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Red Scare


  • Originally published 06/16/2013

    The Case for Sparing the Rosenbergs

    Credit: Wiki Commons.Sixty years ago this week, Ethel Rosenberg was strapped into the same electric chair that killed her husband Julius moments before. Her gruesome death ended the spy case that captured worldwide attention. Julius Rosenberg had been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage, specifically passing atomic bomb secrets to the Soviets.FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had also ordered the arrest of Julius’ wife Ethel, hoping to use her as a “lever” to get Julius to name other spies. He never spoke. They both died instead.The grisly executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953 made their sons orphans and shocked the world. The Rosenbergs remain the only married couple executed for a federal crime and the only civilians killed for spying.

  • Originally published 05/15/2013

    Philip Jenkins: Joe McCarthy Was No Witch Hunter

    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....

  • Originally published 02/23/2013

    Anti-communist oaths persist despite court rulings

    It has been just shy of 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Washington state law barring members of the Communist Party from voting or holding public-sector jobs is unconstitutional.Evidently, that is not enough time to remove it from the books.Washington is one of a handful of states with similar laws still in existence despite their having been declared unconstitutional decades ago.With few exceptions - most notably Georgia, where an anti-communist oath was administered to incoming Dunwoody City Councilmembers as recently as last year - the laws are treated as part of a bygone era, not unlike state statutes prohibiting interracial marriage, the last of which was removed from Alabama's books in 2001 even though the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional in 1967.

  • Originally published 10/30/2006

    David K. Johnson: “Purge of the Perverts” Redux ... Scapegoating Gays

    [David K. Johnson teaches history at the University of South Florida, is the author of The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (Chicago: 2004), and is an associate scholar at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.]Conservative Republicans are scapegoating gay Americans again. Though their outrage over Rep. Mark Foley is recent, it employs tactics they honed during the McCarthy-era “purge of the perverts.”