American history has a surplus of occurrences with events and people that fit the recurring theme of tragedy and triumph. During the period between, 1950 to 1954 terror spread throughout America and its people. In the span of the few years, America was in turmoil due to the fear of the infiltration of communist influence within America’s government or extreme cases, eradicating American democracy and freedom altogether. A significant main part of the U. S Senate Joseph McCarthy decided to get involved and act. However, McCarthyism showed the tragedy that happened to the American people but resulting in triumph in America.
Not even 5 years after World War 2, the Cold War erupted. Beginning in 1947 the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union over the spread of communism. The spread of communism scared Americans and the war started out of fear from the United States. During that time, the Soviet Union was spreading propaganda and other means to expand the idea of communism. This brought fear to America. While this was happening, some countries in eastern Europe converted to communism, and Asian countries like China, which was a world power, was now under the rule of communism. These sudden changes began to strike fear in American people, believing that communism would make it to America and eventually dominate the world. Moreover, not only was the United States faced with the fear of communism worldwide, but there was also fear in America itself.
In 1947, a man named Joseph McCarthy who was a part of the U. S Senate decided to act upon the situation. He gave a speech that put him in the national spotlight for telling the American people shocking information regarding the American government. He announced that he held a list that had names of government officials that were members of the communist party. As a response, he said, ‘Our job as Americans and as Republicans is to dislodge the traitors from every place where they’ve been sent to do their traitorous work’ (“McCarthyism”). Not only did it send America into chaos, but it also made Americans doubtful of other people in fear of communist living amongst them. Aside from causing national paranoia, McCarthy capitalized on it, proclaimed that communist spies were living amongst the common people, and claimed that he was America’s sole liberation. He sent the nation into a pandemonium of accusing, at first, low-level governors in relation to the communist party, then, eventually, making his way up in the government accusing high ranking and highly praised government officials. It was essentially a 1950s version of the Salem witch trials. At the time event, the supreme court was in his favor. However, that only lasted a short period. When McCarthy was accusing other ranking officials, he had to present decent evidence to bring it into a court. Going through the list of people he suspected, “He cited 81 cases. He skipped several numbers, and for some cases repeated the same flimsy information. He proved nothing, but the Senate called for a full investigation” (“McCarthyism”). Disregarding the fact that he presented his claim with insufficient evidence, this caused the American people to become more fearful and subsequently began to distrust some governors and government officials.
But one of the symbols related to McCarthyism is the red scare. The red scare resulted in the fear the American people had in the government and evolved into fearing the common people. As McCarthyism grew people believed “Communists could be lurking anywhere, using their positions as school teachers, college professors, labor organizers, artists, or journalists to aid the program of world Communist domination” (“McCarthyism and the red scare”). As this was going on McCarthy was in the national spotlight, accusing people, now proven innocent, of associating with the communist party. But during that time people did not want to stop him due to, “McCarthy’s shrieking denunciations and fear-mongering created a climate of fear and suspicion across the country. No one dared tangle with McCarthy for fear of being labeled disloyal [to the American government]” (“McCarthyism and the red scare”). Thus, resulting in the accusations that lasted for more than 2 years.
The most popular form of McCarthyism was McCarthy himself, however, McCarthyism was also happening in the film world. The HUAC, also known as the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, were also very active during McCarthyism and these actions would be part of the foundation of it. This group was most active in anti-communist investigations, however, the HUAC made a name for itself for its involvement in the Hollywood film industry. The new purpose of the committee was to warrant, “screenwriters, directors, and other movie industry professionals to testify about their known or suspected membership in the Communist Party, association with its members, or support of its beliefs” (“McCarthyism” [New World Encyclopedia]). Some people cooperated but others did not. Ten people decided not to answer questions given to them and were then named the “Hollywood Ten”. The ten people believed that the First Amendment, freedom of speech, would protect them from being able to avoid answering the committee’s questions. Contrarily, it did not help in their favor and they were put into jail for 6 months to a year. These actions and decisions heavily influenced McCarthyism.
McCarthyisms lasted for five years and as a result, ruining people’s careers and livelihood; McCarthy was no exception. The American people and the government got sick of his accusations that lacked strong evidence. McCarthy indicated many people including people in office and officials working in the government; even going as far as accusing America’s army. Thus resulting in one of his cases known as the “Army-McCarthy” hearing. In this hearing, McCarthy wanted to “expose” infiltration in the armed forces. At this point in time, McCarthy lost a lot of his supporters due to broadcasting the hearing,
The American people watched as McCarthy intimidated witnesses and offered evasive responses when questioned. When he attacked a young Army lawyer, the Army’s chief counsel thundered, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” The Army-McCarthy hearings struck many observers as a shameful moment in American politics (“Joseph”).
After the case against the United States Army, it leads to his inevitable downfall. He lost most of his followers due to the newspapers exposing him as a bully and eventually lost his power. The Senate declared his actions as “inexcusable” and “unfit for a senator”. As a result, McCarthy lost his job and the five-year persecution ceased.
Looking back at history one may find that nothing good came out of McCarthyism. However, looking back people may believe that the chaos and panic that happen during the time of McCarthyism was an example of what not to do. McCarthyism came to be in American due to false accusations and lack of evidence to support one’s claim. This event itself is an event that people in the future can learn and not repeat history again. The future generations would learn from their mistakes of falsely accusing other people and not repeat the tragic 1950s version of the Salem witch trials.
McCarthyism showed the tragedy of the American people but the lesson learned was America’s Triumph. Through the terror that spread throughout America and its people in the span of the few years, to America in turmoil due to the fear of the infiltration of communist, McCarthyism has left its mark as an event that terrorized the American people. Although America is rich with historical events, McCarthyism is one of the events that left an impression as a tragedy, however, its results and lessons wee one of America’s triumphs.