'Red Scare' dominates American politics

'Red Scare' dominates American politics

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As the presidential election of 1952 begins to heat up, so do accusations and counteraccusations concerning communism in America. The “Red Scare”—the widespread belief that international communism was operating in the United States—came to dominate much of the debate between Democrats and Republicans in 1952.

On August 27, 1952, the New York Times front page contained three stories suggesting the impact of the Red Scare on the upcoming election. In the first story, the Republican-dominated Senate Internal Security Subcommittee released a report charging that the Radio Writers Guild was dominated by a small number of communists. The Guild, whose members were responsible for producing more than 90 percent of the programs on radio, had purportedly been run by a small clique of communists for at least the last nine years. According to the subcommittee report, communist subversion of the Guild was merely one step in a larger effort to control the media of the United States—including radio, television, movies, and book publishing.

The second front-page story was a report that the American Legion was demanding, for the third year in a row, that President Harry S. Truman dismiss Secretary of State Dean Acheson for his lack of vigor in dealing with the communist threat. The Legion report declared that the Department of State was in desperate need of “God-fearing Americans” who had the “intestinal fortitude not to be political puppets.” The organization demanded a quick and victorious settlement of the Korean War, even if this meant expanding the war into China. The third story provided a counter of sorts to the previous two stories. It reported a speech by Democratic nominee for president Governor Adlai E. Stevenson, in which he strongly criticized those who used “patriotism” as a weapon against their political opponents. In an obvious slap at the Senate Subcommittee and others, such as Senator Joseph McCarthy, Stevenson repeated the words of the writer Dr. Samuel Johnson: “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” The governor claimed that it was “shocking” that good Americans, such as Acheson and former secretary of state General George C. Marshall, could be attacked on the grounds that they were unpatriotic.

The three related stories from the front page of the Times indicated just how deeply the Red Scare had penetrated American society. Accusations about communists in the film, radio, and television industries, in the Department of State and the U.S. Army, in all walks of American life, had filled the newspapers and airwaves for years. By 1952, many Americans were convinced that communists were at work in the United States and must be rooted out and hunted down. Republicans and their allies were obviously planning to use the Red Scare to their advantage in the presidential election of that year, while the Democrats were going to have to battle the perception that they had been “soft” on communism during the administration of President Truman (who came to office in 1945 following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt). The Republicans were eventually victorious, with Dwight D. Eisenhower scoring a victory over Stevenson.

READ MORE: How Eisenhower Secretly Pushed Back Against McCarthyism

The Trail

On October 20, 1947, the notorious Red Scare kicks into high gear in Washington, as a Congressional committee begins investigating Communist influence in one of the world’s richest and most glamorous communities: Hollywood.

After World War II, the Cold War began to heat up between the world’s two superpowers–the United States and the communist-controlled Soviet Union. In Washington, conservative watchdogs worked to out communists in government before setting their sights on alleged “Reds” in the famously liberal movie industry. In an investigation that began in October 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) grilled a number of prominent witnesses, asking bluntly “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” Whether out of patriotism or fear, some witnesses–including director Elia Kazan, actors Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor and studio honchos Walt Disney and Jack Warner–gave the committee names of colleagues they suspected of being communists.

A small group known as the “Hollywood Ten” resisted, complaining that the hearings were illegal and violated their First Amendment rights. They were all convicted of obstructing the investigation and served jail terms. Pressured by Congress, the Hollywood establishment started a blacklist policy, banning the work of about 325 screenwriters, actors and directors who had not been cleared by the committee. Those blacklisted included composer Aaron Copland, writers Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman and Dorothy Parker, playwright Arthur Miller and actor and filmmaker Orson Welles.

Some of the blacklisted writers used pseudonyms to continue working, while others wrote scripts that were credited to other writer friends. Starting in the early 1960s, after the downfall of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the most public face of anti-communism, the ban began to lift slowly. In 1997, the Writers’ Guild of America unanimously voted to change the writing credits of 23 films made during the blacklist period, reversing–but not erasing–some of the damage done during the Red Scare.

“Congress investigates Reds in Hollywood.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Oct 2008, 11:54 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=51910.

Aaron Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man

1774 – The new Continental Congress, the governing body of America’s colonies, passed an order proclaiming that all citizens of the colonies “discountenance and discourage all horse racing and all kinds of gaming, cock fighting, exhibitions of shows, plays and other expensive diversions and entertainment.”

1803 – The U.S. Senate approved the Louisiana Purchase.

1818 – The U.S. and Great Britain established the boundary between the U.S. and Canada to be the 49th parallel.

1903 – A joint commission ruled in favor of the U.S. concerning a dispute over the boundary between Canada and the District of Alaska.

1935 – Mao Zedong arrived in Shensi Province after his Long March that took just over a year. He then set up the Chinese Communist Headquarters.

1944 – Allied forces invaded the Philippines.

1952 – The Mau Mau uprising against white settlers began in Kenya.

1967 – Seven men were convicted in Meridian, MS, on charges of violating the civil rights of three civil rights workers. Of the men convicted one was a Ku Klux Klan leader and another was a sheriff’s deputy.

1986 – American mercenary Eugene Hasenfus was formally charged by the Nicaraguan government on several charges including terrorism.

1993 – Attorney General Janet Reno warned the TV industry to limit the violence in their programs.

1995 – Britain, France and the U.S. announced a treaty that banned atomic blasts in the South Pacific.

Congress creates the Continental Association

On this day in 1774, the First Continental Congress creates the Continental Association, which calls for a complete ban on all trade between America and Great Britain of all goods, wares or merchandise.

The creation of the association was in response to the Coercive Acts—or “Intolerable Acts” as they were known to the colonists–which were established by the British government to restore order in Massachusetts following the Boston Tea Party.

The Intolerable Acts were a set of four acts: The first was the Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston to all colonists until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid. The second, the Massachusetts Government Act, gave the British government total control of town meetings, taking all decisions out of the hands of the colonists. The third, the Administration of Justice Act, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America and the fourth, the Quartering Act, required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in private homes as a last resort.

Outraged by the new laws mandated by the British Parliament, the Continental Association hoped that cutting off all trade with Great Britain would cause enough economic hardship there that the Intolerable Acts would be repealed. It was one of the first acts of Congress behind which every colony firmly stood.

“Congress creates the Continental Association.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Oct 2008, 11:56 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=51322.

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On This day, 8-27-2008: Red Scare

Red Scare dominates American politics

As the presidential election of 1952 begins to heat up, so do accusations and counteraccusations concerning communism in America. The “Red Scare”–the widespread belief that international communism was operating in the United States–came to dominate much of the debate between Democrats and Republicans in 1952.

