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McCarthyism - Essay Example

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McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare Name Instructor Class Date The world had just emerged from the dark days of the Second World War. Widespread fear of foreign governments and ideologies were still at a heightened state in the U.S. Nearly every person had been personally and deeply affected by the horrors inflicted by a foreign menace…
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Download file to see previous pages Americans were shaken and afraid. The Soviet sweeping occupation of Eastern Europe occurred immediately following WWII. In effect, Russia replaced Germany and Japan as the American nemesis. The “Godless Communists” became a clear and present danger to a nation primed, ready and seemingly anxious to accept the Soviets as the new enemy of the “American Way.” Senator Joseph McCarthy seized upon this fear for, some would insist, purely political gain. He held hearings designed to weed-out subversives and communist sympathizers so as to keep America clean of communism. Instead, this time in history, the early 1950’s, is shamefully known as McCarthyism, a term that has since become a synonym for “witch hunt.” When World War II finally ended in 1945 Americans were war-weary and scared of a new threat, the Soviet Union. The Soviets had taken the place of Germany in the hearts and minds of Americans because it was emulating the aggressive, imperialistic tendencies of the Third Reich. The difference being the Soviets now had a military that more or less matched the strength of the U.S., was a larger country and had a long-established communist philosophy which it was also spreading rapidly throughout Eastern Europe. The Soviets also had the atomic bomb by 1949 and was increasing its rocket capabilities, a move than would ultimately pit the two world superpowers in the space race of the late 1950’s through the1960’s. The threat of nuclear annihilation and/or a communist takeover was very real in the minds of 1940’s-50’s America. The sales of backyard bomb shelters were booming and the propaganda machines left over from the Nazi era was in full production mode. Communists, known simply as “Reds” were feared and thought to be lurking just about anywhere, the guy in the office next to yours, neighbors, long-term friends and family. Communist theories were supposedly hiding within the meanings of literary phrases and all types of media including the news. “A curious process of symbolic transference was at work whereby symbols applied to Hitlerite Germany were projected onto the USSR on account of the dangerous ‘Red Fascism’ promoted by Stalin” (Sproule, 208). This era was not the first threat of communism in America. The initial wave of “commie” paranoia came in 1917 after the Russian Revolution. Anti-communist sentiment subsided during the 1920 and ‘30’s when it was replaced by anti-fascism. The “Second Red Scare” lasted from about 1947 to 1957. McCarthyism and anti-communist sentiments could not have gained traction without the high intensity propaganda campaign encouraged by the government to discourage subversives and by corporations in their effort to undermine unions. R.J. Reynolds, a large tobacco company, initiated a widespread multi-million dollar campaign to notify the country about the communistic character of labor unions, particularly the union representing tobacco workers. This tactic caught on rapidly with other industries resulting in plummeting union membership numbers across the country for several decades. This effort continues today but the fear-based term is now “socialism.” The U.S. and Soviet Union were firmly engaged in what is famously known as the Cold War. It was a fought on two fronts, a mass military build-up and a propaganda blitz. During this time of the second red scare, many local and state governments along with public schools and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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