I Learned A Little History Tonight


Here’s a weird thought. I was thinking about Senator Joseph McCarthy today. Not entirely sure why.

I knew Edward R. Murrow stood up to McCarthy and that during the 50’s McCarthy went on a communist witch hunt. That’s about it. Oh and the pivotal point was the Army / McCarthy hearings. No clue what they were about.

I did some reading between shows. Here’s the tl:dr from Wikipedia:

McCarthy rose suddenly to national fame in February 1950 when he asserted in a speech that he had a list of “members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring” who were employed in the State Department.

In succeeding years after his 1950 speech, McCarthy made additional accusations of Communist infiltration into the State Department, the administration of President Harry S. Truman, the Voice of America, and the United States Army. He also used various charges of communism, communist sympathies, disloyalty, or homosexuality to attack a number of politicians and other individuals inside and outside of government.

Among McCarthy’s targets were left leaning Hollywood intellectuals. Some great names became unhireable — literally. They could work, but not under their own name.

When McCarthy was publicly exposed as a lying bully, first on CBS by Edward R. Murrow then in a nationally televised Senate hearing by Army attorney Joseph Welch, he fell hard.

Senator McCarthy was angry at the Army because a staff member was drafted. Seriously, a Senate sized tantrum when he didn’t get his way. He was out for revenge and had no problem adding the Army to his list of flimsy accusations.

When McCarthy went after one of Welch’s staff, he was ready.

Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency? – Joseph Welch Army–McCarthy hearings, June 9, 1954.

There is a documentary, but it’s not streaming anywhere or on-sale for a fair price. That’s a shame. I will read more.

We’re given sanitized history in school. This story is gripping and relevant. It really is relevant.

One Response to “I Learned A Little History Tonight”

  1. Mari Bonomi says:

    I have vague childhood memories of the hearings, and doubt they were covered in the late 50’s high school curricula.

    But in the late 60’s when I started teaching high school, they were certainly a part of the curriculum in the CT public high school where I taught.

    I cannot speak for other schools or states, but surely they were in the textbooks.

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