On August 27, 1952, the New York Times front page contained three stories suggesting the impact of the Red Scare on the upcoming election. In the first story, the Republican-dominated Senate Internal Security Subcommittee released a report charging that the Radio Writers Guild was dominated by a small number of communists. The Guild, whose members were responsible for producing more than 90 percent of the programs on radio, had purportedly been run by a small clique of communists for at least the last nine years. According to the subcommittee report, communist subversion of the Guild was merely one step in a larger effort to control the media of the United States-including radio, television, movies, and book publishing. The second front-page story was a report that the American Legion was demanding, for the third year in a row, that President Harry S. Truman dismiss Secretary of State Dean Acheson for his lack of vigor in dealing with the communist threat. The Legion report declared that the Department of State was in desperate need of “God-fearing Americans” who had the “intestinal fortitude not to be political puppets.” The organization demanded a quick and victorious settlement of the Korean War, even if this meant expanding the war into China. The third story provided a counter of sorts to the previous two stories. It reported a speech by Democratic nominee for president Governor Adlai E. Stevenson, in which he strongly criticized those who used “patriotism” as a weapon against their political opponents. In an obvious slap at the Senate Subcommittee and others, such as Senator Joseph McCarthy, Stevenson repeated the words of the writer Dr. Samuel Johnson: “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” The governor claimed that it was “shocking” that good Americans, such as Acheson and former secretary of state General George C. Marshall, could be attacked on the grounds that they were unpatriotic.

The three related stories from the front page of the Times indicated just how deeply the Red Scare had penetrated American society. Accusations about communists in the film, radio, and television industries, in the Department of State and the U.S. Army, in all walks of American life, had filled the newspapers and airwaves for years. By 1952, many Americans were convinced that communists were at work in the United States and must be rooted out and hunted down. Republicans and their allies were obviously planning to use the Red Scare to their advantage in the presidential election of that year, while the Democrats were going to have to battle the perception that they had been “soft” on communism during the administration of President Truman (who came to office in 1945 following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt). The Republicans were eventually victorious, with Dwight D. Eisenhower scoring a victory over Stevenson.

“Red Scare dominates American politics.” 2008. The History Channel website. 27 Aug 2008, 05:54 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2772.

1660 – The books of John Milton were burned in London due to his attacks on King Charles II.

1789 – The Declaration of the Rights of Man was adopted by the French National Assembly.

1859 – The first oil well was successfully drilled in the U.S. by Colonel Edwin L. Drake near Titusville, PA.

1894 – The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act was passed by the U.S. Congress. The provision within for a graduated income tax was later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

1921 – The owner of Acme Packing Company bought a pro football team for Green Bay, WI. J.E. Clair paid tribute to those who worked in his plant by naming the team the Green Bay Packers. (NFL)

1928 – The Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed by 15 countries in Paris. Later, 47 other nations would sign the pact.

1945 – American troops landed in Japan after the surrender of the Japanese government at the end of World War II.

1979 – Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed in a boat explosion off the coast of Ireland. The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility.

The Red Scare and Women in Government

In 1952, a government administrator named Mary Dublin Keyserling was accused of being a communist. The attack on her was also an attack on feminism.

We don’t often talk about how the anticommunist Red Scare after World War II was also an attack on women, especially feminist women. The career of Mary Dublin Keyserling (1910–97) is a case in point. As historian Landon R. Y. Storrs shows: Her life helps contextualize “our understanding of the trajectory of twentieth-century feminism and the gendered effects of the anticommunist crusades.”

In February 1952, Senator Joseph McCarthy accused Keyserling, who worked at the Department of Commerce, of being a member of ten communist front groups. (In typical McCarthy fashion, those alleged ten groups would later be increased to an “unlimited number.”) McCarthy also named Leon Keyserling, President Truman’s chief economic advisor and Mary’s husband, as a Red sympathizer.

The charges against Leon faded, but Mary had to take a leave of absence while she was investigated by a loyalty board. “Mary would have excited anticommunist attention even if she were not married to Leon,” writes Storrs. “Since the early 1930s she had belonged to a loose network of female experts and activists who advocated using the state to attack social inequalities—in class, gender, and race relations—that they argued were not just unfair but unhealthy for the nation’s economy and polity.”

Keyserling’s earlier background shows the kind of ideals that some women New Dealers brought to their work. The young Mary Dublin “immersed herself in left-wing political and cultural activities.” A “gregarious young social scientist in depression-era London and New York,” she moved in circles that “included progressives, socialists, and Communists”—an alliance known as the Popular Front, fighting the rising threat of fascism in the 1930s.

According to Storrs, the “left-feminism” that Keyserling brought to her job in government shows that the 1930s and 1940s weren’t the “doldrums” of the women’s movement feminism didn’t just take a break after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. “Left-feminism was closer to power than we have thought (although not as close as its enemies feared, or pretended to fear).” Until women like Keyserling were hounded out of positions of power and influence.

Weekly Newsletter

Mary Dublin Keyserling was cleared in January 1953, just in time for the Eisenhower presidency, which didn’t want her or her husband in government. She wouldn’t have government employment again until Lyndon Johnson’s administration in 1964, by which time both Keyserlings were safely liberal. At her confirmation hearing for the directorship of the Women’s Bureau in the Department of Labor, a U.S. senator raised the old disloyalty allegations, but this time to less effect.

Storrs concludes that “anticommunist attacks on women in government and policy circles curbed both feminism and the social democratic potential of the New Deal.” She writes: “in forcing a generation of Popular Front feminists to disappear, or to reinvent themselves as liberals, the red scare left a gendered legacy that constrained both social policy and modern feminism,” themes explored further in Storrs’s book, The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left.

Red-State Scare: The Blacklist Arrives

If you’re not part of Twitter, and media Twitter at that, you will be blessedly ignorant of a HUGE controversy today. The political news and commentary website Politico asked conservative commentator Ben Shapiro to guest-edit today’s edition of its morning Playbook feature. Shapiro is completely within the conservative mainstream, but that did not stop the Politico staff from freaking out. Erik Wemple is the Washington Post media columnist:

I said “blessedly ignorant,” but really, you should be aware of stuff like this. This is the new world that we live in.

First, this shows that we live in a world in which left-dominated institutions (e.g., media) are so intolerant that they believe they should not have to have anything to do with conservatives in their line of work.

Second, it shows that their rage suppresses internal dissent (nobody will give a tinker’s damn about the Politico staffers who have been intimidated into silence).

Third, depending on how Politico‘s management reacts, it might reveal that staff have veto power over editorial decisions — in other words, that, as in events last year at The New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, the staff mob effectively runs the paper.

If you think this is going to be confined to media, you are very wrong. In other institutions dominated by the Left — including companies whose Human Resources departments are — conservatives are going to have a hard time getting in the door. There’s a move underway by faculty and students at the University of Michigan to get a Republican regent of the system dismissed not because of anything he said, but because of what he has not said (that the presidential election wasn’t stolen). If you have been active in the College Republicans or any other conservative group in college, better not put that on your resume. We are well on our way to an actual blacklist. It won’t simply be conservatives, but leftists who fail to be radical enough. News reached me that a Democratic political professional I follow on social media was fired this week because as a progressive who values free speech, he voiced concern over giving corporations the right to punish people for political dissident (I reached out to him, and he confirmed the firing).

