August 29, 2022

1952. "McCarthy Cries Again"

Collier's Magazine on Senator McCarthy's Attacks on the Press
Cartoon by Sam Berman in Collier's, August 2, 1952
Editorial from Collier's, August 2, 1952:

McCarthy Cries Again

A couple of years ago Senator Joe McCarthy buckled on his armor and, like a twentieth-century Don Quixote, set out to slay the dragon of American Communism single-handed. His intentions seemed noble as those of the good night. But also like the good knight, who attacked a procession of monks and a flock of sheep under the impression that they were brigands and ogres, he got a little confused about the targets of his sallies.

Thus it has come to pass, as his crusade continues, that anyone who takes issue with him assumes the look of the Red dragon itself. Disagreement becomes lies and crookedness. An adverse editorial comment is automatically a "left-wing smear." And the senator charges treason against a countryman as recklessly as Don Quixote charged the windmill.

Mr. McCarthy has had a busy time of it, because there are a great many people who approve the purpose of his crusade, but object strongly to his methods. There are many publications which feel the same way. One of them is Collier's. Another is Time. And we at Collier's feel just a little discriminated against because, so far, the senator has ignored us while singling out Time and accusing it of "twisting and distorting the facts about my (McCarthy's) fight to expose and remove Communists from government."

This charge apparently grew out of a Time cover story on Senator McCarthy. The senator had earlier attacked it as a "vicious and malicious lie." But recently he employed a new tactic which was definitely not cricket.

Backed by the prestige of his office, he sent a letter to "practically all Time advertisers," according to his own statement, which, while it did not come right out and ask them to take their business elsewhere, suggested that they were doing their country a disservice by their continued support of the magazine.

Since some of these advertisers were "not aware of the facts," the letter stated, they were "unknowingly helping to pollute and poison the waterholes of information." Still swimming along in his aquatic metaphor, the senator said that "it is much more important to expose a liar, a crook or a traitor who is able to poison the streams of information flowing into a vast number of American homes than to expose an equally vicious crook, liar or traitor who has no magazine or newspaper outlet for his poison."

The source of the senator's "facts" were an article from the American Mercury and a reprint from the Congressional Record. On the basis of these, the gentleman who complains about distortions and smears virtually accused Time's editors of dishonesty and treason in so many words.

Naturally Mr. McCarthy anticipated some criticism. "I realize," he said, "that bringing these facts to the attention of Time's advertisers will cause some of the unthinking to shout that this is endangering 'freedom of the press." But, he added, "To allow a liar to hide behind the cry 'You are endangering freedom of the press' is not only ridiculous, it is dangerous."

To this we can only answer that when a man hides behind the cry "You are a liar" before anyone has accused him of endangering freedom of the press, he must be feeling rather insecure. And when he tries to intimidate a critical publication by seeking to alienate its chief sources of revenue, he is something less than courageous.

Senator McCarthy has set himself up as the final authority on loyalty and Americanism. He insists that his accusations are not to be doubted, and his judgment is not to be questioned. Yet, a few weeks after he wrote his letter to Time’s advertisers, he testified in Syracuse, New York, that the Washington Post and the New York (Communist) Daily Worker "parallel each other quite closely in editorials." And when he was asked whether he would consider the Christian Science Monitor a "left-wing smear paper," he replied, "I can't answer yes or no."

Those are the statements of a man who is either woefully unperceptive or wholly irresponsible. And when such a man asks that his wild-swinging attacks be accepted without question, he is, to borrow his own words, not only ridiculous but dangerous.

We are not concerned that, on the basis of this editorial, the senator may now add us to his company of "left-wing smearers," or that he may also warn our advertisers of the danger of supporting another publication which pollutes the waterholes of information. What does concern us is the real danger of Communist infiltration in government, and the fact that this danger is too serious to be obscured and clouded by Senator McCarthy's eccentricities, exaggerations and absurdities.