McCarthyism and the Red Scare Questions and Answers

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How did fear of the Soviet Union and Communism affect American culture and society?

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Philip Arrington eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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After World War II, rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union intensified. The result internationally was the Cold War, in which the two countries struggled for the influence of their respective political systems on the other countries of the world. Domestically in the United States, this conflict gave rise to the Red Scare, during which Americans became paranoid about communist spies infiltrating the nation. This paranoia concerning the Soviet Union and communism had a profound effect on American culture and society.

The House Committee on Un-American Activities, a committee of the US House of Representatives, was begun in 1938, mainly to investigate communist organizations that had arisen as a result of the New Deal. After the war, it became more prominent as a tool to expose communists (or suspected communists) working in government positions and in the film industry in Hollywood. The committee's activities assumed high-profile status as it alleged that communists had...

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Following the Second World War the countries of the world were primarily focused on rebuilding and strengthening themselves to ensure such destruction did not occur again. For the Soviet Union and the United States this meant securing economic and political power and maintain a strong armed forces. A general air of paranoia came to influence each country's domestic and foreign policy. The Soviet Union and the United States were alike in the fact that they were attempting to gain international influence, wealth, and resources to ensure that they world reign victorious over any threat that can be conceived. The political, social, and economic ideologies of the two countries, however, differed greatly. The United States valued a democratic society driven by capitalistic and individualistic pursuits. On the other hand, the Soviet Union was a communist society that placed value on the collective good lead by an authoritarian leader. As two of the strongest nations to emerge out of the rumble of the Second World War, the United States and the Soviet Union aided other countries to help spread their ideologies and strengthen political and economic partnerships. As a result, the United States became a proponent to communism and the Soviet Union; the USA believe the spread of Soviet ideologies jeopardized the international power and influence of the United States. This sent ripples throughout American Culture as many became deeply paranoid of a communist threat at home and abroad. A sort of crusade began in America to expose and eradicate communist threats. In an event known as the "red scare" many American citizens including actors and politicians where accused and trialed for fraternizing with communism. American enterprise also changed to address manufacturing needs to support America's war economy and also to appeal to the comforts of the American public who constantly feared annihilation by a communist force. Politician campaigned against communism to promote American enterprise and gain public favor.