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McCarthyism's Rhetorical Norms



Rhetorical norms of early McCarthyist discourse reveal a reliance upon images of chaos and the body. Through such metaphors, rhetors crafted a model of discussion that feminized "democracy" and "tolerance" to support anti-Communist measures and de-legitimize their opponents. Political variety was coded as deviant to national identity. "Tolerance" became a warrant for the argument to contain political freedom. I examine congressional deliberations of contempt of congress citations, the Subversive Activities Control Act, and Senator McCarthy's own rhetoric to show the development of the rhetorical norms of McCarthyism.
ED 423 556 CS 509 898
AUTHOR Townsend, Rebecca M.
TITLE McCarthyism's Rhetorical Norms.
PUB DATE 1997-11-22
NOTE 42p.; Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National
Communication Association (83rd, Chicago, IL, November
19-23, 1997) . Paper is based on a chapter of author's
Master's thesis, "The Transformation of 'Tolerance' in the
Age of McCarthyism: A Case of Problematic Rhetorical
PUB TYPE Reports Evaluative (142) Speeches/Meeting Papers (150)
EDRS PRICE MF01/PCO2 Plus Postage.
DESCRIPTORS Communism; Discourse Analysis; Government Role; *Language
Role; *Metaphors; *Persuasive Discourse; *Political Issues;
*Rhetorical Criticism
IDENTIFIERS Cold War; Congress; Historical Background; *McCarthy
(Joseph); McCarthyism; *Rhetorical Stance
ABSTRACT Rhetorical norms of early McCarthyist discourse reveal a
reliance upon images of chaos and the body. Through such metaphors, rhetors
crafted a model of discussion that feminized "democracy" and "tolerance" to
support anti-Communist measures and de-legitimize their opponents. Political
variety was coded as deviant to national identity. "Tolerance" became a
warrant for the argument to contain political freedom. The paper's
examination of congressional deliberations of contempt of Congress citations,
the Subversive Activities Control Act, and Senator McCarthy's own rhetoric
shows the development of the rhetorical norms of McCarthyism. (Includes 84
notes; contains 45 works cited.) (Author/NKA)
Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made
from the original document.
McCarthyism's Rhetorical Norms
Rebecca M. Townsend
Department of Communication, University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
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National Communication Association
Public Address Division
Debut Paper
83rd Annual Convention
Chicago, Illinois
November 22, 1997 1
This paper has been awarded the Public Address Division's Robert Gunderson Award for Outstanding Debut Paper. It is a
variation of chapter two of my Master's thesis, "The Transformation of 'Tolerance' in the Age of McCarthyism: A Case of
Problematic Rhetorical Remembrance." The thesis, completed in August of 1997, was directed by Professor John Louis
Lucaites of Indiana University, Bloomington. I am very grateful to him and to Professors Robert L. Ivie and Cherie L. Bayer
for their advice.
Contact information:
Department of Communication, Machmer Hall, University of Massachusetts, Box 34815, Amherst, MA 01003-4815
phone: (413) 545-1311 fax: (413) 545-6399 Email:
McCarthyism's Rhetorical Norms
Rhetorical norms of early McCarthyist discourse reveal a reliance upon images of chaos
and the body. Through such metaphors, rhetors crafted a model of discussion that feminized
"democracy" and "tolerance" to support anti-Communist measures and de-legitimize their
opponents. Political variety was coded as deviant to national identity. "Tolerance" became a
warrant for the argument to contain political freedom. I examine congressional deliberations of
contempt of congress citations, the Subversive Activities Control Act, and Senator McCarthy's
own rhetoric to show the development of the rhetorical norms of McCarthyism.
Townsend 1
The incipient stages of the American national security state found both bodies of
Congress debating and constructing the image of a national enemy. Important pieces of
legislation were passed from 1947-1954 which helped to cement this condition. These included
the National Security Act of 1947, the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1948, and the
Internal Security Act of 1950. Also important were the citations of contempt Congress issued
against individual citizens. These citations played a key role in "proving" that the enemy
consisted of real people who represented thousands of others plotting to destroy America and all
it stood for. In their analysis of President Harry S. Truman's Loyalty Program, Lynn Boyd Hinds
and Theodore Otto Windt, Jr. recognize a crucial rhetorical precept of the Cold War that "the
security of the nation be placed before the rights of citizens." Such a position was made
incontestable; variations to the position were preemptively discredited through both the model of
discussion and the metaphoric clusters rhetors employed.
The rhetorical preparation for the national security state in post-war America gave birth to
McCarthyism and an attendant set of rhetorical norms.2 These norms generally are difficult to
perceive, but when violated, they become glaringly conspicuous. As I will explain in this essay,
the predominant norms of McCarthyism included: (1) a general impatience with democratic
deliberation; (2) a marginalizing of opposition through gendered metaphoric linkages; (3) an
association of progressive causes and positions with guilt; and (4) a grounding of any
deliberation in anti-Communism, so that anti-Communism was itself unquestioned. Working
together, these norms yield a narrative of "tolerance" that is repressive.' A weakened notion of
political "tolerance" reduced opponents of oppressive measures like the Internal Security Act of
1950 to effeminate hysterics. Subsequently, disagreement on fundamental issues disappeared in
Townsend 2
the early 1950s. Patterns of congressional debate on these measures reveal that opponents of
these norms relied initially on strong notions of democracy, but reverted later to the legislation's
proponents' view that evil existed in the world, disagreeing only on how best to eradicate its
threat. The proponents' choices of metaphors such as "menace," "disease," "madness,"
vulnerability," "subversion," and "deviance" enabled them to appeal to the corporeality of the
public's fears, and constrained the opposition into arguing from a restrictive set of normative
premises. Later in the developed stages of McCarthyism, such bodily images of anti-
Communism developed into themes of moral and political deviance.
Analyses of McCarthyism and Tolerance
In this essay, I focus my analysis on the emerging norms of McCarthyism, which featured
a marginalization of opposition to anti-Communism, found in congressional debate. The
narrative I weave from this material fills in gaps of the traditional story of McCarthyism.4 This
traditional story is also present in academic studies. Conventionally, Senator McCarthy is the
primary agent of McCarthyism. In this essay, the story becomes more complicated than that.
More actors enter the scene. Their collective agency helps to form the act of McCarthyism,
together helping to craft a repressive "tolerance" through their public discourse.
Most rhetorical analyses of McCarthyism have failed to examine tolerance in connection
with it, and their critique of McCarthyism is insufficient.' Marcuse analyzes tolerance
philosophically as a repressive force, contending that there are two kinds of tolerance: passive
and active. "Pure tolerance" is an active form, and its practice has the effect of safeguarding the
"already established machinery of discrimination." He claims that pure tolerance protects the
Townsend 3
political Right as well as the Left, arguing that "the altered social structure tends to weaken the
effectiveness of tolerance toward dissenting and oppositional movements and to strengthen
conservative and reactionary forces. Equality of tolerance becomes abstract, spurious."' It is this
abstract form that tolerance takes in a repressive society. Marcuse's characterization of tolerance
thus enables a broader understanding of what is often a reified term, and sets us in a position to
examine the rhetorical usage of "tolerance" as an argumentative warrant with attention to the
ways in which its meaning shifts and alters.
Philip Wander and Robert Newman both contribute more productive understandings of
the role that McCarthyism plays in American rhetorical culture.' Wander examines the meaning
of "America" in politics and popular culture. He notes that Fascism's demise left Communism
as the predominant political enemy after World War II. Anti-Communists promoted an
intolerant understanding of "America." Policies were created out of this interpretive structure,
and the basic structures have remained in place, albeit under different names. Wander observes
that there has been a "recuperation of anti-Communist ideology," and in its most recent form,
"liberal means fellow traveler, and fellow-traveling is linked with child-pornographers, welfare
breeders, rapists, abortionists, homosexuals, along with those who want to redistribute the wealth
of hard-working Americans."'
