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Emile de Antonio
Roy M. Cohn,
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Point of Order is compiled from TV footage of the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings, in which the Army accused Senator McCarthy of improperly pressuring the Army for special privileges for Private David Schine, formerly of McCarthy's investigative staff. McCarthy accused the Army of holding Schine hostage to keep him from searching for Communists in the Army. These hearings resulted in McCarthy's eventual censure for conduct unbecoming a senator. Written by
Without narration, this documentary presents audio-visual excerpts from the famous Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954. The televised hearings were significant in that they brought to light the mean-spirited, and unfounded, accusations of an American demagogue, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, a man who claimed that certain individuals, both in the U.S. Army and elsewhere in American government, were Communist spies.
What is glaringly obvious, from this documentary, is that McCarthy had no evidence. He and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn, accused, implicated, vilified, and pointed fingers. And the political climate in the 1950s was such that even these accusations were enough to destroy the careers and lives of many individuals. McCarthy, an ambitious politician, used fear as a weapon, which contributed to unwarranted suspicion during the Cold War.
The hearings are theatrical, Shakespearean drama, in part. Several times, impassioned speeches are made. At other times, the proceedings are laughably petty, like when the committee examines a photograph of Army Private David Schine (pronounced Shine). The subtext during this segment is that David Schine and Roy Cohn had some sort of homosexual relationship, an ironic development, given that Cohn and McCarthy, as political Conservatives, would be just as hostile to homosexuals as to Communists.
One might think that "Point Of Order" would be dry and boring. But the political atmosphere was so charged, so on-edge, that the viewer can easily discern the tension, the fear, and the anxiety of people who had no idea how these events would play out.
McCarthy probably thought these hearings would be a stepping stone en route to the White House. Instead, the camera, as hero, revealed to the American people that McCarthy was a fear monger. Television was his downfall. And the overall message of "Point Of Order" is that enhanced communications technology, in this case television, can be used to thwart the plans of would-be dictators and tyrants.
Today, money has corrupted television. But communications technology continues to evolve, and the internet now functions as a medium that shines lights into dark corners, as television did fifty years ago.
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