Army-McCarthy hearings began sixty years ago today

This largely anti-Joe McCarthy article by Jesse Walker points out that the Army-McCarthy hearings began exactly sixty years ago today. He has put his story under the title, Four Great Myths of the McCarthy Era so let us get into the two most important myths raised. First there’s this:

The great radical myth of the Red Scare is that it was nothing but a scare—that the Americans accused of being Russian agents were virtually all innocent. (It’s hard to maintain that position now that the Venona files have been released and some of the left’s biggest causes célèbres have come crumbling down—at this point even Julius Rosenberg’s children have acknowledged that he was a spy—but some folks still hold onto the dream.)

So with Venona there is no longer any denying that McCarthy was onto something. But these guys never give up. Here is the modern version of the attacks on McCarthy in the voice of a “libertarian” who apparently thinks defending ourselves by identifying communists in positions of influence is somehow against the rules:

The great conservative myth of the period, meanwhile, is that the espionage justified the witch-hunts. People like Ann Coulter and M. Stanton Evans have taken to declaring that McCarthy was right without acknowledging that the bulk of his accusations were false.

So let me look at the evidence that Stanton-Evans and Ann Coulter were wrong and that the bulk of McCarthy’s accusations “were false”. I have divided the core passage from this article cited as evidence by Walker (but which is not itself Walker’s article) into two parts, firstly focusing on the accusation that McCarthy’s approach was over the top and harmful to the anti-Communist cause, and then into a second part where it is conceded McCarthy wasn’t entirely wrong. Note that in the original article the two halves were mixed together but I have here separated the two distinct threads out. Here’s the attack on McCarthy and those who continue to defend him.

McCarthy’s scattershot approach to the facts greatly damaged the cause of anti-communism and greatly emboldened, even legitimized, communism’s apologists. It also raised serious civil liberties questions: Should you lose a government job merely for your political opinions? How far left could you drift and remain employed [in the State Department!]? . . .

But what of those specifically accused by McCarthy of being either security risks or agents of the Kremlin? Here Evans is on shakier ground. . . .

Take his treatment of one of the better-known McCarthy cases. In 1950, the senator denounced the China scholar Owen Lattimore as Russia’s “top spy” in the State Department, an influential “China hand” who deliberately “lost” that country to Mao’s communists by seeking to undermine Washington’s support for Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. McCarthy’s initial accusations, such as his risible claim that Lattimore acted as Alger Hiss’ “boss,” were demonstrably false, something McCarthy himself quickly realized, beating a hasty retreat from his wilder charges. It was a damaging concession, red meat to the growing ranks of McCarthy haters, but one which receives just a single sentence in Evans’ narrative.

Nobody was going to get it 100% right and the ability to backtrack when the evidence could not be fully supported is reasonable since the pressure from every direction was on McCarthy and the evidence was very hard to come by. So from that same passage, I now extract the bits that are a concession to McCarthy’s accuracy. These points were originally interwoven within the passages just quoted:

McCarthy was broadly correct; most of those accused were members of the Communist Party. But what does this add up to? Was the assemblage of New Deal liberals, fellow travelers, and communist agents that McCarthy tossed together “the product of a great conspiracy,” as he famously bellowed on the Senate floor, “a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man”? . . .

Evans’ recapitulation of events begins plausibly enough, with an outline of what readers probably already know: The Soviet Union operated a sophisticated network of agents in the United States, many of whom—including Hiss, Julius Rosenberg, Justice Department employee Judith Coplon, and White House economist Lauchlin Currie—passed secrets to Moscow.

Evans does demonstrate that Lattimore was an “indefatigable shill for Moscow.” There is little new here, though it is still a much needed corrective to the widely held view, successfully advanced by Lattimore himself, that he was in fact a generic New Deal liberal and an anti-communist. McCarthy grilled Lattimore on his previous writings, such as his view that Soviet forced collectivization “represent[ed] a kind of ownership more valuable to them than the old private ownership under which they were unable to own or even hire machines.”

