McCarthyism and the Red MenaceBy: Nicole Sarkisian

Anticommunist Logo


The upcoming election was approaching and Joseph McCarthy, currently Wisconsin state senator, was running for this position once again. Therefore, he planned to make himself notorious to the public in hopes that they would re-elect him. McCarthy was known to be an anticommunist, meaning he’s against control by the state as well as a totalitarian government. He opposed the act of all property and economic activity being regulated by the state.

The suppressing of communism had been in process prior to McCarthy, and the actions he took toward approaching it. It also continued after his period of stardom. The act of agreeing to eliminate the dangers of communism in America became known as, McCarthyism. It was believed that communists should be rooted out by any means necessary.

McCarthy Speaks of Democrats

The Red Scare

After World War II, communism was greatly feared in America. It was believed that communists were trying to take over the country. The public began to speak of the communists as being the “reds”. Communism took over people’s minds to the point where it was convincing that they were worse than murderers. This period of communistic fear in the United States became known as, the Red Scare (Red Menace).


How to Spot a Communist

The Rise of Joseph McCarthyMcCarthy gave a tremendously arguable speech in 1950 at Lincoln’s birthday lunch. During this speech, he exposed a list containing 205 names of accused communists, who possessed jobs in the state department. Although McCarthy came off as being relatively unknown, this speech casts the fire toward the United States fear of communism, resulting in it being a difficult task to stop. Immediately after McCarthy’s speech, Americans were anxious to classify and get rid of all communists from positions of power. Soon, politicians belonging to all parties began to oppose his claims in fear of them being assaulted themselves.
McCarthy’s next mission was to prosecute and root out all communists in what began known as being a “witch hunt”. Before this crusade started, people began to be convicted for spying, as well as any other activities related to communism.

McCarthy's "so-called" List

McCarthy's TacticsThere were a variety of different ways that McCarthy recognized supposed communists. Members belonging to organizations accounted for communist sympathizers. Some were colleagues of well-known communists, and a rising development of suspicion toward homosexuals also became known. Due to McCarthy's accusations, he was promoted to chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations. This gave him a higher degree of power to investigate suspected communists and sympathizers. The American public eventually realized that McCarthy used a severe amount of intimidation as well as prison threats in order to acquire information from people. He frequently had minimum to no evidence to support his claims. Most names were publicly released resulting in bad reputations and blame by association.

Attacking HollywoodAn abundant amount of people whom McCarthy blamed for having communists ties included major Hollywood figures such as actors, screenwriters, directors, and producers.
Entertainment Industry Blacklist:
A list of members from the entertainment industry who McCarthy suspected had ties to communism. The people on this blacklist were denied employment due to their political ties.

The Hollywood Ten:
The first ten members from the Hollywood film industry, who were questioned by McCarthy, came up with the decision to not cooperate with the case. Instead, they chose to claim the right of their First Amendment, the right of free speech. Unfortunately, this did not end in a success. Eight of these members were punished by a year of prison. The other two were given six month sentences.

The Waldorf Statement:
The Hollywood executives issued this to proclaim the firing of the Hollywood Ten.

Fifth Amendment Communists:
Due to the Hollywood Ten dispersion, future convicts claimed the right of the Fifth Amendment, which is the protection against self-accusation. Many were fired for these actions.

The $64 Question:
This was the questioned asked worldwide: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?"


Fortunately, the effect that McCarthyism had on Hollywood and the world have been documented numerous times on film. Many of the blacklisted members have written memoirs describing their experiences in great detail. Although many of the targets really did have communist ties, there wasn't much proof revealed regarding that issue until years later.

U.S. Communism was Ironic

Despite the absence of evidence and McCarthy's unreasonableness, communism was still present in the United States at the time. A large amount of people he investigated were eventually identified as communists and some even Soviet agents. The evidence McCarthy desired became available in the release of the Venona intercepts. These were secret Soviet messages that had been decoded in the 1940s, but not released to the public until 1995. The Venona intercepts identified communists including atomic spies, a United States navy captain, a powerful person who could hold a meeting with Roosevelt and Churchill, and one who held a high ranking office in today's equivalence to the Central Intelligence Agency. There were ten elder-level government officials who were suspected by McCarthy, and later shown to be a part of Communist Party ties.

Supporters of McCarthy

The supporters of McCarthy included a large percentage of the American public, The American Legion, the Minute Women of the USA, the American Public Relations Forum, and Christian organizations.


Opposers of McCarthy

The opposers of McCarthy included President Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Politicians of all parties, Edward R. Murrow, and the Communist Party.

The Fall of McCarthy

McCarthy's notoriety was broken through television. Although he had been brutally interrogating defendants in both public and private hearings, this was the first time the American public witnessed his actions through TV broadcasts. These hearings were on television due to President Eisenhower, who wanted the public to know the truth about McCarthy. The hearings showed McCarthy accusing Army Officers, Lieutenants, Generals, and the United States Army Attorney. As he gradually went one step further in his accusations, the public rapidly shifted their views of McCarthy. Insulting members of Armed Forces was going way too far. The Senate agreed to bring forty-six charges on him for the wrongdoing toward legislative powers. However, he eventually was censured only two of the charges due to the Senate not wanting to protect the image of being easy on communism. The resolution was that he had taken advantage of his power as a senator and he remained in office, but was left powerless. On May 2nd, 1957, McCarthy passed away due to hepatitis, which was a result from alcohol abuse.

The Funeral of McCarthy


McCarthyism contributed to creating an anticommunist hysteria throughout America. An increased fear came about that communists were determined to take over the United States. Innocent people were blamed, and punishments were given without proof to the crime. Friendships were broken, and individualism came into effect. Everyone looked out for their own being, even if they had to blame the people they loved.


McCarthyism took a powering impact on the people of America. Due to the suspected names being released to the public, reputations were ruined and guilt by association was present. McCarthy's reckless actions resulted in a 1957 Supreme Court ruling that protects the constitutional rights of testifiers during a congressional investigation. The results of Hollywood led to documentations on films as well as written memoirs. Careers and livelihoods were destroyed with thousands of men and women loosing their jobs. Civil liberties were being violated, and accusations were not fair. Hundreds of people were deported or sent to prison as well as two people being executed. The public became unstoppably crazy, with a fear of communism that will never vanish.


Works Cited:

Danzer, Gerald, Jorge Klor de Alva, Larry Krieger, Louis Wilson, and Nancy Woloch. The Americans. 1st. 1. Evanston: McDougal Littell, 2005. 822-827. Print.

Hanes, Sharon, and Richard Hanes. Cold War Primary Sources. 1st ed. 1. Farmington Hills: Thomson Gale, 2004. 166-173. Print.

Hoyt, Alia. "How McCarthyism Worked." How Stuff Works. How Stuff Works, n.d. Web. 30 Apr 2012. <>.

McMillan, Peter. "McCarthyism ." Spartacus Educational . Spartacus Educational Publishers Ltd, n.d. Web. 30 Apr 2012. <>.

Schrecker, Ellen. "McCarthyism." Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003. 181-183. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 24 Apr. 2012.

"The Red Scare: Mccarthyism ." Essortment. Demand Media , 2011. Web. 30 Apr 2012. <>.