Vincent Van Gogh's painting "Starry Night."
Flickr photo credit.
At the very core of its being, writing is art. Even if you are relating information about an event that took place or writing in order to show someone how to do something, your writing is still art.

The further I dive into the field of writing and publishing, the more amazed I am by the fact that people can be evaluated day in and day out based on their art. 

While I may not go so far as to say that all beauty rests in the eye of the beholder, I would say that not everyone will rate the same work of art the same. What may be a 10 out of 10 on one person's scale may only be a 7 or a 6 on someone else's. That may be no fault of the artist/writer or the reader... it may just mean that that piece of art wasn't meant to resonate with everyone that could possibly read it. 

This emphasizes the importance of knowing who your audience is, and writing straight to them. In my opinion, if your target audience uses words that qualify as technical jargon on a regular basis, then those words are acceptable in your piece. The same rule should be applied for colloquialisms, the voice the piece is written in, and other grammatical features that pertain to formality. Again, this all depends on the target audience.

Well hey, writing is art, right? So then, jargon, colloquialisms, and informality should be accepted simply on the grounds of creativity and originality in creating that piece of art, as well as their acceptance by the target audience

But whatever you do, make sure you write your art with someone else in mind. Because you can't write for yourself and expect to get paid... unless you are lucky enough to have a large group of people who are exactly like you.
Photo Credit.
I've got a question: is "funnest" a word? According to the dictionary it isn't, but it seems to be a logical construction to refer to something that is the most fun. I ran into this problem today as I wrote the intro to a short blog post over on Greg Rides Trails.

The line in question reads: "I rode one of the funnest downhills of my life yesterday... and it was here in North Georgia!" I tried changing it to "most fun," which might technically be more grammatical, but it makes the sentence quite awkward: "I rode one of the most fun downhills of my life yesterday... and it was here in North Georgia!" In addition to the adjective "fun," which is rather ambiguous, I considering using the word "epic" but rejected it because of how often that word is used. 

The best solution to the problem may have been to just re-word the entire sentence, but I honestly just didn't want to do it. While not the most inspiring first sentence in the world, it (and the other couple of introductory sentences) does its job: try to hook the reader and introduce the photos below at the same time.  

I think the hook in this sentence comes from the surprise at the end: that this downhill which had been "one of the funnest" was located in North Georgia.  

All told, I think this was an effective sentence, but the question of "funnest" VS. "most fun" is intriguing. 

What say you: does it depend on the situation, or is one word/phrase correct and the other incorrect?
To see all footnoting and citations that I used in the document, and to see notes by my professor, please check out the actual scans of the returned essay.

Personal analysis of this assignment to follow.

McCarthyism: Undermining the Roots of America

By Greg Heil

American History 2112
Professor Thomas Clay
November 4, 2010 


The word “McCarthyism has come to refer to an entire era and philosophy that extended much further than Joseph McCarthy’s 4 years in the limelight from 1950-1954. “McCarthyism” now refers to a period of intense anti-Communism during which people such as McCarthy went on a witch hunt to expose supposed Soviet spies in the U.S. Government, media, and more. This was a period of political oppression that has not seen its equal in America before or since.

Since this age of Communist oppression spanned a much greater time period than just McCarthy’s years in office, there were many other people heavily involved in enacting this agenda. One of the most notable was the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover took this anti-communist quest personally, and ended up essentially dedicating his entire career to tracking down and punishing Communists. He was somewhat misguided, however, because “his vision of the Communist menace extended far beyond the Communist party to almost any group that challenged the established social, economic, or racial order.” This misguided ideal led Hoover and the FBI to engage in questionable activity. Under Hoover, the FBI operated as one of the most influential tools of the anti-Communist movement. The FBI contributed considerable information on alleged Communists to the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) for their investigations into alleged Soviet spies. However, this information was often obtained by means of illegal break-ins, illegal wire taps, and other illicit activity. The FBI also went on to provide information to McCarthy when he was in power, and were crucial in helping him try to give some evidence to back up his claims. The information that the FBI shared, while not conclusive, should never have reached McCarthy’s hands due to its supposed highly classified nature.

