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After the world war one and two and after the great depression, people thought that time had come to have different set of ideologies and social economical structures. They sort to know what had caused the great depression and how nations that had different social structures were impacted by the depression and the world wars.
People therefore classified some structures as being harmful while others were labeled as being advantageous. Communism was among those that were seen as disastrous by the American people, hence prompting all sorts of actions against it while specific people like McCarthy came up with specific ways of tackling the whole issue.
Anticommunism and McCarthyism
Anticommunism can be defined in simple terms as the disagreement to the ideas of communism. Anticommunists disregarded all the ideas that were put forward by Marx including the notion that the only stable social structure was communism, and that both capitalism and socialism were just transitional stages as society headed to communism. The anticommunism campaigns were very pronounced in the United States of America during the period when the Soviet Union was formed.
On the other hand, McCarthyism refers to actions that were taken to identify and eliminate those people who were though to be communists or sympathizers of communism. This was done because it was thought that communism was taking roots in the US government and that was deemed to be dangerous in the future (Oakes 1952). Though they both were against communism, anticommunism and McCarthyism had many differences and could not be used interchangeably as many people did or do up to date.
Differences between Anticommunism and McCarthyism
Anticommunism refers to the beliefs and opinions, whether political or social, that communism is disastrous to the well being of the society. Anticommunists believed that communism was misuse of other people and encouraged laziness due to its principles of equal sharing. Communism advocates for sharing according to everybody’s needs but every person should contribute according to his or her ability (Oakes 1952).
As far as Anticommunists were concerned, communism was totally evil and nothing good could come out of communistic countries whether the governments uphold democratic values, they attain power through war or the government is ruled by a dictator. Extremists thought that communism was equivalent to robbery since some people worked extra hard while others just sat and both got what they needed at the end of the day.
An anticommunist Senator known as McCarthy thought that communists had entered the American society, and they were even holding influential positions both in the government and the private sector. He therefore started a campaign to eliminate all communists from the American government and society in general. During this period, several people who were seen as applying communistic ideologies were targeted and blacklisted in a move McCarthy referred to as “un-American activity” (Oakes 1952).
He managed to obtain some political support for his activities and many employers, especially in the movie industry, feared for their reputation and therefore blacklisted names of anybody who was a suspected communist. The era saw many people even others who were genuinely innocent blacklisted and their reputations destroyed.
Media’s perspective on Anticommunism and McCarthyism
McCarthy’s ideas were popularized through media coverage, and they made headlines in newspapers as well as making stories in several radio and television stations. This became pronounced after the speech which McCarthy delivered on February 1950.
In the speech McCarthy claimed he had believable evidence that there were some communist in the American government. Anticommunism had gained publicity from the various campaigns that were taking place, and the coverage of these campaigns by various forms of media helped promote the idea that communism was a common American enemy.
During 1950s, it was common to have an item in the television stations or an article in the newspapers talking about anticommunism or McCarthyism. McCarthy was seen as a hero by some people with the progressive magazine quoting in one of its articles that, “McCarthy has dangerously contributed to strengthening the Communist cause,” (Brydon 1954).
Live coverage of the hearings of the committee that was to determine the authenticity of McCarthy’s allegations also helped in promoting McCarthy’s position in the public, as a person who represented the people’s fear of communism.
Therefore, the media helped highly in developing, shaping and promoting anticommunism and McCarthyism as America’s weapons in the war against the enemy that was about to engulf the community. Due to the media, McCarthy got public support which was depicted when one man who was being interviewed by the New York Times said, “Sure, I’m for McCarthy, I’m against communism. McCarthy’s a real American and he’s the only one in Washington doing anything about the Communists,” (Oakes 1952).
American Policy Impacted by Anticommunism
America regarded communism as a threat to the survival of the world if it was allowed to take root in any country, and therefore developed actions were taken to deter the spreading communism from the Soviet Union to other nations. The United States therefore sort to use diplomatic, economical or military policies to prevent the spread of communism (Harsch 1953).
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The marshal plan, which provided financial aid to European countries like France and Germany after world war two, was meant to prevent the countries in need from resulting to Soviet Union for support and in the process get introduced to communism. The wars with Vietnam and North Korea were also aimed at containing the spread of communism (Harsch 1953). On top of that, Truman policy also came into action to help any nation that was seen as susceptible to communism due to Soviet extension.
Effects of Red Scare
Due to the red scare, there was constant fear of attack from the Soviet whose people were referred to as reds, and everybody who was working in the government was screened to ensure his or her true alliance to the government.
Those people who were suspected to be communists were sacked from their job positions besides being black listed. This led to violation of civil rights and victimization of many innocent people who unfairly lost their jobs. On the political arena, people who sort elective positions had to proof to the public that they were strict anticommunists.
This also led to the silencing of the left side voices on important issues like free speech and other civil rights, because nobody dared to question the way suspected communists were treated or prosecuted (Brydon 1954). The ruling of the Supreme Court that the rights to freedom of speech to accused communists could be restricted as their actions were dangerous to the government in the case of Dennis v. United States, also contributed to the silencing of the human rights activists.
The formation of the Soviet Union made the people of the United States feel threatened both by the imminent spread of communism and the fear that the soviet was planning to attack the US. It was therefore just prudential to take caution which involved eliminating those who appeared to support communism, since it was clear that some soviet spies were in America. Though McCarthyism was meant to eliminate suspected communists, it ended up being more of witch hunt targeting individuals thus leading to unexpected outcomes.
Brydon, D. (1954, March 30). Progressive magazine bits McCarthy. The Washington Post, p.16.
Harsch, J. (1953, July 22). The affairs of nations. The Christian Science Monitor, 9.
Oakes, J. (1952, November 2). Report on McCarthy and McCarthyism. The New York Times, p. 12.