What Name Was Given to the Unreasonable Fear of Communism?
Most Americans were not greatly concerned with communism until the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia established the first communist state in 1917. The fact that communists had opposed America's involvement in World War I led many Americans to view them as unpatriotic. This, combined with government and media criticism, led to an irrational fear of communism called the "Red Scare."
1 Red Scare
The Red Scare flared up due to a series of labor strikes and three unrelated anarchist bomb plots, all in 1919. Often, labor leaders and socialists were lumped in with communists, both by the government and the media. The FBI was formed, under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, in order to ferret out any plots of communist revolution. By 1920, over 15,000 citizens were arrested on suspicion of being communists. These arrests were often without warrants and often those arrested were denied due process of law. Thirty-two states outlawed the Communist Party's red flag.
The Red Scare died down in early 1920, but fear of communism did not go away completely. In the late 1940s and 1950s, fear of communist revolution was again center stage in Americans' minds. The catalyst for this new Red Scare was Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, who claimed that large numbers of government workers were communist infiltrators. Liberal college professors and entertainers were also common targets of McCarthyism. Over 2,000 government workers and 320 entertainers lost their careers as a result of McCarthy's inquiries. McCarthyism lost influence in 1954 when the American people watched the Army-McCarthy hearings on national television.