The Smearing of Joe McCarthy: The Lavender Scare, Gossip, and Cold War Politics



Despite historians’ best efforts to disassociate the anti-communist purges of the post-World War II era from one individual’s extreme behavior, the early Cold War years continue to be known as the McCarthy era, and Senator Joseph McCarthy remains a symbol—perhaps the paramount symbol—of irrationality and illegitimacy in American politics. His fall from grace in 1954 likewise denotes the return to moral order and political sanity. McCarthy did not introduce the practices and policies of political repression and sexual oppression that constituted the domestic Cold War, and many of those practices and policies outlasted him. Nonetheless, he inhabits our memories as their most visceral representation. The man—his name, his face, as much as his behavior—stands for the era.1


Cultural Diplomacy Imperial Brotherhood Sexual Oppression Visceral Representation European Press 
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  1. 1.
    Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
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© Kathleen A. Feeley and Jennifer Frost 2014

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