Talk:Joe McCarthy

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 Definition (1908-1957) Republican United States Senator from Wisconsin, 1946-57 who dominated the anti-communist movement in the U.S., 1950-54, until his career was ruined by censure by the Senate. [d] [e]

This article is by Richard Jensen and is not from Wikipedia. Richard Jensen 03:12, 1 July 2007 (CDT)

McCarthy quotes

Anything useful here?


Senator McCarthy has been described by historians as “America’s most hated senator” and “the single most despised man in American political memory.”[1]


Senator McCarthy was a master manipulator of the media, winning the Hearst newspaper syndicate onto his side by 1945, and he had a knack for generating news stories about himself. Once he called a press conference in the morning simply to announce one of his press conferences scheduled for that afternoon. [2]


McCarthy assailed his listeners with sensational talk and gratuitous innuendo. He spoke of “a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. What is the objective . . . of this conspiracy?” he asked. “To diminish the United States in world affairs, to weaken us militarily, to confuse our spirit with talk of surrender.” Why were the anti-Communists operating on American soil? “To the end that we shall be contained and frustrated and finally fall victim to Soviet intrigue from within and Russian military might from without.”[3]


McCarthy warned his fellow Americans that “One Communist with a razor blade poised over the jugular vein of this nation or in an atomic energy plant can mean the death of America.”[4]His inflammatory rhetoric intoxicated the population. Wrote one American historian, “Millions of people, frightened and confused by cold war reverses, were prepared to swallow any charge McCarthy made, however ridiculous.”[5]


"He had a talent for imagining conspiracy and subversion,” wrote another historian. “McCarthy understood the theater of it all, and he was for a brief time a marvelous actor. He knew instinctively how to brush aside the protests of his witnesses, how to humiliate vulnerable, scared people. In the end, he produced little beyond fear and headlines."[6]


In his heyday the Washington Post accused McCarthy of “Sewer Politics” and Time magazine deemed him “Demogogue McCarthy”.[7] Historian David Halberstam described the phenomenon well:


"McCarthy’s carnival-like four-year spree of accusations, charges, and threats touched something deep in the American body politic, something that lasted long after his own recklessness, carelessness, and boozing ended his career in shame. McCarthyism crystallized and politicized the anxieties of a nation living in a dangerous new era. He took people who were at the worst guilty of political naïveté and accused them of treason."[8]


In January 1954, an opinion poll found 50 percent of Americans favoring Senator McCarthy, with only 29 opposed to him.[9]


Senator McCarthy’s crude and attention-grabbing ways finally backfired on him. Public sentiment turned against him in the spring of 1954 when he embarrassed himself with his histrionic and paranoid behavior during televised hearings on ABC to expose supposed Communists in the American Army. The turning point came when Joseph N. Welch, Special Counsel for the Army, attacked McCarthy with the famous phrase, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” Confusing, aimless, pointless, the Army-McCarthy hearings were a bust, and were recessed on June 17, 1954. On December 2, 1954, the Senate voted 67 to 22 to censure McCarthy, after which he became a pariah on Capitol Hill, a ruined man, disgraced.


  1. Herman, Arthur, Joseph McCarthy (New York: The Free Press, 2000), p. 1.
  2. See Boorstin, Daniel, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (New York: Atheneum, 1978), p. 21-2.
  3. Quoted in Navasky, Victor S., Naming Names (London: John Calder, 1982), p. 24.
  4. Quoted in Henriksen, Margot A., Dr. Strangelove’s America: Society and Culture in the Atomic Age (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1997), p. 47.
  5. O’Neill, William L., American High: The Years of Confidence 1945-1960 (New York: The Free Press, 1989), p. 140; 159.
  6. Halberstam, David, The Fifties (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1993), p. 54.
  7. See Herman, McCarthy, p. 102; 171.
  8. Halberstam, Fifties, p. 52.
  9. Andrew, Christopher, For the President’s Eyes Only (London: HarperCollins, 1995), p. 179.

a few quotes would be useful (the Hearst item seems dubious--no one heard of the local judge in 1945). But the hysteria cut both ways--his opponents used the same very high octane rhetoric Richard Jensen 20:53, 30 October 2007 (CDT)

McCarthyism and dissent

The section ends, "...narrow the scope of acceptable political dissent." This may accurately characterize the source's conclusions—I lack access thereto—but I question whether the scope of dissent, or the scope of expression of it, was the real target of the senators.--T. J. Frazier 20:42, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

I haven't checked the source in detail, but I definitely don't think it was expression. McCarthy frequently argued guilt by association--merely knowing suspected Communists was enough. Very narrowly, that might be expression as manifested by assembly, but I think it goes well beyond expression. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:48, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification: I was thinking in an entirely different direction. My remaining problem is the word, "dissent". Tactics like guilt by association, or guilt by accusation without proof (trying to invoke the audience reaction, "Where there's smoke, there's fire.") can be used by any side in a dispute. I suggest the wording, "...acceptable political discourse." to cover the broadest case.--T. J. Frazier 10:09, 9 November 2010 (UTC)