Researchers have created a machine learning system that they claim can determine a person’s political party, with reasonable accuracy, based only on their face. The study, from a group that also showed that sexual preference can seemingly be inferred this way, candidly addresses and carefully avoids the pitfalls of “modern phrenology,” leading to the uncomfortable conclusion that our appearance may express more personal information that we think.

The study, which appeared this week in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, was conducted by Stanford University’s Michal Kosinski. Kosinski made headlines in 2017 with work that found that a person’s sexual preference could be predicted from facial data.

You might think this is nuts — twenty-first century phrenology! — but Kosinski’s team found that its software could guess correctly nearly three out of four times. Far from perfect, true, but it turns out humans guess correctly only 55 percent of the time. The algorithms are seeing something that is really there. Scientists working on the project don’t yet know what variables are the key ones. But getting this result does not require investing in sophisticated software:

The algorithm itself is not some hyper-advanced technology. Kosinski’s paper describes a fairly ordinary process of feeding a machine learning system images of more than a million faces, collected from dating sites in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., as well as American Facebook users. The people whose faces were used identified as politically conservative or liberal as part of the site’s questionnaire.

The algorithm was based on open-source facial recognition software, and after basic processing to crop to just the face (that way no background items creep in as factors), the faces are reduced to 2,048 scores representing various features — as with other face recognition algorithms, these aren’t necessary intuitive things like “eyebrow color” and “nose type” but more computer-native concepts.

What is to keep a corporation in the future from running a facial image of employees or applicants through this algorithm to make sure no conservatives are hired or promoted? All for the sake of making the workplace a safe space, of course.

We have had a Red Scare in this country’s history. Now we are going to have a Red State Scare. On his webcast today, Ben Shapiro quoted CNN’s Don Lemon saying that all Trump voters — 70 million of his fellow Americans — are in league with the KKK and the Nazis. Lemon really said that — the clip is there.

The internet tycoons used the ideology of flatness to hoover up the value from local businesses, national retailers, the whole newspaper industry, etc.—and no one seemed to care. This heist—by which a small group of people, using the wiring of flatness, could transfer to themselves enormous assets without any political, legal or social pushback—enabled progressive activists and their oligarchic funders to pull off a heist of their own, using the same wiring. They seized on the fact that the entire world was already adapting to a life of practical flatness in order to push their ideology of political flatness—what they call social justice, but which has historically meant the transfer of enormous amounts of power and wealth to a select few.

Because this cohort insists on sameness and purity, they have turned the once-independent parts of the American cultural complex into a mutually validating pipeline for conformists with approved viewpoints—who then credential, promote and marry each other. A young Ivy League student gets A’s by parroting intersectional gospel, which in turn means that he is recommended by his professors for an entry-level job at a Washington think tank or publication that is also devoted to these ideas. His ability to widely promote those viewpoints on social media is likely to attract the approval of his next possible boss or the reader of his graduate school application or future mates. His success in clearing those bars will in turn open future opportunities for love and employment. Doing the opposite has an inverse effect, which is nearly impossible to avoid given how tightly this system is now woven. A person who is determined to forgo such worldly enticements—because they are especially smart, or rich, or stubborn—will see only examples of even more talented and accomplished people who have seen their careers crushed and reputations destroyed for daring to stick a toe over the ever multiplying maze of red lines.

So, instead of reflecting the diversity of a large country, these institutions have now been repurposed as instruments to instill and enforce the narrow and rigid agenda of one cohort of people, forbidding exploration or deviation—a regime that has ironically left homeless many, if not most, of the country’s best thinkers and creators. Anyone actually concerned with solving deep-rooted social and economic problems, or God forbid with creating something unique or beautiful—a process that is inevitably messy and often involves exploring heresies and making mistakes—will hit a wall. If they are young and remotely ambitious they will simply snuff out that part of themselves early on, strangling the voice that they know will get them in trouble before they’ve ever had the chance to really hear it sing.

This disconnect between culturally mandated politics and the actual demonstrated preferences of most Americans has created an enormous reserve of unmet needs—and a generational opportunity. Build new things! Create great art! Understand and accept that sensory information is the brain’s food, and that Silicon Valley is systematically starving us of it. Avoid going entirely tree-blind. Make a friend and don’t talk politics with them. Do things that generate love and attention from three people you actually know instead of hundreds you don’t. Abandon the blighted Ivy League, please, I beg of you. Start a publishing house that puts out books that anger, surprise and delight people and which make them want to read. Be brave enough to make film and TV that appeals to actual audiences and not 14 people on Twitter. Establish a newspaper, one people can see themselves in and hold in their hands. Go back to a house of worship—every week. Give up on our current institutions they already gave up on us.

Read it all. These two quotes cannot do it justice.

Events in the past week are making it clear that there is no achievable future for most conservatives within mainstream institutions. In The Benedict Option, I wrote that the day is coming when religious conservatives were going to have to depend on their own networks for employment and sustenance, or take up careers in which one’s political and religious beliefs don’t matter. That day is now here for some people, and the number of those under its shadow is rapidly accelerating.

As Alana Newhouse says, this creates great opportunity. But we don’t want to create a right-wing mirror version of the same fanatical conformity we see on leftist-dominated institutions. Along those lines, here’s an e-mail I received today. I am withholding the name of the author at his request:

Your article on diabolical forces really hit home. A while back, I wrote you about election fraud. I’m not going to go on record about the specific place or people because I’ve worked hard to gain the trust of several people in this story, and they are in a delicate state right now. I want to protect them personally and minister to them truthfully and lovingly and public shame will do nothing good.

Some friends of friends had witnessed some raw and astounding election improprieties at a major city during their time as observers. I was initially wary since my friend was a hard-core Trumpist. Like many of Trump’s diehard supporters, he had become socially isolated for a long time, was deeply unhappy, and was increasingly political. Politics did give him a sense of meaning and purpose in his life. Nevertheless, I became convinced of some of the fraud allegations when key details of his friends’ stories were being corroborated not just by other Trumpists (I talked with at least seven different primary witnesses), but through video that was released after I had finished interviewing them that confirmed several surprising claims.

I couldn’t ignore that data, and so I began to investigate their claims. Many of their claims of fraud were legitimate, but extracting the truth was a slow and grueling process. The reason wasn’t because these witnesses to fraud were lying it was because many of them were held captive by conspiracy theories and believed their lies. When I would interview them, I would have to constantly make a distinction between what they witnessed and what was rumor. To them, the conspiracy theory narrative had become more important than the actual evidence of election fraud they possessed.

We eventually had some success in getting the message of legitimate fraud to the proper authorities, and even some of the witnesses were covered by Fox and other right wing sources–but many of those witnesses didn’t do themselves any favors. Rather than control their conspiracy impulses, many mixed truth with conspiracy theory in their testimony to make themselves look ridiculous. The bit of fraud they observed falsely confirmed every conspiracy theory they held dear.

