreaded communist, perhaps for something as minor as being a member of a communist club in college]
There were also more subtle forces encouraging the rise of McCarthyism. It had long been a practice of more conservative politicians to refer to progressive reforms such as child labor laws and women’s suffrage as “Communist” or “Red plots.” This tendency increased in the 1930s in reaction to the New Deal policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Many conservatives equated the New Deal with socialism or Communism, and saw its policies as evidence that the government had been heavily influenced by Communist policy-makers in the Roosevelt administration. In general, the vaguely defined danger of “Communist influence” was a more common theme in the rhetoric of anti-Communist politicians than was espionage or any other specific activity.
No doubt that McCarthy would have considered social security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, voting rights, and many other social programs as communists plots.
The great CBS reporter and commentator, Edward R. Murrow, broke the back of McCarthy’s era of terror and injustice with the following public statement that I believe applies today to Trumpism in his witch hunt against Muslims and immigrants as well as it applied to McCarthyism’s witch hunting communism, acknowledging the role of media in perpetrating this dark part of our collective history in America:
by Edward R. Murrow, modified by Linda Lorincz Shelton for today’s Trumpism –
Earlier, the Senator [McCarthy] asked, “Upon what meat does this, our Caesar, feed?” Had he looked three lines earlier in Shakespeare’s Caesar, he would have found this line, which is not altogether inappropriate: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful.
It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the
junior Senator from Wisconsin [Trump and the Benghazi Committee] ha[ve] stepped over it repeatedly.
His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.
We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.
We will not walk in fear, one of another.
We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.
This is no time for men who oppose
Senator McCarthy’s[Trump’s] methods to keep silent, or for those who approve.
We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result.
There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities.
As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age.
We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. [We cannot desert religious freedom, the 1st Amendment by condemning all Muslims as terrorists no more than we can condemn Southern White Protestants as KKK lynchers and murderers.]
actions[speeches] of the j unior Senator from Wisconsin[Trump] have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. [They’re even being used by Al Quida for recruitment videos – to show how much the infidels hate Muslims.]
And whose fault is that? Not really his. [Trump] didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.“
Good night, and good luck.
[and don’t forget how the media (mainstream and social) have exploited fear and disseminated mis-information about Islam, Muslims, terrorism, and foreign relations.]
[extracts from – transcribed 7/20/06 by G. Handman from DVD, The McCarthy Years(Edward R. Murrow Collection)]