Bill Moyers: The Ghost of Joe McCarthy

I’m not old enough to have lived through the McCarthy era, but memories of it were strong enough that it left an impression on my generation. Moyers’ gentlemanly manner leads him to understate how rabid and extreme the red-baiting of that period was. If you were tarred with being a Communist sympathizer, whether it was accurate or not, it was a career-ender. This propensity existed before McCarthy stoked it to a fever pitch, and it had all sorts of unfortunate side effects. Recall one seemingly minor casualty that had far-reaching consequences: how a textbook that gave an accurate rendering of Keynes was depicted as communistic, opening the way for neoclassical economics to become ascendant in the US. From ECONNED:

But there was a second, powerful reason to change Keynes for American consumption. A Canadian student of Keynes, Lorie Tarshis, published an economics textbook in 1947, The Elements of Economics, which included his interpretation of Keynes. It also suggested that markets required government support to attain full employment. It was engaging and well written, and sold well initially, but fell off quickly, the victim of an organized campaign by conservative groups to have the textbook removed. The book, and by implication Keynes, was inaccurately charged with calling for government ownership of enterprise. Any taint of Communist leanings would damage the career of a budding academic.

So aside from his refusal to accept some fundamental elements of Keynes’s construct, Samuelson had another reason to distance himself from the General Theory. Samuelson said he was well aware of the “virulence of the attack on Tarshis” and penned his text “carefully and lawyer like” to deflect similar attacks. He also took care to present his opus as “neoclassical synthesis Keynesianism.” The fact that Samuelson presented Keynes primarily through equations also made him less subject to political attack.

But Samuelson and his fellow neoclassical synthesis Keynesians, like Nobel laureates Robert Solow and James Tobin, told a story about the operation of a modern economy that was fundamentally at odds with Keynes’s precepts. Underneath the hood, Keynesianism was merely a branch of neoclassical thinking: while the economy could in theory work fine if left to its own devices, all sort of pesky real-world obstacles got in the way, like time lags and the ability of organizations to influence economic activity. Because pricing mechanisms didn’t always work correctly, an economy could fail to achieve full employment. That meant having the government stimulate the economy was a valid remedy.

Keynes, by contrast, saw the economy as fundamentally at risk of instability not due to factors that undermined how prices allocated resources and guided behavior, but due to how investors behaved: they could simply change their minds about how they felt about taking risk. If they became cautious on a large scale, the economy would suffer, and if the change was dramatic enough, it would go into a self-reinforcing downward spiral.

It is hard to depict how virulent the red-baiting period of the early to mid 1950s was*. It wasn’t merely State Department and members of the armed forces that came under scrutiny. There was a purge in Hollywood, with Elia Kazan standing up before McCathy saying he had been a member of the Communist Party and naming eight others he claimed had also been members; other member of the industry denounced colleagues in private to the authorities. Those accused were blacklisted for decades. Arthur Miller’s Tony-winning The Crucible was an allegorical protest against the escalating denouncements; not surprisingly, he was eventually called before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

But having said that, it’s important to recognize that, like in the 1950s, we live in an era of demagoguery. West is a blatant enough example to wake us up and remind us of the ugly paths it opens up.


*My college roommates included someone who wound up at Davis Polk; a Playboy model (1976 Ivy League issue), a later award winning poet, and two Communists. One of the Communists was very proud of the fact that her grandmother was the first person to take the Fifth Amendment all the way through her interrogation by McCarthy. But the grandmother became a Maoist and the rest of the family was pro-USSR, so you didn’t discuss Russia at family gatherings.

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  1. jake chase

    It is difficult to describe accurately how fearful the country was in the early 1950s. I recall grammar school nuclear attack drills in which we were all required to hide under tiny desks. What provoked this fear of Communism? It must have been the numerical strength of the Soviet Army. Perhaps Nixon and McCarthy imagined it marching across the Bering Straits? But it seems more likely that public relations experts saw red baiting as an easy way to control the entertainment industry and coopt its power to regularize cultural values. For about fifteen years, that worked. Then Viet Nam opened the country’s eyes.

    1. semiconscious

      & then ronald reagan lulled it back to sleep, ‘terrorism’ eventually replaced ‘communism”, & the country’s yet to reawaken to this day…

    2. David Lentini

      What’s also fascinating is how quickly the manipulators were able to change the country’s mood about the USSR. I recently watched one of the Why We Fight series of propaganda films made by the US during the Second World War. The movies were madby well-known Hollywood directors and actors to give the public the government-approved view of the war as well as show.

      John Huston directed a long film on the Soviet Union’s fight against the Nazis. The message was that the fight was just another in the long saga of German attempts to control Russia’s vast resources and industry, even including scenes from Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky to depict the repulsion of the Teutonic Knights in the 13th Century.

      The movie kept silent about “communism”, instead stressing that the Soviets, like Americans, were industrious, loved their “freedom”, and would fight to the end to defend their country. The joint Moscow-Berlin pact that divided Poland in 1939, and Stalin’s invasion of the Baltic states, were conveniently forgotten; instead these were described as a last minute attempt by peaceful Russia to create a defensive buffer.

      Yet a decade later, the entire US was in terror of the same people even while the Soviet government was far more rational than in Stalin’s day. Just amazing.

