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.