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Dictatorship of the masses still looming

Recently, I saw a U.S. senator performing on TV in an ugly manner that sent a cold chill down my spine.

His performance carried me back to those troubled years of the Korea War when Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin gained a powerful dominance over U.S. politics by charging that some officials were communists.

So I Googled "McCarthyism" on Wikipedia and, sure enough, there it was in great detail -- the charges and countercharges during McCarthy's wild witch hunts that alleged, but didn't prove, that communists had infiltrated our government.

To understand the irrational fear McCarthy brought to the American public during the Cold War, you have to understand how much Americans then feared that the Communist Party might take over our government. When McCarthy used his Senate committee to drop character-damaging "bombshells" that shook this nation, he developed a public hysteria that believed communists lurked behind every bush.

As frightening as McCarthy was, the public's reaction to him was even more disturbing. For, you see, Americans chose sides. Some argued every McCarthy charge was true. Others of us felt the senator was a domineering loudmouth who couldn't be believed. He would spout a charge of communism and, while the injured party tried to defend himself, McCarthy would hit the media with a headline-grabbing charge against someone else.

When I looked at the local people who backed McCarthy's anti-communist diatribes, I saw uneducated people, narrow-minded people and vindictive people whose thinking frightened me.

No proof satisfied them, and no fact mattered.

It was then I began to fear a "dictatorship of the masses."

While McCarthy's reign was brief before he was censured by the U.S. Senate, he still is regarded by a few as an American patriot. But he hasn't been forgotten, because a few diatribes on TV bring back fearful memories.

Darrel Miller lives near Downs in rural Osborne County and is a retired weekly newspaper editor.