Established in 1938 well before McCarthy came to office, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) was one of the most prominent tools of McCarthyism. It was particularly useful to the FBI and McCarthy himself because of the publicity value of the hearings without the technicalities and problems that due process in a legal proceeding would present. The fact that these proceedings happened in front of congress gave them a very official-looking stamp of approval. In addition, there was also the “prospect. . .of criminal prosecution for perjury or contempt of Congress” if things got heated during the hearings. In fact, the witnesses were often purposely forced in contempt by asking them unrelated personal questions that the witnesses would refuse to answer.

These witnesses accused of spying for the Soviets ranged from people who were currently in the Communist party, had formerly been in the Communist party, who worked closely with Communists, accused by ex-Communists, union leaders, and sometimes simply people whose name had ended up on the wrong mailing list or something equally as frivolous. The number of “witnesses” plotting the overthrow of the American government or spying for the Soviets was next to none. It is possible that there were some Soviet spies in America at that time, “but not enough to justify the arrests and repression.”

During 1945, there were two important people that supposedly defected from the Soviet Union that play a crucial role in giving the anti-Communist snowball momentum. The first was Igor Gouzenko who defected to the Canadian government and really was a spy, and provided a true list of spies in their government. He also claimed that there were some in the U.S. State Department, but in that case he did not name any specific names. The second was Elizabeth Bentley, a 37 year old Vassar graduate that walked into the New York City FBI office and told them a story of her as a soviet spy ring currier in D.C. She named 80 names, some of them in the U.S. government. The FBI got onto all of them and began to investigate them in-depth. They were not able to find any evidence that these people were, in fact, spies. Bentley’s story had been full of contradictions, and it got even worse as time went on because she continued to change it. Many people think that the FBI may have coached Bentley on what to say in her testimony, but the actual amount of their involvement is unclear. The Justice Department took this trial to jury in 1947, despite the fact that they still did not have any concrete evidence. They did try to force the accused out of their jobs, but it took awhile. In 1948, HUAC took over the case.

The case of Alger Hiss is also quite notable, as it also gave some credence to the anti-Communist movement. Named by Bentley and by Whittaker Chambers as a Communist spy, he denied the charges and sued Chambers for slander. Eventually, Chambers produced typed and hand written documents from Hiss that proved he had been a spy. Why he did not produce those documents at the beginning of the case is unknown. Alger Hiss was convicted of espionage on January 21, 1950. This conviction gave even more weight to the claim that the nation was in actual danger from Communist spies.

As was mentioned in the introduction, Joseph McCarthy’s period of influence really only lasted about four years from 1950-1954, but he still stands as the symbol of this entire period of anti-Communist political repression. McCarthy’s rise to power began “with a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia on February 9, 1950.” During that speech, he claimed to have “57 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party, but who nevertheless are still helping to shape our foreign policy” in his hand. In his speech, he also accused these Communists in the government of being responsible for “losing China.” None of the information that McCarthy presented was really new, but he presented it in a forceful, concrete way to give weight to his threats. McCarthy “named names and gave numbers,” and that is what really got him his initial attention. Over the next four years, Joseph McCarthy became powerful and influential enough for the whole anti-Communist movement to now bear his name. McCarthy “knew how to manipulate the press,” he got his attention because of the “outrageousness” of his accusations and the way he dealt with witnesses. As Ellen Schrecker wrote, “the blatant disregard for the accuracy of his charges that distinguished him from other politicians made him notorious and frightening.” If one case was not working and he was not able to come up with enough evidence, McCarthy would quickly switch to another. He did not care who he targeted. The committee generally could not disprove any of his claims, so it gave him the “perception of. . .invincibility.” This “invincibility” endured until McCarthy accused the Army of containing Communists: that was his epic mistake. While the media had succumbed to his accusations, the administration was not nearly as docile once the Army had been accused. McCarthy was put on trial before Congress, and several charges were brought against him about his conduct over the past few years. Congress “censured McCarthy for a lack of respect” and any further accusations that McCarthy made lost any power. He was dead within 3 years due to heavy drinking.

