University of Washington Professor Joe Janes has produced a podcast on how Joe McCarthy mesmerized America with the claim he had a list of State Department Communists, and never mind the details.
Its good on how the endlessly teased but never produced list became a fact in public imagination, although Janes’s history suffers from the common problem of collapsing McCarthyism into a straight narrative, with Sheriff Edward R. Murrow swooping in at the end to kill the beast.
This sort of version ignores how McCarthy managed to reverse the Tydings Committee’s verdict that his charges were a “fraud and a hoax,” surviving long enough to chair a Senate committee under the Republican majority he helped bring about, and then to crash under the weight of too many enemies, too few facts and too much booze. And ignores how Democratic Senator Pat McCarran built on McCarthy’s crackpot theories to pursue Owen Lattimore.
Janes mentions in passing his university’s own experiment in Red hunting, a late forties purge of three professors. UW also played a starring role in McCarthy and McCarran’s persecution of Owen Lattimore, suppling three of the five Asia scholars who testified against Lattimore. These included Karl Wittfogel, a former German Communist turned right winger in America, and Nicolas Poppe, a Russian whose work for the Nazi SS’s Wannsee Institute didn’t keep him from a long and fruitful American career.