Joseph R. McCarthy's casual accusations of communism destroyed the lives of many political figures, artists, and others. The United States was in the mist of healing its World War II wounds and the fear of communism was at its peak. According to the text, McCarthy capitalized on the fears of communism our nation was experiencing to propel his popularity and tarnish the reputations of his fellow opponents. During a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1950, McCarthy waved a piece of paper, claiming he had a list of 205 or 81 or 57 or "a lot" of communist, sympathizers and soviet spies in the State Department among other places. The number of people he supposedly had on the list was never verified, however, he continued to change the numbers throughout the years. The frenzy and hysteria that he created grew into an uncontrollable avalanche that dramatically affected the lives of people he pointed the "red commie" finger at.
McCarthy was never able to sustain his claims with any real evidence, nevertheless, he managed to attack and destroy the character of many people. During such tumultuous times, when our country was riddled with fear of communist infiltration in its back yard, McCarthy's popularity grew exponentially. He tapped into the fears and weaknesses of our nation and sensationalized every moment he had. During the peak of his popularity, McCarthy's wicked and persistent claims of communism lurking within the state department, or among anyone who was a democrat, lead President Eisenhower to launch a loyalty campaign. This campaign resulted in "3000 firings and 5000 resignations of government employees." As the communist infiltration hysteria infected the psyche of the world, innocent people with no communist involvement other than a liberal point of view, were tried in court and ultimately left alone to perish. Our judicial system had failed and the American ideal that "an individual is innocent until proven guilty" was moot. An example of this failure was the famous spy trial of the Rosenberg's. Even though the courts found no substantial evidence to link Ethel and Julius Rosenberg to Communism, they were both sentenced to death by electric chair.
McCarthy also accused several actors, writers and producers of being communist. His accusations led to the blacklisting of many careers such as, Dashiell Hammett, Waldo Salt, Lillian Hellman, Lena Horne, Paul Robeson, Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Charlie Chaplin and Group Theatre members Clifford Odets, and Stella Adler. Being blacklisted meant not be considered for employment and thus, ostracized. This is McCarthy's legacy.
Even though communism was a threat to our country at the time, McCarthyism was undoubtedly an extremely inappropriate action. In retrospect, Joseph R. McCarthy was not only deceitful, but even his implications had catastrophic effects on countless innocent Americans. Throughout history, this "witch-hunt" mentality has proven to be counterproductive and evil.
Davidson, G., Heyrman, L., & Stoff, . (2005). Nations of Nations (4th ed.). Columbus, Ohio: McGaw Publishing Company.
Arthur Miller McCarthyism. (2006). Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/arthur-miller/mccarthyism/484/