In a carefully contextualized understanding of the early Cold War years and their
implications for future foreign policy, Robert Newman positions McCarthy in a special role in
securing the strengthening of the China myths in U.S. foreign and domestic policy. In his 1975
essay, "Lethal Rhetoric: The Selling of the China Myths" Newman asserts that a key reason
America was involved in the then just recent Vietnam War was because of the grip myths about
Townsend 4
China had on the U.S. collective mind. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson had significant fears of
right-wing attacks on them for being "soft on communism," and they acted on those fears. With
substantial historical support, Newman articulates an understanding of how various China myths
were peddled to the public and how they created an environment that precluded alternative
solutions to foreign policy questions. This is the closest any rhetorical analysis of McCarthyism
comes to considering larger dimensions of rhetorical practice, like narrative or myth, yet it
isolates McCarthy from the larger practices he made famous. He places McCarthy as the right
actor for the scene, publicly articulating most clearly what anti-Communism entailed.
In his conclusion Newman cites Barbra Tuchman to the effect that: "McCarthyism is
never dead in this country,"9 an understanding that extends beyond most other scholarly
explanations or interpretations of the man or the ism. Writing in 1975, he forecasts that similar
foreign policy questions may endanger "a Democrat in the White House" ifone ever comes
again.' Could such a president resist the strong constituencies of anti-Communists, whatever
their present-day form? Both Wander and Newman do present a more nuanced appreciation of
McCarthyism than most other studies. Their examinations allow the present to be considered
part of an ongoing process through which a version of repressive tolerance is perpetuated. More
importantly for my purposes, they open the door for a rhetorical history of "tolerance" as an
argumentative form that focuses on a significant event in its most contemporary transformation.
There remains the need for an understanding of McCarthyism as a developing narrative with
possibilities for positive transformation.
In examining selections of congressional deliberations on contempt of Congress citations,
the Subversive Activities Control Act, and McCarthy's own rhetoric, I want to explicate what I
Townsend 5
regard as the rhetorical norms of McCarthyism." Although they are but three slices of the
rhetoric of McCarthyism, they are all significantly connected. These products of Congress,
including the National Security Act, signaled a turn in America's domestic affairs. Gendered
discourses of fear characterized these early stages of the American security state, which lasted
well into the latter half of the twentieth century.
McCarthyite rhetoric produced a shift in the usage of a keyword in the nation's political
lexicon. "Tolerance" became a warrant for the argument to contain political freedom. The set of
norms McCarthyite rhetors constructed, adhered to, and only occasionally violated produced a
rhetorical culture that had significant effects upon American discourse then and now. Thomas B.
Farrell explains that rhetoric is "the collaborative art of addressing and guiding decision and
judgment."' Senators and representatives in Congress drew from their various socio-cultural
and political backgrounds, constituencies, and hierarchical statuses in government to situate
themselves on a continuum of positions toward proposed legislation. As time advanced,
however, and the rhetoric of fear became more and more a starting point rather than a strand of
argument, the range of possible judgments available to legislators narrowed considerably.
Congressional discussion of the Communist threat was partially responsible for the status
of the threat as an "occasion." In Farrell's terms, an occasion typically "begins only with public
awareness of a brute actuality."' It is more useful here to understand the debates as aiding in the
construction of a threat so as to make it an actuality. Congress provided part of the forum that
constructed this threat. The 80th and 81st Congresses (of 1947-1951) were formal bodies which
helped to fortify the performance of anti-Communism as crucial to American identity. They
established the rhetorical norms that earned the moniker "McCarthyism." All of the practices
Townsend 6
Senator McCarthy made famous find their roots in the emergent national security state of 1947-
I will demonstrate how the period just prior to McCarthy's reign as a political force was
linked rhetorically to the subsequent period of his direct influence. The norms of each stage
comprise a material rhetorical bridge, most readily recognized through the patterns of
metaphorical clusters. Robert L. Ivie shows that:
locating metaphors associated with ideographs is central to understanding the relationship
between political ideology and practical argument in foreign affairs. The pattern of inter-
referentiality formed by the convergence of various tropes on a single cluster of
ideographs such as "freedom," "liberty," and "democracy" establishes an operational sub-
universe of discourse which guides and constrains the lines of argument concerning
foreign policy."
Metaphors in discourse about both the internal and external security of the United States can
point to the constraints on the rhetors. They can signal where their limits of invention are placed.
Metaphor and National Identity
In McCarthyist discourse, bodily metaphors are prevalent as part of the rhetoric of fear.
Bodily images are linked to fear through two main channels: gendered rhetoric and
disease/deviance imagery. Gendered rhetoric is predominantly connected, in McCarthyist
discourse, to disease images. Disease in this case includes forms of deviance. Edwin Black
explains the Radical Right's use of disease metaphors, specifically "the cancer of communism,"
and Ivie examines George F. Kennan's use of disease imagery in his Long Telegram and "X"
Townsend 7
article.' Together, Black and Ivie demonstrate that disease imagery functions to heighten the
sense of fear in auditors, weakening the practice of democracy. Similarly, bodily metaphors also
encompass notions of gender. In McCarthyist rhetoric, the two metaphoric clusters of gender and
disease were linked through imagery of deviance. This essay will articulate just how this linkage
occurred and how it diluted the vibrancy of democratic practice.
It will be useful to scrutinize representative parts of the larger debates for the
metaphorical patterns Congress wielded. Ivie has already examined the rhetorical patterns of
"darkness" McCarthy employed at the later stages of his career.'6 Indeed, these metaphors
inhabit this incipient discourse as well, but they do not comprise the most significant patterns for
discouraging opposition to security measures. The scanty opposition to such legislative measures
failed due to the norms that proponents were forming. Once formed, the opposition had to argue
from within the conceptual frameworks and metaphoric clusters of such restrictive norms. The
metaphorical clusters centered on a dangerously intolerable situation that found democracy and
freedom to be vulnerable and in need of security through tough combat. The body politic, from
this view, had tolerated the deviance of Communist activity for far too long, and America had to
legislate against such subversion to protect "her" liberties. In this essay, I discuss this pattern's
development in its embryonic stage, when most of the norms of the rhetorical culture were
Participants in the process of deliberation can cast that process as supportive of, oras a
hindrance to, national security. As David Campbell shows, America's understanding of
"security" and "danger" is tied to its identity as a nation. Americans have calibrated their
"ethical boundaries of identity" in ways that maximize a gendered orientation toward danger."
1 0
Townsend 8
Campbell discusses the "gendered understanding of reason" as "defining orientations of our
existence."' Furthermore, he demonstrates, the "trope of 'the body' is central to the moral space
of our identity."' When the nation deliberates the severity of a danger, and Americans are active
in constructing the danger, such deliberation is often performed so that the most powerful
discourses have a masculine cast to them. If reason is masculinized, those who take noticeof, or
integrate, concerns other than strict logic are feminized and coded as deviant. As Edward Said
explains, "Centrality is identity, what is powerful, important, andours. Centrality maintains
balance between extremes; it endows ideas with the balances of moderation, rationality,
pragmatism." Further, he argues, "centrality gives rise to semi-official narratives thatauthorize
and provoke certain sequences of cause and effect, while at the same time preventing counter-
narratives from emerging."20 If those in power articulate their position as the center of reason
and strength--even if their performance suggests a discrepancy--it becomes easier for them to
discredit their opposition. Linda H. Kerber argues that "we live in a world in which authority has
traditionally validated itself by distance from the feminine and from what isunderstood to be
effeminate."' Gendering opposition feminine marginalizes it,and thus discounts it as
When discourses of power are gendered, and when bodily metaphors are significant in
such discourses, the nation's sense of democracy and identity are at stake. Ivie asks, "What ...
rhetorically constitutes a healthy, strong, secure, and enduring democratic practice at home so
that the nation may feel less threatened from abroad?"' He answers that democracy construed so
competently would entail a "rhetorical .. . conception of symbolic action that privileges politics--
i.e., political discourse--as the arbiter elegantiarum.' This rhetorical democracy would resist
Townsend 9
unwarranted appeals to fear. "Tolerance," a key term in American liberal-democratic
governance, would be figured predominantly in terms that suggest a strength through diversity. It
is important to understand how the factor of gender short-circuited deliberation and ensconced
"tolerance" with a repressive meaning.
