Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective

Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective

Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective

Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective

Synopsis

According to newspaper headlines and television pundits, the cold war ended many months ago; the age of Big Two confrontation is over. But forty years ago, Americans were experiencing the beginnings of another era--of the fevered anti-communism that came to be known as McCarthyism. During this period, the Cincinnati Reds felt compelled to rename themselves briefly the "Redlegs" to avoid confusion with the other reds, and one citizen in Indiana campaigned to have The Adventures of Robin Hood removed from library shelves because the story's subversive message encouraged robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. These developments grew out of a far-reaching anxiety over communism that characterized the McCarthy Era. Richard Fried's Nightmare in Red offers a riveting and comprehensive account of this crucial time. He traces the second Red Scare's antecedents back to the 1930s, and presents an engaging narrative about the many different people who became involved in the drama of the anti-communist fervor, from the New Deal era and World War II, through the early years of the cold war, to the peak of McCarthyism, and beyond McCarthy's censure to the decline of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the 1960s. Along the way, we meet the familiar figures of the period--Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower, the young Richard Nixon, and, of course, the Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. But more importantly, Fried reveals the wholesale effect of McCarthyism on the lives of thousands of ordinary people, from teachers and lawyers to college students, factory workers, and janitors. Together with coverage of such famous incidents as the ordeal of the Hollywood Ten (which led to the entertainment world's notorious blacklist) and the Alger Hiss case, Fried also portrays a wealth of little-known but telling episodes involving victims and victimizers of anti-communist politics at the state and local levels. Providing the most complete history of the rise and fall of the phenomenon known as McCarthyism, Nightmare in Red shows that it involved far more than just Joe McCarthy.

Excerpt

There was far more to the "McCarthy era" than Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. We have sensed this, on one or another level, for some time. In the five years McCarthy bestrode American politics, some of his savvier opponents realized that exaggerated impressions of his importance made their task harder, but the capacity to perceive him on a merely human scale was not altogether commonplace. Although the premise that McCarthy was only part of a larger whole carries a burden of some banality, it is nonetheless crucial to an understanding of anticommunism in mid-twentieth-century America.

In this book, I have sought to place McCarthy and "his" era in perspective. Thus I have attempted to locate him chronologically in the continuum of twentieth-century anti-Communist politics. With deep roots in American culture, anti-communism flourished long before the Senator from Wisconsin adopted the issue in 1950. It was a hardy perennial in American politics before 1947, when historians who blame President Harry S. Truman and the Democratic Party for McCarthyism date the onset of anti-Communist extremism; before 1944, when the presidential campaign gave Americans an early sample of a political style commonly associated with the 1950s; before World War II, when the instrumentalities of the government's later loyalty and security programs were improvised; and even before 1938 . . .

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