By Simon French
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2 Anxiety about the bomb vied with optimism in America’s postwar consciousness. ” A year later, however, the results of a Social Science Research Council poll were far more ambiguous. 3 American periodicals played a signi~cant role both in forming and tabulating public opinion about the dawn of the atomic age. Business Week had a special Atomic Energy Department, as did The Saturday Review. 4 The New Yorker’s response to the bomb resembled that of other magazines in its scope and immediacy, but not in content.
It was with profound conviction, however, that the magazine declared fervent anti-Communists to be hysterical, vulgar, paranoid, and ultimately un-American. Against them the tone of the magazine was both personal and passionate. This was not an obscure social problem happening to less fortunate others in some remote clime. 3 With the publication of her short story “The Groves of Academe” in The New Yorker in 1951, Mary McCarthy, who had often criticized the magazine for its tepid politics, now chose it as a forum for her attack on the failure of the academic community to stand up to HUAC.
The magazine’s position concerning the postwar anti-Communist investigations, along with its timely publication of “Hiroshima,” created a perception of The New Yorker as a progressive force and ally of victims of injustice, whether they were Japanese seamstresses or wrongly accused members of the State Department. McCarthyism was more than a fringe phenomenon associated with an alcoholic junior senator from Wisconsin. It was a widely accepted political, social, and cultural crusade that penetrated the entire social order.