Possibly the most significant case of United States citizens suffering consequences for their alleged espionage has to be that of the Rosenbergs. The detonation of an atomic bomb by the Soviet Union on September 23, 1949 sparked an intense investigation into possible atomic espionage. Klaus Fuchs, a German refugee, was heavily involved in the Manhattan Project, the American and British collaboration to construct an atomic bomb. He admitted to and was convicted of passing considerable information on to the Soviet Union. Klaus named Harry Gold, his American contact, as a conspirator. Harry Gold named David Greenglass, and David Greenglass named his brother-in-law Julius Rosenberg. The actual involvement of Julius Rosenberg in this atomic espionage plot is highly questionable. No one, the FBI included, could find any additional evidence incriminating Rosenberg besides his brother-in-law’s testimony. To try to get Julius to admit to the charges, his wife Ethel was brought into the mix and accused as well. Both of the Rosenbergs continued to claim innocence. In yet another attempt to persuade them to confess, they were threatened with the electric chair. Even in the face of death the Rosenbergs continued to proclaim their innocence. Since they would not admit to being Soviet spies, they were electrocuted on June 19, 1953.

The example of the Rosenbergs is possibly the most extreme instance of persecution in the name of protecting the integrity of the state. Thousands more people suffered extremely detrimental effects as a result of these hearings and trials. Many lost their jobs, some were thrown in prison, a few were deported, and the Rosenbergs were killed. In many cases, it didn’t take more than “a single unsubstantiated accusation” to destroy someone’s career. McCarthyism was extremely detrimental to the movie industry, as the anti-Communists pursued people in this industry for the easy publicity it would get them. The movie industry eventually “blacklisted” Communist writers and actors, and no one would hire them for work. Again, they could have been blacklisted for any number of reasons ranging from currently being a member of the Communist party, being a former member of the party, or simply having signed a petition in support of the Hollywood Ten. , , These types of job losses and prejudice were not just in the federal government, but they spread even to small municipalities. Communists and the friends of Communists everywhere were harassed in these ways: it was widespread! These difficulties for the witnesses resulted in destroyed careers, as was mentioned above, as well as “broken marriages, broken health” and many suicides.

The South was a “special case” in regards to the lingering impact of McCarthyism. Even after McCarthy was removed from office, the south continued to enact even tougher laws against the Communists, despite the fact that anti-Communist sentiment was dying down everywhere else in the nation. In truth, while the South claimed they were anti-Red Menace, they were really anti-civil rights. The southerners tried to link the “outside agitators” advocating civil rights with the “Communists” to make their racist segregation seem acceptable. To bolster this claim, “professional witnesses” claimed that the NAACP was extremely infested with Communists. In spite of these accusations, the civil rights movement prevailed.

In conclusion, the anti-Communist movement spanned a much larger time period than McCarthy’s riotous years in Congress. There were a number of important incidents that set the stage and provided the tools for what he would do. Many people suffered as a result of the push to uncover Soviet spies: many lost their jobs, their reputations, and freedom. Two even lost their lives.


My opinion echoes that of Arthur Miller’s: “These proceedings remain one of the most shameful moments in modern U.S. history.” All of the politicians who wrongfully hunted down and accused Communists and others of acting as spies for the Soviet Union consistently violated their guaranteed First Amendment right to free speech, and often their Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate themselves. In addition, the sheer indecency and immorality practiced by those involved are appalling.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees our freedom as citizens of this nation to hold whatever philosophical, religious, or political views that we desire. In fact, it also states that we are free to speak these views as long as we do so peaceably. It also implies that we cannot be punished simply because of the views we hold or what we say. During McCarthyism, people were accused of espionage simply on the grounds of their belonging to the Communist party in correlation with some sort of incidental evidence. Initially, the FBI would try to produce evidence that they were advocating the violent overthrow of the government, but it proved difficult to do even with witnesses who were paid off because the evidence just was not there. In my opinion, the Hatch act of 1939 was incredibly illegal. To bar a person from government employment solely based on the political party they are a member of appears to me to be a First Amendment violation of the first degree! The rights protected by the First Amendment are basic rights which our country was founded on. These violations of the First Amendment were really blows against the foundation of the nation in an even greater sense than Communism was.

Possibly even worse than these violations of First Amendment rights was the vile distortion of the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment specifically gives a defendant the right to not provide any self-incriminating evidence. When some of the initial witnesses accused of espionage would claim the Fifth Amendment, those accusing them, Hoover and McCarthy included, would claim that they were indeed Soviet spies. Their “reasoning” was that if the witnesses were not Soviet spies, what did they have to hide by claiming the Fifth? After a defendant had chosen to claim the Fifth, McCarthy and his cohorts would then proceed to ask the defendant “damaging” questions that McCarthy knew they could not answer. Like I said, I think this is a horrid distortion of the intention of the Fifth Amendment. These witnesses could have been pleading the Fifth in order to keep from accidentally incriminating themselves since they knew that McCarthy was really just out on a witch hunt, or they could have been taking advantage of this right to keep from incriminating others they knew.