While the article I wrote showed there was a clear and massive fraud, it didn’t show there was enough significant conclusive fraud to change the election’s outcome (I do believe Biden was the legitimate winner of the election). That was too hard for most of these witnesses to swallow, and they resolved a seeming cognitive dissonance by going further down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory. Lately, they have been sending me insane stories—officials being killed or captured in CIA raids in Germany, Trump arresting Biden for treason, crackpot tricks to usurp a democratic election, and lately a conspiracy theory regarding a military coup. The stories are getting more and more extreme, and given the polls you recently released, we are headed toward a violent and disturbing future.

We must persuade our brothers and sisters on the right to come to their senses and avoid violence, but history says that the prospect of us succeeding will be low. Nevertheless, now is the time to continue to build up our institutions. I am fortunate to be part of a church that has been faithful in these evil times and has identified and resisted such evil on the left and right.

If nothing else, we must rejoice that the idolatry of power for people like us has been mostly destroyed. Though oppression will likely come to us, we are free to love a fallen world and stand as a witness for the gospel. That is our hope, and that is our joy.

Going forward, living not by lies of the Left or the Right is going to be one of the hardest things for any of us to do. But what choice do we have?

Red Scare (podcast)

Red Scare bills itself as a cultural commentary podcast hosted by "bohemian layabouts" [8] Dasha Nekrasova and Anna Khachiyan, and is recorded from their homes in Lower Manhattan, New York City. Nekrasova is a Belarus-born actress, who became known as "Sailor Socialism" [9] [10] after an interview with an InfoWars reporter went viral in 2018. She immigrated to Las Vegas, Nevada, with her acrobat parents when she was four. [11] Khachiyan is a Moscow-born writer, [12] art critic [13] [14] and daughter of Armenian mathematician Leonid Khachiyan. [15] She was raised in New Jersey. [7] The two women met over Twitter, [7] and started the podcast in March 2018 after Nekrasova relocated to New York City from Los Angeles.

Early episodes were produced by Meg Murnane, who would also appear as the show's third co-host. She disappeared from the show in October 2018, and episodes have been self-produced since then. On an episode released on December 5, 2018, Dasha and Anna officially announced that they had parted ways with Meg "amicably and mutually". [16]

The show covers current topics in American culture and politics and is a critique of neoliberalism and feminism in a manner both comedic and serious in tone. [7] The hosts are influenced by the work of Mark Fisher, [17] Slavoj Žižek, [18] Camille Paglia, and Christopher Lasch. [19] [20] [21] Recurring topics include Russiagate, the #MeToo movement, [12] woke consumerism and call-out culture, the death of Jeffrey Epstein and the Presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, whom both supported in the 2020 Democratic primaries. [22]

Several writers, artists, social commentators and cultural figures from all sides of the political spectrum have appeared on Red Scare, including Elizabeth Bruenig, Angela Nagle, Juliana Huxtable, Ariana Reines, Tulsi Gabbard, Simon Reynolds, Ross Douthat, Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Steve Bannon, [23] Slavoj Žižek, [24] and Adam Curtis.

Nekrasova and Khachiyan have hosted several episodes of the show live, most notably broadcasting on NPR at The Green Space at WNYC and WQXR, as well as interviewing social media influencer Caroline Calloway at the Bell House in Brooklyn. [25] Khachiyan has been interviewed by Bret Easton Ellis and Eric Weinstein on their respective podcasts. [26] [27]

Format and availability Edit

An episode of Red Scare is typically between 50 and 80 minutes long. The show's theme song is "All the Things She Said," the 2002 single by Russian pop duo t.A.T.u. Weekly free episodes of the show are available via iTunes and Spotify. Subscribers who contribute at least $5 per month via Patreon gain access to additional weekly premium bonus episodes. As of June 2021, the show has generated over $42,000 per month from over 9,900 subscribers. [28]

Episode guide Edit

As of April 24, 2021, 238 episodes of Red Scare have been released. [29] [30] [31] The show's most frequent guest is photographer Dan Allegretto at seven appearances, followed by Amber A'Lee Frost of Chapo Trap House at six appearances, and writer Patrik Sandberg, at five appearances.

Red Scare (1919–1920)

In the United States, the First Red Scare (1919–1920) began shortly after the 1917 Bolshevik Russian Revolution. Tensions ran high after this revolution because many Americans feared that if a workers’ revolution were possible in Russia, it might also be possible in the United States. While the First Red Scare was backed by an anti-communist attitude, it focused predominately on labor rebellions and perceived political radicalism.

While Arkansas was not immune to the Red Scare, it did see comparatively little labor conflict. Nationally, 7,041 strikes occurred during the 1919–1920 period Arkansas contributed only twenty-two of those strikes. This was not because Arkansas had a weak labor movement. In fact, Arkansas was home to the Little Rock Typographical Union, railroad unions, and sharecropper unions, among others. The lack of strikes was due in part to the positive labor legislation that existed in the state at that time. For example, in 1889, the state government forced railroad employers to pay wages in full to workers after they completed a day’s work. Laws such as this created a more progressive work environment for union workers—most of whom tended to be white, as non-whites were typically not allowed to join. Also, farms in Arkansas were generally small and family owned. While they did employ a system of sharecropping and tenant farming, most of the farms in Arkansas were too small to see the industrial strife that came with larger farms and big businesses across the rest of the country. Too, labor disputes in the agricultural sector, due to the prevalence of African Americans in the workforce, were easily racialized and, as a consequence, often brutally suppressed. A noteworthy example of this was the Elaine Massacre of 1919, during which members of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America were systematically killed and persecuted for attempting to resist labor exploitation.

Anti-Bolshevik Legislation
Though Arkansas did not exhibit the same level of labor conflict as the rest of the nation during the First Red Scare, it did follow the national trend of passing anti-Bolshevik or Criminal Anarchy laws.On March 28, 1919, Arkansas joined the majority of states in the union by passing Act 512, which read:

“An act to define and punish anarchy and to prevent the introduction and spread of Bolshevism and kindred doctrines, in the State of Arkansas.

§1. Unlawful to attempt to overthrow present form of government of the State of Arkansas or the United States of America.

§2. Unlawful to exhibit any flag, etc., which is calculated to overthrow present form of government.

§3. Laws in conflict repealed emergency declared effective after passage .”

Such a crime was a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of between $10 and a $1,000, and the perpetrator could be imprisoned in the county jail for up to six months. This anarchy bill was originally introduced as House Bill Number 473, and, on March 6, 1919, it was read in the House of Representatives. The House moved that the bill be placed back upon second reading for the purpose of amendment. The motion was passed, and the following amendment was sent up: “Amend House Bill No. 473 by striking out the words ‘association of individuals, corporations, organization or lodges by any name or without a name,’ as found in lines 2 and 3 of section 2, of the bill.”

This amendment was suggested for the protection of labor unions. The bill was then placed on final passage. This bill passed the House with little opposition. Eighty-two legislators voted in the affirmative, and only one voted in the negative. Only forty-two votes were necessary to pass the bill, and with eighty-two affirmative votes, the bill was passed.

