The Rise and Fall of McCarthyism

The Rise and Fall of McCarthyism: An Explanation Of How the Media Created and
Then Destroyed Joseph McCarthy.

INTRODUCTION

The U.S. Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy, was born in Grand Chute,
Wisconsin, Nov.14, 1908, and died May 2, 1957, (Grolier, 1996) was best known
for his attacks on alleged Communist subversion most notably within the
administrations of the Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The
activities of McCarthy and his followers gave birth to the term McCarthyism.
This term is used in reference to "sensational and highly publicized personal
attacks, usually based on unsubstantiated charges, as a means of discrediting
people thought to be subversive."(Grolier, 1996)
McCarthy, before February of 1950, was by no means a distinguished
legislator. He held the attention of the United States by arguing that the
State Department was "riddled with card-carrying members of the Communist
Party."(Rovere,1959,p.128) McCarthy was shrewd in his manipulation of the media,
and well recognized for his skills in Public Relations. He used these abilities
to take advantage of the growing public frustration with the eastern Communist
movement, and moved from one charge to another. McCarthy barraged his
opposition with accusations and evaded demands for tangible proof as he
developed a loyal following. With the support of many Republicans, he accused
the administrations of Roosevelt and Truman with "twenty years of
treason."(Grolier, 1996)
After his reelection in 1952, McCarthy directed similar accusations at
the Eisenhower administration from a new post as head of the Senate's Government
Operations Committee and it's permanent investigations subcommittee. Eventually
he was discredited by the lack of substance in his claims of Communist
penetration in the U.S. army, through the nationally televised Army-McCarthy
hearings in 1954. On December 2,1954 the Senate voted to condemn him for
"conduct contrary to Senatorial traditions." The final vote was 67-22. From
this point forward any influence of Joe McCarthy was known to be small and
insignificant. McCarthy was politically dead. (Ewald, 1984, p.381)
Joseph McCarthy was an insignificant figure before 1950, and after 1954.
That is not to say that the man and his actions are not remembered, but after
1954 his influence and his political career were finished. It is the goal of
this work to prove that it was the press that created McCarthy, and that
McCarthy took advantage of the press' adherence to the principal of objectivity
to spread his undiluted charges of Communists in government.
Furthermore this essay will prove that McCarthy was killed by the hand
from which he was created. That is, that the press was also responsible for the
political death of Joseph McCarthy in 1954. The media took a united stand
against him, in response to a public bashing of president/leader of the
Republican party, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
On February 9, 1950 at the Lincoln Day dinner of the Ohio County Women's
Republican Club at the McClure Hotel in Wheeling, West Virginia, Joseph McCarthy
manipulated the press by way of speech, and started the McCarthyism ball rolling.
It "has been the subject of more speculation, argument, and investigation than
almost anything he said in the next five years."(Bayley, 1981, p.17) Based on
this incident and the incidents following the speech, this argument can be made;
the press, through its own negligence, created the era of McCarthyism.
McCarthy later denied having said what he was quoted to have said in the
speech. Apparently there was only one reporter present for the speech in
Wheeling, so it's his word against McCarthy's. The statement quoted in the
speech published in the Wheeling Intelligence in the story by Frank Desmond,
read as follows,

While I cannot take the time to name all of the men in the
State Department who have been named as members of the
Communist party and members of a spy ring, I have here in my
hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of the
State as being members of the Communist party and who
nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of
the State Department. (Bayley, 1981,p.17)

This story is held responsible for sparking the McCarthyism era.

The incidents following it, represent a journalistic period paralleled
to the Christian views of the Spanish Inquisition; a time period of branded
embarrassment and horror never to be forgotten.
Later McCarthy said the number he gave in his speech was not 205 but 57.
The fact is that Desmond had a written copy of the speech before McCarthy gave
it, but he could have changed the number to 57 when he actually presented the
speech. Regardless, the number 57 would have been just as shocking as 205. The
reporter's ethics and/or practices were questionable in handling this story.
Why he did not ask to see