The death of the Rosenbergs is supremely despicable. Julius’s brother-in-law probably accused him to protect himself and his own immediate family by shifting the focus and blame onto someone else. They should have released Julius when no evidence beyond an accusation could have been found, but instead they brought his wife into it by assuming she was implicit in his deception. Not only was there no substantial evidence to throw her loyalties into question, there was not even a single accusation against her by a known Communist! It just keeps getting worse. After that, they threatened both of the Rosenbergs with the death penalty if they did not confess. Apparently, it had never crossed the prosecutors’ minds that they could actually be innocent. They were digging for a specific answer, and the only way for the Rosenbergs to avoid death would have been to admit to espionage, whether or not that was actually the case. They were backed into a corner with two choices: lie and face prison and ignominy or continue to claim the truth and hope that someone experienced an abnormal wave of decency before they were killed. We all know what the conclusion was: the deaths of two innocent American citizens in the name of national security.

What really astounds me about the entire ordeal of McCarthyism is that it lasted for so long despite the lack of any sort of reliable evidence. It seems like any of the evidence that they did manage to use against the witnesses was either completely “trumped up,” or circumstantial at best. I would hope that the politicians, judges, and juries of today would see right through such phony arguments.

Several of the sources that I read tried to explain the environment of America during the Cold War and all of the pressures and events that influenced public opinion and politics enough to allow McCarthyism to happen. Despite all of those explanations, I am still amazed more people did not have the guts and decency to stand up and say, “This is wrong!” There were some objections, most notably from the unfriendly witnesses, but they were already in such a compromised position that their words did not count for much. I think that much of the blame lies with the Harry Truman administration, and their ineffectiveness at influencing the situation. Their “wishy-washiness” did significantly more harm than good. That the American public went along with it and propagated the anti-Communist agenda is equally as appalling. The American people should have been able to think for themselves! Eventually they regained their common sense are realized all of the wrongs that had been committed, but that realization did not even begin to sink in until about four years after the Rosenbergs had been executed.

McCarthyism was truly an embarrassing display of close-minded political paranoia. Many basic rights were violated, including the First and Fifth Amendment rights. The violations of the First Amendment were really blows against the foundation of the nation in an even greater sense than Communism was! The basic tenets of this country were under attack by the anti-Communists. Individuality was truly being stamped out, and “several messages became crystal clear to the average American: Don’t Criticize the United States. Don’t be different. Just conform.” So-called “public servants” such as Joseph McCarthy were leading the charge, and some public servants such as J. Edgar Hoover even have blood on their hands. America: let us never again resort to such paranoid delusions based on so few facts. Let us strive to embrace rational thinking and not be swayed by emotions, public sentiment, or even claims by our politicians. And above all, let us never hesitate to fight for what we think is right!

Works Cited

“53a. McCarthyism,”
Alan Brinkley. The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People, Volume 2: From 1865. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2010). Print.
“Arthur Miller – McCarthyism,” August 23, 2008, episodes/arthur-miller/mccarthyism/48/
Athan G. Theoharis, The FBI & American Democracy, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004). Print.
“Atomic Espionage,”
Boyd, Herb. “McCarthyism revisited and dissected.” New York Amsterdam News 95, no. 44: 10-44. Academic Search Complete. EBSCOhost (accessed October 21,2010).
“Congressional Committees and Unfriendly Witnesses,” congcomms.html.
Ellen Schrecker, The Age of McCarthyism, (Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1994). Print.
Thomas Doherty, Cold War, Cool Medium, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003). Print.
Go here to view a searchable text version of this essay.

Personal analysis of this assignment to follow.

Overall grade: 98. 2 points off on the works cited.

Darren Rowse over on FeelGooder asked us what makes us "feel good." I decided to post my response up here to help you get a little insight into my life:

1. Coming home to a hug and a kiss from my wife!
2. Enjoying the quiet and the solitude of the forest
3. Exploring new singletrack on the back of my mountain bike
4. Mountain Dew!
5. Powder snow
6. Mountains
7. Riding with friends
8. Writing about something I’m passionate about
9. When people enjoy what I’ve written… and tell me!
10. Reading my Bible and having a new revelation or realization