On March 12, 1919, House Bill 473 was read the third time and placed on final passage in the Senate. None voted in the negative, although ten were absent. There were twenty-five votes in the affirmative, with only thirteen necessary for the passage of the bill, and thus it passed. On March 28, 1919, Governor Charles Hillman Brough signed the bill, making it Act 512. Brough was a popular speaker at the time and spoke often of his dislike for Germans and radicals.

Criminal syndicalism laws were also commonplace during the First Red Scare. Criminal syndicalism addressed and punished acts of violence or acts of advocating violence as a means of bringing political change. Many of these laws were in response to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or Wobblies) and their attempts to organize minorities working in the fields. However, Arkansas was not one of the states that passed anti-syndicalism legislation.

Effects of Anti-Bolshevik Legislation
Though the First Red Scare ended in 1920, both the state and federal legislation passed during that time lasted much longer. These anti-Bolshevik laws were used against socialist, communist, and union organizers in Arkansas a number of times in the 1930s and in 1940. The Communist Party of Arkansas reached its peak in the 1930s. Some examples include the 1934 arrest of George Cruz, who was an activist involved in an organization called the Original Independent Benevolent Afro-Pacific Movement of the World (OIBAPMW) the 1935 arrest of Ward Rodgers, who was a member of the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU) the 1935 arrest of Horace Bryan, a labor organizer and the 1940 arrest of Nathan Oser, who was the director of Commonwealth College.

Due to some positive labor legislation that existed in the state, the rural isolation of many of the state’s citizens, and the focus on racial issues rather than ideological conflict, the scare in Arkansas did not turn into the hysteria felt by most of the rest of the nation, despite the anti-Bolshevik laws and resulting arrests.

For additional information:
Dowell, Elderidge Foster. A History of Criminal Syndicalism Legislation in the United States. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1939.

Franklin, F. G. “Anti-Syndicalist Legislation.” American Political Science Review 14 (1920): 291–298.

McCarty, Joey. “The Red Scare in Arkansas: A Southern State and National Hysteria.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 37 (1978): 264–277.

Kern, Jamie. “The Price of Dissent: Freedom of Speech and Arkansas Criminal Anarchy Arrests.” MA thesis, University of Arkansas, 2012.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

The Cold War was sparked by the immediate aftermath of World War II. The Allied Forces were divided by ideology and quickly separated into two camps: the Western democracies, led by the United States, and the Communist nations, dominated by the Soviet Union. This alignment served as the basic framework of the Cold War over the next fifty years, from 1947-1991. As America positioned itself in opposition to totalitarian regimes, American citizens were forced to confront realities of what "freedom" meant, or should mean.

The Red Scare was a period during the 1940s-50s when Americans became anxious that Communists had infiltrated the home front. The public backlash against communism led Senator Joseph McCarthy to spearhead a series of public restrictions and trials on charges of treason. Groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, condemned McCarthy's campaign as an attempt to unjustly restrict civil liberties and free speech.

This lesson will foster class discussion of the American definition of freedom and the appropriateness of governments in restricting civil liberties in the pursuit of peace and stability. Students will be asked to connect these larger themes to past events, such as the Salem witch trials and the WWII Japanese internment camps, as well as contemporary events, such as the post-9/11 response to American Muslims.


Big Ideas

Essential Questions

What role do multiple causations play in describing a historic event?

Why is time and space important to the study of history?


Learning about the past and its different contexts shaped by social, cultural, and political influences prepares one for participation as an active, critical citizen in a democratic society.

Historical comprehension involves evidence-based discussion and explanation, an analysis of sources including multiple points of view, and an ability to read critically to recognize fact from conjecture and evidence from assertion.

Historical causation involves motives, reasons, and consequences that result in events and actions. Some consequences may be impacted by forces of the irrational or the accidental.


Analyze the interaction of cultural, economic, geographic, political, and
social relations for a specific time and place.

Contrast multiple perspectives of individuals and group in interpreting other times, cultures, and places.

Evaluate cause-and-result relationships bearing in mind multiple causations.

Background Material for Teacher

National Archive's collection of the correspondence between Senator McCarthy and President Truman

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Preserving American Freedom annotated entries for an anti-Communist and an anti-McCarthy publication

Good Night and Good Luck, a 2005 docudrama about journalist Edward R. Murrow's challenge to Sen. McCarthy's anti-Communist crusade.

End of Unit Assessment

Students are to write a 2-3 page response paper, contrasting the two groups (HUAC and ACLU) and their points of view. They should use evidence drawn from the two primary documents as well as knowledge culled from class discussion and the Good Night and Good Luck film.

Other essay topics might include a summary of the short- and long-term effects of McCarthyism or an analysis of Edward R. Murrow's quote, "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty."

Students could also research and write a biography of a famous American who was blacklisted following investigation by McCarthy or the HUAC.


Philippines Edit

In the Philippines, red-tagging poses threats to the lives or safety of its targets [10] and impinges on the right to free expression and dissent. [11] Red-tagged individuals also tend to become vulnerable to death threats [12] and allegations of terrorism. [11] The United Nations warn that red-tagging is a “criminalizing discourse” that undermines the value of the work of human rights defenders and places them at risk of violence and various forms of harassment. [13]

Communism has generally been viewed with disfavour and particular distrust by large sectors of Philippine society ever since the country gained independence from the United States on July 4, 1946. Shared ideological preferences with the United States, resulting from more than four decades of assimilation and exacerbated by the onset of the Cold War, has resulted in Filipinos being understandably predisposed to suspecting groups and individuals of Communist sympathies. [14] [15] This predisposition makes redtagging an effective tool used by players in the political arena, given that it authorizes law-enforcement agencies and the military to act on the taggings. [16] [15] [17] [18] [19]

Redtagging is almost never employed against foreigners, including members of ruling communist parties, owing to the principle in international law of noninterference in another country's domestic affairs. This can be seen especially in the government's cordial relations with the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and the Communist Party of Vietnam, [20] [21] both of which are ruling parties of ASEAN member states. ASEAN itself strongly upholds the principle of noninterference, [22] [23] given Southeast Asia's long and traumatic experience of division along colonial lines. One of the notable exceptions to the nontagging of foreigners was US citizen Brandon Lee, an ancestral-domain paralegal in the Cordillera Region. Lee was tagged as a Communist and automatically therefore an "enemy of the state", and was subsequently shot four times. [24] Liza Soberano and Catriona Gray, US and Australian citizens respectively, have also since been publicly threatened, the former with assassination and the latter with rape. [25] [26]

United States Edit

20th century Edit

Red-baiting was employed in opposition to anarchists in the United States as early as the late 1870s when businessmen, religious leaders, politicians and editorial writers tried to rally poor and middle-class workers to oppose dissident railroad workers and again during the Haymarket affair in the mid-1880s. Red-baiting was well established in the United States during the decade before World War I. In the post-war period of 1919–1921, the United States government employed it as a central tactic in dealing with labor radicals, anarchists, communists, socialists and foreign agents. These actions in reaction to the First Red Scare and the concurrent Red Terror served as part of the organizing principle shaping counter-revolutionary policies and serving to institutionalize anti-communism as a force in American politics. [9] [27]

