The Media and Joe McCarthy

The mid-20th Century scandal involving Joseph McCarthy’s investigations of communist infiltration into the U.S. government has become an American myth, and “McCarthy” a handy term for a witch-hunter. Like Benedict Arnold,* Joe McCarthy figures, perhaps permanently, in the devil’s hornbook of America’s legendary scoundrels. In the words of the generally staid Encyclopedia Britannica: “The term has since become a byname for defamation of character or reputation by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations, especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges.”