      1. from Mexico

        What boggles the mind is how successful the McCarthyites and fellow travelers (large swaths of the MSM, the academe and the intelligentsia) were, if not in destroying the reputation of Albert Einstein, at least in irreparably damaging it. Einstein was one of those extremely rare individuals who was not only an intllectual giant, but a moral giant as well. As Susan Nieman explains:

        Yet his essay “Why Socialism“ – written in 1949, hardly an opportune time, goes so far as to say that “the economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is the real source of evil“. Socialism, for him, is the reasonable response to a crisis of value: he thought the present sense a result of the lack of connections between individual and society. That break itself is furthered by the fact that the media are so thoroughly controlled by economic interests that individual citizens cannot use the political rights they have, while fear of unemployment makes them docile and tame… What‘s unusual in Einstein‘s arguments are first, his unequivocal rejection of Soviet-style communism: “No purpose is so high that unworthy methods in achieving it can be justified.“ Equally unStalinist was his claim that socialism can never be scientific. Einstein‘s socialism was a moral commitment, the only one he thought could give life meaning.

        What else besides Einstein’s socialism explains why the MSM, the academe and the intelligentsia did a hit job on him, portraying him as a “Luftmensch,” a “bumbling professor with a German accent” (Time Magazine), an “eternal child” and a “sad fool” (Die Zeit), “childlike” and “wholly without sophistication” (J. Robert Oppenheimer), “innocent” (Isaiah Berlin), and “well-meant in the ususal sense, but lacking a certain closeness to reality” (Fritz Stern)?

        Joe McCarthy was just the tip of the iceberg.

        1. nobody

          What else? Einstein was almost certainly autistic, and autistics tend to fall prey to such prejudicial readings.

      2. SqueakyRat

        There really was more to it than that. Communism — the real thing, not what Obama gets accused of — actually was on the march after WWII. The Chinese revolution was not a figment of the imagination. Neither was the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Neither was the Korean war. Neither was the decay of European imperialism in South Asia, raising questions about the nature of the regimes to follow. Neither was the espionage that sped along the development of the USSR’s nuclear weapons program.

        Nowadays people tend to remember the USSR as a hopelessly feeble, maladministered crony state. Back then, it looked far more formidable, not just militarily but also economically.

        I’m not defending the Red Scare, which was a shameless strategy of political exploitation by conservative Republicans, and which smeared many loyal Americans (including members of my own family).

        But it is simply historical ignorance to think we can sit here in 2013 and suppose there was really nothing to fear.

        1. Jagger

          One thing to bear in mind was the West and the US was also on the march. Off the top of my head, I remember England intervening militarily to ensure the revolution in Greece failed and thus remained in the “West”. I strongly suspect with a little digging we would find plenty of examples of brute power used to ensure capitalism remained in power regardless of the will of a nation’s people after WW2.

          Of course, Communism was 100 percent authoritarian. For the people of a nation to revolt in favor of communism would suggest that a state had completely failed in basic governance.

          1. lucky

            “I strongly suspect with a little digging we would find plenty of examples of brute power used to ensure capitalism remained in power regardless of the will of a nation’s people after WW2.”

            Iran and the Congo come to mind. In both cases the US removed democratically elected heads of state.

        2. from Mexico

          SqueakyRat says:

          There really was more to it than that. Communism — the real thing, not what Obama gets accused of — actually was on the march after WWII.

          The counterargument to this was brilliantly put forth in The Power Principle, which can be seen on the internet here:

          As the film’s maker, Scott Noble, says:

          In terms of emphasis – here are some points I stress.

          #1. The Cold War was not just a struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States; the real struggle was between American corporations and the Third World.

          #2. Top policy planners in the US and other Western nations were acutely aware that the Soviet Union had a conservative foreign policy. You can see this in numerous declassified documents. Nevertheless, the American government engaged in what can only be described as a campaign of terrorism against the American people, constantly invoking the “Soviet Menace” to justify military spending and war.

          #4. The Pentagon is a Keynsian Mechanism.

          #7. Corporate interests are inextricably wed with military policy.

          #10. The US is not exceptional. It is behaving pretty much as powerful states always have.

          #11. Western elites supported fascism prior to, during and after WWII.

          I think something Daniel Yankelvich said in Coming to Public Judgment, and what has happened since then, goes a long way towards debunking your argument, and bolstering Noble’s:

          In 1985 and 1986, the early days of his leadership, Gorbachev and his close associates delighted in saying to American visitors: “We are going to present you Americans with a terrible dilemma. We are going to deprive you of an enemy.”

          Corporate America thrashed around for a while trying to find a new enemy. First it was the gays and the counterculture. Then it was The War on Drugs. But now with all the shabby screeds bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror, Islam exposed, the Arab threat, the Muslim menace and The War on Terror, its quite clear that corporate America has found its new “evil empire.”

        3. anyone

          But it is simply historical ignorance to think we can sit here in 2013 and suppose there was really nothing to fear.

          True that. Sort of. To paraphrase FDR: The only thing we had to fear was fear itself. And fear it we did. Abundantly! Pathologically! Even suicidally ! In fact we’re still fearing it to this very day! Thing is, the thing we’re most afraid of is actually just our own reflection. We’ve become the thing we feared the most: a totalitarian monster.

    3. anyone

      Hard to tell in retrospect whether or not we “feared” communism or were simply looking for another excuse to break out “the gadget” on yet another ill-defined “existential threat.” Certainly it’s invention and follow-on proliferation made everyone at least a little crazy/drunk with the US’s new found power, not the least of which was the little Napoleon Harry Truman, and the power structure that supported him and gave birth to the nascent MICC (Military Industrial Congressional Complex). The equally subservient Eisenhower administration proved only to be a breeding ground for another future psychopath of some renown, and the ground was laid for the totally skewed psychopathic military/political policy framework that we have to this day: the US as self-appointed world policeman and enforcer of “FREE MARKET FREEDOM” (you’re exactly as free as US “sponsored” corporate capitalist markets say you are) the world over.