The period between the first and second Red Scares was relatively calm owing to the success of government anti-communism, the suppressive effects of New Deal policies on radical organized labor and the patriotism associated with total mobilization and war effort during World War II. [27] Red-baiting re-emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s during the period known as the Second Red Scare due to mounting Cold War tensions and the spread of communism abroad. Senator Joseph McCarthy's controversial red-baiting of suspected communists and communist sympathizers in the United States Department of State and the creation of a Hollywood blacklist led to the term McCarthyism being coined to signify any type of reckless political persecution or witch-hunt. [6]

The history of anti-communist red-baiting in general and McCarthyism in particular continues to be hotly debated and political divisions this controversy created continue to make themselves felt. Conservative critics contend that revelations such as the Venona project decryptions and the FBI Silvermaster File at least mute if not outright refute the charge that red-baiting in general was unjustified. [28] Historian Nicholas von Hoffman wrote in The Washington Post that evidence revealed in the Venona project forced him to admit that McCarthy was "closer to the truth than those who ridiculed him". [29] Liberal critics contend that even if someone could prove that the United States government was infiltrated by Soviet spies, McCarthy was censured by the Senate because he was in fact reckless and politically opportunistic and his red-baiting ruined the lives of countless innocent people. [30] Historian Ellen Schrecker wrote that "McCarthyism did more damage to the constitution than the American Communist Party ever did". [31]

21st century Edit

In the 21st century, red-baiting does not have quite the same effect it previously did due to the fall of most Marxist–Leninist governments, [7] but some pundits have argued that events in current American politics indicates a resurgence of red-baiting consistent with the 1950s. [8] The United States government's measures in 2008 to address the subprime mortgage crisis such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program were not only criticized as corporate welfare but red-baited as a "gateway to socialism". [32] [33] [34] [35] Political activist and author Tim Wise argued that the emergence of red-baiting may be motivated by racism towards President Barack Obama and fear that the progressive policies of his administration would erode white privilege in the United States. [8]

Some commentators argue that red-baiting was used by John McCain, Republican presidential nominee in the 2008 presidential election, when he argued that Obama's improvised comments on wealth redistribution to Joe the Plumber was a promotion of "socialism". [9] Journalist David Remnick, who wrote the biography The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama, [36] countered that it should now be obvious that after one year in office Obama is a center-left president and the majority of his policies are in line with the center-left Democratic tradition. [37] In July 2011, The Fiscal Times columnist Bruce Barlett argued that an honest examination of the Obama presidency must conclude that he has in fact been a moderately conservative Democrat and that it may take twenty years before Obama's basic conservatism is widely accepted. [38] Similarly, author and columnist Chris Hedges argued that the Obama administration's policies are mostly right-wing. [9] [39]

In April 2009, Representative Spencer Bachus claimed that seventeen of his Congressional colleagues were socialists, but he would only name Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been openly describing himself as a democratic socialist for years. [40] Sanders countered that American conservatives blur the differences between democratic socialism and authoritarian socialism and between democracy and totalitarianism. He argued that the United States would benefit from a serious debate about comparing the quality of life for the middle class in the United States and in Nordic countries with a long social-democratic tradition. [41]

In May 2009, a number of conservative members of the Republican National Committee were pressing the committee and by extension chairman Michael Steele to officially adopt the position that the Democratic Party is "socialist". Over a dozen members of the conservative wing of the committee submitted a new resolution, to be eventually voted on by the entire committee, that would call on the Democratic Party to rename itself the Democrat Socialist Party. Had this resolution been adopted, the committee's official view would have been that Democrats are "socialists". [42] The resolution stated as follows:

RESOLVED, that we the members of the Republican National Committee call on the Democratic Party to be truthful and honest with the American people by acknowledging that they have evolved from a party of tax and spend to a party of tax and nationalize and, therefore, should agree to rename themselves the Democrat Socialist Party. [43]

On Wednesday 20 May 2009, supporters of the resolution instead agreed to accept language urging Democrats to "stop pushing our country towards socialism and government control", ending a fight within the ranks of the Republican Party that reflected the divide between those who want a more centrist message and those seeking a more aggressive, conservative voice such as the one expressed by the Tea Party movement. [44] Frank Llewellyn, national director of Democratic Socialists of America, argued that Republicans never really define what they mean by socialism and are simply engaging in the politics of fear. [45]

In July 2009, talk show host Glenn Beck began to devote what would become many episodes on his TV and radio shows, focusing on Van Jones, a special advisor in President Obama's White House Council on Environmental Quality. Beck was especially critical of Jones' previous involvement in radical protest movements and referred to him as a "communist-anarchist radical". [46] In September 2009, Jones resigned his position in the Obama administration after a number of his past statements became fodder for conservative critics and Republican officials. [46] Time credited Beck with leading conservatives' attack on Jones, [47] who characterized it as a "vicious smear campaign" and an effort to use "lies and distortions to distract and divide". [48]

How Hollywood Thrived Through the Red Scare

A young Richard Nixon started asking studio executives why they didn’t produce anti-Communist movies. The studios quickly responded with anti-Red films.

On December 2nd, 1954, Joseph McCarthy was censured by the U.S. Senate, a punishment for what many considered a reckless crusade against communists. McCarthy’s crusade had largely focused on the U.S. State Department and military, which he said were compromised by communist influence at the height of the Cold War. But the culture of suspicion he nurtured ended up targeting suspected communists in Hollywood as well.

According to historian Larry Ceplair, the attacks on Hollywood came in waves, the first of which was during the initial Red Scare of 1919, just two years after the success of the Russian Revolution. Then, in 1934, the Production Code Administration exerted pressure on productions that never saw the light of day because of alleged subversive content. For example, a production of Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, about a fictional fascist takeover of the United States, was cancelled by MGM after its script was critiqued by the group.

When Stalin made an alliance with Hitler in 1939, the powers that be in Hollywood became more overtly anti-communist. Walt Disney prepared a campaign against communist agitators, but became sidetracked as American involvement in World War II began. As a young actor, Ronald Reagan was elected leader of the Screen Actors Guild on a platform of purging communist influence. Famously, in 1948, the “Hollywood 10” challenged a U.S. House committee. These writers, directors, and producers declined to answer whether they were communists. They were blacklisted, unable to land jobs in the movie industry.

As the Cold War began, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee descended on Hollywood with a young Republican congressman named Richard Nixon asking studio executives why they didn’t produce anti-Communist movies. The studios quickly responded with anti-Red films such as Iron Curtain (1948) and The Red Menace and I Married a Communist, both released in 1949. None did well at the box office.

Author Jon Lewis argues, however, that Hollywood’s response to the various Red Scares actually solidified the business. While the Red Scare created negative headlines for the short-term, the long-term results were actually favorable to the business side of the movie industry.