Contempt of Congress
The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) had been functioning
sporadically since 1938. In 1947, however, it began to pick up considerable steam. With the
"Hollywood Ten's" refusal to testify before the committee, Congress became increasingly aware
that people could and did refuse to participate. Lesser-known individuals refused as well. To
maintain its legitimacy as an investigatory body, Congress needed to make scapegoats of these
resisters. This tactic became part of the larger "American Inquisition," as Cedric Belfrage
describes it, but it was nonetheless a crucial McCarthyite practice.' Later legislation restricting
speech would follow because these individuals were said to represent thousands of other agents
of chaos. Congress asked Americans to accept such limits on their freedoms. Congress voted
citations for contempt on numerous individuals who resisted HUAC in any way. As a primary
method of clamping down on dissent, individual citizens were issued subpoenas toappear before
HUAC. As I will explain, any resistance to HUAC's demands were highly publicized. In this
way, resisters were "exposed" and either marked for shunning or actually shunned by society.
In early 1947, this method was still the principal means for eradicating radicals or
uncooperative witnesses. That year Congress issued two citations for contempt against Leon
Josephson and Eugene Dennis, prominent members of the Communist Party, U.S.A. These
Townsend 10
citations served as springboards for vituperative speeches condemning Communism. Josephson
and Dennis, according to Rep. J. Parnell Thomas, committed a "bold and contemptuous
challenge of the very sovereignty of our Government." They were "bent upon destroying that
very Government." They, like other Communists, "flagrantly serv[ed] as agents of a foreign
government." Such agents were rhetorically separated from the U.S., since it was assumed that
anarchy could not be home-grown. Rep. Thomas asked whether the U.S. would "be cowed and
insulted by this Communist conspiracy?" Furthermore, "their immunity must cease" and they
should be "prosecuted for their violations." Congress was able to link images of chaos to bodily
images through such disease and deviance metaphors. This rhetorical "exposure" was not
enough because "investigations ...become the burial ground for action."' By such suggestions
of death, movement toward legislated repression of free speech gained further warrant.
Slow prosecution of individuals was not the only concern of these rhetors; death for the
nation was at the core of their anxiety. With the threat of death, dissent was construed as only
hastening demise. Rep. John S. Wood urged that "there should not be a dissenting voice" in
Congress over these citations, since the problem concerned none other than "the broad and
fundamental question of upholding the dignity and preserving the sovereignty and authority of
the Congress itself." Those who would not answer the questions HUAC asked were "afraid,"
according to Rep. J. Hardin Peterson. Congress, in these proceedings, was "contending with the
brains and the ability and the desires of the enemies of the American people to destroy ...this
Nation." The "duty" of Congress, declared Rep. John McDowell, was to find out "who they are,
where they are, and how they operate." One such enemy was a "murderous little Moscow agent."
Congress received little criticism for such proceedings, criticism which McDowell described as
Townsend 11
only to "hysterical and silly falsehoods." The "actual menaces to the American way of life" were
the targets of such exposure, but unfortunately, it seems, "America has looked complacently on
these destructive rodents that have been busy gnawing at the foundations of our country and
screaming for the protection our government gives decent citizens."26 Congressional members
were beginning to get anxious about the usefulness of the process of deliberation.
Both opposition members and Communists were linked to rodents, creatures who
typically thrive in darkness. According to some in Congress, the opposition to anti-Communists
was perpetuating a culture that allowed such traitors protection from the very country they were
trying to subvert. This culture was of a darkened hue. By framing the Communists as enemies
destroying the body politic from within, rhetors were able to heighten a fundamental sense of
danger to America. Such a danger would then virtually warrant suicidal attempts to save the
The legislators painted an image of Communists and the individuals under consideration
that relied upon their discord-causing activities. Such discord was life-threatening and would
lead to national dissipation. The Congress and the nation had delicate constitutions and were
unable to withstand the rigors of such confusion. One of the principal aims of Communists,
professed Rep. Karl E. Mundt, was "to weaken [Congress's] influence if they cannot destroy the
institution entirely." Dennis, in particular, was "trying to destroy freedom here in the most
important bastion of its existence. ... a political Rhett Butler trying to create chaos and destroy
and wreck our free civilization," by destroying the body politic. Not content with that
description, Rep. Mundt elaborated that Dennis was:
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a political jackal along with his fellow Communists, realizing that they grow fattest when
the State comes closest to death. So they do what they can to create labor troubles; do
what they can to create tension and conflicts between races, creeds, and groups, because
they realize ...that the best antidote ...for communism is a successfully working
democracy in America. . . . So the communists work to disrupt that; and work to create
chaos and conflict and uneasiness because as democracy functions better, they function
less successfully."'
But Rep. Mundt was not so sure that democracy was functioning, since it was always at risk and
America "cannot decrease in our eternal vigilance."' It was feared that "jackals" would thrive
like a cancer off of the body politic. Rep. Mundt's problem, as presented, called for solutions
that failed to enhance the practice of democracy. If American citizens failed in their vigilance,
America would find itself in a "vulnerable position." Mundt argued that Communism had to be
"exposed to full view, naked and undisguised, as the un-American virus which it actually is."
The disease that plagued America required the panacea of containment and repression, otherwise,
Communism would "kill off democracy." The aberrant enemy "resorts to bullets whenever
ballots go against it." Communists offer a "whimpering cry....pleading to be unrestrained in
their efforts to destroy America." As the agents of chaos and disease were characterized as
offering weak plaints for freedom, Congress paved the way for their effeminization. Freedom is
feminized to make it appear vulnerable and to warrant stereotypically aggressive masculine
action in its defense. Such action suppresses feminine tendencies, including the exercise of
freedom and democracy. The enemy is femininity but the Communist enemy is not feminine--
indeed, the enemy takes advantage of femininity. America is at risk only if it allows itself to
Townsend 13
become feminine. The mastering of the enemy had to be achieved through a masculine, hardline
stance, which distanced Congress from encouraging the strong practice of democracy. Mundt
thundered, "This is not a fight which can be won by faint-hearted warriors. The summer soldier
and the sunshine patriot cannot defeat Red Fascism." Congressmen ran the risk of being
"smeared" themselves. Rep. Mundt further warned Americans to watch for "agents slyly
peddling their slimy propaganda," for Communism was "tightening its hold upon the jugular vein
of American life."' Once the Congress was able rhetorically to place the nation in jeopardy, they
were able to silence dissent.
The insufficient work being done to control this threat was perceived as indicative of the
government's own weak links. The failure of the attorney general to prosecute Communists
meant that he and those before him were, according to Rep. Mundt, "guilty of one of three things:
Either they are afraid of the Communist Party or they are dominated by the Communist Party or
they do not know that the Communist Party exists." The Communist Party, Mundt contended,
was on a "crusade to pervert and control the youth of America."3' The Communists, according to
Rep. John M. Robison, "advocate the overthrow of this Government force and violence."'
A degenerate enemy was assumed to have the power to crush the U.S. in part by turning the
youth into vulnerable citizens, homosexuals, or effeminate men. Freedom and democracy are
associated with discourse, and "girls" and gay men are depicted as highly verbal. This makes for
the problem of associating democracy as a discourse with positive gendering, and it emphasizes
the problem of gender and democracy.
The main challenger throughout these contempt proceedings was Rep. Vito Marcantonio
of New York. He found the proceedings themselves to involve "issues of fundamental
Townsend 14
democracy" that were "unconstitutional and antidemocratic." The other congressmen had
"severely damaged" democracy in their "hysterical persecution" of Communists. Marcantonio
provided a brief history of such occasions, noting that "a wave of revulsion" overcame
Americans, and they were able to reject such moments of repression.' His singular attempts to
sway the Congress were repeatedly and soundly rebuked by comments that, like those of Rep.
Robison, referred to "the silly argument of the gentleman from New York.' Indeed, as Rep.
Richard Nixon proclaimed, Congress is "striking a blow for the very freedoms the gentleman
from New York talked about."' Marcantonio countered that "at no time has the Supreme Court
of the United States ruled that the Communist Party advocates the overthrow of the Government
by force and violence." Rep. Marcantonio found no recourse in citing the Supreme Court, for
Rep. Rankin charged, "Here is the Supreme Court to which the gentleman from New York
should refer, and that is William Z. Foster, head of the Communist Party." To confound things
further, the Speaker of the House did not see that those remarks were "any reflection" on Rep.
