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"I hardly recognize this country anymore. The government's got us seeing Communists in our soup!"
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The communist menace. The Hammer and Sickle. Formerly a common villain source for Big Bad or henchmen villains in Spy Fiction, it's now a Discredited Trope since the end of the Cold War, although an even more Eastern revival of sorts is possible (see below). Instead, rogue former Soviet scientists tend to be in vogue in the role of the Mad Scientist who works for the Big Bad, as well as The Mafiya.

The Red Scare allows any of the presumably First World heroes to suddenly have counterparts in the (Communist) Second World or (non-aligned) Third World. The Red Scare can produce all manner of reasonably honorable characters that are nevertheless rivals of the heroes or antagonists simply because of geopolitics. Likewise, the Red Scare can include elements that are meant to invoke the fear of the Cold War as well. A General Ripper character is often seen in this situation, usually on the American side but occasionally amongst the Soviets too.

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Expect the technically inaccurate descriptor "Russians" to be used a lot. While much of the Soviet leadership was indeed Russian, some weren't, most particularly Josef Stalin, who was Georgian (and, no, we don't mean like Jimmy Carter); at the same time, some Russians (most notably the White émigrés) were actively ANTI-communist and aligned with the West in the Cold War. The Red Scare overlaps with Dirty Communists. Red Scare focuses on the overarching effect of the Cold War while Dirty Communists are merely horrible people that serve the Soviet State, but both are essentially tropes governed by propaganda against an ideology without properly dealing with what that ideology actually is, or what actual policies those governments have.

The Red Scare is different from works genuinely critical of the Soviet governments and specific aspects of the ideology. It only qualifies if it meant to invoke Cold War tensions and feelings against a "foreign" power, whether it's Russian, Vietnamese, Cuban, African, or North Korean communists. Communist China should also qualify, but since it became an American trading partner, this trope is far less in play, especially since China introduced market reforms and liberalism, and these days is usurping the place formerly held by Japan as a rising Asian superpower (see also Yellow Peril and China Takes Over the World).

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See also Dirty Communists. Brown Scare is an equivalent term for irrational fear of a fascist or right-wing extremists takeover, though less frequently-used, and far more rarely represented.

Subtropes:

Contrast Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell.


Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • The Blacksad album Red Soul takes place in the midst of a full on Red Scare. Complete with propaganda and paranoia. There's even a Joseph McCarthy Expy in one Senator Gallo.
  • Marvel has had a huge roster of communist villains, including the Super-Apes, led by the Red Ghost. In this case they ditched the xenophobic slant by making their commie leader a simpleton, and turning the apes into simian supremacists. In general, Marvel's communist villains were divided sharply along the Dirty Communists lines and The Rival.
    • Being a weapons designer, Iron Man had a host of these and (inevitably) so did Captain America. Though most of Iron Man's former villains reformed, while Captain America had his time as a communist basher retconned.
    • Omega Red was an X-Men villain of the Dirty Communists variety.
  • The Tick had a villain called the Red Scare that made a heavily modified appearance in the Live Action series.
  • Superman: Red Son
  • Evil Commies from The DCU are a little fewer between as DC preferred more fantastic stories than Marvel in the Silver Age, but some exist, such as the Red Panzer.
  • Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, which was blatant propaganda that had people gust burning straw to make it look like the actually empty factories were producing goods..
  • The Volgans of Invasion! and ABC Warriors - originally, they were intended to be the actual USSR, but the writers were ordered to change the names to avoid antagonising the Soviet embassy.
  • The Russian Mega-Cities, East-Meg 1 and 2, in Judge Dredd were frequently treated like this in the 70s and 80s. In one story, East Meg 1 invades and actually manages to conquer Mega-City 1, forcing the Judges into guerrilla warfare.
  • In one story by Wilhelm Busch, an "Inter-Nazi" appears (no relation to Those Wacky Nazis). Probably supposed to be an internationalist / social democrat. To further explain, "Nazi" is an old Bavarian and Austrian diminutive of the name Ignaz (Ignatius). Not surprisingly it has fallen into disuse since 1945...
  • The New Adventures of Superboy #26-27 (1982) featured a flashback to 1962, where Superboy faced Russian spies attempting to sabotage a Project Mercury space launch, which the Boy of Steel saves (in secret, at the request of President Kennedy). Superboy tells the saboteurs: "What your bosses print in Pravda about me is lies! I am not a hoax—and you will spend a lot of time in an American prison remembering that!"
  • The Fade Out deals heavily with The Hollywood Blacklist and how it ruined many people's lives.
  • Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, part of the Hanna-Barbera Beyond line, casts Snagglepuss as a gay actor caught up in the McCarthy Trials. In a sad twist, this universe's Huckleberry Hound was Driven to Suicide and Snagglepuss is blacklisted, but he's able to recover and decides to help Huckleberry's son out with his own road to stardom.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The notorious John Wayne vehicle Big Jim McLain goes so far as to endorse the Red Scare, showing Wayne's HUAC investigator unraveling a Communist conspiracy in Hawaii.
  • Bridge of Spies makes the American hatred for Communists in this time period abundantly clear; attorney James Donovan gets harsh glares and his family is threatened simply for doing his job of defending the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. There is also a scene featuring American schoolchildren watching a nuclear war safety video.
  • A recurring joke (and pun) in Clue. "Communism is just a red herring."
  • Good Night, and Good Luck. took a look at the Real Life Red Scare. Notable for having people complain that the Real Life footage of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy was "over the top acting" and accuse the producers of faking it to make him look like a Strawman Political. Another case of Reality Is Unrealistic.
  • The Hunt for Red October presents the threat of a rogue Soviet ballistic missile sub commander starting a nuclear war as the pretext for a hunt for a Defector from Commie Land.
  • This plays a big part in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is set during the time of the true Red Scare and features Dirty Communists as villains. When Indy's long-time friend becomes a traitor, the FBI suspects Indy himself, and he's nearly fired from his teaching job because of it. (The Dean manages to reduce this to a "temporary leave of absence", and resigns out of protest because of it.) A character that shows up briefly is Indy's former CO from World War II, who clearly thinks that the obsession over the Red Scare is absurd.
  • In the Vietnam War documentary In the Year of the Pig, the threat of communism is brought up multiple times as a reason to fight in Vietnam. Senator Joseph McCarthy warns of becoming "an island in a communist sea" if Indochina is lost.
  • James Bond and his films made use of the Red Scare even when they avoided Ian Fleming's Dirty Communists trope use. From Russia with Love, For Your Eyes Only, and The Spy Who Loved Me all deal with the West's rivalry with the Soviet Union without actually parodying the villains. Agent XXX from The Spy Who Loved Me was even a love interest.
    • The Renegade Russian trope was used prominently in the movies, in order to avoid insulting the Soviet Union.
  • In the Australian film Newsfront, Prime Minister Menzies calls for a referendum on a law outlawing the Communist Party, and enabling the imprisonment of any person that two Cabinet Ministers declare a communist. The leader of the Australian Labor Party opposes the law, saying it will lead to a police state. The newsreader threatens to resign rather than quote the latter comment because he's worried about being denounced as a communist himself.
  • The thriller No Way Out uses a Witch Hunt for a supposed Soviet mole in the Pentagon as the cover-up for a murder committed by the Secretary of Defense. The twist is that the protagonist leading the investigation is also the person they are trying to frame, and is actually a Soviet mole.
  • Rambo III is the only one of the series to explicitly deal with the Soviet Union.
  • Red Dawn has both Dirty Communists elements and Red Scare elements. The remake goes with the Yellow Peril version.
  • Red Scorpion has the distinction of being a Cold War movie made by a future government official.
  • Examined and subverted in the '60's comedy The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, in which the titular Russians have accidentally run aground on a small New England island, and are just trying to get a motorboat to pull their submarine free. However, thanks to the Red Scare, the entire island promptly whips itself into a frenzy over the Russian "invaders" and bloodshed is only very narrowly averted.
  • Trumbo is a biopic of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was put on The Hollywood Black List for his unapologetic Communist beliefs during the Red Scare.
  • Canadian Bacon is about the United States scrambling to manufacture a new Cold War after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Red Scare. They settle on Canada. Hilarity Ensues.
  • No God, No Master: The first is showcased in the film, as the result of the Anarchist Bombings.
  • Matewan: The film is set during the First Red Scare in the US from 1919-1920, so the company is terrified of 'Reds' agitating the workers, and are willing to kill to protect their interests against them.

