More from the Preface to DEMAGOGUE: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy

It’s not often that a man’s name becomes an ism, in this case a synonym for reckless accusation, guilt by association, fear-mongering, and political double-dealing. In the early 1950s, the senator from Wisconsin promised America a holy war against a Communist “conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dward any previous such venture in the history of man.” While the conspiracy and infamy claims were a stretch, the body count was measurable: a TV broadcaster, a government engineer, current and former US senators, and incalculable others who committed suicide to escape McCarthy and his warriors; hundreds more whose careers he crushed; and the hundreds of thousands he browbeat into a tongue-tied silence.

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