Senator Joseph McCarthy and other American elected officials responded to the Cold War and the threat of Soviet expansionism by attacking citizens who they perceived had ties to the Communist Party. Herb Block invented the term “McCarthyism,” but, as his cartoons show, he inherently understood that the evils inflicted in the name of combating communism were not the work of McCarthy alone. He also castigated other congressmen for using their political power to ruin private lives based on little concrete evidence. Among those Herblock challenged were House Un-American Activities Committee members Richard Nixon, J. Parnell Thomas, Harold Velde, and Karl Mundt, as well as McCarthy ally Senator William E. Jenner. Block perceived the dangers of an unchecked smear campaign by elected officials pretending to defend America, and wrote, “They had been more interested in prosecutions—or persecutions—than they were in justice.” Block realized that human lives and reputations were at stake and stood up to defend them.
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