      Of course, anyone with an ounce of sense now knows that all of that was pure bullshit; a Trojan horse subterfuge perpetuated to allow wealthy US capitalist interests to impose their will unfettered wherever and whenever they choose. That much is fairly uncontroversial now, in that even the died in the wool old-school conservatives will admit as much (hell, they’ll launch into much braggadocio over the fact!) over cigars and brandy. What’s truly interesting to me is how the public in general, and the baby boom generation in particular, continued to buy into this crap post-Vietnam. Yeah, I understand the shame over all that went on in the late 60’s and 70’s, and the subsequent attempt to regain our “national respect” (whatever in the hell that is); but the utter glee and abandon in which we embraced such an obviously cartoonish character as Ronnie “Ray Gun” Reagan and his subsequent deification is something that baffles me to this day. All of which just makes everything “post-Shrub” seem like some terrifying 60’s drug fueled flashback/nightmare from which it now appears that we’ll never awake. Even in retrospect for those of us who have lived through it all, it’s almost impossible to comprehend how far down the road to totalitarianism we’ve come in only a handful of generations. This is one Dr Strangelove movie I don’t want to stick around to see the end of, although I imagine it’ll be even more surreal than the original. Who’d a thunk that none other than Kubrick himself would eventually be trumped by reality?

      1. cadam

        Thanks, Anyone. A nice summary of the last 50-60 years. And now we are trying hard to wake up, thinking maybe we have finally awakened, when we realize the reality around us STILL isn’t quite right and we are sucked back into the next chapter of nightmare-vortex. Oh, no . . . . .

        Well, it’s been a crazy ride, and it’s not over yet. In the meantime, let us take strength from the fragile beauty, the quiet heroism, we encounter each day.

    4. JTFaraday

      “Perhaps Nixon and McCarthy imagined it marching across the Bering Straits?”

      Could be. It is true that Sarah Palin can see Russia from her back yard.

    5. different clue

      I read somewhere that McCarthy himself didn’t even care about it to begin with. He thought he would launch his fame and career by agitating for a bigger better St. Laurence SeaWay until he realized that AntiCommunism would attract more attention to turn into fame and power.

    6. nonclassical

      not so:

      “With GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK, George Clooney delivers a riveting account of a crucial chapter in 20th-century American history and, in the process, firmly establishes himself as a major force behind the camera as well. The crisply paced, tautly scripted docudrama recounts the events of the mid-1950s leading up to acclaimed CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow’s (David Strathairn) decision to stand up against fiery Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was out to rid the country of communism. McCarthy’s seemingly reckless behavior, in which he condemned individuals without giving them a fair trial, angered Murrow and his producer Fred Friendly (Clooney) into action. The resulting few episodes of Murrow’s show, SEE IT NOW, found Murrow on a personal, patriotic crusade to challenge McCarthy and rid America of his callous persecution.Set almost entirely inside the smoke-filled, pressurized newsrooms at CBS, Clooney’s assured picture moves at a breakneck pace. Cinematographer Robert Elswit miraculously recreates the black-and-white look of that era, giving the film an added air of legitimacy. And while Clooney and co-screenwriter/producer Grant Heslov wisely chose to use stock footage of McCarthy instead of finding an actor to fill his shoes, they couldn’t have found a better Murrow than Strathairn, who delivers his lines with heroic conviction. Clooney’s stellar ensemble cast also includes Ray Wise, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Daniels, and Frank Langella.”

      But it does get waaayyyy worse:

      “Most people will be shocked to learn that in 1933 a cabal of wealthy industrialists—in league with groups like the K.K.K. and the American Liberty League—planned to overthrow the U.S. government in a fascist coup. Their plan was to turn discontented veterans into American “brown shirts,” depose F.D.R., and stop the New Deal. They clandestinely asked Medal of Honor recipient and Marine Major General Smedley Darlington Butler to become the first American Caesar. He, though, was a true patriot and revealed the plot to journalists and to Congress. In a time when a sitting President has invoked national security to circumvent constitutional checks and balances, this episode puts the spotlight on attacks upon our democracy and the individual courage needed to repel them.”

  2. Michael M Thomas

    I vividly recall the ’50s. I went off to boarding school in 1950 and graduated from college in 1958. At the former, we would avidly watch the “McCarthy-Army hearings,” as we called them. The Soviet threat, nuclear-tipped, was a reality. Who knew: Korea might be a test for an invasion of Western Europe (the Iron Curtain had fallen; Berlin was divided; Hungary in 1956 had given proof of Soviet intentions and capabilities). Most of all, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were vivid, living images, not to mention the Bikini tests. The Fuchs-Rosenberg atomic spy ring had given nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, so treason was also a living reality in peoples’ minds and the witch-hunters were out in force, McCarthy and the earlier Hollywood hearings leading the way. All these were in the air, and a general, fearful paranoia hung everywhere about. Eventually, new generations arrived on the scene, World War 2 and Korea receded in memory, McCarthy was disgraced and over even a longer time frame, new demagogueries and paranoia-peddlers appeared. I suppose you could say that Fox News sprouted from Joe McCa arthy’s grave.

