The poet Wallace Stevens wrote that “All history is modern history.” Well, in recent weeks we’ve seen a surge of attacks on academics and virtually anyone else criticizing US foreign policy and a wave of efforts around the country to enforce a certain brand of patriotism. All of this has an uncomfortable ring for dissidents who lived through or have studied the period of US history known as McCarthyism. McCarthyism encompassed far more than the brief career of Senator Joseph McCarthy. It was the most widespread episode of political repression in the history of the United States. In the name of National Security, most Americans—liberal and conservative alike-supported an anti-Communist purge of government, the arts, academia, the labor movement, and many other institutions. It’s a purge whose legacy lingers on today.
- Ellen Schrecker, author of ??Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America and ??No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities and widely recognized as one of the leading experts on McCarthyism and the 1950’s. Schrecker has also written about contemporary academic freedom. She is a professor of history at Yeshiva University. From the New York Times review of “Many Are the Crimes:” Her strident partisanship is such that this book is destined only to become a grand summary and the best example of the many leftist tirades against “the great fear” that have become commonplace, especially since the 1960’s.