Marcantonio.' This pattern of red-baiting opponents enabled legislators to accomplish two
goals: (1) it reinforced their position as defenders of America, and (2) it derisively dismissed
lines of opposition without directly addressing them. By declining to engage and counter
opposition honestly, red-baiters were able to delegitimize their opponent's position.
Congressmen articulated a threat and presented solutions for eradicating it. The answer,
they argued, could be found in the virility of patriotic Americans who could avoid becoming
dupes to Communism. Americans were so generous and giving (stereotypically feminine
qualities) that they could easily fall for cunning trickery, and so they needed to be educated about
subversion. One of the ways congressmen like Rep. Noah Mason explained what they
Townsend 15
determined to be the success of the "Communist infiltration" was by claiming that Communists
would "inoculate innocent, unsuspecting Americans" by forming "front" organizations. These
fronts would "spread" Communism.37 Images of disease were so pervasive that Congress was
oriented toward prescribing vaccinations for the development of a healthy population. In so
doing, they assumed that Americans were incapable of active, intelligent participation in the
practice of democracy. What Congress wished for, argued Rep. Mundt, was a "population of
sturdy Americans" brought about by giving the Federal Bureau of Investigation $50 million.
This would halt America from "inviting the Red armies to walk in when we show weakness at
this critical period."' The cultural narratives of the early Cold War, as Alan Nadel shows,
crafted "the pervasive image of a normative American: white, heterosexual, upwardly mobile ...
generically religious, and uncommonly full of 'common sense.'"39 This image was popular in
congressional debate. Portraying the opposition as non-white, effeminate, un-American, poor,
and irreligious (or non-Christian), or as members of an elite Ivy-league educated class allowed
anti-Communists to discount from deliberation anyone associated with those labels. This
emerged as a norm that marginalized the representative Others as unfavorably wayward.
"Sturdy" citizens were not depicted as feminine; instead, the label "sturdy" de-feminizes
Americans, discouraging forms of talk like democratic deliberation or dissent.
Communism was fast becoming an enemy without match. If America should hesitate in
resistance to this enemy, this would be interpreted as a frailty that it could not afford. Congress
determined that the transfer of power in Russia from a monarchy to a Communist state caused
this new situation. Rep. Frances P. Bolton explained, "We did not admire Czarist Russia, butwe
got along with her. Unfortunately, Communist Russia makes that tolerance difficult if not
Townsend 16
impossible.' Through such a move, Rep. Bolton was also able to demarcate just who was
normal and who was abnormal through the use of "we" and its implied "they." Congressional
rhetoric indicated a struggle over what to tolerate. It will become more evident, however, that
the struggle was already settled. Members of congress argued that civility toward those of
different political stripes than one's own would weaken democracy. Tom Englehardt
characterizes the early Cold War period as "mark[ed]" by an "unresolvable tension between
exclusion and inclusion ...between vigilance and tolerance.' "Freedom and liberty as we
know them," Rep. Gordon L. McDonough justified, "cannot tolerate communism. We must be
vigilant and alert to the wiles and insidious influences it is attempting to inflictupon us." In
fact, perhaps it is this aspect of America that is the problem. Therape and death of America
would be permitted through "tolerance" of dissent. Democracy and liberty were feminized and
therefore could not provide sufficient protection for America. Gradually, talk itself--
deliberation--became more and more feminized, signaling the need for the repudiation of talk.
American "tolerance" was becoming part of the foe's weapons from within. Rep. John
Rankin made it clear as he read F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover's words into the Congressional
Record: "In our vaunted tolerance for all peoples the Communist has foundour 'Achilles'
heel.'"43 "It is a matter of self-preservation" Hoover continued, andto prevent "penetration"
Americans must "battle" along with government. Hoover was adept at figuring Communism as
irrational and indecent, a "virulent poison.' He ably portrayed America's fragility through
tropes of the body. "Tolerance" was part of American democracy, but with this rhetorical
figuring of it as the weakest part of America, it became powerless. By this logic, "tolerance" had
to be sacrificed to save democracy by legislating restrictions on political liberty.
Townsend 17
Legislating Containment
Early McCarthyist rhetoric prepared for the passage of the National Security Act of 1947.
Set in this discursive backdrop, the Act abolished the Department of War and replaced it with the
Department of Defense, which subsumed the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy. This subtle
move instantly positioned America as always starting from a position of self-protection. U.S.
identity was semantically sealed in the apparent inability of the nation to go on the offensive.
The Act also established the Central Intelligence Agency for the purpose of collecting
information. Investigation became routine and it was fast on its way to being understood and
accepted as necessary. These events launched a new round of obsession with security. Further
reliance upon feminized tropes of the body functioning as the normative standard for
marginalizing opponents and short-circuiting debate characterized congressional consideration of
H.R. 5852, what was to become the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1948 (a.k.a. the Mundt-
Nixon Bill). Discussion of this measure involved more dissent than previous congressional
discourse on Communism.
The Subversive Activities Control Act of 1948 required every suspected subversive
organization or front to register as Communist with the Attorney General. The Act labeled those
groups who employed the following "methods" as "Communist fronts:"
(A) the disruption of trade and commerce, (B) the inciting of economic, social, and racial
strife and conflict, (C ) the dissemination of propaganda calculated to undermine
established government institutions, and (D) corrupting officials of the Government and
securing the appointment of their agents and sympathizers to offices and positions in the
Townsend 18
Through its vague language, it encompassed a wide range of organizations and subjected them to
investigation and restriction. The Act fails to define or otherwise explain any of these methods.
It made association with "subversive" groups a crime. Membership was punishable asa felony.
Members who were immigrants could lose citizenship. The 319 advocates of this legislation
relied heavily on the nation's perceived vulnerability, developing additional rhetorical norms.
These norms called for legislating containment, and thus the norms themselves achieved
legislated status. Such legislation became necessary to fortify America against the articulated
A major backer of the Act, HUAC's then-Chair, Rep. Thomas, was ill at the time of the
floor debate, but he issued a statement on the matter, indicating that the bill was "aimed at coping
with the foremost menace to democracy today." The enemy was "nothing more nor less than
fifth-column arm of the Soviet Union." The U.S. was fortunate that the HUAC was created;
Thomas said it was a "lasting tribute to this body that it [Congress] had the foresight and the
vigilance to establish" HUAC. "[O]ur Government never has and never will be caught flat-
footed" by the Communists, rhetorically located outside the U.S. The bill was a "sane and
effective approach" that would "spell the death of the Communist Party of the UnitedStates."
Preemptively striking his opponents, Rep. Thomas claimed that it was the Communists who
directed the opposition and asserted that their objections were "a lot of poppycock." All the bill
would do, he contended, was to allow "a free and democratic people to protect themselvesand
their Government from destruction."'
Townsend 19
The measure was claimed necessary because of the nature of the nemesis and the
predicament in which the country unwittingly found itself Proponents like Rep. Rankin argued
that the Communists
that are running riot throughout the world are part of the same old gang that constituted
the fifth column of the crucifixion. They hounded the Saviour during the days of his
ministry, persecuted him to his ignominious death, derided him during the moment of his
dying agony, and gambled for his garments at the foot of the cross; and for 1,900 years
they have attempted to undermine and destroy....all the institutions that have been built
upon the moral precepts of Christianity.47
This thinly disguised anti-Semitism remained a constant tactic of proponents. In Russia, Rep.
