How did McCarthyism and the Army-McCarthy Hearings effect America during the Cold War?

Erica Riccardi 2008/2009

Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957)

Joseph McCarthy was a Republican Senator from Wisconsin who is infamous for his attacks on suspected communists without sufficient evidential support. His practice of accusing Americans who have no evidence of affiliation with Communists became term
Senator Joseph McCarthy
ed McCarthyism. Nowadays, McCarthyism is used "more generally to describe demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents." Particularly during the early 1950s, Senator McCarthy claimed that communist spies and supporters were infiltrating the federal government and spreading across the nation. Many Americans, due to the onset of the Cold War, believed him. And fervent anticommunist feeling spread. In 1954, the famous Army-McCarthy hearings took place, in which McCarthy lost much of his popularity. The event was publicized through the media, and the nation was able to witness McCarthy's lack of evidence against the accused Communists. In six months, his
popularity fell from 50% to 34%. By the end of 1954 the Senate voted to censure McCarthy for his unprofessional ways.

The Army-McCarthy Hearings (1954)

The U.S. Army accused McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn, of illegally forcing the Army treat G. David Schine, an ally to McCarthy and Cohn, better than anyone else in the army. McCarthy denied all claims, naturally. So the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations was given the task of trying him and Cohn. The hearings went on for 36 days and were viewed on live television across America. It was estimated that 20 million Americans viewed the hearings. Though McCarthy was not found guilty of his charges, millions of Americans saw McCarthy's true character:"bullying reckless, and dishonesty." The significance of the hearings was the decline in McCarthy's popularity that resulted from the trial.

This clip is just a tase of how the 36 days commensed. McCarthy is found guilty of pressuring the army to offer better treatment to Schine, but to combat their findings, he demanded that the army be throughly inspected for any communists and communists supporters. He created a case out of a subject that he knew would get people's attention just to rid himself of negative publicity. However, his plan backfired. He still came off looking like a bad guy, and on top of that, he had to continue supporting the lie he conjured out of suspected communist activities.

Political Influence

During McCarthy's popularity streak, he was a growing threat to all politicians, especially liberals. Senators were hesitant to speak out against him fearing that their opposition would cause him to accuse them of being Communist. Being labeled as a suspected Communist would any man's career. In 1952, during Eisenhower's presidential campaign, Eisenhower was afraid of complimenting Secretary of State Marshall during a campaign in his home state because the former Secretary and McCarthy were foes. There was a large amount of support to pass the McCarran Act, banning the Communist Party, because they wanted McCarthy on their side.

Though the Communist party ceased to exist as the Cold War continued, the "American-left" seemed to dwindle as well, due to objection of radical or liberal
ideas in a time of fear. With the disappearance of a left wing, moderates were then vulnerable to right wing strikes, and so their efforts became ineffective and conservatives had complete control.

McCarthy was never directly involved with the House Un-American Activities Committee, but he did have a great amount of influence on it. McCarthy was convinced that there were Communists in Hollywood, and soon enough HUAC investigated the Screen Actors Guild and developed the Hollywood Blacklist, or the Hollywood Ten.

HUAC investigated SAC while Ronald Reagan was president. So he was questioned about any suspicions of communist activities.

MR. JACKSON: Mr. Chairman, may I say that I am thinking of no greater way to parade one's political beliefs than to appear under the auspices of Mainstream, a Communist publication…
MR. MOSTEL: I appreciate your opinion very much but I do want to say that—I don't know, you know—I still stand on pay grounds, and maybe it is unwise and unpolitical of me to say this. If I appeared there, what if I did an imitation of a butterfly at rest? There is no crime in making anybody laugh … I don't care if you laugh at me.
MR. JACKSON: If your interpretation of a butterfly at rest brought any money into the coffers of the Communist Party, you contributed directly to the propaganda effort of the Communist Party.
MR. MOSTEL: Suppose I had the urge to do the butterfly at rest somewhere.
MR. DOYLE: Yes, but please, when you have the urge, don't have such an urge to put the butterfly at rest by putting money in the Communist Party coffers as a result of that urge to put the butterfly at rest. —HUAC hearing testimony, October 14, 1955

As one can imagine, fear of communism at home led to an extreme distrust of all Communist countries across the globe. Relations were so bad in East Asia that the U.S did not even recognize the People's Republic of China until Nixon became president. The fear and hatred of Communism McCarthy sent across the nation was so strong, it droves America into many quasi wars against the Soviet influence. Korea, China, and Vietnam all encountered conflict with Americans during the Cold War. It is safe to say that if there had been less American anti-communistic feeling, there may not have been so many lost lives.

Social Influence

With the disappearance of the liberals, American social policies swung back over to the right. After WWII, the government abandoned unfinished New Deal reforms. National health care was brushed aside, along with other health reforms that would help middle and lower class America. McCarthyism drew attention away from helping the people, towards futile searches for Communist searches in the liberally driven labor movement.
very good video

McCarthy manipulated the minds of many Americans. He made so many believe that Communists were entering the country surrounding us waiting to take over the U.S. However, many came to learn that all of this was a lie. Effective propaganda, convincing speeches, and influence from the Cold War made McCarthy so famous. He was on a witch-hunt, looking for alleged Communists despite the fact that they did not exist.

Cultural and Intellectual Influence

"The nation's cultural and intellectual life also suffered. While there were other reasons why TV offered a bland menu of quiz shows and Westerns during late 1950s, McCarthy-era anxieties clearly played a role. Similarly, the blacklist contributed to the reluctance of the film industry to grapple with controversial social or political issues. In the intellectual world, Cold War liberals also avoided controversy. They celebrated the "the end of ideology," claiming that the United States' uniquely pragmatic approach to politics made the problems that had once concerned left-wing ideologists irrelevant. Consensus historians pushed that formulation into the past and described a nation that had never experienced serious internal conflict. It took the civil rights movement and Vietnam War to bring reality back in."

"Ironically, just as these social commentators were lauding the resilience of American democracy, the anticommunist crusade was undermining it. The political repression of the McCarthy period fostered the growth of the national security state and facilitated its expansion into the rest of civil society. In the name of protecting the nation from communist infiltration, federal agents attacked individual rights and extended state power into movie studios, universities, labor unions, and many other ostensibly y independent institutions. The near universal deference to the federal government's formulation of the communist threat abetted the proi_was_a_communist_for_the_fbi.jpgcess and suppressed opposition to what was going on. Moreover, even after the anticommunist campaign began to abate, the e antidemocratic practices associated with it continued. We can trace the legacy of McCarthyism in the FBI's secret COINTELPRO program of harassing political dissenters, the Watergate-related felonies of the Nixon White House, and Iran-Contra. The pervasiveness of such wrongdoing reveals how seriously the nation's defenses against official illegalities had eroded in the face of claims that national security took precedence over ordinary law. During the McCarthy years, the collaboration of private institutions and public agencies in suppressing the alleged threat of domestic communism ate away at the political freedom of all Americans. It may not yet have been completely restored."

In response to HUAC investigatons of Hollywood, most studios produced a number of anti-communist and anti-Soviet propaganda films such as Big Jim McLain, Guilty of Treason, The Red Menace, The Red Danube, I Married a Communist, Red Plantet Mars, and I was a Communist for the FBI.

Works Cited