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McCarthyism is a pejorative term named for Joseph McCarthy, a Wisconsin senator, who exploited the late post-WWII (approximately 1948-1958) communist scare by calling his political opponents communists (by which he meant a secret supporter of the Soviet Russian government); it has come to mean any tactic in which the absence of evidence was replaced by name-calling appealing to our fears, especially in debates of basic beliefs – in Miller’s play, the name of “witch” was enough to condemn someone without any evidence. Today, religious zealots call “godless” anyone who does not subscribe to their belief system – to call someone “non-Christian,” for example, carries many unfounded implications. McCarthyism exploits our often unconscious fears of otherness, advocating a purge of all subversive agents, and carries to an unrealistic extreme the differences between two opposing viewpoints.
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