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Joe McCarthy: Gone but certainly not forgotten

By Michael M. Bates
web posted May 28, 2007

It would be remiss of me not to note that this month marks 50 years since the death of Senator Joe McCarthy.  What would Commies, pinkos, socialists, leftists, liberals, and their lackeys and handmaidens have done for the past half century if they didn't have old Joe to kick around?

Even after all this time, the Wisconsin Republican is in the news.  Recently, the Los Angeles Times ran an obituary for Bernard Gordon, described by the newspaper as "one of the younger screenwriters blacklisted during the McCarthy era."  Mr. Gordon, we're told, was "unable to find work because of the blacklist."

Joe McCarthyThere was a blacklist, but it existed a long time before McCarthy jumped on the anti-Communist bandwagon.  The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigated Red infiltration in Hollywood and called "the Hollywood Ten" of writers, directors and producers to testify in 1947.  McCarthy started his crusade against Communism three years later.

Bernard Gordon was subpoenaed by HUAC in 1952, but was never called to testify.  That was also the year of his first produced screenplay.  So did he actually find himself out of work because of the blacklist?

Not according to the Writers Guild of America, West.  Using other people's names, he kept quite busy.  The Corrected Blacklist Credits list, as maintained by the guild, shows Mr. Gordon worked on a picture in 1954, one in 1956, five in 1957 and one in 1958.  The LA Times obituary states he made more than 20 films.  That doesn't suggest he was unable to work because of the blacklist.

Another fresh reference to Joe came from an Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist earlier this month.  She wrote of a Republican congressional candidate who "sounds as though he's running to replace U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the notorious Wisconsin Republican whose Commie-baiting smear tactics ruined lives. . . "

The claim that McCarthy destroyed the lives of many innocent people is a preferred refrain of those who don't know what in the world they're talking about.  The respected author M. Stanton Evans has an excellent reply when challenged with that assertion: "Name one."

When Ann Coulter asked Fox News' Bill O'Reilly to identify a McCarthy-tormented innocent, the best the former history teacher could come up with was Dalton Trumbo, one of HUAC's "Hollywood Ten."  You might think the self-proclaimed no spin genius would know that senators don't chair House Committees.  You'd be wrong.

My own experience with McCarthy detractors is they're no better informed than O'Reilly.  Long in loathing for Joe, they're invariably short on facts.  One acquaintance told me he could just never forgive or forget how McCarthy attacked Bert Parks in a televised hearing. 

Only it wasn't Bert Parks, the longtime host of Miss America pageants, it was an actor named Larry Parks.  And it wasn't McCarthy, but HUAC.  And it wasn't televised.  And it was years before McCarthy kicked his struggle with Communism off in his 1950 Wheeling, West Virginia speech.

Otherwise, the acquaintance had all his facts right.  Besides, the McCarthy era encompasses anything bad that happened and relates to anti-Communism, regardless of when it really occurred.  It could just as easily have been coined the Truman/Eisenhower era or the Willie Mays era or the Bishop Fulton J. Sheen era.  Those, however, simply wouldn't have conveyed the genuine horror of the period when Tail Gunner Joe purportedly rode roughshod over everyone's civil liberties.

Shortly after his Wheeling speech, Democrats insisted McCarthy name names, right here and now.  His response on the Senate floor:

"The Senator from Illinois demanded, loudly, that I furnish all the names.  I told him at that time that so far as I was concerned, I thought that would be improper; that I did not have all the information about these individuals. . . .I have enough to convince me that either they are members of the Communist Party or they have given great aid to the Communists:  I may be wrong.  That is why I said that unless the Senate demanded that I do so, I would not submit this publicly, but I would submit it to any committee - and would let the committee go over these in executive session.  It is possible that some of these persons will get a clean bill of health. . . ."

Yes, he was so very irresponsible, making outrageous accusations and annihilating blameless people.  Little wonder that only last month a Colorado Springs Gazette sportswriter wrote: "In the early 1950s, Sen. Joe McCarthy recklessly - and often inaccurately - accused hundreds of Americans of Communist sympathies.  His name will forever define a savage, sad time in our history."

And this was in the sports pages for heaven's sake.  A Google search on "McCarthyism" today shows over 300 news articles using the term.  "McCarthy era" brings up more than 150.

Buried for 50 years, Joe McCarthy's still taking a beating from the fellow-traveling press.  He was no saint, but the mainstream media rarely takes the time to get their details straight.  Any similarity between what we read and historical reality is strictly coincidental. ESR

This Michael Bates column appeared in the May 24, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.       

Other related essays:

  • Defending the defensible by Steven Martinovich (March 1999)
    Elia Kazan has been unjustly persecuted for his actions in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, says Steve Martinovich
  • The HUAC testimony of Ayn Rand (September 1997)
    The House Un-American Activities Committee still gets the goats of many in Hollywood. Was it all just a witch-hunt, or was there a point? Here's one perspective

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