The Instigator
SolaGratia
Pro (for)
Winning
47 Points
The Contender
killa_connor
Con (against)
Losing
34 Points

Senator McCarthy was right in many/all of his accusations

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/2/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 8,710 times Debate No: 1275
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (12)
Votes (24)

 

SolaGratia

Pro

Even people who have nothing to do with politics know what politics did to Joe McCarthy. McCarthy has been portrayed as a "brawler"; making pointless (and baseless) accusations for his own benefit. For this, he was maligned to the point of being some sort of deranged bogeyman. "It's McCarthyism!!" "Well you're just a McCarthyite!" "Go to bed or McCarthy will get you!" and so on. He was cast from the Senate and his name was ruined.

Everything you've ever heard about McCarthy is wrong.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, many classified documents were released to the public. Along with newly declassified FBI records, these prove that many, if not all, of McCarthy's "victims" were, in fact, Communist party members or even agents of the Soviet Union, infiltrating the government. Of course, this information has not changed, in general, the historical view of McCarthy. Indeed, any time this hard evidence is brought up, it is dismissed as "old news."

So, my thesis:

McCarthy, though his methods were far from perfect, was correct in making most of his accusations. He made his accusations not from avarice, but from a sincere belief that those he accused were actively infiltrating the American government, and using their power to benefit Moscow. In nearly all of his cases, he was right.
killa_connor

Con

SolaGratia - Thanks for the interesting debate topic, I look forward to our exchange! I've seen you debate on this site before (and was very impressed) and I think this guarantees to be an interesting debate.

Recently I've been hearing more conservative pundits lionize and praise Joe McCarthy for his perceived patriotic work. Anne Coulter and Stanton Evans being two of his main advocates. I think this debate topic is your way of doing the same thing. I just think the wording of the debate topic lends itself to us comparing and analyzing different victims of McCarthy instead of directly addressing whether or not Joe McCarthy made a positive or negative impact on Washington and American politics. Korezaan put it well, am I just trying to prove the 51% of his victims were innocent and did not plot to overthrow the American government? If so, I would suggest (granted that you agree to a slight modification of this debate topic) that we change it in order to make this debate more meaningful and significant. My proposed new topic is: Senator McCarthy made a positive impact on American politics. You would represent the Pro and I would argue the Con. Does this sound fair?

"McCarthy has been portrayed as a "brawler"; making pointless (and baseless) accusations for his own benefit."

I think McCarthy's infamy is more related to his methods. His rise to fame was based solely on his "list" of government employees that he claimed were actually spies for the Soviet Union. By 1950 he assumed his position in the national spot-light because his witch-hunt approach to combatting a perceived communist threat within the government was very popular during a period of extreme anti-communist suspicion inspired by the tensions of the Cold War. His extremely publicized trials which questioned people's patriotism in an undeniably demagogic fashion ultimately lead to several executions and the suicide of several innocent people because of the public disgrace they had received. This includes several engineers from Voice of America (the official external radio and television broadcasting service of the United States federal government) whose public humiliation lead them to commit suicide regardless of a Soviet spy ever being generated. (http://en.wikipedia.org...)

We also need to be clear about what these accusations were. It wasn't so much that his victims were communists (which in itself is not illegal) but more importantly he accused the communists of being Soviet spies or some other tangible threat to the United States. So when you say his accusations were "right" I contend that they are indeed flawed because although he might have identified someone within the government with a socialist ideology it does not mean they posed any threat to the United States (which he explicitly accused them of doing)! Annie Lees Moss is a famous example of McCarthy's brow-beating leading to unfairly demonizing people. Annie Lee Moss had received a socialist newspaper to her house. She was an elderly African American woman with no intent of compromising national security but because of McCarthy's multiple attacks on her personality and loud and drunk (he was a huge alcoholic and was reported to be intoxicated during the afternoon trials) accusations she eventually tried to deny that she even received the newspaper! This lead to her imprisonment on perjury charges until it was finally concluded that McCarthy's brow beating provoked the lie from Annie Lee. The other problem was that all of McCarthy's information was technically hearsay and he failed to provide Mrs. Moss with due process by presenting any source for his information.

