Conventional wisdom holds that television was a co-conspirator
in the repressions of Cold War America, that it was a facilitator
to the blacklist and handmaiden to McCarthyism. But Thomas Doherty
argues that, through the influence of television, America actually
became a more open and tolerant place. Although many books have
been written about this period, Cold War, Cool Medium is
the only one to examine it through the lens of television
To the unjaded viewership of Cold War America, the television
set was not a harbinger of intellectual degradation and moral
decay, but a thrilling new household appliance capable of bringing
the wonders of the world directly into the home. The "cool medium"
permeated the lives of every American, quickly becoming one of the
most powerful cultural forces of the twentieth century. While
television has frequently been blamed for spurring the rise of
Senator Joseph McCarthy, it was also the national stage upon which
America witnessed -- and ultimately welcomed -- his downfall. In
this provocative and nuanced cultural history, Doherty chronicles
some of the most fascinating and ideologically charged episodes in
television history: the warm-hearted Jewish sitcom The
Goldbergs; the subversive threat from I Love Lucy;
the sermons of Fulton J. Sheen on Life Is Worth Living;
the anticommunist series I Led 3 Lives; the legendary
jousts between Edward R. Murrow and Joseph McCarthy on See It
Now; and the hypnotic, 188-hour political spectacle that was
the Army-McCarthy hearings.
By rerunning the programs, freezing the frames, and reading
between the lines, Cold War, Cool Medium paints a picture
of Cold War America that belies many black-and-white clichés.
Doherty not only details how the blacklist operated within the
television industry but also how the shows themselves struggled to
defy it, arguing that television was preprogrammed to reinforce the
very freedoms that McCarthyism attempted to curtail.
Subjects: Sociology, Business
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