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The 2nd Red Scare and McCarthyism - The Red Scare_ McCarthyism

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					The 2nd Red Scare: McCarthyism
The McCarthy Era. The HUAC hearings and Senator
Joseph McCarthy led to a general distrust in the
government by the American people.
After World War 2, Americans began to be very afraid that hordes of
communists were trying to take over the country. Communism was derided,
and the American public called communists ‘reds’. Most people thought that
communists were worse than murderers. Just being suspected of
communism meant that one was a traitor, and association with communists
was nearly as bad as being one yourself.

There were many reasons for this galloping paranoia. One reason was that
news reports confirmed that some communist countries had spies in the
U.S., and now had the recipe for atomic bombs. People were afraid of
atomic bombs, and they feared that nuclear holocaust was just around the
corner. News reports of atrocities committed by communist leaders served to
fan the flames of America’s fear.

The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigated
communist organizations. The HUAC came into being because they wanted
to prove that a lot of actors and writers were communists. They thought that
movies were brainwashing Americans and putting communist propaganda
into their heads. The Committee probed Hollywood, but they never
confirmed any of the charges. They even questioned 10-year-old Shirley
Temple. Movie studios became very careful about their products and their
actors, because they did not want to be accused. Just to be associated with
someone who was suspected of communism was enough to ruin a career.

There were those who decided to reap political gain from the fears of the
American public, and the most notorious of these is Joseph McCarthy. Joe
McCarthy was a Republican senator who announced that he had lists of
suspected communists. The list had names of many kinds of people, and
they ranged from TV personalities to businessmen. He was often in the
news, telling the American people that they were being overrun by
communists, and that they must rid themselves of all the communists before
America could be great again. Joe McCarthy’s conservative and political star
began to rise. America is still feeling the backlash from Joe McCarthy’s
political ambition today.

In 1954, all of America watched avidly as the Senate held hearings for some
of the people on the lists. The hearings were televised nationwide. Two
future presidents were present at the hearings. Richard Nixon was a member
of the HUAC, and Ronald Reagan appeared as a friendly witness.

The HUAC blacklisted many people. Blacklisting meant putting people on a
list of suspected communists. It meant that their professional reputation was
destroyed, and that no one would hire them for fear of being thought a
communist. The HUAC and Joseph McCarthy forced many people to testify
at their hearings. They asked if the people had ever been communists; they
asked if they were communists now, and they asked them for the names of
people who could be communists. Most people did not want to answer
because they felt that it was a violation of both their civil rights and the
rights of any people they might name.

The committee immediately blacklisted the ones who refused to cooperate.
As a result, people who were afraid that they were going to be charged gave
the names of people that they knew were not really communists. Many
actors couldn’t star in movies anymore because they were blacklisted. Some
authors for the big screen continued to write movies using fake names, but
most never worked again. Some were forced to leave the country.

A cartoonist lampooned McCarthy and made up the term McCarthyism,
which to him meant fanaticism. He didn’t like the way that McCarthy was
hurting people. Then supporters of McCarthy took up the term, only they
turned the term around, and said that it meant patriotism. Today, it is once
again an insulting term. It means that a person uses rumors and not facts to
condemn others.

In the election after the hearings, the Republicans won most seats in the
Congress and the Senate, and this happened largely because of McCarthy
and the Senate hearings. The people also elected a Republican president. But
McCarthy’s power went to his head, and he went too far. He accused
officials in the government of communism. He accused officials of the
military of communism. McCarthy could never prove any of these charges,
and his ideas were discredited. Nobody believed his claims anymore. The
‘red’ scare ended.

Even while the HUAC hearings were going on, in the height of the ‘red’
scare’, many people knew that the hearings were unfair, and they knew that
the blacklists were wrong. Could a government that would allow unfair
practices be fair in other ways? It put a strong doubt in people’s minds.

Reform groups suffered, too, during the McCarthy era. They were often
accused of having communist or socialist leanings, and support for reform
wavered. Fewer social reforms were passed. People didn’t want to be called
a communist, and America’s poor suffered for it.

McCarthyism was a major factor in a change in feelings about both politics
and society. The distrust of the government and the political activism in the
1960’s can be directly attributed to the lessons learned from the McCarthy
era.

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 constitutional truth during the Senate hearings, and the nation still
pays for that misconception today.

				
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posted:11/15/2010
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