Rankin said, "long-nosed commissars" were said to be responsible for starving millions, reducing
the people to cannibalism: "In their frantic agony some of them died eating the dead bodies of
their own families." Barbarism of this sort typified the enemy; it was counted as "evidence" of
the enemy's lack of stereotypically feminine mothering instincts. Crucifixion imagery also
contributed to the association of the nation with weak notions of femininity. The nation would
reach its death because of its reluctance to fight back in masculine ways. Communists would
likewise hound America. This imagery effectively combined fears of anarchy and subsequent
death through gruesome premonitions of life under Communism. Such "ruthless" people were
themselves "well-fed." Rep. Rankin declared, "I have never seen a Communist--and
unfortunately I have seen one or two in this House--who was not well cared for.' The only
people, Rep. Mundt promised, who would be "touched" would be Communists, and then only if
Congress found that they were "engaged in a conspiracy." But, "[i]f the shoe does not fit, they
Townsend 20
do not put it on their foot. If it fits, we nail it on with iron cleats so that they cannot get it off."49
Congress denied the Communist Party's legitimacy. Communists were constructed as an
inherently deviant conspiracy. These "advocates of anarchy," according to Rep. Wingate H.
Lucas, had been "feeding on the freedoms which are inherent in our society." Americans had
"actually encouraged" this behavior and "cannot afford to delay any longer."' Rep. John
Jennings, Jr. claimed that, "to tolerate them is an outrage and those who ask us to make iteasy
for them insult our intelligence.' The opposition to such legislation was linked to Communists,
and so became part of the intolerable group of deviants. Rep. Jennings hated "this surrender to
subversive elements that are undertaking to destroy this country." He asked, "Just when will we
get hard in this country? ...Just when will we reach the end of that tolerance with which we
have heretofore indulged these communists?' Being "hard," an important masculine term,
would save the country.
Legislators argued that democracy was weak and in a "temple" which must be protected.
The "intolerable situation," contended Rep. Walter H. Judd, demanded "self-defense.' The
United States, claimed Rep. Lucas, "confronts a world which is a breeding ground for insidious
propaganda"' The democratic body is too weak to survive in the actual world. According to
Rep. Mundt the bill "requires the Communists of America to cut the umbilical cord which binds
them to Mother Russia.' Rep. Joseph R. Bryson maintained that it would "emasculate
Communists."' It was further argued that America should remove the masculine aggressiveness
from Russia, an apparent mother-father which androgynously spawned anarchy. All the sacrifice
the U.S. had endured would then be worth it. America would be able to rest fairly easily. Rep.
Charles J. Kersten explained, "This measure is a sword that separates that limb [of conspiracy]
Townsend 21
from the brain that lies abroad. This country could fall from an internal attack but it will never
fall from an assault from without though all the powers of hell are hurled against it.'
Some opponents, like Rep. Frank Buchanan, claimed that the Subversive Activities
Control Bill was "too sweeping" and "use[d] the smear tactic." The bill would "reveal" that
Americans "have inherent weaknesses in this Nation whereby we are vitally afraid of criticism--
from within."' Rep. Arthur J. Klein asked if "we are now so fearful that we resort to the
antithesis of our democratic ideals to preserve the faint shadow of representative government?"
Opponents asserted that it was the bill that created "an intolerable invasion,' not the
Communists, as proponents had previously indicated. Such opponents did not hesitate to point
out that America's "fear" produced the call for legislation against Communists. They were
careful to make distinctions among the various types of Communism, considering it a more
complex phenomenon than proponents had claimed. Rep. Buchanan, citing New York Times
Magazine columnist Allan Nevins, found safety in "free opinion, free speech, and a free vote."'
Rather than Communism, claimed Rep. Toby Morris, "good old Jeffersonian democracy is on the
march, and it will ever be."' Democracy was not fragile for some of them; indeed, for Rep.
Abraham J. Multer, it provided a "shelter" that would "grow from strength to strength" if this bill
were not enacted."
While opponents supplied histories of the United States that emphasized its strength,
proponents countered them resoundingly with histories emphasizing the "grave dangers" the
country "faced" "since its birth." According to Rep. Richard B. Vail, generations of Americans
had "borne" their "share of the [bitter] sacrifices periodically required to maintain our national
integrity." He thus portrayed these sacrifices as marginally effective at halting the advance of the
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invasive enemy. "At this stage it would seem that America was secure--that its position was
impregnable. ...We have no adequate defense against the new weapon that has been in use
against us and is at this very moment gnawing at our vitals. ...Never before have we been
forced to stand by helplessly." Through its inaction, proponents argued, America became weak
and helpless. As a weak nation, the U.S. was coded as feminine, and the feminization of the
nation was crafted so as to require masculine protection. Those placed in the position of arguing
against such protection were associated with the defiling invaders. The "hue and cry that has
been raised against" this bill was said to come from "sources that when checked have been found
to have their roots sunk deep in actual communism or pink liberalism." Liberals were "pink," a
very feminine term, close to the red Communists. Opponents, once softened, became feminized
and weakened through these moves. This feminization was said to be reflected in the illogical,
mad appeals against the bill, because, "[E]very sound American organization approves and
supports this bill."' Opponents were irrational, since Americans apparently needed to make
occasional adjustments to their liberties in order to secure them. Democracy continued to be
seen as a discourse, although emanating from a feminine body that needed masculine protection
in a world of combat, not words.
The rhetorical norm of feminization continued. Rep. Mundt characterized those who
objected to the legislation as "sad-eyed, soft-hearted, bewildered, and befuddled" "rabble,"64 and
Rep. Rankin said opponents were trying to "emasculate" the bill.° Rep. Mundt charged that
"soft-headed ...self-proclaimed liberals cry out," but it will be the "[p]atriots ofevery party and
every walk of life [who] will applaud and support this program for protecting the freedoms and
liberties which have made America great and which the Communists and their dim-witted dupes
Townsend 23
would now destroy."66 To feminize the opponents aligned them with the insanity of chaos and
placed advocates in the position of masculine rationality and power. The red-baiting endured. In
some instances, as Rep. McDowell illustrated, opponents were characterized "reaching down into
the Communist bag of tricks."' Opponents were consistently charged with misunderstanding the
bill or deliberately trying to distort it for the purpose of confusing the public. Their arguments
were consistently reversed against them. For example, a line of argument that this measure
would create a police state was subsequently transformed through the proponents' own vivid
definitions of a police state, illustrated with descriptions of the environment said to be preferred
by murderous Communists. To counter any appeals to a strong democracy, proponents
eventually moved away from mentioning democracy altogether. In one instance, this move was
formalized. Rep. Thomas L. Owens recommended an amendment to protect a "representative
form of government" rather than democracy. This was accomplished because of the "great deal
of confusion" the word "democracy" could cause: "the democratic form of government means
one where every person has a voice in that which is taking place--where they can move as a body.
It is social equality compared with snobbery. Therefore, we do not have an absolute democracy
here."68 Such confusion was halted before it could occur. The chance that the U.S. would
accidentally permit full participation in the practice of democracy would safely be deflected.
Later rhetors exploited the link that proved so effective in disabling dissenters: the
connection between a feminized democracy, freedom, and tolerance, and the call for masculine
legislation protecting American security. The mind-body connection was actually reinforced, but
only in a deviant sense. The minds of Communists were characterized as wholly similar to their
perverted bodies. Sen. Pat McCarran quoted General Dwight Eisenhower, who sarcastically
Townsend 24
suggested that psychiatrists would help illuminate the abnormalities which afflicted certain elite
intellectuals of the nation. Doctors might "provide an ultraviolet ray....needed to penetrate
deeply into the darkness of Communist motivation"69
Standards of Deviation: McCarthy Extends the Patterns
The dangerous deviance that Communists were said to embody was drawn out most
deliberately by Senator Joseph McCarthy. In his February 9, 1950 Wheeling, WV speech, Sen.
McCarthy started a new round of the Red Scare that earned his name. He charged that this
deviance had penetrated into the U.S. State Department, which would help explain the
tremendous losses the U.S. incurred in foreign policy. This charge was the most explicit any
legislator had made about the infiltration of Communists into government, and this touched off
an extension of the earlier HUAC contempt citations, with the crucial difference being that he
refused to name the actual 205 "cases" that proved the infiltration. He was content freely to
ascribe guilt by association.
In the State Department populated by the "unusual characters"' of Sen. McCarthy's
invention, the "nest of Communists and Communist sympathizers" and other "bad security risks"
made it necessary for increased congressional investigatory powers. If this call was not
answered, it would "label the Democratic Party... . the bedfellow of international communism."'
