McCarthy and McCarthyism: American Demagoguery During the Cold War

Senator Joseph McCarthy was one of the most notorious politicians in American history. He made wild accusations, ruined the lives and careers of countless people, and stained American politics with investigative tactics similar to those in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Just as important, however, was McCarthyism. Professor Philip Nash explains all in this gripping episode that has all sorts of parallels to politics in today’s America. Episode 529.

PBS American Experience Clip on “Have You No Sense of Decency?”:

Full, unedited video of the McCarthy-Welch exchange:

Buzzkill Bookshelf

Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy Paperback – April 27, 2021

by Larry Tye

The definitive biography of the most dangerous demagogue in American history, based on exclusive access to his papers and recently unsealed transcripts of his closed-door Congressional hearings

In the long history of American demagogues, from Huey Long to Donald Trump, never has one man caused so much damage in such a short time as Senator Joseph McCarthy. We still use “McCarthyism” to stand for outrageous charges of guilt by association, a weapon of polarizing slander. From 1950 to 1954, McCarthy destroyed many careers and even entire lives, whipping the nation into a frenzy of paranoia, accusation, loyalty oaths, and terror. His chaotic, meteoric rise is a gripping and terrifying object lesson for us all. Yet his equally sudden fall from fame offers hope that, given the rope, most American demagogues eventually hang themselves. Only now, through best-selling author Larry Tye’s look at the senator’s records, can the full story be told.

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