The Good Old Days
Joesph McCarthy, 1954
A recent piece in the New York Times (see previous post) mentioned that one of the government prosecutors at José Padilla’s recent hearing
“… wanted to introduce what he said was a Qaeda manual instructing captured operatives to claim torture even if none had occurred. Judge Cooke refused, pointing out that there was no evidence that Mr. Padilla had ever heard of the manual, much less studied it…”
This tactic is reminiscent of Joseph McCarthy, who used to “prove” that people were enemies of the state by pointing out that some of the things they did were just like things recommended by “enemy propaganda” publications such as the Daily Worker. The CBS video archives has footage of McCarthy attempting to use this tactic to discredit Edward R. Murrow. It’s a long clip, but I recommend watching it in its entirety, just to get a sense of what an insufferable windbag McCarthy was. Ignore the commercial at the beginning.
People seem to have the idea nowadays that Murrow almost single-handedly put an end to McCarthy’s career, but this isn’t the case. Opposition in the Senate was a key factor. The eloquence of attorney Joseph Welch during the Army-McCarthy hearings (marked very well on its fiftieth anniversary by NPR) was at least as important as Murrow’s.
And let us not forget the power of satire. Ray Goulding’s uncanny impressions of McCarthy’s bombastic sputterings on the Bob and Ray radio show every evening during the Army-McCarthy hearings went a long way toward helping to break the spell he had over the public. There are cd recordings of their McCarthy parodies available online.
Cross-posted on Righteous