  3. c.raghavan

    Even before McCarthy and his tactics visavis State Dept, Lyndon Johnson, an FDR Newdealer until FDR died, as chairman of a Senate subcommittee used such tactics to derail Truman’s nomination of Leland Olds for a new term at the Federal Power Commission. Olds had attempted to regulate oil and natural gas prices. LBJ used smear tactics to block Olds. as Robert Caro in the third volume of his LBJ biograph has brought out (pp 256-303), including his unscrupulousness, when LBJ after Olds nomination had been defeated, telling Olds in the corridor, “Lee I hope you understand there’s nothing personal in this. We’re still friends aren’t we. It’s only politics you know”. LBJ went on to ascend the Senae power ladder, and to White House and riches (via his wife’s radio licence); Olds died jobless and poor.

    1. David Lentini

      Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States (despite it’s flaws) really brought how FDR’s death enabled the industrialists and bankers to recapture political power. The story of how Henry Wallace’s place on the 1944 presidential ticket, to be replaced by the more pliable Harry Truman, was like something out of a Frank Capra movie.

      1. anyone

        Perhaps you could expound on its flaws. I read some accounts in the MSM that alleged as much as well, but dismissed most of those after watching the series (I’m still reading the book) as just so much American exceptionalist apologia in turn.

  4. Schofield

    The demonization continues. Government creation of money is the work of Demons whilst private bank creation of money is that of Human Beings.

  5. old vet

    Am in the middle of a new book “Subversives” by Seth Rosenfeld, covering this from the time of the students protests at UC-Berkeley to the rise of St Ronnie of the Raygun. He was after all president of SAG, Screen Actors Guild, and was a dedicated Communist witch-hunter.

  6. from Mexico

    Between Dallas and Austin, Texas (more specifically between Waco and Temple), there was (and may still be) a billboard on the side of I-35 with a short and concise phrase, something to this effect:


    1. LucyLulu

      Yes, and anybody who is seen as having “progressive views” is subject to the label of ‘socialist’, which in common usage seems to refer to somebody with a ‘milder, but equally deplorable, case of communism (they want to take my stuff)’.

    2. ambrit

      Dear from Mexico;
      Around here recently, The Heart of Dixie (Mississippi), there was a billboard alongside Hwy 49 exhorting the faithful to “Save America from Obama and his Socialist Plans.” I’d find it interesting to discover who pays for these signs. They can’t be free, not in a “Free Market Paradise” like ours. (Ours?)
      I too am occasionally ‘accused’ of being Communist. I once had to duck a swing at my face when I replied; “Communist? You wouldn’t recognize a real Communist if one bit you on your a—!” The best part of it was, I was the one told to leave the diner. I guess stupidity is its’ own reward.

  7. BillyBob

    Do not forget Lauchlin Currie and Harry Dexter White, two economists in the FDR Administration accused in 1948 – well before McCarthy, because McCarthy came at the end of “McCarthyism” – of being Russian spies based on assumptions about side notes in the Venona files and the very iffy testimony of communist intelligence archivists in post-communist Russia. Both Currie and White were Keynesians fighting for the soul of Roosevelt and the use of deficit spending to restart the economy after the disastrous 1937 attempt at balancing the budget. Currie was forced into exile and White died suddenly after testifying to Congress.

    1. jake chase

      Wasn’t Harry Dexter White the American representative at Bretton Woods, who undercut Keynes’ plans for a viable international monetary system?

  8. Knut

    I grew up under McCarthy. My father, who had some communist associations, was scared stiff of losing his job. Another thing that people are unlikely to know is that it was not just McCarthy and HUAC who were at work; individual states and organizations formed their own ‘Committees’ to hunt down communists. There was palpable fear of even mentionin Marx, as if the word was an infectious disease. We were taught nothing.

    One of the serious consequences of the purges of the State Department was the gutting of expertise on East Asia, which accounts for some (but not all) of the ignorance that led to the war in Vietnam. That purge extended well into academia. People like John Fairbanks at Harvard and the Wrights at Yale were effectively silenced, for fear that what happened to Owen Lattimore would happen to them. That silence lasted well into the early stages of the intervention in Vietnam. They were still afraid.

    1. ambrit

      It could even be argued that this was a major contributing factor in the Wests’ losing Mao and the Peoples Republic of China. Didn’t Chenault and others argue strongly for “engagement” with Mao, and suffer as a result?

      1. Mel

        Chiang Kai-Sheck evacuated to Taiwan in 1949, and that’s when the West “lost China” (as the phrase went.) This was grist for McCarthy’s mill, not a product of it. Lots of American OSS people on the ground in China at the end of WW II, along with Chennault, developed empathy for Mao’s revolutionaries.

      2. bobw

        So did Gen. Stillwell in WW II. He trained and commanded Chinese troops fighting the Japanese in Burma, and said of Mao IIRC “but he fights” and Chaing Kai-shek…didn’t. (See “Stillwell and the American Experience in China” by Barbara Tuchman).

        1. Ex-PFC Chuck

          Stilwell’s diaries are an insightful and often hilarious read. His code name for Chaing was Peanut. He had an acid pen. Unfortunately the diaries are hard to find these days.

          1. different clue

            I would almost bet that some of Colonel Lang’s commenters at Sic Semper Tyrannis would know where/how to find them.

  9. Jesse

    Well, these are ‘the good old days’ for some.

