Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: SMEAR (03/10/16)
- TITLE: Glass Houses
By Pat Small
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“I don’t know what you’re going to use this time, Joe, but you need a hook. Something to get the people excited enough to keep you in office.”
“You’re the great strategist. Got any ideas?” Joe took another swig as he leaned back in his wing chair. “We’re living in interesting times, aren’t we? Even with the war over, people are jittery. They see communist subversives behind every bush.”
Ed slapped his knee, and nearly jumped out of his chair in his excitement. His eyes blazed. “That’s it. Start a crusade against those red commie devils. Do some research. Find out who these people are and expose them. You’ve got contacts.”
“It would be hard to get proof.” Joe looked doubtful.
“Proof?” The word hung in the air. “With the mood of the people right now…”
“I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of time. Still I do still have some pull.” He flicked the ashes off his cigar absentmindedly and pondered his friend’s words. McCarthyism was born that night. It would destroy lives, families, and careers.
The senator began his probes in earnest. First, he targeted Hollywood stars, and came out with a list of ten well-known people he suspected of being communists, resulting in their blacklisting. Once that happened, no studio was willing to take a chance on them.
He spent many nights poring over newspapers for accounts of places people had visited, parties they had attended, or speeches they had given. What kind of friends did they have? Did they frequent questionable locales? No tidbit was too small to add to the growing pile of manure that he was tending.
“I can’t believe my own eyes sometimes,” Joe often laughed as he told Ed of a juicy morsel he had seen in the Times.” Television, movies, and gossip columns sometimes yielded fodder for his rumor mill as well. Sources abound, he discovered, when you’re looking for them.
Finally, in February of 1950, Joe announced he had a list of over 200 people in the State Department who were members of the American Communist Party, sympathizers, or at the very least loyalty risks. The public was in a frenzy. “Bring them to justice” was the prevailing mood. Joe fortified his position. Many of the individuals he targeted were simply alcoholics or people living an alternate life style, having no relationship to politics. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or had made an innocent comment that was misconstrued. Guilt by association flourished. The birds of a feather complex. Nevertheless, restoring a reputation ruined by slander is difficult, sometimes impossible. Divorces, suicides, and loss of position were some of the unfortunate results of Joe’s obsession.
Paranoia reigned. The fear of communism was enormous; World War II was still fresh in the memories of soldiers who had fought and families who had lost loved ones. The Cold War was in full swing. Joe gained fame due to his relentless investigations. He smeared hundreds of innocent people with baseless accusations. Often he convinced his cronies to testify against them. They employed hearsay and/or ancient history as proof of subversion.
President Eisenhower began to take notice. When the senator started to insinuate there was communist infiltration in the military that was the last straw for Ike. Hearings were held. Journalists covered the scandal. The abuse of power was revealed. Americans were disenchanted with their one-time hero. He lost all that he had worked so hard to gain.
Eventually, his career ended in disgrace. Besides his drinking, rumor had it that he was a homosexual, the very lifestyle he had condemned while also pursuing phantom communists. Certainly, he was right in some instances, but perhaps the bad outweighed the good. He died of cirrhosis of the liver seven years later.
Demonstrated clearly in the life of Joe McCarthy was the old proverb ‘he who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’.
Fictionalized account of a historical event
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