Mccarthyism And The Media Essay

2545 words - 11 pages

The Cold War ushered in a new era in the American society that would change the way in which everyday life was carried on by the public. Men, women and children were convinced to fit the “average” mold that was promoted through propaganda issued from the American government and media. Events, such as the McCarthy hearings and Hollywood Blacklisting, contributed to the overwhelming fear of nonconformity. The American public was bombarded with images of conformity such as the popular “family sitcoms” that were mass produced in the 1950’s. The insistence upon normality and conformity was also portrayed metaphorically in numerous Sci-Fi movies of the time which exemplified xenophobia, the ...view middle of the document...

The first step taken in searching out “Communists” in the U.S. was the development of the House on Un-American Activities Committee or the HUAC. The HUAC was formed in the 1930’s but didn’t really become active until the Cold War controversies began in the forties and fifties and would assist Senator Joseph McCarthy in rooting out the “Reds”. The HUAC distributed millions of pamphlets to the American public cautioning: “One Hundred Things You Should Know About Communism” (“Where can Communists be found? Everywhere”). By the late 1940’s and early 1950’s the American public had been primed for the invasion of privacy and civil liberties that the HUAC and various other congressional subcommittees would commit in their quest to seek out the Commies.

In 1947 the first wave of hearings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities began. These hearings were mainly focused on Hollywood and the film industry. McCarthyism would take its biggest toll in this industry and would contribute to the creation of the infamous “Hollywood Blacklist.” The HUAC interrogated numerous actors, directors, screen-writers, etc, and countless films were reviewed by innumerable congressional committees in hopes of finding circumstantial evidence that would prove the theory that Hollywood was infiltrated by communists and that communistic ideas were being portrayed to the unknowing public in films and the media. The HUAC hearings subpoenaed countless members of Hollywood, many of which lost their jobs. In the public’s eyes, being called to testify meant that you were either a communist or were associated with one and that was simply unacceptable for many of the production companies at that time. The most notable victims of these are hearings and the only ones to actually go to jail were the “Hollywood Ten.” After the investigation and analysis of a few select films, Avah Bessie, Herbert J. Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., and Dalton Trumbo were found suspects in portraying communistic ideas and were subpoenaed in October of 1947. These ten individuals refused to cooperate with the hearings and pleaded the Fifth Amendment which had become a popular response tactic to the committee inquiries. In the spring of 1948, all ten were convicted of contempt of court and were sentenced to one year imprisonment. Upon the announcement of the imprisonment of the “Hollywood Ten”, fifty studio heads convened in New York for a secret meeting to discuss the film industries reaction to the HUAC hearings and imprisonments. The fifty business men decided that the film industries tie to the McCarthy hearings was extremely damaging for their public image. Thus, a statement was released announcing that “We, will not knowingly employ a Communist or a member of any party or group which advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force, or by any illegal or unconstitutional method.” This acceptance of the results and pressures...

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