McCarthyism and the Red Scare Questions and Answers

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Was McCarthyism to blame for the "black silence of fear," and how did the impact of McCarthyism and anti-communist campaigns on American political life affect the media and popular culture? The legacy of anti-communism and McCarthyism is stark. They took their toll on the American left and the communist party dwindled into insignificance. Because political activities could get you in trouble, prudent folk avoided them. To the despair of intellectuals, many middle-class Americans became social conformists. A silent generation of students populated the nation’s campuses, while their professors shrank from teaching anything that might be construed as controversial. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas called it “the black silence of fear” that seemingly blanketed the nation, and meaningful political dissent had all but withered away.

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Certainly, the "black silence of fear" notion is a part of McCarthy's legacy.  I do think that one has to see how McCarthyism was part of the time period and not the only element that defined it.  McCarthyism fit so well within the 1950s time period because its social ethos emphasized conformity and capitulation.  This idea was a part of the social theory that helped to dominate the time period. Anticommunist campaigns were simply an extension of this social theory into the realms of media and popular culture.

One aspect of this social theory that cradled both McCarthyism and anti communist campaigns was the "other- directed" nature of American Society.  Sociologists Glazer and Riesman indicated in their work that Americas...

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