Posts Tagged ‘McCarthyism’

The Red/Lavender Scare

The Lavender Scare/The Red Scare.
This political cartoon accused President Truman of protecting “traitors and queers”. President Truman’s loyalty board refused cartons like this from appearing in the Washington Herald Times. The picture is an anecdote to Edgar Bergen with his ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy depicting President Truman.
Around the same time the ‘red scare’ was taking place in the United States fronted by Senator Joseph McCarthy. He used Communism to exploit homosexuals in government positions. A Senate report branded these people (homosexuals) with; ‘the lack of emotional stability which is found in most sex perverts, and the weakness of their moral fiber, makes them susceptible to the blandishments of the foreign espionage.’ (http://diogenesii.wordpress.com/tag/the-lavender-scare/ ). It was thought in the 1950’s that homosexuality was a mental condition therefore these people would be more susceptible to becoming a spy or they could be blackmailed if they worked for the government. Richard Hofstadter refers to this type of propaganda as the ‘paranoid style’, playing on people’s fears and seeing the fate of conspiracy in ‘apocalyptic terms’ with the threat of nuclear warfare. Eric Foner points out that anticommunism was a form of self defence against Republican charges of disloyalty and became ‘ at tool wielded by white supremacists against black civil rights, employers against unions, and upholders of sexual morality and traditional gender roles against homosexuality., all allegedly responsible for eroding the country’s fighting spirit.’ (Foner, E (1998). The Story of American Freedom . New York : W.W. Norton . pg256.)
Anti-Communism was a means of keeping the minorities within American society under control and prevented them from mobilizing through exploitation and oppression in order to maintain capitalisation in America.

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This image is the cover page of Red Channels, a pamphlet style book issued by the journal counterattack. This tract was published at the height of the ‘Red Scare’ or better known as ‘McCarthyism’. This increased fear of Communism was at its height during the 1950s and this right-wing journal that this image is symbolic of named 151 actors, writers, musicians, broadcast journalists, and others for their alleged Communist manipulation of the entertainment industry. This journal from June 22, 1950 effectively placed the list of 150 on the entertainment industry blacklist. This anti-communist groundswell of feeling actually challenges the concept of liberty and freedom as it is a restriction upon free speech and punishing those who are not of the same political opinion.  These measures could be said to be Communist to defeat Communism spreading in America and the red hand that covers the microphone in the picture was swiftly removed by the anti-communist movement in this period.

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US anti-Communism


This image is from the 1996 film of Arthur Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible. Miller wrote the play as a warning against the McCarthyism that was sweeping the USA in the 1950s. The play chronicles the events surrounding the witch-hunt in Salem, Massachusetts, in the spring of 1692. The story of mass hysteria, paranoia and powerful false accusations provided a parallel with the widespread witch-hunt that was going on against Communists and their sympathisers, real or perceived, in the United States at the start of the Cold War with Russia.

In the play, the girls who are accused of witchcraft are encouraged to confess and identify others as a way of escaping punishment. The committees tasked with rooting out Communists and their sympathisers also used these tactics. This led to many false accusations and perpetuated the idea that Communists had infiltrated the United States. The tragic end of the play is a warning against going down that road.

The play opened on Broadway in January 1953 and in June 1953, when US citizens Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, were executed by the State for conspiracy to commit espionage, the cast and audience held a moment of silence. The Crucible had a relatively short run compared with Miller’s other plays. This was blamed on the fervent anti-Communism of the time.

In 1956 Miller was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He gave an account of his political activities but he refused to name others involved. He was found guilty of contempt of Congress, fined, blacklisted and refused a US passport. His then wife, Marilyn Monroe, accompanied him to the hearing and, in doing so, risked being blacklisted which would have ended her career.

There have been other film adaptations of The Crucible but Miller wrote the screenplay for the 1996 version shown above. It features Miller’s son-in-law, Daniel Day-Lewis, as its tragic protagonist, John Proctor.

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