American politics, and bravery against the crowd

Read a column by Alistair Cooke, on the days after Edward R Murrow went on air to denounce McCarthyism. It sounds like, till that point, politicians and commentators were too scared of the risk of censure, to stand against McCarthy. Even the US army seemed cowed into carrying out the witch hunting fanatics obsessive demands. Sounded from the Cooke-meister like in the aftermath of the broadcast, politicians started saying – this cannot go on. This was a bit late for the many victims who suffered career destruction through blacklisting, and those who maybe damaged their integrity by caving and testifying. Weirdly, McCarthyism also impacted on the comics industry. The senate hearings on horror comics happened in the context of the general ‘social interventionist’ character of American politics of that decade.

When talking about that era with Mitch, she highlighted the way that women’s rights took a step back in fifties USA compared with the brash optimism and emergent freedom that seemed to be claimed as the thirties rolled through.

I compared the mealy mouthed support even Obama found difficulty giving for the unpopular bail out of bankers. Was he too unsure of his popularity to risk saying: we got to do this? Perhaps he was right; the Paulson proposal does seem more supportive of big business interest than about protecting those on Main Street.

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