McCarthyism was a political practice of making unsubstantiated accusations of disloyalty and treason without proper evidence of the claim. The term was first associated with Senator Joseph McCarthy and lasted roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. It was characterized by fears of communist influence in American institutions, with many Americans accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers. Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed that there where large numbers of Communists, their sympathizers and Soviet spies inside the American federal government and elsewhere. He was the most visible public face of the cold war period. His February 1950 speech, with a list consisting of Communist Party members and a spy ring, made him rise to fame.
J. Edgar Hoover designed President Truman’s loyalty-security program, with investigations of employees being carried out by FBI agents. Thousands of employees discovered to be communist through Hoover’s agents lost their jobs without being informed of who accused them. Hoover’s influence later extended beyond federal government employees. His records were to be confidential, although he gave his evidence to congressional committees such as HUAC.
Earl Warren was appointed a chief justice whom Dwight Eisenhower had expected to be a conservative and against McCarthyism, but due to his liberal nature his appointment was referred to as a big mistake.
Edward R. Murrow was an influential opponent of McCarthyism. He was a CBS newscaster and analyst. In his shows “See It Now”, McCarthy is portrayed as dishonest, reckless and abusive toward witnesses and prominent Americans. He urges Americans not to confuse dissent with disloyalty and that no one should walk in fear, of another unless their accusation are proven and convicted upon evidence and the due process of law.
Department of Justice kept a list of all organizations that seemed subversive. The list comprised of 154 organizations of which 110 were Communist. They suspicion resulted from their attachment to a left-leaning organization that offered taught literature and music concerts.
The Supreme Court mandate was to prosecute Communists, but its inability to execute his mandate increasingly frustrated Hoover. In an attempt to win the Supreme Court to act fast he introduced a dirty trick “Cointelpro” that created suspicion of key information being leaked by the FBI informers.
House Committee on Un-American Activities was formed in 1938, and the most active government committee involved in anti-Communist investigations. It investigated German-American Nazis and Communism activities. It also investigated and tried Alger Hiss for perjury.
Senate Internal Security Subcommittee was the primary committee for investigating Communist; its mandate was to ensure the enforcement of laws relating to sabotage, and the protection of the internal security of the United States.
Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations was headed by Joseph McCarthy and used it for his Communist-hunting investigations. He investigated allegations of Communist influence in the voice of America.
Congressional hearing from 1948-1956 were supposed to hold hearings and collect testimony and evidence on proposed legislation, nominations, and treaties. The hearings were prepared by inviting witnesses from the executive branch and various experts. They would at times invite movie stars, former high-ranking officials, and other celebrities.
Communist Control Act of 1954 sought to outlaw the Communist Party. It declared it as Communist-Infiltrated Organizations and should not be entitled to any rights, privileges, and immunities attendant upon legal bodies. The act was not successful in the long run.
Black listing was a way of blackmailing liberals who were considered Communist. It operated with a very complex system of extortion, blackmail, and intimidation. Anyone who supported the named and blacklisted list was targeted and organized boycott campaigns made against them. In case of broadcasting stations the pressure was put on the writer of the program but not on the station. Orson Wells was a film director, writer-actor and producer involved in theatre, television and radio stations. One of his novels “The war of the Worlds” caused public widespread panic that send a message of an impending invasion upon America.
Samuel Dashiell Hammett was the author of detective novels and short stories; he used his cold detachment, keen eye for detail, and unflinching determination to achieve his own justice. Hammett has gone through the wretched, the corrupt, but still, retains his “tarnished idealism. He was later Imprisoned and during his hearing refused to provide the required information even identifying his own signature on CRC documents. He was found guilty of contempt and was blacklisted.