Philip Jenkins: Joe McCarthy Was No Witch Hunter

tags: Red Scare, Philip Jenkins, Joseph McCarthy, RealClearReligion



Philip Jenkins is a Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University and a columnist for RealClearReligion. His latest book is Laying Down the Sword.

Language speaks us. Much as I hate quoting that post-modern cliché, it captures the truth that certain words and phrases become so deeply inlaid in our everyday conversation that we are scarcely able to realize their ideological slant.

As a prime example, I offer the wave of investigations that the United States and other countries undertook into Communist subversion and espionage in the Cold War years. Well, that description is a little wordy, so let's just use the convenient short-hand that has become so standard: the McCarthy witch hunts....

Real witches, by definition, did not exist....

In the Communist case, though, the "witches" really did exist, and genuinely posed a threat. For some thirty years now, we have had excellent historical studies by such scholars as Ronald Radosh, Allen Weinstein, John Earl Haynes and Hervey Klehr, and they demonstrate a picture of American Communism absolutely at variance with the myth. At its height in the 1930s, the US Communist Party had at least 75,000 open members, including many well placed in key strategic industries. There was also a penumbra of clandestine members, of unknown scale....



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