Sen. McCarthy helped construct a world in which danger was everywhere and Americans had
unnecessarily tolerated it. He challenged that "twisted-thinking intellectuals have taken over the
Democratic Party." Apparently Americans could "no longer....safely blind our eyes and close
our ears to those facts which are shaping up more and more clearly," otherwise they would
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"deeply wound and damage mankind." America was "in a position of impotency not because our
only powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the
traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this Nation." In order to cure the
"emotional hang-over" of American apathy, the "whole sorry mess of twisted, warped thinkers
are swept from the national scene so that we may have a new birth of national honesty and
decency." These "twisted intellectuals" have even captured President Truman as their
According to McCarthy, the problem develops when one Communist is permitted to hold
a job in Government, for "he will get some other individual to recommend another Communist
so that the breed can be increased." He thus complained that too often these "bad security risks"
are "flagrantly homosexual" and share "extremely close cormections with other individuals with
the same tendencies."' The mental and physical deviance that these people were constituted as
embodying could somehow proliferate. The attack of homosexuality was an entailment of the
bodily images of feminization. Men were attacked for any appearance of stepping outside the
margins of what was thought to be normal for masculine behavior. Masculine behavior required
sexual relations with females, and anything else was constructed as deviant. The deviance took
the characteristics of femininity, with all its rhetorically constituted trappings of passivity,
irrationality, and weakness. Such deviants were said to procreate, and thus lessen the
effectiveness of protective legislation or departments. Once the label of homosexuality was
attached to a person, he or she would attract persecution for their de facto position in the margins
of society. Opponents to repressive measures were thus linked to the margin. "Marginalization
in American culture means," according to Said, "a kind of unimportant provinciality."' The
Townsend 26
possibility that those on the margin would "talk" or otherwise practice dissent or democracy was
a threat to the center and therefore the nation.
Sen. McCarthy cited one of the "top intelligence men" who said that "there's something
wrong with each one of these individuals. You will find that practically every active Communist
is twisted mentally in some way." There were also things "physically wrong" with some of the
cases he handled, and he recommended that these people should be "discharged" from the federal
payroll "regardless of whether they are shown to have any communistic connection or not." Sen.
McCarthy characterized gays and lesbians as a dangerous threat to be conquered. Groups of
Communists similarly tended to be "close-knit" and hazardous. He found that "bad security risks
... are easy blackmail victims." Of course, Sen. McCarthy speculated, they would never want
their identity revealed and most likely would be willing to do anything to prevent that from
happening, even engaging in espionage activities. "Some rather unusual mental aberrations" and
"peculiar mental twists of these gentlemen who are tied-up with some of the Communist
organizations" were great cause for increased investigation.75 Other senators seemed to agree
with his conclusions, since as Sen. Mundt said, "Government departments are notoriously
weak."' By characterizing the enemy in such terms, McCarthyites were able to stand
unswervingly tall, embodying all that is masculine, principled, rational, independent, and
As McCarthy proceeded to develop each "case" file of the supposed subversives in the
State Department, he conceded that "it is possible that some of these persons will get a clean bill
of health" once they have been thoroughly investigated. But the danger to these innocents was
worth the trouble of preemptively judging them guilty. "I think the condition today is so fraught
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with danger, I think we are in a period so definitely close to war, that even if we do damage some
of the honest employees, I must take only the method I know of whereby I think we can secure a
house cleaning."77 Tolerance of these investigations became even more necessary for security
and freedom.
Sen. McCarthy persevered in his efforts to point out those he claimed to be the diseased,
ineffectual parties in American government. His rhetoric continued to rely on metaphors of the
body and chaos. He found that a "small but dominant percentage of disloyal, twisted, and, in
some cases, perverted thinkers . .. were rendering futile the Herculean efforts of the vast number
of loyal Americans in the State Department," and also that the "world is being delivered to
communism." Yet he would not falter in his self-appointed task, even though "the road has been
strewn with the political corpses of those who dared to attempt an exposure" of such "devious
and smelly passages."' His identity was bound with the nation's identity; both are in danger, yet
both must persevere. He considered this self-endangering task his duty to the Nation, since
everyone else was complacent and effeminate. He argued: "The mind of the left-wing crowd in
the American State Department is as soft as curdled milk."79 Sen. McCarthy's uses of images of
darkness are initiated at this stage.' By attacking opponents with charges of mental and
therefore sexual deviation, and by attacking homosexuals, he was able to figure himselfas the
searchlight that brings these people out into the open, so that they may be destroyed. He was able
to position others at the dark margins, brought to light through his revelations. At this point in
his career, however, Sen. McCarthy was on the rise and portrayed his work similar to a doctor
dispensing an unfortunate diagnosis to the country. Later, Sen. McCarthy's depiction of his work
would dim, so that he pictured himself routing out the subversives. This would ultimately help
3 0
Townsend 28
bring about his own downfall when Edward R. Murrow would link him with the Communist
threat he purported to exterminate. And, as Ivie demonstrates, Sen. McCarthy was "bypassing
the principle of free speech and the canons of evidence that are essential to the survival of an
enlightened democracy."' While Joe McCarthy could later be bested by such an association, the
deeper, more problematic ironies of McCarthyism remained. Guilt by association, de-
legitimization of dissent, and feminized liberty, democracy, and "tolerance" went largely
This small segment of the larger Cold War era spawned and perpetuated a rhetorical
culture of fear, accusation, guilt by association, a high premium on conformity, red-baiting of
opposition, and a devaluation of democracy and tolerance. As seen through the three episodes
detailed above, the pattern that rhetorical norms took necessitated that rhetors argue from within
a rhetoric of fear. With contempt of congress citations, congressional McCarthyites began a
victimage ritual of identifying and persecuting individual scapegoats as signs of a largermenace.
Members of Congress characterized these individuals as agents of chaos and disease, coddled by
the American governmental elites. They also de-legitimized the few congressional opponents to
these citations. Legislation, like the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1948 quickly
formalized fear. McCarthyites argued that the nature of America's enemy presented them with
limited options. America was characterized as a weak nation incapable if survival without active
masculine protection. Sen. McCarthy merely continued this form of rhetoric, while focusing
most of his energies on what he claimed was the deviance within the American government
Townsend 29
itself. He stressed the need for tough action against these individuals. McCarthy perpetuated the
usage of a repressive "tolerance" in his discourse, which had become a normative standard by the
mid-1950s. As time passed, rhetors faced increased limitations in their freedom to vary from the
straight and narrow path that had been constructed. Even in opposition to certain measures,
rhetors would have to concede that certain political ideologies were intolerable and that
something must be done about them. They began to differ not on the fundamental flaws of these
measures, but rather on the degree of repression.
The acceptance of the security state in the post-War U.S. powerfully affected the larger
body of American public discourse. Michael S. Sherry notes the significant role McCarthyism
played in crushing opposition to militarization. The "attitudes and practices" rounded out in this
period last today, Sherry argues.' The minuscule Communist Party was decimated. Labor
unions, already weakened in WWII, were made ineffectual. Federal power to investigate and
compile files surged tremendously. Michael Harrington maintains that "McCarthyism made
most people fearful of joining any organization of the Left, even the anti-Communist Left."'
Such a narrowing of the political continuum indicates a serious problem in American discourse.
"McCarthyism" was more than just one man's mode of conduct; it encompassed the rhetorical
patterns examined here. It involved many players who sought scapegoats for what they
determined were the real or objective international states of affairs. Legislators were a significant
portion of these agents of McCarthyism. In claiming to protect liberty and freedom, they asked
the public to accept restrictive measures. In doing this, they transformed the predominant usage
of the word "tolerance" to argue for restraint. When those in power claim strength, but their
rhetoric suggests that they rely on weak notions of democracy, debate, and liberty, they
3 2
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circumvent their purpose. Tolerating dissent could not be allowed because it is feminized and
thus vulnerable in a world that is masculine and physical.
