A Brief Look at the Second Red Scare and McCarthyism


Sumayya Halimah

The Second Red scare was a time period in the United States, from 1939 to 1945. It was characterized by a fear of communism, communist infiltration, and the witch hunts of Senator John McCarthy. During the 1930s communism was growing in popularity.

Then the US implemented the Alien registration act. This made all activity related to overthrowing the government a crime. This primarily targeted communists and other leftists although it also was used against far-right groups as well. After WWII there was a lot of tension caused by multiple wars, a Communist China, Communists having nuclear weapons, and communist espionage being admitted. So, many Americans were worried about the dangers of communist spies. Senator John McCarthy took advantage of this and began accusing people of treason without any solid evidence.

His accusations had many people black-listed and fired. McCarthy fueled the Second Red Scare in a way. His accusations of trusted officials and the government of treason affected the American public greatly. The televised “McCarthy trials” were just one way the fear was fueled. Americans became increasingly cautious of potential spies and distrusted even government officials. Whilst the people were watching their neighbors, more internal struggle amongst government officials. There was tension between the CIA and the FBI director J Edgar Hoover. Hoover had accused members of the CIA of having a leftist history and he wanted an investigation done on them. This could be traced back to the first red scare in the 1920s when the groups had differing opinions on the soviet union and working with communists.

Eventually, things began to die down. The American people began to lose trust in McCarthy after he accused war heroes and the military. The Senate censured him and with McCarthy out of power the American public became less worried about Communist threats. Although the Red Scares were decades ago they still have had a profound effect on the American public.