1950 March 29

Cartoonist Herblock Labels “McCarthyism”


A cartoon in the Washington Post by the soon-to-be-famous editorial cartoonist Herblock on this day condemned Senator Joe McCarthy, labeling his reckless attacks on people because of their political views as “McCarthyism.” The label stuck, and historians acknowledge that Herblock, whose real name was Herbert Block, invented the term that has become synonymous with the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War.

Senator McCarthy dominated American politics for five year. His downfall began on March 9, 1954, when Edward R. Murrow broadcast a critical television report on him and his tactics, relying largely on his own words. The program is regarded as one of the most famous in the history of television. The Senate finally condemned McCarthy on December 2, 1954 for his conduct, and his influence quickly waned. “McCarthyism” as a political movement lived on for many years, however.

Today, many people use the term “McCarthyism” as a shorthand for the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War. But in fact, the anti-Communist movement began on March 21, 1947 with President Harry Truman’s Loyalty Program, three years before McCarthy burst onto the scene.

In 1994 President Bill Clinton awarded Herbert Block, famous as “Herblock,” the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

See Herblock’s cartoons at the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/herblock/exhibititems.html

Watch the documentary on Herblock’s career: Herblock: the Black and the White (2013)

Watch an interview with Herblock: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbivh-WTv58

Learn more: David Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy (1983)

Learn more about the Cold War: Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998)

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