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Transcript of McCarthyism (1950-1956)
and the Red Scare
Why were we scared?
After WWII, the US had a great deal of anxiety about any form of government that was different than our own. The actions and policies of Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, and Trotsky terrified Americans and we feared that we were in danger of infiltration of our own government. During the Chinese Civil War, there was a very real fear that Soviet spies had come into our country with the express purpose to weaken us from the inside. As McCarthy began to find spies and supporters of Communism, the fears of an attack ran on high. After we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we worried that the science and technology was now out there for someone else to do the same to us!
Senator from Wisconsin (1947-1957) who was extremely active in the accusation and interrogation of Americans, whom he suspected of being spies for the Soviets or Communist sympathizers. He was censured in the Senate after there was a majority of people who felt these "witch hunts" and subsequent imprisonments were unnecessary.
Who was McCarthy?
His name has become synonymous with the "Red Scare"
In the 1930s, many artists, teachers, writers, and scholars started to think that the Communist approach to economy had some virtues. These more liberally-minded Americans, started to share their opinions openly. Many accused them of being anti-American, when in reality they were only stating the problems with Capitalism. Later, when McCarthyism was in full swing these people were brought to court on accusations of being anti-American and working with the Soviets to bring forth the ruin of our government and nation. One of the best known examples of this was known as the "Hollywood Blacklist", or the "Hollywood 10". Among them was noted playwright, Arthur Miller.
What does this have to do with
In addition to the persecution of suspected Communists, Soviet spies, and sympathizers, McCarthy is also remembered for his attempts to intimidate, and expel from government positions, persons whom he accused, or threatened to publicly accuse, of homosexuality. This lesser-known witch hunt is referred to as the
What was the "Hollywood Blacklist"?
Those who were brought to court on allegations of "Un-American Activities" were questioned about their political leanings, and possible Communist sympathies. The thought was that these individuals were guilty of putting pro-Communist propaganda in American films. If put on trial and publicly accused, one found it difficult to find work because they were blacklisted. One reporter, William R. Wilkerson, stated that if you were to see a movie that one of these individuals had been involved in it was a "vote for Stalin". Many were arrested or found in contempt of court because, even after proving themselves to be true-blue Americans, they would not volunteer or admit to any names of other suspected sympathizers. Sound familiar?
You may be thinking...
What happened with Miller? Was he blacklisted too?
How Miller got involved...
Miller in Contempt of Congress
Miller was sentenced to a $500 fine or thirty days in prison, blacklisted, and disallowed a US passport. In 1958, his conviction was overturned by the court of appeals, which ruled that Miller had been misled by the chairman of the HUAC. He is remembered as an icon for the McCarthy trials, as he refused to put himself before his colleagues and friends.
In 1952, close friend and prominent director, Elia Kazan, was called before the HUAC and asked to give names of known Communists in the Hollywood industry. He complied with their request and gave up the names of many of Miller's colleagues and friends. This action would irrevocably affect their friendship forever.
Miller leaves the "On the Waterfront" project that he had agreed to do with Kazan. He goes to Salem, MA, where he plans to do research for a new solo-project....
"[He] coulda been a contenda"....
Miller studied exact records and accounts of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, and found the similarities between the two witch hunts hard to ignore. He used the historic documents to create a play that received a great deal of attention due to its timely release in 1953.
Double, double, toil, and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble...
Allegory: the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence - or - a symbolic representation
Here's a little literary lesson...
"The Crucible" was written as an allegory for McCarthyism.
What does that mean?
and while I am at it...
What is a "crucible" anyway?
1) A vessel of a very refractory material (as porcelain) used for melting and calcining a substance that requires a high degree of heat
2) A severe test
3) A place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development
Tell me about this title..
Okay, so now the
fire makes sense...
After enjoying a great deal of success, the play started to open internationally. Miller applied for a passport renewal so that he could go and see the opening of "The Crucible" in London. His request was denied, and the McCarthy used the opportunity to subpoena Miller. He agreed to speak to the HUAC on the condition that they not ask him to give names of other suspected sympathizers. They agreed. When Miller and wife, Marilyn Monroe, went to Washington to speak before the HUAC, McCarthy reneged on his promise.
Read the New Yorker article, "Why I Wrote the Crucible" by Arthur Miller.
John Proctor, the hero of the play is definitively an allegorical character for Miller. His strength, courage, and resolve mirror Miller's response to the accusations against him by the HUAC. John Proctor is a historic figure, and his story is a true one. Miller's experience and reactions when brought before the HUAC were undoubtedly inspired by Proctor's story.
Miller = Proctor??