The Effects of Television on the United States

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Ruben Ceja
History 112
Dr. Riffel
6 December, 2012
History and Television
Every hundred years, or so, an invention comes along that completely changes the lives of millions of people. Invented in the 1920’s, television was first used as a medium for entertainment. As the years went by, it became apparent that sometimes television was more effective at transmitting information to the public than the radio was. Millions of Americans tuned in every week to watch their favorite news casters report the news and citizens everywhere were looking to television as a source for information. Television gave people the ability to experience the world in a visual way. Through radio one could only hear about the rest of the world, whereas with television viewers could now see it in the comfort of their own home. Television seemed to transmit pictures as well as emotions. Viewers were finally having the ability to make a connection with those they saw on television. Television made a greater impact in allowing viewer-entertainer connections to happen because the viewer was not only hearing the entertainer, they were seeing—first-hand—their emotions. Television opened up the rest of the human emotional spectrum and involved it in decision making. During the Mid 1950’s there was an epidemic that was sweeping across America, or at least that was how a Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy, portrayed it. In what would become the second Red Scare in American history, McCarthy started a mad witch-hunt all over the country. He did so by revealing in a speech that he had a list of names of known and suspected communists who were employed by the State Department. McCarthy went on to say that as members of the Communist party these government employees would be sympathizers for the Soviet Union and, therefore, would shape United States policies to aid the Soviets. McCarthy and his followers went on to question, black list, and sometimes even physically attack those who they suspected to be communists. During this time, the television program called See It Now hosted by Edward Murrow ran a special on McCarthy and the Red Scare. See It Now, usually ran stories that were deemed to be controversial and when Murrow reported on McCarthyism it was obvious that he was not happy with McCarthy and the ways he would attack citizens and their rights. Edward Murrow was a well-respected journalist and when he outwardly criticized Joe McCarthy in March of 1954 public opinion began to shift away from supporting Joe McCarthy and moved into critiquing him and his methods of questioning. The public support for Murrow that followed was enormous. Thousands of telephone calls, telegrams, and letters—which arrived days later—flooded the CBS offices showing their support for the veteran reporter (Adams). Millions of television viewers had tuned in that night to watch Edward Murrow discuss how Joseph McCarthy had acted reckless and dishonest. See It Now was able to convince those who watched the program to move away from supporting the Senator and take a look at the Senator himself. Public interest in the communist Senate hearings created an audience to broadcast live video from the court room in which those suspected members of the Communist Party were questioned. This video was televised into the homes of millions of Americans. Unfortunately for Senator McCarthy, once the American public had seen him in action, they started to become uneasy towards him. In the Senate hearing that had been televised, many television viewers felt that McCarthy came across as untrustworthy and in many instances had contradicted himself. The broadcast only showed what was happening in the court without any commentary. Therefore, any opinions that the public had formed about McCarthy were formed on their own accord based on what they saw and what they felt in their hearts. Watching the hearings on television and the devastating television report by well-respected reporter Edward Murrow...
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