Saturday, October 12, 2013
The Age of McCarthyism - Ellen Schrecker
At some point during the Middle Ages, I read this book for a university course, so this time, I sort of knew what I was in for : A dense, concise read about the American Red Scare during the 1950s, with heaps of authentic documents accompanying Schrecker's narrative.
Perhaps because I was already more or less informed about the subject, I found Schrecker's comments on the legacy of McCarthyism the most interesting point in the book : "Since political activities could get you in trouble, prudent folk avoided them... middle-class Americans became social conformists" and the nation was wrapped in what Supreme Court Judge Douglas called "The Black Silence of Fear".
Social reforms were aborted, diplomatic initiatives were shunned, trade unions were diminished, and the film industry grew reluctant to broach social or political subjects.
Also, the witch hunt opened the way for the antidemocratic practices which followed, since national security henceforth took precedence over ordinary law; Watergate, Iran-Contra scandals etc.