    I remember them. And I remember the attempts by Bill Buckley to defend McCarthy years afterward. McCarthy was a stooge for others.

    It really was a fearful age. I remember an advert on the bus I took to school. It featured Nikita Krushchev with a banner headline, ‘We Will Bury You.’

    It reminded me of W, striking his pose, and saying ‘Terror. Terror.’

    Plus ca change..

    1. Binky Bear

      McCarthy was also a junky, an alcoholic and in the closet. He was prime material for intelligence agency manipulation by any side.

  10. JayTe

    Moyes is very confused if he thinks time lags are the ability of organisations to influence economic activity are “problems”. Keynes is flawed on many levels one of the larger faults being his complete misunderstanding of how the time lag relates to the various orders of production of goods (from lower order to higher order goods). As for organisations, the problems started when large organisations shifted from organising cartels and mergers to getting the government to control competition through the creation of regulatory bodies.

    1. Jesse

      “As for organisations, the problems started when large organisations shifted from organising cartels and mergers to getting the government to control competition through the creation of regulatory bodies.”

      Yes and disease exists because people become doctors.

      1. jrs

        Maybe the government is more like an added drain on the immune system or an immune suppresant than a doctor though. Which doesn’t mean that illness doesn’t exist independent of it.

    2. jake chase

      The only flaw Keynes suffered from was confusing evil with foolishness. And he didn’t drink enough champagne.

    3. anyone

      As for organisations, the problems started when large organisations shifted from organising cartels and mergers to getting the government to control competition through the creation of regulatory bodies.

      “Problems” for whom? Certainly not the organizations, for whom such a progression was just the natural order of things, and for which “organizing cartels and mergers” should hardly be dismissed as benign. As for the government, once it lost control over cartels and mergers, regulatory capture was pretty much a fait accomplis sometime/shortly thereafter, n’est-ce pas?

  11. Jesse

    The question of Chuck Hagel by Ted Cruz was not as clumsy as Allan West appeal to yahoos, but it was fairly slimy in the manner of Roy Cohn, who was McCarthy’s brain.

  12. JTFaraday

    “Lorie Tarshis, published an economics textbook in 1947…It also suggested that markets required government support to attain full employment… The book, and by implication Keynes, was inaccurately charged with calling for government ownership of enterprise.”

    One has to wonder to what extent this accusation is to deflect attention from the extent to which large corporations in the post-war period benefited from all sorts of government support and regulation– possibly in ways in which they never had before– which is in contradiction to the capitalist theory of wholly private ownership.

    This is perhaps even more blatant in some parts of the economy today. I am not sure on what basis anyone can say that the most flagrantly bailed out banks are NOT owned by “the government.”

    Perhaps the dawning thought in the 1950s was that by all rights the government should have an ownership stake, so we’ll turn that (perhaps entirely reasonable) thought into a thought crime.

    I think the intertwined nature of post-war corporations and the US government bureaucracy that liberals believe is there “to regulate” them is part of the hidden history we ought to be revealing.

    It seems to me that the government bureaucracy faces something of a conflict between its dual roles, which are by now longstanding roles, as coporate regulator and corporate enabler.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      You nealty nailed the class-war divide-coopt-conquer strategy. The right decries Obama’s “Marxist” big government; the left rails against the power of Corporations-United, and neither fully grasps that the two are now inextricably fused into neo-fascism on a global scale. The old National Chamber of Commerce slogan, “less government in business and more business in government” has been fully fulfilled. If that understanding could be widely spread, a tipping point might finally come.

      1. JTFaraday

        I remember thinking during the Energy Department scandals during the Bush II administration that these people don’t see themselves as public servants, these people see themselves as an extension of the industry.

        These were not lobbyists, paid by the industry, this was the government bureaucracy itself, paid by the government.

        I very much doubt that this was merely a byproduct of the Bush Administration and not the byproduct of a governing culture that has accepted large corporations as its primary constituency, and even a constituency that mediates between it and the public.

        What’s good for Ford is good for America.

  13. Garrett Pace

    There’s a documentary available showing excerpts from the Army-McCarthy hearings as they were televised. It is riveting.

    Been posted online, too!

    This is McCarthy just past his peak. His voice is amazing – strangely melodious. You can tell everyone hates and fears him. And the climax & ending is really something. Coppola cribbed off of (the very end) for the scene after the Senate hearing when Tom Hagen demands an apology from the dispersing Senators.

    1. anyone

      Good stuff. Prompts me to recall the Watergate hearings of my youth, where, believe it or not, national figures were still relatively naive and/or enthralled before the camera on a national stage. How far we’ve come.

    2. Ol' Bill

      This is a hugely important documentary for understanding McCarthy’s strange, brutal, and terrifying effect on government (and on those in it who dared to hold “liberal” views). Point of Order is out of print in video, and apparently YouTube is the only place it’s available to watch, so I’d recommend watching it there while you can, before the IP Gestapo cause it to be yanked.

      I don’t have the stomach to watch the Ted Cruz clip, having been nauseated by the real thing. But I do recommend Point of Order.

  14. steelhead23

    Combining the message here with Marcy Wheeler’s frightening image of government-sponsored hate, one has to wonder just how safe it is today to protest the excesses of capitalism. It seems likely to the point of certainty that today FBI and DHS informants have infiltrated OWS. And it would not much surprise me if David Koch got to read final versions of OWS letters, press releases, etc. before the general public. Yes, I do believe that these fine government organizations are corrupt – they know where the money and power to create, arm, and pay them originates – and it ain’t the U.S. Congress. Chew on that for a bit. The Knights Templar did not only report to the Pope.

