Truth Trumps Tyranny: Reporter Edward Murrow Unmasks Sen. McCarthy
Upon the heels of the second world war, as relations between the East and West started becoming frosty, one man, Joseph McCarthy, then US Senator of Wisconsin, made it his self-ordained mission to cleanse the US government of so called ‘Communist’ or ‘Communist’ sympathizers.
The term ‘McCarthyism’ was coined for the aggressive investigation and questioning style of the Senator of Wisconsin during the period between 1950 and 1954. It would later be applied to similar anti-communist activities, prevailing even to this day, in reference to ‘demagogic, reckless and unsubstantiated accusations’ by any person in higher office.
Born in 1908 to a Roman Catholic family in upstate Wisconsin, McCarthy, a graduate from Marquette University, volunteered and served in the Marine Corp before successfully running for the United States Senate in 1946. Three relatively quiet years passed for the young Senator until he gave a speech at the Women’s Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, in which he asserted to have a list of 205 communists working for the State Department.
This assertion naturally hurled him onto the political limelight and set the wheels in motion for a period of angst and paranoia within the country at large.
McCarthy’s vociferous campaign against alleged communists was regarded by most as a blatant violation of their civil rights, yet few people dared to speak out against him. More than 2000 government employees lost their jobs as a result of the ruthless Senator’s investigations.
Unwilling to let the unabated tyranny continue, Edward R. Murrow, journalist by trade, took on the battle against the Senator.
Born in the same year as his rival, Murrow first saw the day of light in Polecat, North Carolina to Quaker parents. Graduating from Washington State University, Murray soon excelled to the post of Assistant Director of the Institution of International Education, headquartered in New York.
Murrow made his first debut to America as Director of CBS’s European Bureau in London, during the infamous Battle of Britain in 1939. Hailed as a hero of the radio waves upon his return to America, Murrow began his pioneering work on television documentaries, thereby changing the history of journalistic broadcasting.
Widely known for his deep rooted passion for civil and political liberties, Murray was a staunch critic of communism, yet strongly disapproved of McCarthy’s devastating campaign against innocent civilians. Murray and a CBS colleague embarked upon a joint effort to create a half hour television program that exposed McCarthy’s weakly supported anti-Communist campaign. However, due to CBS’s Fairness Doctrine Policy, the network awarded Senator McCarthy equal time for rebuttal and counter-attacks. By playing parts of McCarthy’s speech during the show, Murrow exposed the Senator’s contradictions while criticizing him and pointing out his fallacies.
Ultimately, Murrow’s analysis of McCarthy’s groundless charges and statements questioned the Senator’s credibility. Murrow’s efforts finally began to bear fruit when the US Senate adopted a resolution in 1954, reprimanding the Senator for his witch-hunt. This helped quell the fears that spies were living amongst the general population.
Murrow has been credited with the invention of broadcasting journalism and as the journalist who debunked McCarthy. Edward R. Murray has become synonymous with courage and perseverance in search for the truth. His belief in Journalism as an active part of the political process and a necessary tool within democracy has forever altered the politics of everyday life in America.