    Literature 
  • Mocked in the John Wyndham Cosy Catastrophe novel The Kraken Wakes with the minor character of Tuny; she continues to insist the Russians are behind the book's ever-escalating attacks on humanity from the depths of the sea, when it's soon made clear they couldn't possibly be doing it.
  • In the Modesty Blaise novel The Night of Morningstar, published in 1982, the villains' plan turns out to be masterminded by a high-ranking Russian intelligence officer, with the hidden goal of easing the way for the USSR to annex Romania and Yugoslavia. He predicts that with him masterminding things the USSR will have Western Europe, including Britain, sewn up within a decade.
  • In Shanghai Girls, which partially takes place in The '50s,the Louie family is investigated for being Communist sympathizers. This happens because they are Chinese immigrants (only Pearl's daughter Joy was born in America) and because Joy is a member of a Communist organization at her college.
  • The Astounding, the Amazing and the Unknown by Paul Malmont has several sci-fi writers during World War II investigating Weird Science left behind by a deceased Nikola Tesla. At the same time the writers are under investigation for being members of a Communist spy ring because one of them wrote a pulp magazine story predicting the use of the atomic bomb (he got the idea from scientific journals). Two agents try to question L. Ron Hubbard on his connection with "known communists" Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.
  • E.L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel focuses on a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a Jewish immigrant couple accused of espionage, and their children growing up in the shadow of their deaths. Besides its fictionalized depiction of the Rosenberg trial, the novel's also notable for depicting the 1949 Peekskill Riot, where right-wing vigilantes attacked a concert held by Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger and other progressive activists.
  • The Rosenbergs also appear in Julian Cantor's The Hours Count, about a Jewish woman who befriends Ethel Rosenberg and attempts to prove her innocence.
  • Happens in Daniel Pinkwater's The Education Of Robert Nifkin, set in the 50's at the height of the real life Red Scare. All the teachers at Riverview High School are extremely paranoid about Communist infiltration and are constantly warning Robert to be on the lookout for Communist and gay propaganda. Although they are all portrayed as deranged and terrible people, they turn out to be right about the Communist infiltration — ROTC instructor Sgt. Gunter turns out to be a Communist blatantly reading Marx to his students, and gets fired for it halfway through the year. But Sgt. Gunter is portrayed as the only good teacher at Riverview and is idealized by Robert, who ends up becoming something of a Communist as well.
  • The Big Nowhere has the red scare as a key plot point. All three characters become part of a task force investigating Communism in Hollywood. The book frames it as opportunistic red-baiting as a scam to oust organized labour to benefit political careers and the fortunes of movie studio executives and mobsters.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: A few times it was Played for Laughs by Deadpan Snarker Miss Brooks.
    • In "Walter's Radio", after Mr. Boynton makes a non-committal statement about the weather, Miss Brooks snarks:
      Miss Brooks: There's a statement you won't be investigated for."
    • In "The Cafeteria Strike", Walter Denton starts a student petition against the terrible food in the school cafeteria:
      Walter Denton (reading the petition): Whereas and to wit...
      Miss Brooks: That's pretty strong language, isn't it? A little on the pink side...
  • In Babylon Berlin, this is in full effect in-universe. Trotskyist cells toil underground on perparing coups d'etat, Soviet secret police roam the streets looking for subversives to assassinate, and Communist mobs regularly kick off violent riots. In Berlin. Even the police has decided that murders involving Russians would no longer be investigated.
  • In early MacGyver (1985) episodes, this was played straight. After glasnost and perestroika began in real life, however, the show's Soviet villains became hardliners who hated Gorbachev and wanted to keep the Cold War going.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series's Chekov was an aversion of this when most of the Russians in television were of the Dirty Communists variety.
  • Occasionally a point of discussion in M*A*S*H — although given the show's setting, this was to be expected. One episode in particular had Communism as a focal point of the plot; Margaret Houlihan was being investigated for having been friends, in college, with people who later turned out to be Communist sympathizers. Also, on the occasions Colonel Flagg shows up, you could expect this to be at least mentioned, at most be the main reason Flagg shows up in the first place.
  • A Very Special Episode of Father Knows Best called "24 Hours in Tyrant Land", commissioned by the US government, had the cast pretend to live in a horribly repressive (read: Communist) regime, after not valuing democracy enough.
  • Mission: Impossible under various euphemisms.
  • The "Red Glare" episode from Cold Case.
  • Amerika, a 1987 mini-series that takes place ten years after the Day of the Jackboot when the Soviets took over the USA.
  • The Americans is set early in the Ronald Reagan administration, so this trope is in full effect. Also shown from the U.S.S.R.'s point of view, since the main characters are both KGB Deep Cover Agents.
  • The X-Files episode "Travelers" involves FBI agents in the 1950s investigating mysterious deaths resulting from secret government experiments. The main suspect (a State Department official accused of Communism) is arrested in an attempt to cover up the experiments, and Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover feature as characters.
  • Lovecraft Country: "Meet Me In Jaegu" focuses on this in South Korea during the Korean War. American soldiers torture supposed Communist agents or shoot them without trial and South Korean civilians hang Communists or shut down their businesses. Granted, this is after they were invaded by Communist North Korea. Still, it shows the height of war time anti-communist hysteria.

