McCarthyism – A Shameful Movement in U.S. History
“Don’t criticize the United States. Don’t be different. Just conform” (Independence Hall Association). This was the code that the average American citizen lived by during one of our nation’s most shameful moments in U.S. history. This code came about during the early 1950’s and lasted for several years in a brief movement known as McCarthyism. McCarthyism was the political practice of publicizing accusations of disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence. The question that we have to ask ourselves is, “How could something like this happen in a country that is known as the Land of the free?” Sadly, the answer is quite simple. It all began with a speech.
On February 9, 1950, Joseph McCarthy, a relatively unknown senator from Wisconsin, publicly declared that more than two hundred card-carrying members of the Communist Party had infiltrated the United States government. It is important to note that prior to his speech, there had been a few cases of communist spies selling information about the American government to the Soviet Union (Hoyt). However, after McCarthy’s speech, which provided nothing is regards to actual evidence, the Senate called for a full investigation of the matter. What ensued can only be described as mass hysteria.
According to Fred Cook, the author of the book The Nightmare Decade: The Life and Times of Senator Joe McCarthy, “It was a time of national paranoia in which the greatest power on earth expended its energies hunting for communists under every bed; in which millions of average Americans looked fearfully over their shoulders, wondering whether they would be tapped next to explain themselves before the grand inquisitors” (3). The question every person in America feared was, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?” Regardless of their response, they were already guilty in the eyes of the congressional panel. Their names were released...