    I encourage courage – with caution.

    1. anyone

      I encourage caution first at this point, in that it takes an act of courage just to be cautious right now. Realizing the rest are merely meekly subservient, when they’re not blindly, willfully, and energetically obedient.

  15. Garrett Pace

    There’s a documentary available showing excerpts from the Army-McCarthy hearings as they were televised. It is riveting.

    Been posted online, too! I tried to link it but the post got sent to Mod hell. Just search “point of order 1964 full documentary” on youtube and it will come up first in results.

    It shows McCarthy past his peak, but still powerful and dangerous. His voice is amazing – strangely melodious. You can tell everyone hates and fears him. And the climax & ending are really something. Coppola cribbed off of (the very end) for the scene after the Senate hearing when Tom Hagen demands an apology from the dispersing Senators.

  16. Jeff N

    Republicans do a much more effective job of calling people out for violating (what they think are) the non-negotiable ‘Murican standards. Like questioning Israel. e.g., you don’t hear someone like Harry Reid calling out Ron “no aid to anybody” Paul.

  17. Furzy Mouse

    A quick and dirty lesson on McCarthy and his vicious weasel brood can be seen in the movie “Citizen Cohn”,
    ( Cohn is a 1992 cable film covering the life of Joseph McCarthy’s controversial chief counsel Roy Cohn. James Woods, who starred as Cohn, was nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance. Citizen Cohn also stars Joe Don Baker (as McCarthy), Ed Flanders (as Cohn’s courtroom nemesis Joseph Welch), Frederic Forrest (as writer Dashiell Hammett), and Pat Hingle (as Cohn’s onetime mentor J. Edgar Hoover).

    I feel we are coming very close to this level of vitriol and persecution today, tho perhaps more subtle….I have friends? who abjure even receiving emails criticizing the gov,and I’m quite sure this is driven by fear…

  18. Ché Pasa

    Eisenhower and the entire Republican establishment — as well as a good portion of the Democratic establishment — at a minimum tolerated McCarthy, and many actively encouraged and supported his ravings and attacks. The media, for the most part, was delighted with his “revelations.”

    It was only when his accusations got a little too close to the powerful and their power centers that a stop was put to him, but there was no stopping the red-baiting until long after McCarthy was moldering in his grave.

    An example of red-baiting in San Francisco in 1960:

    The rebuttal:

    McCarthyism was relentless through the 60’s and well into the 70’s.

    And we are not so far from a reversion to political scapegoating and witch hunting today. Maybe we never left them behind.

    1. Ex-PFC Chuck

      Late in the ’52 campaign, when McC went after Gen. George Marshall (arguably the most competent public servant in US history) Ike failed to defend him. Even he owed his career to him.

  19. Eric377

    Yes, history has blemishes. But the struggle against communism was real and of critical importance to humanity. I have always been interested in the criticisms of those who “named names”. Elia Kazan named people who were in fact members of organizations dedicated to ending non-communist life in the United States. What was wrong with naming such people? One of the common implicit lines of thought is that although such people were in fact acting, to the extent they could, to destroy America, they were so unlikely to succeed that their transgressions ought to be minimized on that basis. While we can be thankful that commisars never reached power in the United States with the power of non-judicial (or joke judicial) execution, that isn’t because communists were not exerting themselves to that end. McCarthy was a bad guy, but his targets were worse. Those incorrectly targeted have my sympathy, but should remember that those not incorrectly targeted were working for a United States that would have ground the rest of us under their heels with less restraint than McCarthy acted with.

    1. from Mexico

      Well again, let’s interject some reality here. This is rather long, but is worth posting in its entireity because it helps set the record straight and explain the mass lunacy that infected American conservatism of the time:

      Einstein‘s instinct for political repression was born under the spell of the Nazis, but it was never confined to them. It doesn‘t take rocket science to criticize the Nazis, but keeping eyes open for other dangers took both more acumen and more courage. Unfortunately, the need for vigilance did not cease when Einstein reached the safety of American shores, though he praised the country for a democratic spirit second to none. But his troubles with it started even before he emigrated. In ’32 he became target of a group called the Women Patriots, described in their own newspaper in 1918 as anti-suffragists waging an unceasing war against feminism and socialism. Having lost the battle against women‘s suffrage, they turned all their attention on socialism, whose world leader, they claimed, was Einstein – worse than Stalin himself. Some of their charges: “Albert Einstein advocates acts of rebellion against the basic principle of all organized government…He advocates conflict with public authority; admits that his attitude is revolutionary…he teaches and leads and organizes a movement for unlawful individual resistance and acts of rebellion against officers of the United States in times of war.“ The charges go on for 16 single-spaced pages. They led to interrogation by the U.S. Consul in Berlin, to whom Einstein pointed out that he hadn‘t asked to go to America but was invited there, and would cancel his trip if the visa wasn‘t delivered in 24 hours. His wife then relayed Einstein‘s words to the NYTimes: “Wouldn‘t it be funny if they won‘t let me in? The whole world will be laughing at America.“ – The combination of chutzpah and media savvy at work here, neither of them qualities much in evidence with Luftmenschen, impressed the State Department too, for he was issued a visa immediately. Though a group of Women Patriots tried to prevent him from getting off his ship in California, they did indeed appear ridiculous. A year later Einstein was offered unconditional citizenship through a special act of Congress, citing his qualities as a genius, a humanitarian, a lover of the United States, and an admirer of its Constitution – all of which were true. Since he rejected special treatment in speeding up the process, formal citizenship didn‘t come until later, but his right to stay in the country was thereby assured. His safety, however, was not, and he was urged to blend quietly into the background in just the way smart Jews were meant to do in Wilhelminian Germany. Arriving in Princeton he was met with this letter from the Institute for Advanced Study‘s director: “I have conferred with the local authorities and the national government in Washington, and they have all given me the advice…that your safety in America depends upon silence and refraining from attendance at public functions…You and your wife will be thoroughly welcome at Princeton, but in the long run your safety will depend on your discretion.“ It was advice that Einstein ignored. He spoke and wrote to virtually everybody he could stand, about virtually everything he cared about, in virtually every format, large or small, and as anti-communist hysteria swept over America he became increasingly outspoken. Though he was one of the few leftist intellectuals never tempted by communism, he thought anti-communism posed a far greater danger for America. Einstein‘s engagement during the McCarthy period took several forms. One was simply supporting prominent people who were under siege, appearing for a photo-op, for example, with Henry Wallace and Paul Robeson at a time when supporting either was taking a risk. After Robeson, whom he much admired, had his passport revoked, Einstein wrote to Wallace describing America as half-fascistic, and to Queen Elizabeth of Belgium expressing his fear and sadness that America reminded him of Germany in the ’30s. By that time McCarthyism was in full swing, and the HUAC had compiled lists of subversive organizations. Anyone associated with any of them, was ipso facto suspected of treason. Einstein was connected with 33.

