McCarthyism Resurgent: In the Court of Public Opinion…

Carl B. Forkner, Ph.D.

I find it interesting that the period in which we are living has gone unrecognized by many–you know, that whole thing about those who forget history are doomed to repeat it? For those of my generation, the trend today for being tried in the court of public opinion and losing everything without due process is a reflection of McCarthyism in the 1950’s. McCarthyism, but with the contemporary topic being sexual harassment instead of Communism…

For those who were not of the Baby Boomer era, McCarthyism was a period where even an appearance [or non-appearance] of impropriety–regardless of the veracity of the source–meant that you were essentially guilty until proven innocent. You were crucified in the news media, ostracized in places where you had long-term friends and colleagues, and other punishments for something which you had not been tried or proven to be guilty or culpable. You know, like some of the people being targeted by sexual harassment accusations–some already found to be false, others true–who are losing jobs because someone pointed a finger and said they did something wrong.

NOTE: I do NOT condone sexual harassment; I was a relentless investigator of those types of charges for 4 years and now teach a sexual harassment prevention course. Whether male -> female, female -> male, male -> male, or female -> female, I find sexual harassment to be appalling and inexcusable…as I find hostile environments where people cannot speak out at their harasser or report it without fear of retribution.

For those unfamiliar with the McCarthy era, here are a couple books to gain some reference–one from a person accused, one from a Member of Congress:

In the Court of Public opinion, by Alger Hiss (1957)

https://www.amazon.com/Court-Public-Opinion-Alger-Hiss/dp/0060902930 

Six Crises, by Richard Nixon (1962)

https://smile.amazon.com/Richard-M-Nixons-Six-Crises/dp/B0013085TE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1513111538&sr=8-2&keywords=six+crises+by+richard+nixon 

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