"The land of the free and the home of the brave!" declares the ideological national anthem of the United States of America. Freedom is considered a citizens right - unless that citizen happens to do something, or believe in something, perceived by the authorities as 'un-American'. Bravery is considered a national pastime - until the Establishment cowers in fear at a perceived threat, at the imagined enemy within. What McCarthyism showed, more than anything else, is just how lacking in freedom America really is, and how truly un-courageous its political elite happens to be. This book, by Ellen Schrecker, explores the many crimes committed by several leading authorities of the USA during the McCarthy period.
McCarthyism represents the efforts to gain and maintain political power by playing on people's fears, emotions and prejudices. It involved public attacks on those considered opponents - involving speeches, investigations, and hearings - based on nothing more than unsubstantiated accusations. Yet it went far beyond the pursuits of Republican U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy. Indeed, it extended far beyond the House Un-American Activities Committee. It constituted a widespread socio-cultural phenomenon affecting all levels of American society. It encompassed unconstitutional and extra-legal procedures - justifying itself on supposed subversive and treasonous activities of the enemy. Many people were blacklisted; many arrested; many put on trail. Yet the enemy was unreal - a mere constructed spectre. Nonetheless, the repression was very real - similar in kind, though different by degree, to the purges of the Soviet Union.
This is a detailed and thorough book, examining McCarthyism in America. It succeeds in presenting a critique of the ideas, ideals, strategies and policies bound up with McCarthyism. It's well-written, and constitutes an important contribution to understanding the politics of the 20th century.