I would say that a major bystander in the McCarthy hearings would have to be the people who failed to criticize what McCarthy was doing. We praise the words of Joseph Welch and the work of Edward Murrow and Fred Friendly. Yet, we really do not speak to the American people who sat still while McCarthy assumed great power and his trials became publicly consumed. I think that the public that remains silent is such an issue because no public outcry and no public demands for change enables McCarthy's rise to be possible and enables the trials to have so much power. It makes sense that in order for evil to prosper and exist, good people need to take no action. This is where I think that the people of the time period are automatically to be case as bystanders. In not recalling political power to vote people like McCarthy out of office and in not demanding more change in the climate of fear that drove the McCarthy hearings, I think that the public needs to shoulder some blame. American History has shown that bad things tend to happen when the public surrenders to fear and capitulates to being led. This is what ends up happening in the case of the McCarthy hearings and the reason why I think the public can shoulder blame as being a bystander in what happened in the rise of McCarthy.
While there were a few courageous voices in the press speaking out against Senator McCarthy and his unfounded accusations against people he suspected to be communists, such as The New York Post, the press as a whole was relatively late in reacting strongly enough to the senator's excesses. In the early years, the press largely acted as a bystander. One prime example would be the The Christian Science Monitor. The influential magazine made it their editorial policy to avoid using the word McCarthyism. Why they did not want to publicize McCarthyism is unclear, but the effect was to help keep the public in the dark about his responsibility for the excessive persecution of suspected traitors (often innocent people) in Washington. Without a vigilant press, it is all the more difficult to uncover and stop abuses of power. Arguably, if the press had publicized McCarthy's lies faster and more aggressively, he could have been stopped sooner.