Yeah, they were wrong and all. I'm a big civil-liberties buff, and a human rights nerd besides, and it was unconscionable how bad we as a nation and a people trashed the crap out of the peoples' inalienable rights. The whole foundation and purpose of what America was supposed to stand for! Trashed in the name of demonizing the ol' Godless Commie Red Menace. It was disgraceful. Nobody's going to argue otherwise, at least, not where I'm nearby, ready to drop a sweet helping of two-fisted LIBERTY on their FACE!!!!
But there's another side to the story, too. And it's this: it is kind of insulting to Communism to dog these witch-hunters too much. Because what are you trying to say? That it was completely groundless? Are you trying to say Communism was no threat?
Communism certainly thought it was a threat.
Communism thought it could win. Communism thought it was going to win. You trying to say it wasn't even a threat, that they had no chance? Because if so, that's extremely insulting! Hell. I'm no Marxist, but it pisses me off to see the brave, jut-jawed Soviet Iconic Worker epitomized on so many top-notch propaganda posters dismissed so lightly!
Sure, in this day and age, when Marx's discredited pseudoreligion of ordained, dogmatic historical and economic inevitabilities has been shown up for the con job it was, Communism looks like a pretty pathetic opponent. But that's all hindsight, and it ignores the fact that in order to come out on top, we pretty much had to f*** everything we used to stand for. We cheated. Did we need to cheat? Could we have won without shamefully selling out all the very rights and liberties our system is supposed to be all about, and nothing without? Well, the point is: maybe we could have, and maybe we wouldn't have. We'll never know now. We did what several of the people at the time thought we had to do.
I don't know. As incensed as I am by the whole HUAC debacle, and as hard as I hate those bastards for putting the survival of the nation (which they perceived, rightly, wrongly, to be in peril and/or some of them were also fanning the hysteria to advance their own personal political power agenda) ahead of the preservation of the rights upon which our nation STANDS, and without which it in fact DOES INDEED DESERVE TO DIE...still, I have to look around at the people who don't believe the inalienable rights of the individual are supremely important, and on their behalf (on behalf of probably, most Americans), I have to wonder: what's their problem with what was done, exactly?
Communism took itself pretty seriously. I'm inclined to trust Communism on that. I have to concede that Communism was not "not a threat." I believe they meant business. Just because Communists turned out to suck at business, doesn't mean they didn't mean business.
That's why whenever I tear into the Commie Witch-Hunters - and I do! - I do so on the grounds of hypocrisy. I do so on the grounds of their illegal betrayal of our most sacred principles. But I never tear into them by saying it was overkill. Because if you don't believe (as I do) that the inalienable rights of the individual are more important than any perceived threat to national security, then there's not much you can accuse McCarthy and company of. In an age where "by any means necessary" is a moral and upstanding rallying cry, what did they do wrong? Unlike some modern-day apologists and supporters of the Classic Left, McCarthy paid the Communists the very sincere compliment of acting like they really did pose a threat.
So those of you inclined to dogpile on the witch-hunters, on behalf of poor beaten-down fellow-travelers, ease up a bit and settle into the moral victory, why don't you? Capitalism, Liberty and Democracy only won because we cheated.
It cost us more than we know.