    Music 
  • Satirized by Bob Dylan in "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues", in which the POV character buys a little too much into the Red Scare:
    Now Eisenhower, he’s a Russian spy
    Lincoln, Jefferson and that Roosevelt guy
    To my knowledge there’s just one man
    That’s really a true American: George Lincoln Rockwell
    I know for a fact he hates Commies cus he picketed the movie Exodus
  • The Chad Mitchell Trio song "John Birch Society" satirizes the titular group, a fervently anti-Communist organization that finds allegedly subversive elements everywhere.
    The CIA's subversive! And so's the FCC!
    There's no one left but thee and we...and we're not sure of thee.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Many, many Foreign Wrestling Heels in Professional Wrestling. Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff, Krusher Kruschev, Boris Zhukov, and Nikolai Volkoff, to name a few. And just to play off the trope even more, every single one of them had a Fake Nationality. Even Volkoff, who was Yugoslavian rather than Russian.
  • Mick Foley, in writing his second Door Stopper Foley is Good, was quite concerned with the backlash to WWF content, and fearing that he might get in legal trouble (an accident involving a fire chair and a fan landed him in court) posed a question to the wife of WWE owner and Senate candidate Linda McMahon very delicately. He asked if he could legally say the hysteria from Moral Guardians and Media Watchdogs resembled Joseph Mccarthy. Linda was stunned at the insight and smiled as she reported one of their chief antagonists and critics worked for him. Foley went for gold and portrayed the likes of L. Brent Bozell as fanatics pushing the idea of wrestlers joining forces with the Martians and they are going to eat the brains of the human race, and Russia must be nuked before it can happen. (all true, Bozell's parents thought Moscow had to be wiped off the map to end the Cold War)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Sahuagin ("sea devils") are an evil underwater openly cannibalistic (in a sort-of-sensible way: their motto is "meat is meat") race. They are also very collectivist and address each other as "comrade".
  • Paranoia parodies Cold War paranoia: the whole of Alpha Complex is ruled by the Computer and the biggest perceived threats are Communists, followed by Mutants and the general catch-all Traitor. In fact, the only thing worse than being a Communist is being a commie mutant traitor.
    • Furthermore, in a universe where color is used to define rank and membership in a caste system, Red (the color/rank of typical Player Characters) is the second most common, just barely above Black (the bottom of the barrel, representing chemically mind-controlled drone labor that the PCs somehow rose above, usually through hard work accusing a fellow citizen of treason).
    • It should also be noted there are in fact Communists around, but they only exist because they decided that anything the Computer hates so fervently must have something going for it. Although their brand of "communism" follows the writing of John Lennon and the teachings of Groucho Marx.
    • And of course, the central irony of Paranoia: Alpha Complex is for all intents and purposes a Stalinist state, although the exact flavor of totalitarianism has varied from edition to edition.
  • Twilight Struggle, as a game based in the Cold War, has this trope as half the name of a card that imposes a -1 operations point penalty on all cards played by the US for a turn to simulate the counter-productive nature such episodes had on the US' ability to conduct itself in foreign affairs (the Soviet version is The Purge, meant to simulate similar circumstances).

