Dissent Is Not Disloyalty: Edward R. Murrow Reminds Us We Have, Alas, Been Here Before

 

Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn, two vile peas in a pod. AP Photo

On this date sixty-four years ago, the esteemed Edward R. Murrow, speaking on his pioneering CBS show "See It Now," struck one of the first and, in retrospect, deadliest blows against Sen. Joseph McCarthy - a hateful, bullying, fear-mongering demagogue who regularly attacked the media as "left-wing" and employed lies as "a staple" to terrorize large swaths of the population. Murrow, then the country's most revered journalist, devoted his entire March 9, 1954 episode to eviscerating "the junior Senator from Wisconsin," who famously saw Communists under every bed and considered the ACLU "subversive."

Murrow used McCarthy's own words and now-eerily familiar criticisms of him - "a domestic Munich... Bamboozling, bludgeoning, distorting...Unscrupulous, bullying" - before cannily analyzing how they'd gotten there: "He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it, and rather successfully." Above all, he urged Americans to speak up: "This is no time for men (sic) who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent...We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason." Today, with unreason having a time of it and a beleaguered media playing catch-up, we need Murrow more than ever. Also his trademark sign-off: "Good night, and good luck."

"If none of us ever read a book that was dangerous, had a friend who was different, or joined an organization that advocated change, we would all be just the kind of people Joe McCarthy wants." - Edward R. Murrow

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