Defending the Demagogue

By: Daniel Nardini

One of the saddest things taking place in this country is extreme right wing neo-conservatives trying to rehabilitate the witch-hunting legacy of former U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy. Only last week I was reading in the extreme right wing newspaper Human Events that one writer asserts McCarthy was correct in what he was doing. The writer asserted that McCarthy had a list of “known Communists” in the U.S. government and that he had given it to the U.S. Senate which then “mysteriously disappeared.” In other words, it was all a conspiracy to try and discredit McCarthy. Given the time and the circumstances, I sincerely doubt it. McCarthy had for most of his time far more supporters than enemies in the U.S. Congress, and I doubt his supporters wanted him to fail. The article also mentioned that the FBI files seemed to “corroborate” what McCarthy said. Actually, no. The FBI files corroborated that there were indeed spies in the United States, and a number of them were party members of the Communist Party USA. However, those U.S. government officials who served in the government at the time were not likely to be Communist Party members or even former members even though they were accused by McCarthy of being such.

We have to remember that at the time the U.S. government had instituted a loyalty oath which allowed the U.S. government to check the personal backgrounds of any and all those who worked for the federal government. In fact, because of the incredible fear of the Soviet Union at the time, hundreds of thousands of Americans were caught up in a reign of fear as so many innocent people were accused of being Communists or former Communists. McCarthy rose to prominence during this period because he rode on this fear and became the most feared man in the U.S. government. What is also not mentioned by many of these McCarthy supporters is that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had as many as 1,500 informers in the Communist Party USA, making sure that every aspect of that organization was successfully infiltrated. This is how the FBI knew who might have been a spy for the Soviet Union and who was just a party member. What McCarthy did was go after people who had nothing to do with the Communist Party, nothing to do with progressive organizations, and in a number of cases nothing to do with politics at all. Many innocent people like actors and writers were blacklisted by the House on Un-American Activities Committee, at McCarthy’s demand, for their creativity, originality and incorrect politics.

In the end McCarthy was censured by the U.S. Senate for unethical behavior—one of the few politicians to ever be disciplined for this. He died from what is believed to be hepatitis and alcoholism. What he did to innocent people shall always be remembered, and for anyone to try and defend the record of this sorry person is truly trying to rewrite history to make heroes out of demagogues.

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