I'd also like to point out that it wasn't just Democrats that opposed these tactics. Dwight Eisenhower's presidency was plagued by McCarthy's accusations involving Eisenhower's foreign policy advisor John Davies. Nine investigations of Davies' loyalty between 1948 and 1954 failed to produce any evidence of disloyalty or Communist sympathies. His opposition to Communism was a matter of record; indeed, in 1950 he had advocated a preventive nuclear showdown with the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, in 1954, under political pressure from McCarthy and Senator Patrick McCarran, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles asked Davies to resign. A true American tragedy that prompted Eisenhower to fight back (in a discreet manner that wouldn't also get him accused of being a communist). He never directly confronted McCarthy or criticized him by name in any speech, thus perhaps prolonging McCarthy's power by showing that even the President was afraid to criticize him directly. He defended this approach by stating, "I don't want to "get down in the gutter with that guy".

You speak of recently revealed files (2003) that Stanton argued revealed that all the "victims" did indeed have Soviet connections. This doesn't surprise me coming from a right-wing author so I checked what the United States Congress decided about these recovered files, this is what REPUBLICAN Senator Susan Collins had to say about them:

"Senator McCarthy's zeal to uncover subversion and espionage led to disturbing excesses. His browbeating tactics destroyed careers of people who were not involved in the infiltration of our government. His freewheeling style caused both the Senate and the Subcommittee to revise the rules governing future investigations, and prompted the courts to act to protect the Constitutional rights of witnesses at Congressional hearings... These hearings are a part of our national past that we can neither afford to forget nor permit to reoccur."

It would appear that not even Republicans can agree with Stanton's assertion that McCarthy's victims were criminals. You admit to his practices being "far from perfect" but it would appear that his practices were actually just detrimental and indeed undermined basic rights by using fear and emotional rallying to demonize people and humiliate them in publicized trials. Please don't take this from me though, but also please look outside of right-wing author's assessment of McCarthy because the overwhelming consensus of contemporary historians agree that McCarthy was a demagogic figure that brought with him a dark period in American history marked by fear and suspicion.

I do hope you consider modifying this debate but in case you don't I will continue to provide examples of people who's charges were never substantiated or with people who were incorrectly/criminally victimized. I would just ask you to tell me how many people need to be proven innocent for me to refute you? "Many" is pretty ambiguous don't you think? I just need to find a copy of these transcripts of the McCarthy trials that were released by Congress! Know where I can get them?

Thanks again Sola!
-connor
Debate Round No. 1
SolaGratia

Pro

Hello, Connor, and thanks for accepting my debate.

You are correct in saying that whether McCarthy was literally "right" in his accusations is not the only issue that should be coming into play. His methods were really what determined the impression he made on people, which eventually led to his downfall.

You suggest that I start another debate about McCarthy's "impact on American politics." The problem, however, is that I DON'T believe McCarthy had a positive impact on America. He could have, conceivably, but his hardheaded methods and crucifixion by the media, without even going into the truth/untruth of his accusations, prevented it. I will, however, challenge you to a debate with this argument, "McCarthy COULD have had a positive impact on American politics." I will do that. However, if you'd rather, we could continue with this debate.

Regarding Annie Lee Moss:

The FBI had, by virtue of its extensive counter-intelligence work, a list of CPA members. Annie Lee Moss' name appeared on that list. She also had once subscribed to the Daily Worker, a Communist (not Socialist) newspaper. Mrs. Moss, though she was an "elderly African-American woman," her job with the Army Signal Corps was certainly not as a cafeteria worker, and she was obviously an intelligent person. During the Army-McCarthy-Signal Corps. hearings, the official description of the job Moss performed was such:

"[To] examine messages in tape form in code and clear text from Receiving Banks, to determine the coherence thereof, whether numbers are in the correct sequence, correctness of time or date group, precedence and whether complete...Messages received in code must be more carefully scrutinized inasmuch as it is more difficult to detect omissions or errors in coded letter or number groups...Process high precedence messages immediately by hand-carrying to overseas desk for quick routing...[Duties Include] recognition recording and disposition of encrypted messages destined for or received from the Crypto Center...etc."

