Seeds: In 1947 on this day in history, the tensions were high, as the U.S. and the Soviet Union competed for international prowess. Taking advantage of a terrified America, Senator Joseph McCarthy accused many American citizens of being communists. The public took him very seriously and suddenly these accusations resulted in a several investigations conducted by the Congressional Committee. Many political conservatives targeted the famously liberal entertainment industry, claiming that many employed in that field were under communist influences. This resulted in the Hollywood Blacklist.
Core: The House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began interrogating several actors, filmmakers, and writers. Out of patriotism, or possibly more out of fear, many of those interrogated denied any association with the communist party and instead gave names of colleagues they suspected. Names of those in Hollywood interrogated included Elia Kazan, Robert Taylor, Walt Disney and Jack Warner. As a result, those that were suspected blacklisted and unable to find work. Hollywood even established a blacklist policy that banned the work of approximately 325 screenwriters.
Skin: Back in the day, a group of people in the industry named the “Hollywood Ten” resisted HUAC’s accusations, claiming that they were violating one’s First Amendment rights. By interfering, however, the ten had to serve jail time on the grounds of “obstructing an investigation.”
Leaves: While what happened may sound extreme to us in the 21st century, we must put this event in context and realize that the spread of communism was a very real fear for those in America, especially since the communist controlled Soviet Union seemed to be spreading its influence across Eastern Europe. With terror attacks happening in what feels like everywhere, it isn’t terribly difficult to imagine a world in which America's islamophobia would cause an effect similar to that of Red Scare. Should we be concerned about innocent citizens facing false accusations again? What are better ways to approach this fear?
Food for Thought: Do you think something like this extreme could happen in today’s society? Why do you think people feared Communism so much? Is that fear similar to Islamophobia?
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