The Smearing of Joe McCarthy: The Lavender Scare, Gossip, and Gold War Politics

Author's School

College of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department

Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Additional Affiliations

Associate Professor, Department of History; Associate Professor, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Originally Published In

Friedman, A. (2005). The Smearing of Joe McCarthy: The Lavender Scare, Gossip, and Cold War Politics. American Quarterly 57(4), 1105-29.


Despite historians' best efforts to disassociate the anticommunist purges of the post-World War II era from one individual's extreme behav-ior, the early cold war years continue to be known as the McCarthy era, and Senator Joseph McCarthy remains a symbol—perhaps the paramount symbol—of irrationality and illegitimacy in American politics. His fall from grace in 1954 likewise denotes the return to moral order and political sanity. McCarthy did not introduce the practices and policies of political repression and sexual oppression that constituted the domestic cold war, and many of those practices and policies outlasted him. Nonetheless, he inhabits our memories as their most visceral representation. The man—his name, his face, as much as his behavior—stands for the era.




The Johns Hopkins University Press, http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/aq.2006.0005.

Copyright © 2005 The American Studies Association. All rights reserved.