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See It Now: Murrow vs McCarthy


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This is a presentation I made for a Political Science class I took at Yale called Political Journalism & Public Policy. It focuses on Edward R. Murrow and his TV show "See It Now", which exposed Senator Joseph McCarthy and his plot against Communists and former Communists, and how the show had an effect on public policy.

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See It Now: Murrow vs McCarthy

  1. 1. See It Now Murrow vs McCarthy Edward R. Murrow on Life magazine
  2. 2. Background Graduation photo of Murrow from Washington State College ■ Born into a Quaker farmer family in Polecat Creek, South Carolina, in 1908 ■ Moved to Washintong State & grew up there most of the time ■ Attended Washington State College, where he majored in Speech ■ Moved to NYC after graduation & ran the national office of National Student Federation of America in 1930 ■ CBS (Columbia Broadcasting Company) hired him as a director of “talks & education”
  3. 3. CBS London Murrow in London ■ The increasing tension on the European continent & war loomed ■ “Murrow’s Boys”: Murrow assembled a group of qualified reporters working to cover the stories as they unfolded ■ Always on the frontline, from Nazi’s Bushenwald concentration camp to the plane of US bombing missions ■ Became the director of CBS London 2 years later ■ Made his voice and name well known back in Americans
  4. 4. Hear It Now Murrow at CBS ■ Came back to the WWII ■ Worked with his long-term broadcasting partner Fred W. Friendly in his radio program, “Hear It Now” ■ The program was transformed into TV News and public affair program called “See It Now” in 1954
  5. 5. “Good night, and good luck.” Murrow, beginning in 1940, the closing of CBS radio broadcasts from London ■ “The founder of American Broadcast jounalism” ■ Moved broadcat beyond headline and established it as an original news source, not merely taking stories from newspapers ■ Space for serious investigations and discussion of public affairs Murrow interviewing American soldiers in Korean War
  6. 6. Joesph McCarthy ■ American politician ■ Served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the State of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957 ■ Beginning in the 50s, became the most visible public face of a period of widespread fear of Communist subversion fueled by the Cold War ■ “McCarthysim”: a vociferous campaign against alleged communists in the US government and other institutions carried out under Senator Joseph McCarthy.
  7. 7. The Roots of McCarthyism ■ Before WWII: child labor laws & women’s suffrage and even Roosevelt’s “New Deal” as “communist” or “Red plots” ■ Cold War: US-Soviet rivery intensified ■ After WWII, America sought dominance but did not work too well ■ “Second Red Scare” characterized by the fear of Communist influence on American institutions and the fear of Soviet espionage on America. A 1947 propaganda comic book raising the specter of a Communist takeover
  8. 8. Institutions J. Edgar Hoover, in charge of the FBI, during the McCarthy Era ■ Executive Branch ■ Loyalty-Security Reviews ■ from President Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9835 in 1947 ■ intensified by PresidentEsenhower in 1953 ■ J. Edgar Hoover & FBI ■ FBI as “the single most important component of the anti-communist crusade” - Ellen Schrecker ■ “Hooverism” or “McCarthyism”? ■ Congress ■ House Committee on Un-American Activities ■ The Senate Internal Securty Subcommittee ■ Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations ■ 109 cases in 5 years within Congress and its committees
  9. 9. Laws News coverage of Communists facing trial under Smith Act ■ Alien Registration Act (or “Smith Act”) of 1940 ■ A criminal defense for anyone to “knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise or teach the [...] desirability or propriety of ovetthrowing the Government of U.S. or of any State by force of violence, or for anyone to organize any association which teaches, advises or encourages such an overthrow, or for anyone to become a member of or to affiliate with any such association” ■ led to imprisonment of many communist members ■ The McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950 ■ “the McCarthy era’s only important piece of legislation” - Ellen Schrecker ■ no real effect beyond legal harrassment ■ The Communist Control Act of 1954 ■ passed with overwhelming support in both houses of Congress after very little debate ■ an extension of the Internal Security Act of 1950 ■ Outlawed the Communist party and “CommunistInfiltrated Organization”: they were “not entitled to any of the rights, privileges, and immunities attendant upon legal bodies”