According to this view, the blacklist served more than an ideological purpose. Lewis writes that the U.S. House committee which investigated communists in Hollywood helped corporate interests, based in New York, assert power over the movies. He notes that committee members were openly suspicious of Jewish interests in Hollywood, ready to believe anti-Semitic arguments that Jews were hostile to mainstream American life.

The Red Scare and subsequent blacklist, according to Lewis, weakened the influence of two forces working against corporate influence over Hollywood. The old, mostly Jewish, entrepreneurs who dominated Hollywood in the 1930s began to fade as corporations dictated policies, echoing the way corporations began to dominate much of the rest of American economic life in the 1950s.

This assertion of corporate control successfully fended off the growth of unions which threatened profits. As the federal government grew more confident in Hollywood’s ability to fight the Red Menace, it allowed the movie industry to go its own way, waiving possible anti-monopoly actions and allowing the business to establish its own rating systems, fending off calls for government censorship of content.

Through it all, the patriotic American public continued to show up at the box office throughout the Cold War. McCarthy died in 1957, his memory largely disgraced by his overreach, and the seeking out of communists in the movie industry evaporated by the 1960s.

Republicans Resurrect The Red Menace

Republicans have decided not to craft an official party platform at their convention this week, so in lieu of a detailed agenda for the country, its top minds delivered a simple message on Monday night: The GOP is for Donald Trump, and Democrats are for socialism.

Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle repeatedly decried the “socialists” running the Democratic Party, along with the “socialist Biden-Harris agenda,” which apparently would include shipping American jobs to China, welcoming sex traffickers across the Mexican border, the “policies that destroyed places like Cuba and Venezuela,” and, for good measure, “closed schools.”

“Their vision for America is socialism,” declared former Trump United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, adding that socialism is an experiment that “has failed everywhere.”

“They will turn our country into a socialist utopia,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) warned.

“President Trump is fighting against the forces of socialism,” intoned multimillionaire gasoline distributor Maximillian Alvarez.

This apocalyptic potpourri seems ludicrous to liberals and moderates who associate socialism with centrally planned economies, gulags and the Soviet Union. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are career moderates who have spent their time in public office defending the same neoliberal turn in economic policy that Republicans have pursued for the past 40 years, and they won their spots on the Democratic ticket by crushing their party’s progressive wing.

But to students of history, there is a certain paranoid logic to the latest Red Scare. Socialism is not, and never has been, a consistently defined economic program. It is a malleable political term whose meaning has been shaped through American history predominantly by its enemies, rather than the practitioners of any concrete doctrine. To the conservative economist Milton Friedman, progressive taxation was a socialist policy. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) once claimed that same-sex marriage was part of a socialist plan to attack “individual liberty” by extending government benefits to LGBTQ families.

Such Red Scare tactics were de rigueur during the Cold War, as they could be used to associate Stalinist butchery with whatever it was the right was upset about. Conservatives seeking to beat back the civil rights movement would rail that Marxists had infiltrated the NAACP, or attack Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a devotee of “socialism and sex perversion.”

The attempts to link socialism with efforts to dismantle American racial hierarchy go back much further than the Cold War, however. After World War I, hard-right members of both parties ranted against the supposed flood of “Judeo-Bolshevik” immigrants from Eastern Europe who planned to overthrow America. When white mobs besieged Black neighborhoods in several American cities in the summer of 1919, The New York Times and other news outlets portrayed the violence as a response to “widespread propaganda” from labor unions to convert Black families to socialism. “Reds Try To Stir Negroes To Revolt,” read a Times headline on July 28, 1919. Similar newspaper headlines accompanied strikes and other labor activism in the 19th century.

In American history, freakouts over “socialism” aren’t really about socialism. They’re about democracy ― and everything about democracy that makes American conservatives uncomfortable. Too many rights for the wrong people not enough social distance between the elite and the rabble.

And yet even on the hard right, the idea of America as a democratic beacon of hope to the world, founded on core democratic principles, is too deeply cherished for a conservative political party to openly declare itself an enemy of democracy. They need a different word. Frequently, they choose “socialism.”

In this light, “socialism” can be understood as any political movement or policy agenda that threatens the existing racial and economic order. And the right’s targets in this project have often been individuals and organizations who really were trying to bring radical change to that order.

The wave of immigration that swept into American cities in the early 20th century did include many people from eastern and southern Europe who brought their left-wing politics with them. The NAACP was not packed with Soviet spies, but it was founded by, among others, W.E.B. Du Bois and William Walling, who both identified as socialists. And while Martin Luther King wasn’t trying to convert the country to queerness, in 1952 he wrote to his future wife Coretta Scott that he was “more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic.”

Was the right’s objection to King really about the prospect of nationalized industry bringing an era of weak economic growth? Of course not. Nor are Mark and Patty McCloskey afraid that Biden will take over Facebook and Comcast and destroy so many hard-earned dividends. The McCloskeys ― two wealthy lawyers who earned an invite as RNC speakers after being charged with a class E felony for threatening Black Lives Matter protesters with guns in June ― were quite explicit about their concerns. They’re afraid that wealthy white neighborhoods will be integrated with everyone else.

“They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning,” Patty McCloskey told RNC viewers on Monday. “These are the policies that are coming to a neighborhood near you. So make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”

Monday night was not an aberration. Republicans will be screaming “socialism!” for the rest of the convention and the rest of the campaign.

In their own way, they mean it. Trump’s constant praise for dictators isn’t for show he’s serious about his authoritarianism. So long as he is running the GOP ― and so long as the GOP’s entire agenda is “elect Trump” ― the party’s chief organizing principle will remain its antipathy to democracy.

Zach Carter is the author of “The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes,” now available from Random House wherever books are sold.

The Red Scare: How Joseph McCarthy’s Anti-Communist Hysteria Left a Mark on the U.S.

During a 1950 speech to the Women’s Republican Club of Wheeling, West Virginia, Senator Joe McCarthy made a bold accusation: Communists, he said, waving a piece of paper in his hand, had infiltrated the U.S. State Department.

“I have here in my hand a list of 205 — a list of names that were made known to the secretary of state as being members of the Communist Party, and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department,” he said.

No one in the Republican Party had expected the speech to make headlines. Unaware of the content of McCarthy’s remarks, the party sent him to Wheeling as part of a nationwide celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, an assignment that signaled his lowly status. But that speech propelled him to fame as a central figure in the anti-communist movement that came to be known as “the Red Scare.”

Starting in the late 1940s, America became obsessed with rooting out Communists and Communist-sympathizers, using allegations that were often founded on tenuous evidence or outright lies. Deeply destructive, the Red Scare not only ruined lives and movements, but pushed the country deeper into an era of gossip, paranoia, and a struggle between national security and individual rights.

At the time of McCarthy’s speech, Americans felt especially threatened by the rising tide of communism amid the Cold War. Communist Russia had become a nuclear power and China had fallen under Communist rule. During this tense moment, McCarthy’s genius as a demagogue and manipulator shone through.