    Theatre 
  • The Crucible famously was written as an analogy for 1950s Cold War paranoia (basing its analogy around similarities between those events and the Salem Witch Trials in the late 17th century). For writing it, its author, Arthur Miller (later Mr. Marilyn Monroe), was blacklisted for a period.
  • Personal Enemy, an early John Osborne play, focuses on an American serviceman captured in the Korean War who refuses to be repatriated after the war ends. Throughout the play his friends and family members are accused of Communism, hounded by HUAC agents and even declared to be homosexuals.
  • In That Championship Season, Scranton mayor George Sitkowski is fighting a tough battle for re-election against the younger, more dynamic Norman Sharmen. He and his former basketball coach, whom he still relies upon for life advice twenty years later and who regards Joseph McCarthy as a personal hero, have discovered that Sharmen has an uncle who was accused of being a Communist twenty years earlier, and plan to use this information to discredit him. George's former basketball teammates - among whom are one of his top donors, Phil Romano, and his campaign manager, James Daley - are sceptical, since it is now 1972 and no-one cares about Communists in the family anymore. Phil still tries to use this information to blackmail Sharmen when he refuses a side-switching donation/bribe, but Sharmen simply laughs and says it was his cousin, not his uncle, and hangs up on Phil.

    Video Games 
  • Destroy All Humans! parodies Cold War paranoia by making the citizenry brainwashed into believing all alien activity by the player character is the work of communists.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series is this trope made into a game series.
  • Fallout: Part of the backstory is that the Red Scare never ended, but instead of Russia, it was Chinanote .
    • The brand of anti-Communist madness that gripped the pre-War United States is particularly epitomized in Liberty Prime, a gigantic, heavily armed robot that broadcasts a nonstop stream of pro-American and anti-Communist propaganda.
    • When you visit Tranquility Lane, the fail-safe that ends the simulation and kills the people trapped in it manifests as Chinese commandos.
    • A communist-hating book chute, of all things, gives us a pretty apt summary of pre-war America:
      Book Chute: If you haven't found any communists in your backyard, you aren't looking hard enough!
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops takes place in The '60s, so this trope was a given, with missions including sabotaging the Soviet missile program and stopping a plot to attack the United States with nerve gasnote . Comes complete with a plot about a Manchurian Agent, revealed to be the player character.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has a rare case of both sides of the Cold War being afflicted with this trope (in other words, the trope being both played straight and inverted). On the American side, the American government was actually afraid that the less stalwart elements of the military/CIA would defect after The Boss managed to "defect" to the Soviet Union, even placing several key members under house arrest. On the Soviet Russian side, more specifically the Volgin faction, he attempts to justify his actions by claiming that it's either kill or be killed and that they should weed out potential threats in a manner very similar to the Red Scare in America.
  • In The Bureau: XCOM Declassified XCOM started life as a counter to communist invasion or infiltration rather than aliens. All bets are off when the Sectoids attack and XCOM is the Closest Thing We Got.
  • Team Fortress 2: The very patriotic Soldier believes that the enemy Heavy is a Communist. But only the enemy Heavy, not the equally-Russian Heavy from his own team.
    • Heavy himself may or may not be an example. He sometimes makes 'redistributing the wealth' jokes, and has a large hammer and sickle painted on the side of one of his miniguns, but his backstory implies that he considers the KGB to be evil, as they murdered his father, and sentenced him and his family to work in a gulag.
    • In one of the supplementary comics, A Cold Day In Hell, Soldier arrives in Soviet Siberia to convince Heavy to re-join the team. Soldier initially plays this trope straight, acting suspicious of the warm coats and soup offered to him by Heavy's family and allies, but apparently makes an exception for Sensual Slavs, very quickly ending up romantically entwined one of Heavy's younger sisters.

    Webcomics 
  • In Housepets!, Duchess asks Boris to approach King and ask if he has purebred papers so she could use him for a dog show. Apparently he only asked King, originally a human born at the tail end of the Cold War, just for "papers". King was a bit unnerved.
    King: Oh, purebred papers. For a second I thought you were asking for something else.