  10. 10. Victims of McCarthyism Blacklists in entertainment industry ■ Investigations & accusations with false or unproven evidence ■ Blacklists ■ an estimate of 20 thousands lost their jobs ■ More than 300 actors, authors, & directors in Hollywood ■ in entertainment industry, in unviersities and schools of all levels, in legal profession, and in many other fields ■ Arrests & Imprisonment ■ Hundreds of people ■ Suspected homosexuality - “sexual perverts”
  11. 11. vs
  12. 12. From Skeptic to Full-blown Opponent ■ Considered himself as anti-Communist ■ McCarthy skeptic ■ As early as 1950, he observed on the air that “the weight of the public testimony has tended to show that so far, Senator McCarthy’s charges are unproven.” ■ He knew he would have a direct confrontation with McCarthy and he was waiting for a good time. ■ On March 9, 1954, Murrow, then the most respected journalist in America, engaged in a tough expose of the senator and his tactics on his TV show “See It Now”.
  13. 13. Preparing for “See It Now” 4:02 - 5:44 ■ He knew that McCarthy and his friends would go after him after the broadcast but insisted on doing it. ■ Made sure there was not “Achilles’ Heel” in him, his group and his argument. ■ Was the journalist at the time and had the best team: fascinating writing, editing, production, etc. ■ Spent two month editing the film.
  14. 14. Murrow on “See it Now” March 9, 1954 ■ featured excerpts from the senator’s own speeches, interspersed with Murrow’s comments, which pointed out the contradictions in McCarthy ■ “a magnificant controlled fury, handsome and composed -- an attitude all the most effective because the public knew that he could be genial and easygoing on camera” -- Nicholas Lemann
  15. 15. Fairness Doctrine ■ The Doctrine required broadcast licensees to present contentious issues in an honst, equal, and balanced manner and to afford persons or groups criticized during such a broadcast the opportunity to respond on the air. ■ Since Murrow, with his producer Friendly, did a half-hour program focused on the criticism of McCarthy, CBS also had to give McCarthy an half-hour program to defend himself.
  16. 16. McCarthy on “See it Now” April 6, 1954 2:00 - 3:29 ■ Overall disastrous ■ Uncomfortable on TV ■ Personal attack on Murrow, calling him “the leader of the jackal pack” ■ Accused Murrow of engaging in Communist activities since 20 years ago
  17. 17. In 1954, TV coverage of ArmyMcCarthy, in which McCarthy charged the U.S. Army, also sped up the downfall of McCarthy. The Downfall of McCarthy ■ His popularity declined significantly after the show ■ So did his political influence ■ On December 2, 1954, the U.S. Senate formally adopted a resolution censuring — formally reprimanding — McCarthy for conduct unbecoming to a senator. ■ Continued to be senate for another 2 and half years but his role as a public figure and his political career were unmistakably ruined. He died 3 years later.
  18. 18. Swearing-in ceremony of Edward R. Murrow as Director of the USIA Call to Duty ■ CBS, weary of controversy, cancelled “See It Now” ■ Murrow was disillusioned about the medium and took the job from John F. Kennedy as head of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1961. ■ Since 1953, USIA, the U.S. government agency waging the “war of ideas” against the Soviet Union was in charge of “telling America’s story to the world”. ■ Murrow reinvented the program and made the agency more results-oriented. ■ Murrow left the agency after Kennedy’s death and died of cancer in 1965.
  19. 19. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.
  20. 20. Video Resoureces in the Presentation See It Now: clips (4:02-5:44) Mar 9, 1954 See It Now: Murrow’s conlusion (all) Mar 9, 1954 See It Now: McCarthy’s Defense (2:00-3:29) April 6, 1954