It's obvious that Moss was no simpleton, contrary the impression that Symington, McClellan, and Jackson (who had all, by the way, known the Mrs. Moss' FBI file indicated she was a Communist party member.) Indeed, after Moss stumbled reading a memo the army sent her, McClellan asked patronizingly, "Did you read that the very best you could?" This seems to me rather racist, as well as implying that Moss couldn't perform her job at all since it obviously involved reading and filing priority messages. A humorous footnote to this case was that Moss was actually a licensed Realtor in Washington D.C. She was definitely an intelligent person. Intelligent enough to perform her job at the Signal Corps. and intelligent enough to misuse those messages if she so pleased. McCarthy "went after" her out of the fear that her Communist affiliation made her do exactly that.
killa_connor

Con

An interesting response that seems to pick and choose the arguments that you feel that you can refute while simultaneously ignoring the rest of them. Nevertheless, I'm glad you considered my alternate debate topic and I'm glad that you have broadened to encompass not only the validity of his accusations but his overall merit to American politics.

I'll start from the top:

"The problem, however, is that I DON'T believe McCarthy had a positive impact on America."

This is an interesting comment to make because with your introduction you implied that McCarthy's efforts in regard to combatting communism within the federal government was a just and worthwhile cause. This is certainly a position adopted by Anne Coulter and other right wing pundits. From my perspective this concession even contradicts your most fundamental assertions about McCarthy and his policies. But thats just me. Do you care to defend and perhaps praise his work throughout the debate? Because it is incumbent upon the Pro in this debate to prove that McCarthy was "right" both in his accusations, goals, and in some degree his pursuit of the goals (or at least offer some hypothetically correct method of ridding Soviet spies from the government).

"He could have, conceivably, but his hardheaded methods and crucifixion by the media"

This also struck me as odd because McCarthy was often accused of using the media and the "Red Scare" ideology of the time to advance his cause. I find it odd that you are now trying to claim he is a victim of the same media that he employed to combat the perceived communist threat. "McCarthyism" the term actually in part references to use publicized media outlets to rally with demagogic themes including the noble fight against communism. Perhaps eventually the media discredited him because of the fact he was censored in Senate (by an overwhelming vote) but for five years he used the media to his own advantage. It was only until people saw the consequences of his actions and the damage it was causing that his popularity plummeted and he was picked apart by the media.

Now to Annie Lee Moss (Interesting that you didn't address my two other examples of unjustly targeted victims):

I've heard you claim that she was indeed a communist because she subscribed to a communist newspaper (which is socialist by nature) but this has already been addressed in my first response. Her ideology is not proof in itself that she was aiding the Soviets nor that she was unpatriotic. This is a free country if she chooses to associate herself with the Communist Party of America she shouldn't have to be considered a Russian Spy (quite the jump if you ask me). I think you are dwelling on the fact that she had a communist influenced ideology because there is no concrete evidence suggesting that she was in any way linked to the kind of "Soviet conspiracy" that McCarthy accused her of. So I continue to maintain that in this example she was still unjustly accused of being a threat to the United States.

"McCarthy "went after" her out of the fear that her Communist affiliation made her do exactly that."

I'm glad that you can recognize that this zealous pursuit was fear driven which is fundamental to the notion of "McCarthyism". It describes on an approach that focuses on fears and emotions to rally support. Also this fear in itself isn't proof that she did or even had the intention of spying for the Russians. You're going to have to do better then that.

-connor
Debate Round No. 2
SolaGratia

Pro

First of all, I want to apologize for not addressing more of your points in my second argument. I had to post my response rather hurriedly, because I had to volunteer at the library. I hope to make up for it this time. As you said, I'll have to do better than that. I think the best thing we can do is start over, so I'm going to challenge you to a new debate on the same topic. Sorry again that I haven't performed up to snuff. Time has really been a problem these last few days.
killa_connor

Con

Should I keep my arguments for the new debate?

