Joseph McCarthy was a sorry specimen. An alcoholic, he was dead at 48. Yet like Captain Charles Boycott, his name lives on. So, alas, do his bad habits – and I don’t mean the booze.
For five years (1950-1954) before the United States Senate finally came to its senses and censured him, the senator from Wisconsin mesmerized and terrorized Washington with wild accusations that the US government, especially the State Department, was riddled with communists.
Almost none of this stood up, but a climate of fear was created. Those who resisted saw their careers destroyed; some even fledtheir country. My own university gained from this. One of the bully’s victims, the distinguished Mongolist Owen Lattimore, was founding professor of Chinese at Leeds University, where it was my privilege to know him, from 1963 until 1975.