The Red Scare Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

After the first so-called Red Scare in 1919-1920, when persons suspected of communist ties were persecuted by U.S. officials, yet before the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his infamous anticommunist activities in the early 1950s, there was the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which hunted out “reds” and reached its peak in the late 1940s. Revelations of Soviet espionage, particularly in the case of Alger Hiss, a State Department official, made headlines and brought attention to HUAC. Indeed, the Truman administration as a whole was accused by critics of being “soft on communism,” despite some explicit anticommunist undertakings (the Marshall Plan; NATO; the Berlin airlift) in Europe and elsewhere. HUAC investigated many artists and entertainers, particularly those associated with Hollywood. Its actions resulted in the blacklisting of many who refused to answer its questions along with several contempt-of-Congress convictions. Later on, HUAC was criticized for violating First Amendment rights and other abuses. Still, a number of political careers were made or assisted by membership in or collaboration with HUAC, notably the careers of Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

After the first so-called Red Scare in 1919-1920, when persons suspected of communist ties were persecuted by U.S. officials, yet before the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his infamous anticommunist activities in the early 1950s, there was the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which hunted out “reds” and reached its peak in the late 1940s. Revelations of Soviet espionage, particularly in the case of Alger Hiss, a State Department official, made headlines and brought attention to HUAC. Indeed, the Truman administration as a whole was accused by critics of being “soft on communism,” despite some explicit anticommunist undertakings (the Marshall Plan; NATO; the Berlin airlift) in Europe and elsewhere. HUAC investigated many artists and entertainers, particularly those associated with Hollywood. Its actions resulted in the blacklisting of many who refused to answer its questions along with several contempt-of-Congress convictions. Later on, HUAC was criticized for violating First Amendment rights and other abuses. Still, a number of political careers were made or assisted by membership in or collaboration with HUAC, notably the careers of Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

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