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Talk of the Town: A McCarthy Era trial and tribulation
November 23, 2010 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Miriam Moskowitz is one of the last survivors of the McCarthy era trials. She was sent to prison after being convicted of obstruction of justice in a trial that Roy Cohn said was a "dry run" for the Rosenberg case. Indeed, Miriam was in jail with Ethel Rosenberg. Her newly published book, "Phantom Spies, Phantom Justice" is one of the only books on the period to write about Ethel as a woman not as a symbol. The gripping memoir of Miriam's trial, her imprisonment and its aftermath, is also the first thing Miriam has ever written. At 94, that's quite an achievement. The Talk of the Town section of the New Yorker has a piece on Miriam. Click on the link to read it.
posted by jeffisme (12 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, God love her. That's an amazing story. Thanks for the link.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:03 PM on November 23, 2010


Moskowitz is working on a short story, about the life of another inmate at Alderson: Iva D’Aquino, better known as Tokyo Rose.

!! Amazing.

Time for U.S. to exonerate Rosenbergs, new book shows

Exoneration: The Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell
posted by mrgrimm at 1:40 PM on November 23, 2010


So does she address whether or not Soviet courier-turned-witness Harry Gold was telling the truth when he testified she and Abe Brothman had helped him concoct a cover story for a grand jury investigation? Her memoir's catalog copy certainly points to this, but it doesn't supply a definitive answer. It's amazing how murky the historical record on Soviet espionage in the US remains, no thanks to the poisonous legacy of the reprehensible Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy, and their own version of fellow travellers. "Phantom" implies insubstantiality, however, the Soviet Committee for State Security's handlers kept records on their side of the experience, too.
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:42 PM on November 23, 2010


Heh. What gets me about the whole McCarthyism thing is how right he was. The US cultural and political establishment was just riddled with NKVD/KGB influence, whether in the form of direct agent recruitment or, more often, indirect financial encouragement to talk up Soviet-friendly policies in bien pensant circles. I'm pretty sure my great-grandmother belonged to the latter category.
posted by nasreddin at 2:38 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


What gets me about the whole McCarthyism thing is how right he was.

McCarthyism is an American strain of demagoguery from the Cold War and should not be confused with anti-Communism as such. Claiming to have lists of names of subversives in grand-standing public speeches, to say nothing of making up totals as a psychological ploy, undermines actual counter-intelligence work, which is a "wilderness of mirrors" even when done properly. McCarthy wasn't "right" about anything - he was just an unprincipled opportunist who took full personal advantage of a moment in history.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:00 PM on November 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


McCarthyism is an American strain of demagoguery from the Cold War and should not be confused with anti-Communism as such. Claiming to have lists of names of subversives in grand-standing public speeches, to say nothing of making up totals as a psychological ploy, undermines actual counter-intelligence work, which is a "wilderness of mirrors" even when done properly. McCarthy wasn't "right" about anything - he was just an unprincipled opportunist who took full personal advantage of a moment in history.

Yeah, fair enough, but the point is that the paranoia was justified in this case.
posted by nasreddin at 3:04 PM on November 23, 2010


Paranoia, by definition, is never justified.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:18 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Chris Hedges on the cultural ramifications of McCarthyism
posted by goethean at 6:35 PM on November 23, 2010


What gets me about the whole McCarthyism thing is how right he was.

Actually, he was completely wrong. He never identified a single Soviet agent. Were there Soviet agents in the US? Sure, absolutely, just as there were US agents in the USSR--that's pretty much the definition of a cold war.

But Joe McCarthy's muddleheaded demagoguery was totally off-base. It was like someone storming through a house raging about mice while dozens of completely unnoticed squirrels gnaw away at the furniture.

His paranoia wasn't justified any more than a stopped clock is useful because it's right twice a day.

This is true for HUAC and Red Connections and Ronald Reagan and all of those assclowns. While they were storming around railing about "premature anti-Fascists" and screenwriters, actual Soviet agents were fucking eating their lunch. It's like the Three Stooges version of history.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:28 PM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Actually, he was completely wrong. He never identified a single Soviet agent. Were there Soviet agents in the US? Sure, absolutely, just as there were US agents in the USSR--that's pretty much the definition of a cold war.

I think HUAC identified one agent correctly (and let dozens of others go free). But that doesn't mean there wasn't a enormously broad-ranging Soviet infiltration campaign stretching back even before the Cold War. The number I've seen is 500+ intelligence agents, often very highly-placed (or culturally-influential). I'm pretty sure that far exceeds anything the US managed until well into the post-McCarthy period.
posted by nasreddin at 10:13 PM on November 23, 2010


I mean, for chrissakes, fucking Ernest Hemingway worked for them in the '40s. There were plenty of journalists and screenwriters too.
posted by nasreddin at 10:16 PM on November 23, 2010


But that doesn't mean there wasn't a enormously broad-ranging Soviet infiltration campaign stretching back even before the Cold War.

Nobody's arguing with you on that. McCarthy, however, didn't have any information about that. He spent so much time chasing imaginary Communists that it only made things easier for real Soviet agents. And nor was his Red-baiting motivated by an actual analysis of what was going on in counterintelligence--he just resurrected post-World War I rhetoric for his own political gain.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:13 PM on November 24, 2010


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