The author of Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy, Larry Tye, tells Teen Vogue that the senator had a “whatever it takes” approach to politics, with an eye on attracting attention and maintaining power. As McCarthy&aposs personal secretary told historian David Brinkley, the senator was “insane with excitement” over the speech’s press coverage and he had lied about the number of State Department spies. McCarthy continued to change the number from as high as 205 to as low as 10. Nonetheless, the American public was captivated by the senator&aposs claims.

𠇊mericans were afraid that we were losing the worldwide battle with the Soviet Union, and Joe McCarthy gave us an easy way to think about that,” Tye says. "We didn&apost have to worry about going and confronting the Soviets all we had to do was confront their spies hiding throughout Washington.”

Though McCarthy’s fears about Communists were certainly exaggerated, it’s unclear just how much of a threat American Communists posed to the U.S. government. A small number of probable Soviet spies, like Alger Hiss, were uncovered during the Red Scare however, historian Ellen Schrecker tells Teen Vogue that the 1930s were the heyday of American Communism, and by 1947 most spies had already been driven from the U.S. government. While American Communists were known as fierce progressive organizers, the party simultaneously maintained ties to Russia, even recruiting Soviet spies in the 1930s and &apos40s, according to Schrecker. 

But American Communists’ understanding of what was happening within the Soviet Union was often negligible at best. “They really had this bifurcated view of the world. In their day-to-day activities, they were out there on the front lines. They were doing good work,” Schrecker says. “So when the party said, &aposGo out on the streets and leaflet,’ they didn&apost like it, but they felt it was all for a good cause. So they smothered their doubts about things like the purge trials of the late 1930s in the Soviet Union.”

To say that McCarthy was the lone actor in perpetuating the anti-communist backlash oversimplifies this panic, which had support in all three branches of the U.S. government. At the legislative level, the McCarthy-chaired Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) held congressional hearings for people suspected of Communist allegiance. In the executive branch, President Harry Truman, whose administration had been accused of being “soft on communism,” established “loyalty boards” that evaluated and dismissed federal employees on “reasonable grounds for belief in disloyalty.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Red Scare policies, including a law that banned Communist teachers from New York public schools.

“If you identify [the Red Scare] with McCarthy, who was a blatantly erratic individual, you can say, &aposThis is something marginal, but the system was working and it all ended.&apos That wasn&apost the case,” Schrecker points out. “It was a phenomenon that dominated American politics, which mainstream liberal organizations — like universities, film studios, local governments — all participated in. It&aposs that collaboration that made it so powerful.”

Regardless of motive, the crackdown had the cumulative effect of strangling progressive activism. HUAC and McCarthy’s subcommittee hearings were notorious for their biased, undemocratic tone. The two committees coordinated with the FBI, which maintained files containing everything from suspects’ voter registration history to testimony from friends and employers. The attorney general also kept a special list of “subversive organizations,” including the National Negro Congress and School of Jewish Studies.

These hearings corralled their subjects in such a way that even remaining silent could be a crime. HUAC’s most famous case was the Hollywood Ten, a group of producers, directors and screenwriters called before the committee in 1947. After refusing to answer the committee&aposs questions, they were convicted of contempt of Congress, sentenced to prison, and blacklisted by Hollywood. Other defendants in the industry who pleaded their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination were also ostracized. If a defendant denied involvement in the Communist Party, the prosecution would bring in an FBI or ex-Communist witness who would insist the defendant was Communist, so they could claim the defendant had committed perjury.

To avoid jail and maintain their livelihoods, activists watered down their philosophies. The era had major effects on the civil and labor rights movements, forcing individuals to obscure their personal politics. 

One such case may have been that of Mary Keyserling, a feminist, labor, and civil rights activist who worked in the Department of Commerce. In 1948, Keyserling was brought before a loyalty board after, among other things, being accused of signing an “Open Letter to American Liberals,” which appeared in Soviet Russia Today in 1937. Despite being cleared of the charges, Keyserling’s case was reopened in 1951, after Truman broadened the grounds for dismissal. She was eventually cleared a second time, but left her job in 1953 and did not work in government again until 1964.

In an article about Keyserling, history professor Landon R.Y. Storrs notes that she was probably not a Communist, but her personal papers suggest occasional socialist leanings and Communist sympathies. After her hearings, Keyserling’s politics became less radical, which Storr believes was no coincidence.

“Thus did an enthusiastic Popular Front feminist of the 1930s become a Cold War liberal of the 1960s,” Storr writes. “It is conceivable that Keyserling’s ideological shift would have occurred without her loyalty investigation, but the timing points strongly to the influence of the accusations against her. The fact that we are left guessing is attributable to the loyalty investigation, since it led her to obscure her intellectual evolution.”

As this paranoia trickled from the top down to the American public, everyone from academics to dock workers faced scrutiny. According to Schrecker, an FBI agent only needed to go to the head of a college or university, hand them a list of a faculty member’s supposed Communist connections, and that professor could be fired or worse. For the more than five million federal workers who faced suspicion through loyalty screenings, being called a Communist had the power to turn them into pariahs, cutting off all pathways to employment. In the most extreme case, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage, were sentenced to the electric chair and paid with their lives.

The death knell of the Red Scare came when McCarthy accused the U.S. Army of harboring Communists, leading to a series of televised trials that exposed the public to his bullying tactics. Also, the Supreme Court began rolling back charges against individuals on procedural grounds. This, combined with the Army’s popularity as an institution, gave the public permission to question the intentions and rabidness of the anti-communist movement.

�ter you&aposre told so many times that there is a ‘red’ behind every government agency in Washington, and it seems to be disproven again during those hearings where it looked like McCarthy had a personal agenda rather than a national security agenda, I think that helped America start raising questions that it hadn&apost before about the legitimacy of the whole movement,” says Tye. “If you cry wolf enough times, people stop believing there&aposs a wolf or there&aposs a red out there.”

McCarthy was eventually censured by the Senate, and died in 1957 from health issues likely exacerbated by alcoholism. Yet anti-communist suspicion lingered. Into the 1960s, people continued to be prosecuted and sent to prison for being Communists even today, labels like “socialist” are bandied about by fear-baiting conservatives against liberal political figures. The U.S. is still susceptible to sacrificing democratic tenets under the guise of defending democracy. The Patriot Act, a law created after 9/11 that expanded the government’s ability to surveil American citizens, ostensibly to fight terrorism, turns 20 this fall.

For some historians, however, the most notable testament to the endurance of the McCarthy era is the senator&aposs resemblance to former-president Donald Trump. “I would have liked to have said we&aposve outgrown that in America. The last four years show that we haven&apost,” Tye says. 

“The good news is America has seen its better nature and seen through these bullies and liars," Tye continues. "The bad news is it&aposs not just a senator who can lead us on a goose chase it is even the president of the United States. So we&aposre willing to buy these simplistic solutions the same way we were with McCarthy.”


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