      Even more impressive than his willingness to support people and organizations who were already in the limelight was his willingness to support those who weren‘t. He used his influence to help young people who were threatened for refusing to serve in the army or to go along with the HUAC. The letter that he wrote to a young teacher who refused to testify, William Frauenglass, was published on the front page of the New York Times. Unfortunately, the letter has again become so timely that it should be quoted at length:

      Dear Mr. Frauenglass, The problem with which the intellectuals of this country are confronted is very serious. The reactionary politicians have managed to instil suspicion of all intellectual efforts into the public by dangling before their eyes a danger from without. Having succeeded so far, they are now proceeding to suppress the freedom of teaching and to deprive of their positions all those who do not prove submissive, i.e., to starve them. What ought the minority of intellectuals to do against this evil? Frankly, I can only see the revolutionary way of non-cooperation in the sense of Gandhi’s. Every intellectual who is called before one of the committees ought to refuse to testify, i.e., he must be prepared for jail and economic ruin, in short, for the sacrifice of his personal welfare in the interest of the cultural welfare of this country. This refusal to testify must be based on the assertion that it is shameful for a blameless citizen to submit to such an inquisition and that this kind of inquisition violates the spirit of the constitution. If enough people are ready to take this grave step they will be successful. If not, then the intellectuals of this country deserve nothing better than the slavery which is intended for them. (Ze’ev Rosenkranz, Albert Through the Looking Glass: The Personal Papers of Albert Einstein, Jerusalem: The Albert Einstein Archives, The Jewish National and University Library, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1998, p. 72)

      Would the U.S. government really jail the world‘s most famous scientist at the age of 73? The fear may seem exagerrated, but Einstein had reason to worry about going to jail in the days before this letter was published. Two years earlier, the older W.E.B. Dubois had been brought to court in handcuffs, and one of Einstein‘s closest friends had just been denied a passport. Einstein was the target of a flood of hate mail; one rightwing commentator urged the Senate to ban refugees altogether so that America would not “get another Einstein“; and even liberal sources like the Times and the Post called his letter “extreme“ and “unwise“. The letter made international headlines, and greatly strengthened the morale of those brave young teachers who refused to testify. A few of them found their way to Einstein‘s door, where they discovered he was not only willing to tell them to prepare for economic ruin in the interests of their country, but to try to prevent it – and he spent some time working to help those who had been fired find new jobs. He was not himself molested; try as he might, J.Edgar Hoover could never find anything that was criminally subversive. But it‘s important to recall one reason why the popular view of Einstein as father of the bomb is false: even if he had wanted to work on the Manhattan project, he couldn‘t get a security clearance. Alerted to his socialist convictions in the early ’30s, the FBI director opened an investigation that didn‘t succeed in deporting him, but did prevent the world‘s greatest scientist from working on classified defense projects.

      It seems like the US has always teetered on the edge of the abyss Eric Hoffer so poignantly described: “It colors my thinking and shapes my attitude toward events. I can never forget that one of the most gifted, best educated nations in the world, of its own free will, surrendered its fate into the hands of a maniac.”

      1. anyone

        Just by the way, J Robert Oppenheimer, the initial LANL director who actually delivered the goddamned gadget!, was also outed for “communist sympathies” or similar hysterical bullshit. Granted, he was a noted socialist/communist party sympathizer right from the start, but it was only when he started expressing reservations for whoring for the DoD in the aftermath that Truman and his budding fascist entourage closed circles against him.

        1. different clue

          Wasn’t Edward Teller also involved in the security-revoking effort against Oppenheimer? Because Oppenheimer objected to developing/building an H-bomb and Teller wanted to build one worse than anything “to see if it would work”?

  20. Hugh

    Just some general history. The House Un-American Activities Committees or HUAC. It was created in 1938 and was finally dissolved in 1975. It conducted the investigations of Hollywood and is associated with the notorious Hollywood blacklists.

