The Red ScareIn the 1940’s and 1950’s a massive strike of paranoia struck the US after
The Second World War. This scare included millions of people being blacklisted
and wrongfully accused of being communist sympathizers. Hollywood was
politically attacked by an organization known as HUAC, or The House Un-
American Activities Committee, and singled-out as propagandists and red
sympathizers. The mass paranoia and state of chaos was only fed when a man
named Joseph McCarthy saw an opportunity for political gain. Riots filled the
streets. Labor strikes fell upon factories and the era of McCarthyism came into
existence during this period of time in which we know as, “The Red Scare.”
World War II was a war that took place, respectively, from 1939 – 1945.
During this war, the rise of Communism in Russia had just sparked. America and
other 1st world countries saw Russia become a new world power and sent fears
into others. One particular fear was the expansion of communism and fifth
columnists, also known as spies in the government?s establishment. The Truman
Doctrine that was announced in 1947, proclaimed that, “any advance of
Communism, anywhere in the world, was a threat to the national interests of the
United States” (quoted in Mack). This, according to Clayton, was the official start of the Cold War.
During the beginning of this new era, a new fear broke out in the societies
of the United States. This was the fear of the secrets of nuclear fusion being
stolen, or already had been, and that a nuclear holocaust was just around the
corner. ?This was greatly associated with the idea of Russian spies or “Fifth
Columnists” were in the American governments establishment, stealing secrets
and planning world domination? (Shmoop, 10). The fear of this was mainly upheld
by government officials who sought a traitor in the mist.
As time progressed, the paranoia only grew. An association arose known
as the House of Un-American Activities Committee, or the HUAC. This particular
committee believed that communists had taken over Hollywood and that the
movies being written and produced were actions of communist propaganda and
feared that the American society was being brainwashed. “Over 60 thousand
actors, writers and directors were convicted as communist sympathizers by this
committee and thus began Blacklisting” (EDhelper, 09).
HUAC’s blacklisting caused men and women all over the US to lose there
jobs and even forced some to leave the nation. “It meant that their professional
reputation was destroyed, and that no one would hire them for fear of being
thought a communist,? said Barbara Mack, an Historical Expert on the Red
Scare. As more and more people were blacklisted, trials were held on national
television broadcast. ?The exploitation of these people caused fear in Hollywood,
and many people stopped writing, and even left the country. They even
questioned 10-year-old Shirley Temple.” said Mack. This is the epitome of true
One man in particular, Joseph McCarthy a republican in senate, noticed
the chaos and exploitation going on in the US and saw a opportunity to gain
political power and rep by joining in on the blacklisting effort. “McCarthy’s “”witch-
hunt”” began in 1950 when he announced he had a list of 205 known
communists employed by the state department.” (Ranzer, 07) This immediately
led to a jump in paranoia and fueled the entire Scare.
McCarthy?s Era was told to be started at 1950 and it caused hundreds of
people to lose there jobs, ruin family ties, and destroy lives. However his reign
wouldn?t last. “McCarthy’s own undoing began when he leveled his accusations
against the United States Army.” said Ranzer. This started when McCarthy
insulted the American Army and the public. Trying to find a way out of this, he
simply screamed “Communists” and the public widely saw his charges were
never proven, and thus began to discredit him and he soon fell from popularity.
Finally McCarthy was tried and was given a formal Censure, stating that
his actions were inappropriate and further stated that he was “contemptuous and
reprehensible.” According to Ranzer, “On December 2, the senate voted 67 to 22
to censure McCarthy for inappropriate conduct of a senator.” and removed him
from office. McCarthy?s response to this was recorded as such. “I feel no different
tonight than I did last night. I am very happy to have this circus ended, so that we
can get back to the work of digging out communism, corruption, and treason in
government. That job will start officially Monday morning, after 10 months of
forced inaction” (quoted in Ranzer). Showing his arrogance and that he plans to
continue to get rid of the domestic communist threat.
This obviously did greatly stop the Red Scare however, HUAC trials
continued for a short period of time. Mack believes that the government reform
groups suffered from the damage during the McCarthy era and that they were
often accused of being communist supporters, and support for reform wavered
and that fewer social reforms were passed and people no longer wanted to be
called a communist, and America?s poor suffered for it.
The Red Scare greatly impacted the US. In Claytons book, ?America,
Pathways to the Present? it states that it caused the Social Democratic
party to split into two “Dixie-Cats,” southern Democrats which later became
Reagan?s Republican party, and caused a serious change in media due to the
blacklisting efforts. In fact Mack believes that “This hunt for scapegoats is a dark
spot on America?s history. People?s lives were ruined. Some committed suicide
and some left the country. The national anthem calls this the land of the free.
People here are allowed to hold any belief that they want. Joe McCarthy forgot
that. All of America forgot that during the Senate hearings, and we are still paying
for it today.” With that being said its clear that this was an extreme event in
United States history.
Clayton, Perry, Reed, Wrinkler. “A Republican Decade” America, Pathways to
the Present. Prentice Hall. Needham, Massachusetts. Upper Saddle
River, New Jersey. ISBN 0-13-181547-4. Pearson Education Inc. ,2005
EDHelper. “Blacklistings” Education Resources.
Mack, Barbara. “Affects of McCarthyism” Essortment.com.
Ranzer, Marci. “The Red Scare” Encyclomedia.
Shmoop University. “Cold War: McCarthyism & Red Scare Terms” Shmoop
UniversityTeacher Resources. www.shmoop.com/mccarthyism-red-