Joseph McCarthy

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Joseph McCarthy (November 14, 1908 - May 2, 1957) was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death, ten years later.

He was famous for accusing numerous people of either being Communists or Communism sympathisants during the late 1940s and early 1950s. His demagogic and often paranoid claims and accusations blacklisted numerous people, destroyed their careers and contributed to the "Communist Scare" that was prominent at that time. His witch hunt against Communism has become an eponym: "McCarthyism".

By 1954 several live TV interviews and reports, most famously by journalist Edward R. Murrow, criticized McCarthy and his methods and succesfully ended his popularity. He died three years later.

Zappa about McCarthy

Zappa was a teenager during the McCarthy era. Even in those days the politician sparked his interest and criticism:

"I used to watch him on television. I think that he's one of the most important people in American history. Mount Rushmore should either be replaced or have a companion. Another part of the mountain, carved up with some heads that had the biggest influence on what America is today. His head should be there. J. Edgar Hoover's head should be there. Nixon's head should be there. And Reagan's head should be there. These people have done more damage to the idea of Democracy than anybody-from another country- could ever imagine. The impact of this poor, mentally ill, alcoholic son of a bitch and the impact of what he did to the United States, that naughty old Joseph McCarthy: I could never forgive that guy. I wouldn't describe myself as politically aware. I just knew there was something wrong with this guy. What he was doing seemed so unfair. Just seemed so wrong. It just smelled bad. I didn't now anything about Communism or this or that thing. I was a teenager. I was having a good time. But you could see this guy. And it was bad. He looked like a bad guy! And he had so much power. It was disturbing. (...) McCarthy was a different kind of bad guy. This was a bad guy. You knew. It's in the eyes. " (FZ in The Lost Interview, parts 1 and 2 of 7, 1990)

Later in his career Zappa would sometimes reference McCarthyism and the witch hunt against Communists in the U.S, in songs like Billy The Mountain and I Don't Wanna Get Drafted.

Interviewer: "You screwed up the marketing, although there's probably evidence for other reasons. I heard Dave Porter's interview with you last week and I liked that part where you said, "There is still that chunk of people from the McCarthy era that are still very powerful on the political end and move through still 'fighting that fight'"

Zappa: "That's right. You've got to understand why they're "fighting that fight". They're not fighting a fight, they're selling a scam. The whole McCarthy era was a scam, and it was another attempt to just clamp down. It was a move toward authoritarian government. It was a tool that was used by people who wanted to move things in that direction. It wasn't just McCarthy. It was J. Edgar Hoover, he was a willing accomplice in all this stuff. He was feeding him the information." ( Zappa in Interview by Bob Marshall)

"We've got a President that used to cooperate with Joseph McCarthy and finger people as communists when he was the president of the Screen Actors Guild. This is nothing new for him. This is right up his alley." (Zappa in WRIF Radio Interview)

See Also