The Corner

Teaching McCarthyism (About It, That Is)

In a post earlier today, I talked a little bit about school materials. Conservatives in Texas are trying to modify “social-studies guidelines.” For example, they want more moderate treatment of the Red Scare, as I understand it. I quipped — repeated my quip — that, when I was in school, American history consisted of slavery, Japanese internment, and McCarthyism, period. And McCarthyism was very heavily emphasized: its evil, its ruination of lives, and so on.

As we all know, some people were wrongly accused. Some people were rightly accused. And some people who were not accused were nevertheless happily working for the government in Moscow, which was killing millions and enslaving millions more, and intending the same for peoples the world over.

As I think about it, the dominant strain in my education was not so much socialism or leftism as anti-anti-Communism. Anti-Communism was held to be the thinking, or emotion, of jingoes, dolts, and warmongers.

In any case, I was amazed to get a letter from an NRO reader who teaches advanced U.S. history in Massachusetts. He uses a textbook called The Americans by Henretta et al., whose section on the Red Scare begins as follows:

Was there any significant Soviet penetration of the American government? Historians had mostly debunked the idea and so, in earlier editions, did this textbook. But we were wrong. Records opened up since 1991 — intelligence files in Moscow and . . . the Venona intercepts of Soviet cables — name among American suppliers of information FDR’s assistant secretary of the Treasury Department (Harry Dexter White); FDR’s administrative aide (Laughlin Currie); a mid-level, strategically placed group in the State Department (including Alger Hiss, who was with FDR at Yalta); and several hundred more, some identified only by code name, working in a range of government departments and agencies.

Holy mackerel. Blow me down. Our teacher in Massachusetts headed his e-mail “A ray of hope.” I agree. And I also think that Harvey Klehr and John Haynes — the two gentlemen from Venona — ought to win every award and honor this nation can offer up.


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