AS THE WITNESSES RECITED their glib, well-rehearsed stories the press went on a drunken spree. Headlines crawled across the front pages, wiped the war news off. The “respectable” Times, the “liberal” Post, the rest of the “free” press, all joined in a sickening orgy of red-baiting, rivaled only later by their lynch editorials on the New York City bus strikers.
And all that had happened was that an impostor had declared that 50 of the most respected members of the faculties of the City College and Brooklyn College had been members of the Communist party. No evidence offered—no documents. No opportunity for these 50 to throw the lie back in his face. No opportunity to cross-examine his testimony.
Sufficient that they have been accused. The newspaper presses ground out their stories, and as the presses turned, the careers of 50 men and women that had been built on years of scholarship, research, teaching, service to the community, crumbled between the rollers.
In 1692, before the Salem witch court, a defendant spoke:
“I will not plead,” he said. “If I deny, I am condemned already in courts where ghosts appear as witnesses and swear men’s lives away. If I confess, then I confess a lie, to buy a life which is not life, but death in life.”