The Definition and History of McCarthyism
Today, there are many opinions regarding the term McCarthyism and what it really means. To get an idea of what is held behind this word, I looked in the dictionary to find its most accepted meaning. It read as follows: "Mc*Car*thy*ism n. The practice of publicizing accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence -OR- The use of unfair investigatory or accusatory methods in order to suppress opposition" (dictionary.com). Still, in order to understand the word, we must explore it's origins and history.
Joseph McCarthy, the man responsible for the term, lived a life of politics. Originally, he was part of the Democratic Party, but he later switched and turned to the Republican Party so he could be a candidate in an election to become a circuit court judge (Reeves 202). McCarthy's campaign proved to be quite dirty with false statements about his opponent among other things.
His opponent, Edgar Werner, McCarthy claimed was 73 when he was actually only 66. Above lying about age, he also stated atrocities indicating Werner was senile, and that he was guilty of financial corruption (203).
This pattern continued when in February of 1950, McCarthy, then a senator from Wisconsin, claimed to have a list of 205 people in the State Department that were partaking in the American Communist Party. However in reality, the names on the list were not a secret and were already published by the Secretary of State back in 1946. This claim, along with the war in Korea, caused Americans to fear any threat to their government and society. McCarthy then became chairman of the Government Committee, allowing him to research "the possibility of communist subversion" (spartacus.schoolnet.co).
For the years that McCarthy was chairman of the committee, he picked apart several...