"Tolerance," found in the narrative of McCarthyism, became associated with a cluster of
tropes of the body that beckoned chaos. Apparently, the situation was so bad that it could not be
"tolerated," "endured," "licensed," "sanctioned," "withstood," "accepted," "permitted" to exist,
or "allowed" to continue. By feminizing "tolerance" and distancing it from strength, the only
means left were "tough" restrictions. By associating this version of tolerance with permitting
anarchy to survive unharmed within the body politic, rhetors were able to reframe themselves
(and their legislation) as the agents and agencies for America's protection. "Tolerance" became
set in opposition to order and stability. Freedom was endangered because of wild tolerance in a
physical, not verbal, world. The world understood combat, not democratic talk. Democracy was
thus relegated to a future after the world has been saved--the world must first be made safe for
democracy. Once it was constructed as an evil, the only solution to this chaotic "tolerance"
ironically relied upon repressive "tolerance." This transformation was only possible because
"tolerance" had been associated with deviant weakness. Conformity was the code of the day, and
dissent was tantamount to deviance. Hinds and Windt explain that "Americans who would
dissent from the vitriolic anticommunist consensus could be banished from the prevailing
political reality to the fringes of either psychological or political unreality."" Deviance only
brought chaos. The successful linkage of deviant ideas (mind) with deviant behavior (body)
fused an acceptance of repressive measures to cure this abnormality.
Such rhetorical norms, coded through metaphors to forward the ideographic cores of
"freedom" and "security," undermined the possibility for serious political debate. This period's
Townsend 31
rhetoric cemented the second half of the 20th century to Cold War patterns of debate, debate
which had few legitimate opposing sides. My perspective in retelling the McCarthyism story is
strategic. I want to draw attention to the larger phenomenon and the numerous actors helping to
form the norms of McCarthyism. Telling the McCarthyism story in this way helps to de-
naturalize the versions repeated in mass mediated discourse. When we can hear a story told
differently we can begin to rely less on conventional versions for rhetorical invention.
Opponents to McCarthyism did present seeds of the notion of a strong democracy. However
fleeting these notions were, they are important in times when democracy is chastised as the
passion of the rabble. Correspondingly, they contain the images for a re-transformation of
"tolerance" into a vivid concept used to warrant unobstructed freedom of speech.
3 9
Townsend 32
1. Lynn Boyd Hinds and Theodore Otto Windt, Jr., The Cold War as Rhetoric: The Beginnings.
1945-1950 (New York: Praeger, 1991) 169.
2. Thomas B. Farrell, Norms of Rhetorical Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1993). Norms
are patterns serving as "standards, for interpreting and appraising public advocacy as it emerges
in the public forum;" they are "collaborative practices" of rhetorical action (2-3).
3. When referring to the ideograph "tolerance" I place quotation marks around the word. This
distinguishes the public, rhetorical usage from the philosophical idea or ideal. The terms
"tolerance" and "intolerance" have been maneuvered in public discourse throughout American
history to serve competing goals, resulting in a range of meanings that implicate their future
interpretations and uses. See Michael Calvin McGee, "The 'Ideograph': A Link between
Rhetoric and Ideology," Quarterly Journal of Speech 66 (1980) 1-16, and Celeste Michelle
Condit and Jo lm Louis Lucaites Crafting Equality: America's Anglo-African Word (Chicago: U
of Chicago P, 1993). Also see Michael Osborn, "Archetypal Metaphor in Rhetoric: The Light-
Dark Family," Quarterly Journal of Speech 53 (1967) 126; Robert L. Ivie, "Metaphor and the
Rhetorical Invention of Cold War 'Idealists," Communication Monographs 54 (1987): 166-67;
and Ivie, "Cold War Motives and the Rhetorical Metaphor: a Framework of Criticism" Cold War
Rhetoric 74.
4. Rebecca M. Townsend, "The Transformation of 'Tolerance" in the Age of McCarthyism: A
Case of Problematic Rhetorical Remembrance" thesis, Indiana U, 1997. In my thesis, I
demonstrated the usage of "tolerance" prior to the late 1940s and early 1950s. I showed,
primarily through Supreme Court decisions and dissents of the 1910s and 1920s, that "tolerance"
authorized the protection of speech. The basis for contemporary first amendment doctrine found
their roots in such discourse.
5. The earliest inquiries into McCarthyism were in the 1950s. They focus their consideration
primarily on Senator McCarthy and his tactics. See Barnet Baskerville, "Joe McCarthy,
Brief-Case Demagogue," Communication Quarterly 2 (1954): 8-15; Frederick W. Haberman,
Jonathan W. Curvin, Benjamin Wham, Ordean G. Ness, Orville A. Hitchcock, and Ben Park,
"Views on the Army-McCarthy Hearings," Quarterly Journal of Speech 41 (1955): 1-18;
Baskerville, "The Illusion of Proof," Western Journal of Communication 25 (1961): 236-42;
Anthony Hillbruner, "A Night On Bald Mountain Or Variations On A Theme By McCarthy,"
Communication Quarterly 10 (1962): 1-4; Craig R. Smith, "Zeal as a Function of Danger,"
Communication Quarterly 16 (1968): 29-31; Michael D. Murray, "Persuasive Dimensions of See
It Now's "Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy' Communication Quarterly 23 (1975): 13-20.
For more recent studies on McCarthy, see James Darsey, "Joe McCarthy's Fantastic Moment,"
Communication Monographs 62 (1995): 65-86; Thomas Rosteck's "Irony, Argument, and
Reportage in Television Documentary: See It Now Versus Senator McCarthy" The Quarterly
Journal of Speech 75 (1989): 277-98; Robert L. Ivie, "Diffusing Cold War Demagoguery:
Murrow vs. McCarthy" Martin J. Medhurst, Robert L. Ivie, Philip Wander, and Robert L. Scott,
Townsend 33
Cold War Rhetoric 81-101. Hans-Martin Sass offers a philosophical examination of "tolerance."
Hans-Martin Sass, "Ideational Politics and the Word tolerance," Philosophy and Rhetoric, 11
(1978) 98-113.
6. Marcuse 85-115.
7. Philip Wander, "Political Rhetoric and the Un-American Tradition," Cold War Rhetoric, 185-
200; and Robert P. Newman, "Lethal Rhetoric: The Selling of the China Myths," Quarterly
Journal of Speech 61 (1975):113-28.
8. Wander 197.
9. Newman 128.
10. Newman 128.
11. My use of the term "McCarthyism" in the present context is intended to specify the rhetorical
phenomenon which includes stigmatizing of private as well as public citizens as traitors to their
country. McCarthyism ascribed guilt to the holding of certain ideas and to association with those
who held unpopular beliefs. It branded those in academia, media, entertainment and the arts,
civil service, and labor. This mass-mediated, government-sponsored, scapegoating under the
guise of "freedom," "necessity," and "security," used Senate and House investigatory
subcommittees to exterminate opinions judged to be "un-American." It is not solely the rhetoric
of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, but a larger, more complex phenomenon.
12. Farrell 1.
13. Farrell 281. Farrell usefully defines culture "as the common definition of places for the
invention and perpetuation of meaning. A culture offers to those who live in it symbols and
families of practices that permit ongoing performances of meaning and value" (277).
14. Robert Ivie, "The Ideology of Freedom's 'Fragility' in American Foreign Policy Argument,"
Journal of the American Forensic Association 24 (1987): 33.
15. Edwin Black, "The Second Persona," Quarterly Journal of Speech. 56 (1970): 109-119.
Robert Ivie, "Realism Masking Fear: George F. Kennan's Political Rhetoric," Post-Realism: The
Rhetorical Turn in International Relations, eds. Francis A. Beer and Robert Hariman (East
Lansing, MI: Michigan State U P, 1996) 55-74.
16. Robert Ivie, "Diffusing Cold War Demagoguery: Murrow vs. McCarthy," in Martin J.
Medhurst, et al., Cold War Rhetoric: Strategy, Metaphor, and Ideology, (New York: Greenwood,
1990) 81-101.
17. David Campbell, Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity
(Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1992) 248-256.
Townsend 34
18. Campbell 86.
19. Campbell 87.
20. Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1994) 325.
21. Linda H. Kerber, "Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman's Place: The Rhetoric of
Women's History," Journal of American History 75 (1988): 39.
