The Cold War, McCarthyism and the press (WEEK 5)

Evaluate the behaviour of the US press during the McCarthy era.

On the book International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond, Antony Best et al gave a definition of McCarthyism, which is “General term for the practice in the United States of making accusations of pro-communist activity, in many instances unsupported by proof or based on slight, doubtful or irrelevant evidence. The term is derived from its most notorious practitioner, Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin (1909-1957)”

Now this term is usually to be used for a description of unprovoked attack, a blame without factual basis, and some agitators use patriotism to confuse ordinary people’s mind so that they could use these words to attack and get their ends.

Between 1950 to 1956, media was one of the targets of McCarthy. However, some of them were not shocked by him. In a way, the final defeat that American media gave him was a powerful blow. 

American journalist Drew Pearson was very famous for exposing the American politicians and public figures of the scandal. He had his own personal newspaper column “Washington Merry-Go-Round” and own a radio show hosted. Although the way he did was not always good, sometimes even coined suspect; but he was the man who criticises McCarthy in his columns and radio programmes when McCarthy was at the most crazy time. Pearson and McCarthy once even had physical conflict, but fortunately was mediated by President Richard Nixon.

In 1951, the New York Post editor James A. Wechsler published 17 series articles, mercilessly criticized McCarthy’s actions. This series of articles related to McCarthy’s personal tax problems, but also related to his hypocrisy.

These two behaviours above were the examples that US press gave him during the McCarthy era.

In conclusion, McCarthyism causes a very broad influences in American society and culture, it reached many different social levels, and had became one of the sources of the big American conflict and debate.

(Total words: 319)


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