Such touching gullibility even after all these years. With the left media, driven and supported by the communist underground, blowing a trumpet in his ear at every turn, it is a wonder that McCarthy got so much of it right. It matters not whether Marshall was personally a member of the communist party if everything he did was favourable to Soviet interests and harmed the interests of the West. So he wasn’t a paid agent, merely acted like one. Better to have a fool like Marshall in place than an actual agent if you can get him to do exactly what you want. The question “who lost China?” is far from an empty one, and McCarthy’s answers even today seem more plausible than any I have come across from any other source.

Joe McCarthy was not a McCarthyist

Joe McCarthy is a name so long gone into history that all that remains is that he was the bad kind of defender of our values against totalitarian tyranny. Yes, we are told, there were a few communist spies in the West but however bad Stalinism and communism might have been, what McCarthy did was much much worse. So if we were going to rate McCarthyism and Stalinism on the Political Richter Scale, Stalin would come in at around a 6 but Senator Joe would be a 9. A very handy scaling for the left since at various times when someone attempts to draw attention to what it does and where it aims to go, out comes the handy dandy McCarthyist tag. Sometimes it works better than other times, but since the conservative side of politics has adopted the left’s view of McCarthy, it is a very effective tactic. But it will only work if you think McCarthy was in the wrong.

McCarthyist tactics are, in fact, the preserve of the left. They are the experts in labelling others with some kind of tag that may or may not fit but does cause those they attack to retreat. A very interesting example of the effect such labelling can have may be found just the other day. Andrew Bolt put up a post which he titled, Called racist just once too often. To fight or to hide? and whose point may be found in the opening paras:

STRANGE, after all I’ve been through, but Monday on the ABC may have been finally too much for me.

You see, I was denounced on Q&A – on national television – as a racist. I watched in horror as Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton falsely accused me of subjecting one of her colleagues – “very fair-skinned, like my children” – to “foul abuse … simply racial abuse”.

Langton falsely claimed I was a “fool” who believed in “race theories” and had “argued that (her colleague) had no right to claim that she was Aboriginal”. I had so hurt this woman she “withdrew from public life” and had given up working with students (something seemingly contradicted by the CV on her website).

And when Attorney-General George Brandis hotly insisted I was not racist, the ABC audience laughed in derision. . . .

My wife now wants me to play safe and stop fighting this new racism, and this time I’m listening.

This time I was so bruised by Q&A that I didn’t go into work on Tuesday. I couldn’t stand any sympathy – which you get only when you’re meant to feel hurt.

Andrew Bolt is not a racist but the label does penetrate. Call him a racist and some of the mud will stick and it will undermine his willingness to take on the various issues he does. It will also tend to undermine his authority and ability to communicate. Andrew is unique in the country, not only for the clarity of his thought, but because of just how effective he is in bringing his message into the light. Shutting him up is a major aim of the left and calling him a racist is one of the ways this might be done.

Joe McCarthy was not a McCarthyist. Virtually every accusation he made has been established since his time. His interest was in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations and the government of the United States. Understanding the extent to which the White House was infiltrated with Soviet agents is still only in its infancy, with more revelations coming out year by year. That Senator McCarthy is bundled with the Democrats who ran the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) is part of the way in which the issues are confused, again only to the benefit of the Democrats and the left.

I have an article at Quadrant Online that follows my January-February article, America – the Big Dumb Ox. The movie reviewer at Quadrant, whether because he was offended by my article or just as a matter of chance, decided to write a column attacking McCarthy in the usual leftist way. Having a spare few hours on a Saturday afternoon, I wrote a reply which you can read here. But what was particularly interesting for me was that his defence of McCarthy actually exposed the extent to which McCarthy was taken down by the usual media suspects of the left. Today we would see it for what it is, and there is the internet to defend those who stand up for our values. But McCarthy was the first to be exposed to this full frontal media attack and it was devastating. I therefore encourage you to read my post, and then if you are interested in such matters, to go on and read M. Stanton Evans brilliant Blacklisted by History. You will then see the world in a very different way.