How can McCarthyism be explained?

At the height of the cold war anti communist sentiment ran high. A
second red scare began led by a Senator from Wisconsin named Joseph

I. McCarthyism – Period of time in the early 1950’s when Senator
Joseph McCarthy attempted to expose suspected Communists.

A. Why do you think Americans feared communists in the

1. It was the height of the Cold War and Americans
increasingly feared that communism would take root in the United

2. The Soviets detonated their first atomic weapon in 1949. This
intensified US fears of the Soviet Union.

B. What types of actions do you think Americans might have taken
against communists?

1. Sen Joseph McCarthy held Senate hearings to “out”
suspected communists.

2. Thousands lost their jobs, reputations and lives were

C. What is the legacy of

1. McCarthyism was akin
to the red scare, a national paranoia was present. Americans wer4e
not truly free to believe what they wanted to believe.

2. McCarthyism is rembered as a time
when America engaged in withch hunts. It was a paranoid time and a
time when many lives were hurt without any proof. Just to “named” in
front of the committee often meant that you would be black listed,
your life destroyed.

McCarthy was born in Grand Chute,
Wisconsin, on November 14, 1908, and educated at Marquette
University. He practiced law in Wisconsin until 1939, when he was
elected circuit-court judge. During World War II he served in the
U.S. Marine Corps, attaining the rank of captain during service in
the Pacific theater of operations. In 1946 he was elected on the
Republican ticket to the U.S. Senate and was reelected in

McCarthy first attracted national
attention in February 1950, with the charge that the Department of
State had been infiltrated by Communists. Although his accusation was
never substantiated, during the next three years he repeatedly
accused various high-ranking officials, intellectuals and the
Hollywood establishment of subversive activities. McCarthy pursued
alleged communists with a fervor. He was a master at controlling the
media and received enormous publicity. Suspected communists would be
hauled in front of McCarthy’s committee like a common criminals,
often with no evidence at all. McCarthy’s chief prosecutor was a New
York Lawyer named Roy Cohn. Cohn has obnoxious and abrasive. He hated
everyone, especially communists and homosexuals. When Cohn and
McCarthy had someone in front of their committee they were merciless.
They demanded that the “witness” turn in other suspected communists.
Since most of the accused were never involved in any communist
activity this was difficult. McCarthy would scream “I have a list”
and wave a piece of paper demanding information. The list was never
made public. Thousands of Americans lost jobs and careers during
McCarthy’s witch hunts.

In 1953, as chairman of the Senate
subcommittee on investigations, McCarthy continued his probe of
alleged Communist activities, and in April 1954 he accused the
secretary of the army of concealing foreign espionage activities. In
rebuttal the secretary stated that members of the subcommittee staff
had threatened army officials in efforts to obtain preferential
treatment for a former unpaid consultant of the subcommittee who had
been drafted. The secretary of the army had tapes of telephone
conversations that recorded Cohn and McCarthy harassing army
officials and threatening them with investigations. The tapes also
revealed that Cohn had demanded that his assistant G. David Schine,
not be called to military service. When Schine was called anyway
McCarthy then made his accusations against the army. When the
Secretary of the army was called to testify McCarthy attacked a
lawyer that had worked for the secretary’s chief counsel (lawyer).
The army lawyer Mr. Welch, declared “Until this moment, Senator, I
think I never gauged your cruelty or your recklessness…Have you no
sense of decency sir? At long last, have you no sense of decency?”
McCarthy was exposed for the fraud he was.

During the ensuing Senate
investigations, which were widely publicized in the press and given
nationwide radio and television coverage, McCarthy was cleared of the
charges against him but was censured (punished) by the Senate for the
methods he had used in his investigations and for his abuse of
certain senators and Senate committees. His influence both in the
Senate and on the national political scene diminished steadily
thereafter. McCarthy remained in the Senate until his death in
Bethesda, Maryland, on May 2, 1957. Roy Cohn outlived his mentor and
returned to practice law in New York City. He specialized in getting
big divorce settlements for rich women. Cohn lost his fortune when
the IRS discovered he hadn’t paid his taxes. Cohn died of AIDS on
August 2, 1986.

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