It’s okay – We’re hunting Communists

Published October 31, 1947
Published October 31, 1947


Herbert Block had this cartoon published on October 31, 1947, and he was sending a clear message. The cartoon shows the Committee on Un-American Activities driving recklessly through the streets, obviously not bothering to care that they were running over people. Chaos is evident, with all papers flying all over, parking meters falling over, and general looks of terror on the faces of people. Block was trying to show that Joseph McCarthy’s committee was wreaking havoc on the American populace and would not stop for anything. This appears to be true, since it was around this time that McCarthy began to subpoena individuals in Hollywood (screenwriters, directors, actors, etc.). He was directly attacking American icons that were known all around the world. Some of the people accused of being a Communist included Charlie Chaplin, Arthur Miller, Langston Hughes, and Orson Welles.

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You read books, eh?

Published April 24, 1949

Published April 24, 1949

This political cartoon was published on April 24, 1949, which is around the time the Soviet Union tested their first atomic bomb. During this period, anti-Communist sentiment was extremely high, and people were frightened. As a result, McCarthy began to increase his “witch-hunt.” In doing so, nearly anything people did could be interpreted as un-American. This cartoon displays that thought. It shows McCarthy’s inquisitors in a History classroom interrogating the teacher. There is a giant map of Europe on the back wall, and one of the men is attempting to cut the U.S.S.R. out of it. Meanwhile, right next to the map is a picture of Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote about freedom of speech for all Americans. Herbert Block is showing that Americans have the right to say what they want. He is also saying that McCarthyism is getting out of control.

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Fire!

Published June 17, 1949

Published June 17, 1949

Block drew up this cartoon on June 17, 1949, a time when Americans were still highly terrified of Communism. In the cartoon is the torch from the statue of liberty, and a man labeled “Hysteria” is climbing on a ladder, up to the torch, with a bucket of water. The message that Block was sending through this cartoon is pretty clear. The torch is supposed to represent the Enlightenment and is meant to light our way to freedom. Since “Hysteria” is trying to squelch the fire, the cartoon shows that the mass panic concerning Communism that McCarthy helped create is a major threat to our freedom. It can endanger Americans’ right to say whatever they want to say without being persecuted for it.

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You mean I’m supposed to stand on that?

Published March 29, 1950

Published March 29, 1950

This political cartoon was published on March 29, 1950, and it was the first time the word “McCarthyism” was used. During this period of time, McCarthy was continuing to exploit the fears of the American public. So, he came up with a list of 205 suspected Communists of the Democratic Party. The elephant in this cartoon is meant to represent the Republican Party, and the people pulling at the animal are labeled Gabrielson, Wherry, Taft, and Bridges. All of them are Republican senators. They are trying to force the elephant to stand atop a shaking platform that is labeled “McCarthyism.” Meanwhile, the elephant looks utterly terrified and is digging his heels into the ground. Block is showing the public that he believes McCarthy is not something that we should take a stand on.

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We now have new and important evidence

Published May 8, 1950

Published May 8, 1950

This sketch, made on May 8, 1950, depicts an impassioned Joe McCarthy making a speech before the House of Un-American Activities Committee. Two men, who are about to enter the committee meeting, are hauling some “new and important evidence” that links a man to the American Communist Party. Herblock satirizes the evidence, which is a piece of wooden fence sawed off by McCarthy’s cronies, and relays his judgment that the McCarthy hearings are based on wild rumors rather than convincing evidence. Herblock attempts to discredit McCarthy in two ways here. First he indicates that McCarthy’s accusations are unfounded; a fence that has the words “Joe Zilch is a red” hardly proves that the accused is actually a member of the communist party. Block also attempted to turn public opinion against the trials by using the name “Joe Zilch”, which is  is synonymous with the terms “Average Joe” and “John Doe”. It implied that no American was safe from McCarthy’s accusations.

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Say, what ever happened to ‘freedom-from-fear’?

Published August 13, 1951

Published August 13, 1951

This 1951 Herblock drawing depicts a grimacing Joe McCarthy storming Washington D.C. carrying a paintbrush and a bucket of black liquid labeled “smear”. The nervous-looking men represent the Washington officials who were tried in the House of Un-American Activities hearings. Despite the circus appearance the HUAC trials hold in today’s culture, the consequences on politicians were no joke. In 1948 Alger Hiss, a high-ranking member of the State Department, was called to testify before the committee that he was not a communist spy. Although he avoided the espionage conviction, Hiss was later tried and convicted of perjury and spent 44 months in jail. The committee tried many people after Hiss, and many chose to avoid perjuring themselves by pleading the Fifth Amendment. While this usually kept them from a contempt of Congress citation, they were labeled as “Fifth Amendment Communists”.

The sign one of McCarthy’s cronies is holding up that reads “IF YOU AIN’T FOR FRANCO AND CHIANG, YOU’RE UN-AMERICAN” is a reference to the Anti-Communist regimes in Spain and China, led by Francisco Franco and Chiang Kai-shek respectively.

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Nothing exceeds like excess

Published September 12, 1952

Published September 12, 1952

Herbert Block published this picture less than two months before the 1952 senate elections. The people chasing after McCarthy represent the politicians who used the McCarthy bandwagon to get elected. Many voters supported Senator Joseph McCarthy’s irresponsible tactics, believing that the communist threat was such that the ends justified the means. McCarthy’s strong anti-communism platform won him re-election into the Senate in 1952. Other politicians, recognizing pay dirt when they saw it, jumped on his smear bandwagon.

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