Senator "Tailgunner Joe
" McCarthy, Morris is on a mission to finger "lefty" professors on campus and counter them with right-wing hires.
However craven the networks could be, Doherty also documents the ways that television facilitated "forums of the air" that made room for debate and ultimately undercut demagogues such as Tailgunner Joe
. Doherty's history of the early political uses of television is never less than fascinating, whether he's talking about Dwight Eisenhower's pioneering but largely overlooked use of the medium ("he orchestrated his television campaign with military precision"), the forgotten impact of Nixon's notorious "Checkers speech" ("by all contemporary reckoning a televisual master stroke"), or "Kefauver Fever" (the popular reaction to televised Senate hearings about organized crime).
Throughout our history, the Bill of Rights has been often held in contempt by our government--witness the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts; Abraham Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus and the mass jailing of opponents of his policies during the Civil War; Woodrow Wilson's near-extinction of the First Amendment during the First World War; the "Red Scare" raids and deportations of the early 1920s; the internment of Japanese-Americans in the Second World War; and the depredations of "Tailgunner Joe
That issue was by far our single biggest seller of all time, and it played a part in turning the tide against Tailgunner Joe
. "McCarthy has struck repeatedly at the letter and the spirit of our Bill of Rights by using methods of intolerance and intimidation in an effort to create a national climate of hysteria, fear, and suppression," Editor Morris Rubin wrote.
Political courage in the, ahem, American arts community once meant standing up to Tailgunner Joe
and joining Freedom Rides in the segregated South.
Hoover ran a close second to Tailgunner Joe
among the secular saints of my childhood Catholism, right up there with Vince Lombardi and J.F.K.