- Term Papers, Book Reports, Research Papers and College Essays

Discuss How a Nation Which Prided Itself on Allowing Freedom of Association and Freedom of Speech Could Have Allowed the Anti-Communist Witch Hunts to Have Happened. Can You See Any Parallels in Later Years?

Essay by   •  February 27, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,262 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,955 Views

Essay Preview: Discuss How a Nation Which Prided Itself on Allowing Freedom of Association and Freedom of Speech Could Have Allowed the Anti-Communist Witch Hunts to Have Happened. Can You See Any Parallels in Later Years?

Report this essay
Page 1 of 10

2. McCarthyism

Discuss how a nation which prided itself on allowing freedom of association and freedom of speech could have allowed the anti-communist witch hunts to have happened. Can you see any parallels in later years?

McCarthyism in the United States named by the senator Joseph McCarthy was a period of intense anti-communism also known as the 'red scare' which primarily occurred from 1948 - 1956, however the length of this time period is debatable as we can still see the aftermath in our society today. This period saw many un-democratic happenings where people's civil liberties were taken away because of a climate of fear stirred up by the threat of communist spies and informers' infiltrating America, institutions such as the HUAC and the GEO used this fear to their advantage and had a massive amount of power, with vague mission statements allowing them to control public life. There is no one reason for this period in American history, but internal factors such as the social conservative fear of change and clinging to traditions lead to scapegoat of the 'other',- in this instance, communists who threatened this stability. Internationally the threat of the nuclear bomb was realistic when paired with offensive communist militia in Korea, which was brought home through 'duck and cover' propaganda, whose vague subject matter in fact propelled the fear. These social factors linked to the political instability of America at the time with polarized parties and an ineffectual president leads to the appliance of McCarthyism. However the worrying fact about this period in history is that we seem to not have learnt from it, and that this situation seems to be re-enacted today with anti-terrorism activity where laws put in place by institutions (the American government) such as the Patriot Act curtail to the same intensity as the McCarthy era, that which America cherishes most, individual citizens freedom and unaliable rights, because of a situation of terror which forces the public into conservatism and the idea of 'us and them' which really shows what people will give up wittingly for safety.

McCarthyism is not a neutral term, it, like McCarthy himself have come to have the negative connotations of; use of intimidation, unfounded accusations in the name of fighting communism, lack of intelligent debate, the presumption of guilt before innocence and the idea of guilt by association. This time period is characterized by institutions such as Truman's federal employee loyalty program which took away or contradicted the principles on which the USA was formed as it prevented; openly criticizing American foreign policy, advocating equal rights for women, owning books on socialism and attending foreign films. A person accused of being a communist had no rights, they could not fight back against the corrupt system, which was more focused on providing scapegoats, regardless of the fact whether the accusations were unfounded or not. One such scapegoat was Alger Hiss who served as a 'New Dealer' under Roosevelt, the New Deal because of it's laisse faire policies, economic controls and questioning traditional ways was linked to communism, people believed that Roosevelt was using the New Deal to convert the US to communism, Hiss to the public symbolized this idea of the new deal and all that went with it. Another "infamous-institution" was that "of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, popularly, but erroneously knows and HUAC" "The legislation authorizing HUAC was vague: The committee was to investigate 'subversive and un-American propaganda' activities that attacked 'the principle of the form of government as guaranteed by the constitution.' But what constituted 'un- American' activities?

This atmosphere in America where the real peril was not the tireless, effective subversives who threatened nation security, rather the real crisis was the folly and gullibility of a people - and their government - who would not realize that they were under grave threat of losing

their 'unalienable' rights which they cherished most. Internationally the pre-conditions to this situation were intrinsic to the problem, the constant fear of the nuclear arms race was focused when in 1947 the Russians exploded a bomb, as previously they had been thought to have no technology for such weapons, the public was shocked by Russia setting up the iron curtain as previously they had been an ally and America now had an enemy with a dangerous ideology, "The American people had become exquisitely, constantly aware of communism anywhere and everywhere." They lived in constant fear of an attack heightened by the advertisements for fallout shelters and 'duck and cover' clips on television. However the Korean War was really the international event that pushed along McCarthyism, without this was the "senator could probably not have sustained his crusade of gossip, scandal and innuendo. The war suddenly made the Red menace an immediate instead of an abstract reality." The soviet possession of the bomb was a threat however it was more an "abstraction" , one the public learned to live with, as the Russians had not seemed inclined to use "outright military aggression to achieve imperialist ends." The Korean War was a reality where the communist threat was realistic and humanistic whilst American boys were being killed by the red peril far from their homeland. These international wars left Americans terrified of some unknown threat, that could strike at anytime, however more than security fled American life in the tumultuous mid century year. Hope trust and the last tendrils of wartime unity were also gone, replaced by anger suspicion and a dogged rather than sanguine determination to protect the republic and tradition in some way rather than the cost, McCarthy used this climate in America to his advantage as he gave the people scapegoats so that they could feel more secure.

The internal situation in America was just as important to the outcome of this period as the international. Whilst the public's fear of the expansion on the Iron Curtain over Europe and the spread of communism was instrinsic there was another important pre-condition on the home front. In America there had been nearly 20 years of progressivism and the public were tired of it, they could not keep up with the changes, the common man in the 30's tolerated the changes because they wanted their economic conditions to improve after the depression, however by the 50's the common man was more satisfied, and could not tolerate the new changes like women entering the workforce and the new deal, therefore in a time of fear and threats the



Download as:   txt (14.1 Kb)   pdf (157.9 Kb)   docx (14.6 Kb)  
Continue for 9 more pages »
Only available on