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McCarthy: Power Feeds on Fear - Movie Review

March 20, 2020

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In the early 1950s Joseph McCarthy was the story of the day.   There was great concern about communist influence in the country.   He turned anti-communism into something more dangerous than anyone ever imagined.  

This PBS American Experience Film seems more like a movie than a documentary.  Numerous historians and journalists who were there tell a compelling story of where McCarthyism took us as a nation.  It weaves together many names and events we remember from our not-so-distant past.

McCarthy has been described as an affable, hardworking politician who wasn’t getting much attention in the Senate.  A speech in 1950 in Wheeling, West Virginia changed all that when he said that 205 communists were in the State Department.   Playing to the fears of the time, he waved a “list” and was on his way. He had his platform at last.

Actual footage of his hearings and arguably the most famous speech in broadcast history is stunning.  In just 15 months over 600 American citizens were brought before this committee. Many lives were ruined.

McCarthy tested our system.  How he got where he did and what it says to us today is well worth the watching.

Rating:  A+

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