Saturday, September 22, 2007

1954 Joseph McCarthy on TV….the Communism scare


In 1953 I transferred from Upsala College in New Jersey to Boston University to pursue a degree in Journalism and Communications. I lived at home during this time and commuted to school by train.

That was a very special time for me. All my siblings (4 older sisters) had left the nest and I had come back to roost for a bit. We lived in a large 13 room, Victorian house and my parents gave me the third floor to make over into an apartment...my very own private quarters.

I used to hibernate in my special place and read or write to my heart’s content. But I also reveled in the fact that I could have my Mother and Dad’s undivided attention and we spent many hours discussing all sorts of things...not least of them being the politics of the day. It was the time of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his intense anti-Communism tactics.

My folks and I would listen in dismay to his free-wheeling accusations and we couldn’t believe that he was given so much latitude. People at every level of society were being persecuted by him and his cronies.

In the Spring of 1954 the Army-McCarthy hearings were televised from the Senate Caucus Room. It was the first time that anything of this sort had been brought before the public and I would rush home from school every day to listen to and watch the proceedings. It was a ridiculous trial concerning G. David Schine, a consultant on McCarthy’s staff, who was drafted into the army. Roy Cohn, Chief Counsel for McCarthy, claimed that the army was holding Schine “hostage” to deter the committee from exposing communists within the military ranks.

The 36 days of televised hearings were ludicrous and just one of the many ways that Joseph McCarthy played havoc with the lives of so many innocent people. I remember that time very clearly and how relieved I was when it seemed to come to an end.

It is with dismay that I see some of those same scare tactics being used today. “McCarthyism” is defined as “the practice of publicizing accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence”.
Sounds a little close to home, doesn’t it?

10 Comments:

Blogger seventh sister said...

You said it!

7:00 PM  
Blogger SARAHDIPITY said...

Ginnie,
I enjoyed catching up with your blog today. You write so well about varieties of topics!

Thanks for your advice about pictures!
Sarah

7:10 PM  
Blogger Chancy said...

Ginnie, I too remember the McCarthy hearing on TV. I watched as much of it as I could manage and found it facinating. You are right it was the first time something of this magnitude had been televised since TV was still in it's infancy. You have a way with words and your description of those days is on the mark. I was so glad when McCarthy and his "Red Scare Tactics" faded away after the Senate censured him.

"Later in 1954, the Senate voted to censure Senator McCarthy by a vote of 67 to 22, making him one of the few senators ever to be disciplined in this fashion. McCarthy died in Bethesda Naval Hospital on May 2, 1957, at the age of 48. The official cause of death was acute hepatitis; it is widely accepted that this was brought on by alcoholism"

7:37 PM  
Blogger KGMom said...

Ginnie--just as I was reading your blog, your comment on mine came through! A new way for messages to cross.
Anyway, I very much enjoyed your observations here. I was nine during these hearings (and out of the country), but I have read much about them. Of course, as a lit major, I have also studied Arthur Millers' THE CRUCIBLE which is a masterful telling these times, all in the guise of the Salem witch trials.
OH YES--there are too many parallels to today. I think of George Santayana's caution--those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Given the refusal to learn from history that is so prevalent today, it is hardly surprising that some folks use tactics that echo McCarthy.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

We very recently watched a documentary about Lucille Ball, and learned that she had been put on the list, at least for a while. They had been worried how it might have affected the show, but it didn't.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Puttrboy said...

Ginny, how well I remember. And yes the
same stuff goes on today--just a bit
more subtle.

2:10 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

Excellent post, Ginnie. It saddens me, however, that we continue to repeat past mistakes. It says something about a certain mindset, doesn't it?

2:59 AM  
Blogger kenju said...

AMEN, Ginnie! I was just a child, but I remember my parents talking about it, and it is scary to see it happening time and time again.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Wow - Ginnie. Mike and I were just talking about a commentary (Keith Olbermann) about something Guiliani said. Olbermann was making comparisons about what he said with McCarthyism. Using scare tactics of terrorism to sway voters in a certain direction.

I do love reading your posts!! :)

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Terri said...

Oh, yeah...it seems we are living a repeat of that era. Most definitely!
Remember the saying....those that forget history are doomed to repeat it.
Unfortunately, that's where our country is today.
Very good post.

6:58 AM  

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