22. Robert Ivie, "The Democratic Imagination in a Republic of Fear: A Response to Stephen E.
Lucas on America's Rhetorical Imagination," Fifth Biennial Public Address Conf., U of Illinois,
27 Sept. 1996: 8.
23. Ivie, "Democratic Imagination" 11. An arbiter elegantiarum is a person who prescribes,
rules on, or is a recognized authority on matters of social behavior and tact.
24. Cedric Belfrage, The American Inquisition, 1945-1960: A Profile of the "McCarthy Era"
(New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1989).
25. Cong. Rec. 22 Apr. 1947: 3806-7.
26. Cong. Rec. 22 Apr. 1947: 3808-10.
27. See Black, "The Second Persona." Black notes the implications of using imagery that
portrays such a fundamental threat to the national body.
28. Cong. Rec. 22 Apr. 1947: 3814.
29. Cong. Rec. 22 Apr. 1947: 3815.
30. Karl E. Mundt, "Why the Communist Party Should Be Restrained," Cong Rec. 9 Apr. 1947:
31. Cong. Rec. 22 Apr. 1947: 3816-7.
32. Cong. Rec. 22 Apr. 1947: 3819.
33. Cong. Rec. 22 Apr. 1947: 3817.
34. Cong. Rec. 22 Apr. 1947: 3819.
35. Cong. Rec. 22 Apr. 1947: 3819-20.
36. Cong. Rec. 22 Apr. 1947: 3820.
37. Noah Mason, "The Red Menace," Cong. Rec. 24 Feb. 1947: A685.
3 7
Townsend 35
38. Cong. Rec. 6 May 1947: 4637.
39. Alan Nadel, Containment Culture: American Narratives, Postmodernism, and the Atomic
Age (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1995) 298. I would also add the term "masculine" to Nadel's list
of characteristics, since masculinity was a rhetorical assumption in much of Cold War discourse.
40. Cong. Rec. 7 May 1947: 4688.
41. Tom Englehardt, The End of Victory Culture: Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a
Generation (New York: Basic Books, 1995) 100.
42. Cong. Rec. 2 Dec. 1947: 10999.
43. John E. Rankin, "Communism--Address by J. Edgar Hoover," Cong. Rec. 7 Jan. 1947: A27.
Hoover's Address was made 30 Sept. 1946 at the Annual Convention of the American Legion,
San Francisco, CA.
44. Cong. Rec. 7 Jan. 1947: A28.
45. Cong. Rec. 19 May 1948: 6148-9.
46. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5848.
47. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5864.
48. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5865.
49. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5850.
50. Cong. Rec. 19 May 1948: 6118.
51. Cong. Rec. 19 May 1948: 6128.
52. Cong. Rec. 19 May 1948: 6135.
53. Cong. Rec. 18 May 1948: 6028.
54. Cong. Rec. 19 May 1948: 6118.
55. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5850.
56. Cong. Rec. 18 May 1948: 6022.
57. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5882.
58. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5851.
Townsend 36
59. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5859-60.
60. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5852-3.
61. Cong. Rec. 18 May 1948: 6022.
62. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5860.
63. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5863.
64. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5849-50.
65. Cong. Rec. 19 May 1948: 6115.
66. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5850.
67. Cong. Rec. 14 May 1948: 5857.
68. Cong. Rec. 18 May 1948: 6027.
69. Cong. Rec. 5 Sept. 1950: 14169.
70. Joseph McCarthy, "February 20, 1950: First Speech Delivered in Senate by Senator Joe
McCarthy on Communists in Government; Wheeling Speech," Congressional Record: Major
Speeches and Debates of Senator Joe McCarthy Delivered in the United States Senate, 1950-51
(reprint from Cong. Rec., New York: Gordon, 1975) 7.
71. McCarthy, "February 20, 1950" 5.
72. McCarthy, "February 20, 1950" 6-17.
73. McCarthy, "February 20, 1950" 17.
74. Said 324.
75. McCarthy, "February 20, 1950" 22-60.
76. McCarthy, "February 20, 1950" 32.
77. McCarthy, "February 20, 1950" 34-43.
78. Joseph McCarthy, "March 30, 1950, Information on Lattimore, Jessup, Service, and Hanson
Cases," Congressional Record: Major Speeches and Debates 66.
79. McCarthy, "March 30, 1950" 123.
80. Ivie, "Diffusing Cold War Demagoguery."
Townsend 37
81. Ivie, "Diffusing Cold War Demagoguery" 89.
82. Michael S. Sherry, In the Shadow of War: The United States Since the 1930s (New Haven,
CT: Yale UP, 1995) 171-177.
83. Michael Harrington, Toward A Democratic Left: A Radical Program for a New Majority
(New York: MacMillan, 1968) 267.
84. Hinds and Windt 176-177.
Townsend 38
Works Cited
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Condit, Celeste Michelle and John Louis Lucaites. Crafting Equality: America's Anglo-
African Word. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993.
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--. 6 May 1947: 4637.
--. 7 May 1947: 4688.
--. 2 Dec. 1947: 10999.
---. 7 Jan. 1947: A28.
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--. 18 May 1948: 6022, 6027, 6028.
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--. 5 Sept. 1950: 14169.
Darsey, James. "Joe McCarthy's Fantastic Moment." Communication Monographs 62 (1995):
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Generation. New York: Basic Books, 1995.
Farrell, Thomas B. Norms of Rhetorical Culture. New Haven, CT: Yale U P, 1993.
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Hitchcock, and Ben Park. "Views on the Army-McCarthy Hearings." Quarterly Journal
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Communication Quarterly 10 (1962): 1-4.
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1945-1950. New York: Praeger, 1991.
Ivie, Robert L. "Cold War Motives and the Rhetorical Metaphor: a Framework of Criticism."
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Ivie, Philip Wander, and Robert L. Scott. New York: Greenwood, 1990. 71-79.
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America's Rhetorical Imagination." Fifth Biennial Public Address Conf., U of Illinois,
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Metaphor. and Ideology. Martin J. Medhurst, Robert L. Ivie, Philip Wander, and Robert
L. Scott. New York: Greenwood, 1990. 81-101.
4 1
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---. "The Ideology of Freedom's 'Fragility' in American Foreign Policy Argument." Journal of
the American Forensic Association 24 (1987): 27-36.
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Rhetorical Turn in International Relations. Eds. Francis A. Beer and Robert Hariman.
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History." Journal of American History 75 (1988): 9-39.
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Boston: Beacon, 1965. 81-117.
McCarthy, Joseph. "February 20, 1950: First Speech Delivered in Senate by Senator Joe
McCarthy on Communists in Government; Wheeling Speech." 1950. Congressional
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States Senate, 1950-51. New York: Gordon, 1975. 5-60.
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Congressional Record: Major Speeches and Debates of Senator Joe McCarthy Delivered
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McGee, Michael Calvin. "The 'Ideograph': A Link between Rhetoric and Ideology." Quarterly
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4 2
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Fear is a feature of human nature that political realists typically factor into their pessimistic view of international affairs. The world as it actually "is," they assume, consists of nation-states inherently conflicted over competing interests and limited resources, arbitrating their differences and seeking security through the elusive agency of power. Humankind is motivated less by morality and law than by fear and greed, motives which must be managed through the intelligent application of power-not just military power, but economic and ideological might as well. Providing for national security and fulfilling national interests are constant aspirations and tenuous achievements in an essentially anarchic international environment.1 George F. Kennan is no exception among realists holding this view of "man's fallen nature." In Kennan's words, we "run around⋯ encumbered" by our "demonic side⋯ wholly unamenable to reason⋯ restrained only by some form of force. Violence is the tribute we pay to original sin." Fear and insecurity, no less than jealousy and ambition, are "prime movers of events.". © 2012 by The Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved.
Om kulturens rolle i det 19. århundredes og det tidlige 20. århundredes kolonipolitik.
The “See It Now” broadcast in which Edward R. Murrow and Fred W. Friendly directly assailed Senator Joseph R. McCarthy is often cited as a prominent example of the questionable use of materials as instruments of impartial journalistic reporting. The available evidence concerning the “Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy” is examined and evaluated in light of the format and function of the broadcast.