What Is the Red Scare?

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  • Written By: A. Gamm
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
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  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2019
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Red referred to the red color associated with communism, while it signified Conservatism. By 1919, it became an increasing concern for several Americans when it seemed as though Asia was about to be turned completely communist and when the Bolshevik Revolution occurred in Russia. Soon, with the help of anti-communist propaganda, a widespread feeling of panic and paranoia overcame several people. This resulted in thousands of people being arrested, detained, sent to jail, or deported. A second Red Scare spread through America during the Cold War.

With the news of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1919 and the spread of communism in Asia, several people in the United States became afraid that anarchists and communists would attempt their own revolution in America. At this time, patriotism and support for World War I became essential for most to prove they had no connections to any form of communism. Almost anyone who spoke out against the war or even workers unionizing became suspect of anti-American and communist behavior. It was commonplace for many of these people to be monitored by both neighbors and government.


During the time of the Red Scare, strikes advocating workers' rights spread across the United States. Socialist groups in America were usually blamed for starting the strikes, and participants were typically labeled as communist. By May of 1919, the American Legion was formed; its primary function entailed spreading anti-communist information and propaganda. Attorney General Palmer and J. Edgar Hoover also began a government level search for communist behavior.

The General Intelligence Division of Bureau of Investigation was formed near the end of the summer in 1919. It monitored suspected communists and tried to uncover conspiracies and plots against the government. The division soon arrested, detained and jailed nearly thousands of people. Hundreds were also deported during this time. By the new year, however, the anti-communist campaign began to die down.

After Russia and America united to fight Nazi-Germany in the 1950s, both countries soon began the Cold War. During this time, a second Red Scare started in which Senator Joseph McCarthy was the primary leader in the communist hunt. His effective method of what some may call random accusation was soon labeled as “McCarthyism.” During this period, several prominent Americans ranging from celebrities to government workers were accused of communism. It was not until he attempted to accuse top army officers and a prominent news anchor of communism that this Red Scare begin to slowly decline.


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Post 3

My parents still joke about "Duck and Cover", the drills they used to do in school in case of a nuclear bomb attack. They were always told that the Reds would push a button and we could be wiped out at any moment. Those overwrought propaganda films like "Duck and Cover" look silly now, but back then people really did believe an attack could happen without warning.

Post 2

My grandparents told me that the Red Scare was no joke. They grew up being very suspicious of the new kids at school, or the new guy on the factory line. People really wanted to make sure they weren't Commies before they became friends. The worst thing you could call another kid on the playground was "Commie pinko".

My grandmother said the entire McCarthy era was one of the toughest times in her life, since she had once went to a worker's rally with an old boyfriend and she thought he might mention her name if he was ever questioned. That's what a lot of people did to avoid prison time.

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