McCarthyism, Entertainment and
the Red Menace1940-1950

**McCarthyism was known as the attacks, often unsubstantiated, by Senator Joseph McCarthy and others on people suspected of being Communists in the early 1950's. "Witch-Hunts and Anti-Communist Hysteria"

Joseph McCarthy

  • Senator concerned about the spread of communism in Eastern Europe and China
  • Believed that the loss of China and Eastern Europe was a result of "communist infiltration" of the U.S State Department
  • Accused over 200 "card-carrying" communist of infiltrating the United States government
  • His accusations increased the political tensions of the time and created a numbing atmosphere of fear and suspicion
  • Denounced Truman for "appeasing" the communists
  • On February 9, 1950 he made a speech stating that he had a list of two-hundred five people in the State Department that were known to be communists
  • Made chairman of the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate, giving him the opportunity to investigate the possibility of communist subversion


The Red Menace (Red Scare)The Red Scare is is known as a time in which Americans feared Communist influence in the United States from 1917 to 1920. McCarthyism brought about the Second Red Scare in the United States in the late 1940s.

**Anti-communist film.

HUAC: Un-American Activities Committee

The HUAC was originally established in 1937. The main goal of this committee was the investigation of un-American and subversive activities. This was an anti-communist organization that was fully backed by the Ku Klux Klan, and leaders of this organization too supported the Klan. At first, the committee investigated both "left-wing and right-wing" political groups, but eventually decided to concentrate only on investigating the possibility that communists had infiltrated the Federal Writers Project and other New Deal projects. The HUAC was thought to be the best way to decide if someone was trying to overthrow the government. In 1947, the HUAC started an investigation on the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry. Forty-one people who worked in Hollywood, eventually known as "friendly witnesses", were interviewed and named 19 people of holding "left-wing" views.

*HOLLYWOOD TEN* Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz,, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson and Alvah Bessie refused to answer any questions.They declared that the 1st Amendment gave them the right to do this, but the HUAC and the courts disagreed and they were all found
guilty of contempt of congress and sentenced to six to twelve months in prison. Roy M. Brewer was later interviewed by the HUAC in October 1947. He stated that he knew thirteen writers, actors and directors involved in communist activities.

Edward Dmytryk, one of the original Hollywood Ten, decided to try and get his name removed from the blacklist. He appeared before the HUAC again, answering all their questions including the naming of twenty-six former members of left-wing groups. He then revealed how several people had put him under pressure to make sure his films expressed the views of the Communist Party. If people refused to name names, they were added to a blacklist that had been created by the Hollywood film studios. More then three hundred and twenty people were added to this list, preventing them from working in the entertainment industry.
Several men who were a part of the Hollywood Ten


~Red Channels/Blacklist~
In June 1950, three retired FBI agents and Vincent Harnetta, right-wing television producer, published Red Channels, which was a pamphlet listing the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who were thought to had been members of subversive organizations before the Second World War but had not been blacklisted yet. These names had been accumulated from FBI files and a detailed analysis of a newspaper published by the American Communist Party named the Daily Worker. Every person named in the pamphlet was blacklisted until he or she convinced the member of the HUAC that they had completely relinquished their "radical" past. A copy of Red Channels was sent to every person involved in employing people into the entertainment industry.



Alien Registration Act:The Alien Registration Act was later passed on June 29, 1940. This "made it illegal for anyone in the United States to advocate, abet, or teach the desirability of overthrowing the government." The main purpose of this act was to undermine communists and other "left-wing" political groups in the United States. This act was the main thing used against communists. After a nine month trial in October of 1949, leaders of the communist party along with eleven other members were found guilty of violating the act. Eventually, forty-six other members were discovered and found guilty. They were arrested and charged for advocating the overthrow of the government.

McCarthy's ActionsBefore making his speech declaring that he had a list of two-hundred five people in the State Department that were communists, that list had been published in 1946. A group of three thousand employees were screened and found to be not only the two-hundred five communists, but some were fascists, alcoholics, and sex offenders. Some say that if McCarthy himself was screened, he would be put on the list for alcoholism and his sexual preferences. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI then began sending McCarthy information. McCarthy and his committee was able to investigate several government departments and questioned many people about their "political past." Many lost their jobs once admitting to have been a member of the communist party, and they only way they could prove they had deserted their "left-wing" views was to name other members involved. Many people fleed to Europe to escape these accusations and chaotic society. McCarthy too believed that there were anti-American books in libraries. McCarthy and his researchers found 30,000 books by "communists, pro-communists, former communists and anti anti-communists." He sent out a list of every single book and then they were removed off of the shelves. Then, in October of 1953, McCarthy began probing communist infiltration into the military. The president was furious with McCarthy's actions and was now going to try and end his schemes. He instructed the Vice President, Richard Nixon, to attack McCarthy in a speech he made on March 4, 1954. People from the media, cartoonists, and writers who were all against McCarthy now had the courage to make a stand against him and try to stop his actions because the president was too doing so. USAmccarthyism.jpg

Edward Murrow who was an experienced broadcaster, criticized McCarthy and his methods through his television program.

"McCarthyism is also used today as a more all-purpose term to describe the general practice of making false allegations, specifically of pro-Communist activity and most often based on irrelevant evidence."

Works Cited:
Hanes, Sharon . Cold War Biographies. Farmington Hills: Thompson Gale, Print.

Miller, Arthur. "McCarthyism." American Masters. N.p., August 23, 2006. Web. April 27, 2011. <>.

Powaski, Ronald E. . The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991. 1st ed. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1998. 82, 98-100. Print.

Ranzer, Marci. "McCarthyism." Encyclomedia. Traffix, Inc, 2007. Web. April 27, 2011. <>.

Simkin, John. "McCarthyism." Spartacus Educational. John Simkin, n.d. Web. April 27, 2011. <>.