    McCarthy was in the Senate and used his chairmanship of the subcommittee on permanent investigations to launch his witch hunts against the State Department and then the Army. McCarthy was close to the Kennedys. Bobby Kennedy worked for him for a while. His chief counsel was Roy Cohn who was Barbara Walters’ close friend.

    These hunts destroyed most of the activism underlying New Deal progressivism. In particular, they transformed unions from being worker-based to top-down mouthpieces of the Establishment.

    1. Ché Pasa

      To further clarify:

      “McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.”

      Thus HUAC engaged in McCarthyism during the ’50s and afterwards. Not that it did much for their own credibility.

      Further complicating the red-baiting and witch hunting of the era was the involvement of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, including COINTELPRO.

      Echoes of all this are very much with us today.

  21. Claudia

    Certainly our era is demagoguery-plus. But I hate this header!! Makes it sound like Moyers is the problem….

  22. dbak

    History has a way of becoming distorted after the passage of time. The republican party had lost five presidential elections in a row in 1948.The tactics of calling the democratic party communistic had failed to win for them so they adapted a new approach,essentially acusing them of treason. You never heard of a popular campaign slogan they used “twenty years of treason”? McCarthy was the leader of this attack but he was far from being the only republican to do so. When Eisenhower was elected in 1952 McCarthy was supposed to disappear but he was not about to climb back into the woodwork. He then accused the secretary of the army appointed by Eisenhower of communist leanings. The famous hearing that we all see where McCarthy was essentially destroyed politically actually happened in 1953, a fact that is never mentioned. Like Dr Frankenstein they were forced to kill the monster they had created. I didn’t read this in a history book. I was born in 1930.In the late 1940’s television news was in it’s infancy but still was a vast improvement over the newspapers of the time. I may have an incomplete post before this one.I accidently hit the submit button

  23. rob

    I would question joe mcCarthy’s ,as well as the rest of the US establishments,real aversion to either communism or the soviet union.I don’t think these people saw it as just an “ism”.They knew of certain people, doing certain things, and they were playing the dynamic that they were ,at any given moment,for whatever it was worth.

    aside from the mcCarthy people who got prosecuted/convicted of various crimes/frauds from the elections,Joe mcCarthy the senator from wisconson, got special permits for the exportation to the soviet union during the korean war,for the andreas families company, ADM.They had these vegetable based lubricants that were important in the manufacture of airplane engines, and the like.These industrial lubricants were allowed to go to (presumably) the russian aircraft production industries, which at the time were building fighters that were not only supplied by the soviets for the chinese and the north koreans,but were even flown by russians to kill americans.
    This man did this for campaign security.He was a politician. A sociopath/psychopath.who found a career, that allowed him to use his strengths.
    How is this unlike today, where we have hillary clinton delivering billions in tax payer dollars to the same afghani networks that at the same time were killing americans and other nato troops.Which was shown to be a long known situation in the wikileaks releases.
    WE have useful pretexts.Sure some people end up believing in them more than others, but hey.Then there is always the frankenstein aspect.These monsters we create for our machiavellian imperitive,then go on to be actual threats,at the passing from our contained,useful threat.

  24. rob

    There is a reason why so many people are swayed into believing in conspiracy theories.They are just so damned complete.The ghost of mccarthy, or just the establishment doing the same thing it always does.This thing like an invisible hand,guiding the players.The jinn,who weave the world.for men to fall.

    1. anyone

      Conspiracies are often confused for mere collusion these days. Is it a “conspiracy” for men of wealth and means to get together behind closed doors and decide public/private policy options that will affect millions, if not billions, or is it merely sound strategic business policy, aka “collusion” or some similar term? In the end, this is always where I break with pure academics, who always appear to be the at the vanguard of thinking, but who are in fact, most times some years behind. Bottom line: humans are always fond of hanging a name on things, as if that some how “settles” an issue. Most times it doesn’t and just further obfuscates/muddies any further clear understanding.

      1. different clue

        Good point. There is heaps and piles of organized collusion going on, and dismissing reports of it as “conspiracy theory” doesn’t mean it isn’t going on.

        And there may be some real conspiracies too. And “collusionspiracies” riding the ragged edge between the two things.

  25. Hal Roberts

    That man is no McCarthy. I think McCarthy’s eyes would be wide enough to see ,and his love for his country strong enough to point out, that the problem with the USA today is Globalist/ Centrist and plain old elitist greed that puts false profits of the top 10% in the World over their own Republic

    Sovereign Countries need their McCarthy’s to come out now and then just to keep the Global movers and shakers where they need to be, in check. We could use a real McCarthy right now in the USA.

    Where is most of the U.S. Industries gone to? Some would say Communist China. Globalist don’t stand for any thing but a fast buck. NAFTA ,CAFTA’s are gonna help the 3rd world, ha, sorry labor is cheaper in china. So much for the Global love and look where it got us In the USA. Boy we sure could use a real McCarthy right now. Keep in mind I am bias as being a working class citizen of the USA receiving no Welfare from DSS or Wall St.

  26. Patrick R. Sullivan

    ‘In 1952 Kazan stood before the House Un-American Activities Committee, said he had been a Communist Party member, and named eight others as members of the party.

    ‘Many friends refused ever to speak to him again.

    ‘Although probably the names were known to Senator Joe McCarthy’

    Of course, SENATOR Joe McCarthy wouldn’t have been at the HOUSE hearings. Don’t let the facts get in the way of your story.

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