1954: Communist and Anti-Communist Propaganda
By Jennifer Hull
Standards: 8.1, 8.4, 8.5; 12.1,12.2,12.4,12.5
Grade Level: Secondary
Topic: World Wars and Conflicts
Lesson Plan Text:
Introduction: After several years in the Senate, Joseph McCarthy made headlines when he announced in a 1950 speech in Wheeling, West Virginia that he knew that 205 communists were currently working in the State Department. Since American men and women were getting ready to die in combat against a communist enemy in Korea, this speech garnered great publicity. Capitalizing on people's fears, McCarthy launched a public campaign aimed at eliminating the supposed communist infiltration of the U.S. government that provided a strong platform for his re-election. Easily re-elected in 1952 and chosen chair of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee, McCarthy tried to expose communists and their sympathizers throughout American political and cultural life.
His Subcommittee interrogated more than 500 people privately and publicly; being called to testify before it ruined political, literary, and business careers. Citing national security, McCarthy often refused to reveal sources of information. Fearful of being named communist sympathizers themselves, many leaders of labor unions and professional organizations joined in the "Red Scare." Other intellectuals and activists refused to answer his questions or appear before his committee despite the threat to their personal well-being. Several famous Hollywood producers and scriptwriters were among the best-known citizens black-listed by their employers for refusing to co-operate with his committee. McCarthy's 1953 accusation that the military was harboring communists ultimately led to his downfall. TV commentator Edward R. Murrow successfully exposed his tactics and publicly denounced his actions as a threat to America's core democratic values. In December 1954, the Senate rebuked him for "conduct unbecoming a senator."
Background Reading: Joseph McCarthy: A Modern Tragedy.
Document to Analyze: Wanted! Your support for Sen. McCarthy's battle against these communist mouthpieces.
Who, What, Where, When, Why: This pamphlet was probably produced in 1954, when McCarthy was battling for his reputation but before the Senate censure. We do not know precisely who authored it, or which organization published it. But in a last-ditch effort to gain support for his position, McCarthy or his supporters cite articles and quotes from communist and socialist publications that oppose him.
What has McCarthy done for Wisconsin?
McCarthy: a documented record. The Progressive. (1954)
1. What action does the pamphlet "Wanted!..." call for? What is its main point?
2. In your own words, summarize what you see as the main points of the newspapers and individuals quoted in the campaign material.
3. If this were a game of Jeopardy, and the "Wanted!..." documents were the answer, what would the question be?
4. In the pamphlet "What Has McCarthy Done for Wisconsin?", the final page ("Tail Gunner Joe") asserts that McCarthy "was relieved from active duty at his [own] request" 6 months before end of Pacific war, prior to the costly battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. What does this statement attempt to imply about McCarthy?
5. The same pamphlet includes the phrase, "Why Wisconsin's Junior Senator has NO influence in Washington" printed below references to major newspapers and magazines. Does that prove the claim to your satisfaction? What does the author hope you will infer?
6. Compare one of the sections in "McCarthy: a documented record" with the "Wanted! Your support..." pamphlet. Use the table on the pages in the critical thinking handbook called "Evaluating Critical Thought" to assess the merits of each.
7. The "Wanted! Your support..." pamphlet uses the testimony of experts in an unusual way. Why do you think the person who created the material chose this tactic?
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