I would have more sympathy for your plight if you weren't the instigator of the whole thing! But yes I understand how things can catch up to you and you suddenly find yourself super busy. No worries, you start the next debate but please be a little more general with the topic because I feel like we can have a meaningful discussion on several different levels about McCarthy, the validity of the term "McCarthyism", and the nature of McCarthy's intent (you find it just. I find it to inevitably be demonizing and destructive)
Debate Round No. 3
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by killa_connor 9 years ago
killa_connor
No thats not the point. I just thought I would be winning by more considering all people have to vote on is what they see right now. I am honestly surprised that public opinion of McCarthy is as split as it would be appear by these votes.

Which is why I asked. Was I really this unconvincing?

It was not meant to be disrespectful. I hope you took no offense from it Sola. I was merely pointing out that if this were judged objectively it would be pretty clear that my arguments were better and more developed (not to suggest you don't have good arguments). So this comes as a surprise to me.

-connor
Posted by SolaGratia 9 years ago
SolaGratia
LOL, Connor. You are winning, right? It doesn't hurt my feelings that I'm losing. I've lost debates before, I'll lose them again, and heck, I might lose even when we have a full debate. Connor, in all honesty this seems a rather closed-minded perspective. I mean, if the votes are close, it means that opinions are divided. Hmmm, I don't see in you claiming in your arguments that McCarthy was a "dirty politician," especially not that it's "common knowledge."

YES, I DIDN'T RESPOND TO MOST OF YOUR POINTS. I'VE EXPLAINED WHY, AND I'VE CHALLENGED YOU TO ANOTHER DEBATE ON THE SAME TOPIC TO ATONE FOR IT. CAN WE LEAVE IT AT THAT?

To the people who DID vote on this debate, I cannot but accept most of the blame. It was my fault, I'm sorry, and I think that's reflected in the voting. As I said, we're redoing. Or at least I think we are. The ball is out of my court ;)
Posted by killa_connor 9 years ago
killa_connor
I'll be honest. I'm shocked by how close the votes are. Do most people agree with Sola? I thought it was common knowledge that McCarthy was a dirty politician. Were my points really that unpersuasive? Because he didn't respond to most of them.

This hurts my feelings =(
Posted by upstreamedge 9 years ago
upstreamedge
I am a US history major, and the consensus is pretty clear that McCarthy was making this stuff up. Also, the point is that people should not be persecuted for their political beliefs in this country.
Posted by SolaGratia 9 years ago
SolaGratia
Crap. I can't challenge you to a new debate until this one is over. Sorry. Well, I have it ready. If you want to, just write something random. Dang, I suppose it will go into voting. PEOPLE, DON'T VOTE. WE'RE GOING TO REDO THIS DEBATE.
Posted by SolaGratia 9 years ago
SolaGratia
Evans, Stanton M. Blacklisted by History. New York: Random House, 2007.

Evans shows that declassified Soviet intelligence memos referred to the CP-USA as such. I'm sorry, I can't find the exact page.

The amount of control Moscow had over the party in the second quarter of the twentieth century is demonstrated by the fact that CPUSA boss Earl Browder, who was a proven Soviet agent, was dismissed from the party for supporting Czechoslovakia's Tito over Stalin. Think about that: A political party has its chairman dismissed by a foreign state? That obviously shows a large degree of control.
Posted by arrivaltime 9 years ago
arrivaltime
"Fact: the Communist Party in America was not just a political party but a front for Moscow."

According to...?
Posted by SolaGratia 9 years ago
SolaGratia
Fact: the Communist Party in America was not just a political party but a front for Moscow. Thus, membership contravenes the oath that all public servants take. Contrary to popular belief, Senator McCarthy's accusations were all against GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES. He didn't go after private citizens, again, contrary to belief.

Connor: take all the time you need. Thanks for accepting my debate! :)
Posted by killa_connor 9 years ago
killa_connor
I'm still figuring out how I'm going to approach this. You'll have a response from me by tomorrow!
Posted by Korezaan 9 years ago
Korezaan
Is the contender supposed to like, list out all of McCarthy's accusations and then prove at least 51% or more were incorrect?
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