TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Alger Hiss [was: Re: Privacy Worries? Don't Print in color]

Re: Alger Hiss [was: Re: Privacy Worries? Don't Print in color]
27 Oct 2005 08:30:47 -0700

Mark Crispin wrote:

> The entire reason that there ever was a debate about Hiss' guilt was
> that most of the evidence against him was classified until the 1990s.

Remember, the issue at hand wasn't whether Hiss was a spy but rather
simply if Hiss lied under oath claiming he never knew Chambers. The
spy issue was secondary and didn't have to be proved in court.

Part of the reason of that debate was that Hiss was a very well
respected person with an excellent record of public service. Hiss had
volunteered to appear before the committee to make his statement, he
could've easily ignored the whole thing. His friends, which included
Supreme Court justices, all vouched for him. His accuser, Chambers,
on the other hand, had no such record or standing.

After Hiss' testimony, Nixon realized the issue came down to simply
one man was telling the truth and one man was lying. He picked up on
some slight things Hiss said and pressed further. Chambers knew a
great deal of Hiss' personal life although most of which was not a
secret. Chambers did note that sometimes a Hiss family member used
the Quaker style of speech which Nixon knew (Nixon was a Quaker), and
that was something not publicly known. Nixon pursued the
investigation into Hiss.

The liberal community felt strongly Nixon was the bad guy in this and
somehow "railroaded" Hiss. I believe the Watergate committee was
fueled in part by a desired by some to "get" Nixon as payback for
Nixon's 1950s work. (I also believe Monicagate was likewise fueled to
get Clinton as payback for Watergate.)

What remains a mystery is that how Nixon, who knew full well first
hand, the powers of a Congressional investigating committee, would try
to subvert such a committee when he got into trouble, indeed, allowed
himself to get into such a position in the first place. Apparently
Nixon thought his tapes would never be made public, but he should've
known better. Nixon knew first hand as VP that claiming "executive
privledge" is a very slender reed on which to depend, and taping and
retaining incriminating conversations was very risky. Some say Nixon
hoped his tapes would save him, not destroy him.

> Conservatives have their own bitter pill to swallow. The excesses of
> Senator McCarthy were a blessing in disguise to the very real
> Communist conspiracy. In my opinion, McCarthy caused much greater
> harm to the US than Hiss ever did. Time has washed away the effects
> of Hiss's treason; we're still suffering from the damage caused by
> McCarthy.

Very true.

Our history books today give the implication there was no communist
threat because McCarthy made up most of his accusations. Yes,
McCarthy went after the wrong people and destroyed innocent people.

However, there WAS a real and dangerous communist threat. We forget
these days, especially with the Soviet Union gone and Stalin long
gone, how dangerous the communists really were. The American
supporters of the USSR (whether actually "party members" or not) were
in a virtual brainwashed cult where they'd follow any orders for the
"good of the people", which they believed was the Soviets. They were
running around spying and subverting organizations. Some subversion
was comical but some was very serious and economically devastating,
such as membership in unions and in formulating US policy that
benefited the USSR.

There's a good point, "Reds" by Ted Morgan (author of a great history
of FDR), that documents the damage both communists and McCarthyite
conservatives did in that era. The McCarthyism abuses are well
documented in history, but the communist abuses need to be known as

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Senator McCarthy ... now there was a
> real class act. ...

It is important to remember that McCarthy was only a part of a bigger
picture. The witch hunts existed well before McCarthy came along. He
was trolling around for an issue to give him some publicity and found
it fighting communism. The attack on Hollywood communists started
before McCarthy, initiated by other people (Dies and Parnell, for

McCarthy did not act alone. We must remember that the news media gave
him a platform to air his views. Congress has all sorts of hearings
every day, but almost all are ignored altogether, let alone get
televised. The TV networks didn't have to televise those hearings,
they chose to.

A single person from Syracuse NY, who owned some grocery stores,
somehow managed to terrify the film/radio/TV business into firing
fingered communists. I never could understand why a little two-bit
businessman from a small town could have so much influence. Why
wasn't he just ignored?

Why did employers fire people based on the blacklist? They had no
legal obligation to do so.

McCarthy eventually got censured by the Senate for his antics. He
died soon after. But that did NOT end "McCarthyism". Those fired did
not get their jobs back and the loyalty oaths remained for many years.

I am glad we remember "McCarthyism". But I am concerned the story has
become too simplistic.

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