McCarthyism and the Media

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McCarthyism and the Media The Cold War ushered in a new era in the American society that would change the way in which everyday life was carried on by the public. Men, women and children were convinced to fit the “average” mold that was promoted through propaganda issued from the American government and media. Events, such as the McCarthy hearings and Hollywood Blacklisting, contributed to the overwhelming fear of nonconformity. The American public was bombarded with images of conformity such as the popular “family sitcoms” that were mass produced in the 1950’s. The insistence upon normality and conformity was also portrayed metaphorically in numerous Sci-Fi movies of the time which exemplified xenophobia, the hatred or fear of strangers or foreigners or of anything strange or foreign. The ideas promoted by McCarthyism and the anti-communistic sentiment of the times were meant to push people away from non-conventional ways of thinking. Anything that was the slightest bit left or radical or even new could be construed as communistic. After Russia’s rejection to the Marshall Plan, a strong wave of communist fear began to sweep the nation and was being promoted by the U.S. government and the media. The early development of the Russian nuclear weapon brought grounds for suspicions of leaked information and the discovery and conviction of espionage for the Rosenbergs only fanned the flames of fear. The 1940’s were plagued with endless magazine articles like “How Communists Get That Way” and “Communists Are After Your Child.” Even President Truman’s Attorney General stated “There are today many Communists in America. They are everywhere--in factories, offices, butcher shops, on street corners, in private businesses--and each carries in himself the germs of death for society.” The Cold War had created a fear that democracy was in danger and that the American people must take drastic measures to ensure the continuance of their way of life. The first step taken in searching out “Communists” in the U.S. was the development of the House on Un-American Activities Committee or the HUAC. The HUAC was formed in the 1930’s but didn’t really become active until the Cold War controversies began in the forties and fifties and would assist Senator Joseph McCarthy in rooting out the “Reds”. The HUAC distributed millions of pamphlets to the American public cautioning: “One... ... middle of paper ... ...ut these show subsequently influenced a generation into a new way of thinking and living. Families moved in rapid numbers to suburbia and wanted to be just like the Cleavers or the Andersons. The American public would never be the same, always reflecting on the perfection played out nightly on television and setting their goals to reaching that level of traditionalism. The Hollywood Blacklisting that followed the Red Scare of the 1950’s forced the media to change in order to survive the scrutinizing committees of the HUAC and various congressional committees that pushed for the social “purging” of America in hopes of searching out the “Reds” which they believed were hiding among them. This change in media came at a time when the public had become extremely receptive to such influences due to the spread of the television and the growth of the middle class who had extra money to spend on luxuries such as going to the movie theatres. The constant barrage of conformity and conservatism as well as xenophobia seen in everyday shows and movies shaped the perception of the average American to believe that liberal or radical ideas were not what normal people supported and believed in.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the cold war ushered in a new era in american society that would change the way in which everyday life was carried on by the public.
  • Explains that mccarthyism and anti-communist sentiment of the time were meant to push people away from non-conventional ways of thinking.
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