Missing the point.
Yep, that's right: Conservapedia is talking about Joseph McCarthy. For those who don't know, Senator Joseph McCarthy is notorious for his pursuit of communist infiltrators in the U.S. government during the Cold War. This pursuit was characterized by the sort of jusiprudence not seen since the Court of the Star Chamber. This period in American history has even given rise to the term "McCarthyism," as a way of referring to a public witch hunt intended to defame the "defendants" as much as to determine the truth. Keeping this in mind, let's take a look at Conservapedia's summary statement about McCarthy:
Beginning in 1950, United States Senator Joseph McCarthy became the most visible public figure to stand up to Communist infiltration of the United States. Learn what Wikipedia does not inform you about the vast Communist conspiracy that almost undermined the United States Government!
My reaction to this was to quizzically tilt my head one way and then another, like a dog confronted with a record player, and wonder what sort of bizarre alternate universe this article was written in. Needless to say, I had to read more.
And what a read it was, too! According to Conservapedia, McCarthy was a hard working senator who only wanted to protect America from an insidious band of communist infiltrators. Moreover, according to their expert analysis of newly declassified intelligence information, there really was a huge conspiracy of communist spies. My word! Perhaps this means that McCarthy has been unfairly labelled by history? Perhaps this means, as conservapedia asserts, that McCarthy was unfairly harassed by Edward R. Murrow for nothing but being a patriot?
Sure. Right. And I'm really an alien from the planet Xarkon-5 who survives on the brains of innocent puppies.**
Look, leaving aside the fact that the Venona project intercepts are, at best, difficult to interpet and therefore are of dubious value in confirming McCarthy's accusations, there's still another slight issue. That issue is that, when labeling someone as having "communist tendencies," McCarthy used such "stringent" criteria as "was at some point associated with the ACLU." Oddly enough the Conservapeons are rather venomous about the ACLU, claiming that it never defends Christian speech. This, of course, ignores the fact that the ACLU has defended none other than those crazy assholes at Westboro Baptist Church.*** In any case, for McCarthy, simply disagreeing with the Republican party was more or less enough to get you branded a Communist sympathizer.
Yet, ultimately, this isn't the real problem and the Conservapeons are missing the real point. The issue isn't whether or not the people that McCarthy persecuted were, in fact, communist sympathizers. Some of them undoubtedly were. The issue is how he went about dealing with the situation. In this nation we have the rule of law and people are not to be accused, or convicted, of crimes without evidence and due process. McCarthy often proceeded with neither, destroying reputations and lives in a callous bid to win power and esteem. He resembled nothing so much as a witch hunter or a Catholic Inquisitor. Certainly if you torture and question thousands of people some of them will turn out to be heretics, but is that really justice? Do the ends truly justify the means?****
McCarthy isn't villified because he was necessarily wrong about the communists, he is villified because he trampled the most basic freedoms that Americans have. Moreover, he deserves to be villified for that.
And the fact that some conservatives don't grasp that basic fact scares the hell out of me. All I can say is: if you want to vote for freedom, vote Democrat.
* That I do so probably provides some insight as to why I have managed to get through grad school thus far.
** I just know that somebody out there is going to take that as a confession...
*** They also defended conservative paragon Rush Limbaugh, not to mention their actions on the behalf of Oliver North.
**** For some, the answer is "yes."