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George Clooney has a new movie out about Edward R. Murrow, speaking out against Joe McCarthy's hearings in the 50s.

I don't know much about the movie beyond that, except its tagline: "In a nation terrorized by its own government, one man dared to tell the truth."

OK, let's get some things straight. No, the nation was not terrorized by its own government. Some people were terrorized, but to most people, this was something very distant and inconsequential. Hollywood was terrorized, but the nation was not.

That brings us to the blacklist: yes, it existed, but no, it did not ruin lives of innocent people. The people who stopped trying to push Soviet causes -- who in some cases were actually funded and influenced directly by Soviet agents -- largely did not remain on the blacklist. Those who did so work with and for the Soviets: well, I am glad they were blacklisted, as they were part of an active effort to work with the Soviets to undermine the American government during the Cold War.

Yes, McCarthy did a lot of terrible things. But no, he was not wrong about his quest: there were Soviet spies and sympathizers at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

There is one overarching good thing McCarthy did: he was speaking out against existing Soviet infiltration of government and society when pretty much no one else was. The Vice President himself, Henry Wallace, was surrounded by Soviet spies and sympathizers. Alger Hiss, the number three man at State, was a Soviet spy. Then there's the Rosenbergs.

Yes, McCarthy did not expose any of these high-profile spies. But they did exist, and it was a serious national crisis, one that absolutely did threaten to destroy our nation. This does not excuse any of the tactics McCarthy used, in accusing people without cause, and threatening them to name others, and so on. Those were all bad and are not in any way justified.

I am not saying we should say McCarthy was a good guy. I am saying we don't give enough emphasis to the facts of the real danger our country was facing at the time, and recognize that the emphasis McCarthy maintained was a good thing, even if he went about it almost entirely wrongly.

In other words, the narrative should not be "McCarthy was an evil man who subjugated freedoms and ruined lives." The narrative should be, "the United States was at war and the crime of treason reached to the highest levels of the government, and the government was incapable of doing a very good job at taking care of this grave threat, resulting on the one hand with FDR ignoring all the evidence of infiltration, and with McCarthy on the other inventing his own."

Am I glad someone was around to sound the alarm? Absolutely. I am merely dismayed that person happened to be Joe McCarthy.

A better model was Ronald Reagan, who denounced communism and its influence in Hollywood (and government, though he had less knowledge about that at the time), but refused to persecute innocent people, refused to name names.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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