Abridgement of civil liberties had had to be resorted to by the United States administration even during the Civil War in the 1860s, and even later. Many Americans had initially resented deprivation, or curtailment, of their freedoms by Abraham Lincoln, but they got reconciled to it considering the imperatives of preserving the Union and abolishing slavery. But McCarthy went berserk in his self-assumed crusade against communists who, he believed till his death shortly after his disgrace, had sneaked into the United States government. Maybe he would have got away with it, or at least got off lightly, if he had not spread his net of suspicion wide enough to include writers, Hollywood celebrities, and even common people; and when McCarthy finally pointed an accusing finger at the United States Army, he met his Waterloo. But by then he had already done irreparable damage to America's democratic institutions. Little wonder, therefore, that even today McCarthyism is synonymous with crucification of innocent American citizens on the cross of unsubstantiated charges. It is against this background that the book, "Give Me Liberty: An American History" by Eric Foner becomes essential reading.
"McCarthyism is often referred to as the Second Red Scare, as the (first) Red Scare refers to a time in which Americans feared communist influence in the United States from 1917 to 1920." (Encycle Media; 1990). "Throughout the 1940s and 1950s America was overwhelmed with concerns about the threat of communism growing in Eastern Europe and China. Capitalizing on these concerns, a young senator named Joseph McCarthy made a public accusation that more than 200 'card-carrying' communists had infiltrated the United States Government." (Miller; 1965) "Though eventually his accusations were proven to be untrue, and he was censured by the Senate for unbecoming conduct, his zealous campaigning ushered in one of the most repressive times in 20th century American politics." (Miller; 1965)
However, "investigation of Hollywood radicals by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947 and 1951 was a continuation of pressures first exerted in the late 1930s and early 1940s by the Dies Committee and State Senator Jack Tenney's California Joint Fact-finding Committee on Un-American Activities." (Georgakas; 1992).
"Between 1948 and 1956, or later, the government was engaged in political repression of the Communist Party, USA, its leadership, and others suspected of being communists. After the allegations that both assistant treasury secretary Harry Dexter White and Franklin D. Roosevelt's advisor Alger Hiss were Soviet agents, loyalty tests were required for government and other employment, and lists of 'subversive' organizations were maintained." (SourceWatch; 2008). While the witch-hunt launched by McCarthy against mostly innocent Americans has been both publicized and condemned internationally, its social costs have not received due attention. "Congressional investigations of the 1940s and the 1950s fueled the anti-communist hysteria which eventually led to investment of thousands of billions of dollars in a nuclear arsenal." (Navasky; 1980). "McCarthy