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Anticommunism and McCarthyism: A brief glance

Updated on August 1, 2012


During the late 1940s and into the late 1950s America was entering the Cold War and had become preoccupied in anticommunism. Foreign policy decisions would derive from the influence of anticommunism into policies such as NSC-68 and the reconstruction of Western Europe. At home anticommunism along with the media would help throw the American public into a sprawl of panic and fear. To a certain extent, out of this panic and fear would raise McCarthyism at hands of Senator Joseph McCarthy and fashion more panic and anxiety (Schrecker, 2004).

Anticommunism and McCarthyism

After the conclusion of World War II during the late 1940s and into the late 1950s, anticommunism grew from the thought and fear of communism spreading throughout the world. Soon after, a movement, known as McCarthyism, would develop leading to accusations of subversion from politicians to individuals working within Hollywood (Schrecker, 2004). The affects of anticommunism could be seen in America’s foreign policy decisions as well. The media’s coverage of anticommunism and McCarthyism brought panic and anxiety to the American public. To understand how the lives of Americans would change during this period also known as the second Red Scare an understanding of anticommunism and McCarthyism and it’s affects on America are essential.

Anticommunism and McCarthyism are two terms which relate to one another but have different meanings. According to Selverstone (2010), anticommunism is simply the belief communism is not an acceptable form of government. It is the opposition to the spread of communism and the principles of communism. McCarthyism, to a measure is a development from anticommunism, is an act of making accusations of subversion regardless of merit. Senator Joseph McCarthy was the chief conspirator of McCarthyism making accusations which damaged or destroyed the reputations of those accused (Schrecker, 2004).

The impact of anticommunism on American foreign policy decisions was evident. The United States set out on a policy of containing communism and preventing communism from spreading to the west and east with measures appropriate for containment including military intervention. Decisions and policies were made to reconstruct West Germany and Europe among other nations involved in WWII to help create democratic governments and deter communism. Some foreign policies devised from anticommunism include the Marshall Plan, Containment Doctrine or NSC-68, Truman Doctrine, participation in NATO, and the reconstruction ofJapanto counter China’s descent into communism (Schrecker, 2004).

These policies were a direct result of anticommunism or the idea of suppressing the spread of communism outside the Soviet Union. These polices gave America justification to give aid to countries to combat communism such Turkey and Greece and lead to American military intervention and war in Korea, parts of Latin America, and Vietnam. At home in America the perspective from which the media was covering anticommunism and McCarthyism engulfed the public in panic and fear of nuclear warfare, subversion, and the spread of communism (Selverstone, 2010).

Through movies, books, television, and radio the American public was able to visualize the dread of communism and nuclear warfare. These media outlets would provide glimpses of potential fallout from a nuclear war or potential communism overtake (Selverstone, 2010). News media fed the fears of many American. For example, in 1953 the Wall Street Journal published an article stating after reporting on possible espionage rings being caught in America, “it should never be forgotten that a real and difficult security problem exists and will continue to exist so long a powerful foreign empire is able to utilize for its purposes an international subversive movement” (Chamberlin, 1953, Pattern of Conspiracy, para. 12).

These negative perspectives helped fuel the second Red Scare. As another example, in 1947 the New York Times published an article which showcases the panic and fear of subversion. According to the New York Times (1947), a resigned rabbi worried about subversion called for, “the National Conference of Christians and Jews to investigate communism in the churches” (New York Times, 1947, para. 1). Some of the media’s coverage perspective of anticommunism and McCarthyism was in relation to the dangers of the nation becoming overtaken by McCarthyism (Schrecker, 2004). The New York Times states in an article, “democracy would be destroyed if totalitarian methods of fighting communism became dominant” (New York Times, 1953, para. 1). This quote exemplifies the media’s perspective on the dangers of McCarthyism.

Americans changed some facets of their lives because of the media’s perception of anticommunism and McCarthyism. Paranoia of communist infiltration had taken over many Americans. Americans prepared themselves for nuclear warfare by stocking piling necessities, practicing emergency drills, and building shelters. Individuals were afraid to trust others and some employers were in fear they would hire a person blacklisted as a suspected communist supporter. Many individuals had fear of being accused of subversion and having their reputation damaged or being found guilty of such a crime. To conclude, American lives were disconcerted during this era (Schrecker, 2004).

For Reference

Chamberlin, W. H. (1953, September 9). Pattern of Conspiracy: Operations of Soviet Espionage Rings, Two Still Going, Are Documented in a Senate Subcommittee Report. The Wall Street Journal .

Schrecker, E. (2004). McCarthyism: Political Repression and the Fear of Communism. Social Research, 71(4), 1041.

Selverstone, M. J. (2010). A Literature So Immense: The Historiography of Anticommunism. Magazine of History, 24(4), 7-11.

New York Times, . (1947, November 15). RESIGNED RABBI URGES COMMUNISM CHECK-UP. New York Times.



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    • Loreva13 profile image

      Lorenzo M Vasquez III 5 years ago from El Paso, TX

      You make a great valid point!

    • iheartkafka profile image

      iheartkafka 5 years ago

      A very informative hub. You mentioned that through television and the media, the American public was able to get a good sense of the "dread" that was McCarthyism. While this is certainly true in one sense, I think it's also ironic how the era of the red scare also brought us an era of television and movies that promoted just the opposite. TV shows, such as "Leave it to Beaver" were produced and made popular due in part because they steered clear of political matters, and, even better, promoted a sense of extreme conformity and "true American values."

      Thank for the useful, well researched hub!