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What is Mc Carthyism?


You may not know the fear people in America had to cope with and how many careers and lives had been destroyed during that period. Indeed, it is when the McCarthyism, or the Red Scare occured. So what happened, why and how?

But in reality...

Mon, March, 7th

Little witches' newspaper

Paris, France


Wrote by Laure Fournier

America, the United States, the 50's. You must be thinking about the dream it must have been for Americans to live during that time. The development of music, jazz, blues, rock n'roll, the soar of cinema, of

science, you must see the USA as a powerful and optimistic country. Maybe you are even thinking "it was better before".

step by step:



The legend of witches and their hunt

The symbolic origin


The ascension of Joseph McCarthy

The peak of the repression


The expansion of communism in the world

The historical context


End and consequences

The final


The start of the repression



Modern witch hunt

The 40's, the fear growing

McCarthyism is commonly associated to a witch hunt due to what happened. However, it is also because a "witch hunt" has become an expression for an attempt to find and punish people whose opinions are

01: The symbolic origin

unpopular and who are said to be a danger to society. In order to understand this, let's plunge into the XVth century.

It is during this time that witches hunt was at its peak: people feared and rejected anything different from their principles, associating strangers with the devil. It is how they imaginated witchcraft and it is why every people accused of witchcraft has never been caught practising it: magic doesn't exist. Unfortunately, this fear led to thousands of

executions, whose 70% of them were women. Since then, the term witch has evolved and now refers to magic without the idea of evil behind. And because of the discrimination of people having different opinions or being different, the words "witch hunt" have become a more general expression to denounce injustices.

From the XVth century to the XVIth

+for more info!

The story of witches resulted in many tales and legends, but also movies, musics and books. There is for example a book, entitled Tituba of Salem Village by Ann Petry in 1991, who relates the events of the Salem Witch Trials.

Those trials happened when, in a village called Salem, a girl, Abigail, started spreading rumors about witches existing in the village. It scared people from Salem who had strong beliefs in religion and as the fear was growing, the trials began. People were accused of witchcraft just for some strange acts; they were brought to court, were asked stupid questions and if they confessed, they were enjailed; if they did not, people would hang them. A lot of the accused would confess, even if they did not do anything, just to save their lifes. Those trials lasted for a year until people stopped hunting witches because they had lost their friends and family. Also, the lower class was the one always accused so, after many trials, when it got to the upper class, people decided it had gone beyond the limit.

Those events are very similar to the ones during McCarthyism: let's discover how.

McCarthyism has its origins in the creation of a small communist party in 1919 in America that started to be active during World War II and the Cold War. The problem is this group supported the Soviet Union, the greatest ennemy of the United States at that time.

From the beginning, the American Communist Party (ACP) was criticized for its principles and ties to the USSR. During World War II, when the USA and USSR fought together against Hitler, some American communists actually spied for russians and it became known during the Cold War. Thus, by accumulating the unpopularity of the ACP, the hate forming against them for spiying on Americans and the fear of the expansion of communism during the Cold War, the repression started.

02: The historical context

The 40's:

03: The start of the repression

Quickly, in 1946, the president of the United States, Harry Truman, established a commission which purpose was to investigate on federal officials' loyalty, in order to identify those who shared ideas from totalitarian regimes as communism. This already shows communists were treated differently. In 1947, the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) ,created in

1938 by the United States House of Representatives, and the FBI (led by Hoover at the time) expanded the investigation to the citizens, monitoring suspects of subversive activities. If the person being questioned confesses, he/she is fired. It concerned everyone, no matter their position of influence, and it is when the investigation extended to Hollywood.

+ here some examples!

The Hollywood Ten:

Nineteen people working for Hollywood, as producers or screenwriters suspected of communism were summoned by the HUAC in october 1947: ten among them refused to answer the questions, evoking the Vth amendment of the American Constitution. Therefore, they were enjailed for about a year in different federal prisons from june 1950: it is a blacklist. The 25th of june 1947, MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) announced it won't employ communists anymore. It forced many personalities to leave the country.

America was far from the end of that period. Indeed the ambitious senator Joseph McCarthy traumatized the population, scaring them more and more about communists.

His popularity began to increase when he gave a speech at Wheeling the 9th of Februrary 1950. The press analyzed his numerous accusations, and McCarthy got known by everybody. In fact, he knew how to lie, manipulate and falsify when

he had to. Also, McCarthy chose to fight against communists, not because he was engaged in this cause, but for personal interests: he saw American were afraid of communism and he wanted to be appreciated by the population, he wanted to be seen, to be popular. McCarthy did not invent McCarthyism, it already existed since 1946, he just amplified it.

He accused the government to be too soft on communists. Thus in 1951, it was not

necessary anymore to bring a proof affirming someone was communist: a simple doubt on a functionary's loyalty was enough to question him about his political opinions. Blacklists multiplied, greylists mentioned suspicious people to avoid, those questioned about their political leanings had to save themselves from being enjailed in denouncing their close ones even if they were not communists either. The repression had become violent.

Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957)

04: The peak of the repression

McCarthy was too ambitious, his excesses led him to his fall. Indeed he leveled his accusations against the United States Army in february 1954, which discredited him. His popularity tumbled, everyone was outraged and the Senate accused McCarthy to act in a manner called "contemptuous". They voted to censure McCarthy on the 2nd December 1954. He died 3 years later from alcoholism, the 2nd May 1957.

There were many innocents victims during McCarthyism and a lot were imprisonned. Hundreds were blacklisted and thousands lost their job. Between 1947 and 1956, 4 millions of functionaries had been monitored and many prefered to resign. It really marked Hollywood as many people working for it had to leave the country, change their name, have really low salary if they could have one...

How it ended:

05: The final

The consequences:

Among 26 000 federal employees monitored:

Charlie Chaplin

Lester Cole

Edward Dmytryk

Lee Grant

One of the most famous actor in the world, he was suspected of communism in 1940 which forced him to leave the country; he chose to live in Swiss. In 1972, he went back to the USA because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded him an honorary Oscar

He was part of the "Hollywood Ten Names"; screenwriter, he was blacklisted and refused to answer the questions asked by the HUAC. He was emprisonned for a year and fined 1 000$. It broke him socially and financially.

He was part of the "Hollywood Ten Names"; film director, he was also condamned to 6 months of jail and fined 500$ because he was indeed a communist. He then had to denounce his friend to integrate society again but it never worked.

Actress, she criticized the HUAC which got her monitored and banned from appearing in movies and television for the next 12 years. However she was removed from the blacklist in the 60's and made a successful return to the screen




1925-still alive

+ go back to page 5!

Examples of consequences on Hollywood:

McCarthyism did discriminate communists but it also discriminated homosexual people. Unfortunately, this cause is still current and homosexuality is still not accepted everywhere. In Chechnya (russian republic) for example, homosexuals are kidnapped, emprisonned and tortured. In 69 countries out of 193 as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, Bangladeshi... homosexuality is forbidden

and punished. It is already a a terrible situation. Nevertheless, even in countries where homosexuality is supposed to be accepted, the LGBT community still undergoes insults and judgement. Homophobia is still pretty current in those countries even if it is evolving in a better way nowadays.

06: Modern witch hunt

Thanks for reading!