The Rise and Fall of Mccarthyism: an Explanation of How the Media Crea

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


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...
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