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How McCarthyism Worked


McCarthy's Legacy

The 1995 release of the Venona intercepts caused some to view McCarthy's legacy differently. Maybe he had, in fact, been a crusader against communism in a country that wasn't taking a tough enough approach. But most remember him as violating the civil liberties of too many innocent people -- and even some guilty people. He is still generally considered a reckless bully who used whatever means necessary to obtain the information he wanted. His actions certainly cost some of the accused their careers and livelihoods.

If nothing else, historians hope that others will learn from McCarthy's mistakes. When the Senate hearing transcripts were released in 1995, Senator Susan Collins said, "We hope that the excesses of McCarthyism will serve as a cautionary tale for future generations" [source: Frommer]. Only time will tell if that will be the case.

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