    Web Original 
  • Imagine if Joseph McCarthy's Un-American Activities committee had never stopped. That's one of the major turning points of A World of Laughter, a World of Tears, where the Red Scare doesn't end. At all.
  • The Chaos Timeline has its own version, with the Socialists governing western Europe and the Red Pirates terrorizing the seas.
  • Inverted in Reds!, where a white scare holds sway during the years after the Red Revolution. Complete with many newly-elected Republican and Democratic (the few who didn't go into exile with the Military Junta or joined Harry Truman's Democratic Labor and Farmers League) members of the Peoples Deputies being prevented from taking their seats after refusing to swear the new oath of office.
  • World War II: Episode 10 - "Molotov's Heel on Finland and Nobody to Fight in the West" mentions Communist members of French Parliament being detained in 1939 over concerns about national security along with thousands of Communist activists.

    Western Animation 
  • Jonny Quest TOS (1964-1965). Three episodes ("Arctic Splashdown", "Pirates From Below" and "The House of Seven Gargoyles") involved Russian or Eastern European Communist villains and three had Chinese Communist villains ("The Quetong Missile Mystery", "Terror Island" and "Monster in the Monastery").

    Real Life 
  • Downplayed in Eastern Europe and East Germany. Soviets liberated them from Nazis, while committing a few atrocities, then they installed satellite regimes, ruthlessly suppressing opposition. They also supported post-WWII reconstruction and modernisation of economics. After The Great Politics Mess-Up, former Warsaw Pact countries fell in deep decay. The phrase "actually existing communism" was deployed by many Eastern European intellectuals since they perceived there was a divide between them and Western and Anglophone intellectuals whose experiences with Communism was on the margins of society rather than its centre.
    • One side effect of the Red Scare was that it created a Crying Wolf effect when the West tried to point out actual communist atrocities. Most notably, the Cambodian genocide was originally dismissed by many as simply more anti-communist propaganda, despite the fact that it was Communist Vietnam that halted the events and liberated the survivors while Communist China, America's trading partner, backed Pol Pot, which aside from exposing America's blindness also discredited the Domino Theory that governed "containment" and revealed that communist movements were in fact diverse rather than a single monolith.
    • This experience of Red Scare persecution also explained why many American communists, and also Western European ones, remained silent on Stalin and The Gulag. The persecution experienced by them in Germany, Spain, America, France before the War, and the Soviet Union's support for causes such as African-American upliftmentnote  and anti-colonialist movements in Africa (notably Nelson Mandela and several others) made many of them reluctant to take the Soviet Union to task. Paul Robeson pointed out to the HUAC:
    Paul Robeson: Whatever has happened to Stalin, gentlemen, is a question for the Soviet Union...You are responsible, and your forebears, for 60 million to 100 million black people dying in the slave ships and on the plantations, and don’t ask me about anybody, please.
  • A feedback comment on an article on Fan Fic suggested, in all seriousness and in the year 2005, that supporting the right of fans to write Fan Fic made you a Communist. Not to mention this comedy gold of M.A.F.I.A.A. propaganda, which is a hoax but based on actual rhetoric.
  • The most widely known Red Scare in America was, of course, between 1945 and 1970 (after which the doctrine of detente, or peaceful coexistence, became standard for a time), and particularly during the early 1950s, when even being suspected of having Communist sympathies could get you fired for "Un-American Activities". Despite its popularity, it did have numerous vehement opponents, among whom was President Harry Truman. The big Red Scare died out along with its poster-child Joseph McCarthy's fall from grace. Indeed, Truman once said that, "I think the greatest asset that the Kremlin has is Senator McCarthy." Dwight D. Eisenhower similarly commented that the Kremlin ought to put McCarthy on their payroll. This view was reflected in The Manchurian Candidate, where an expy of McCarthy really is a Soviet agent working to discredit anti-communism and actively help the Communists seize control from the inside. Ironically, something like this actually did happen: Samuel Dickstein, a Democratic Representative from New York, was co-founder of what became the House Un-American Activities Committee, investigating Communists and Nazis in the 1930s. However, he later became an NKVD spy, feeding them information on anti-communists and fascists due to his position, while also turning against HUAC at their behest. Dickstein was only exposed long after he died, in 1999. He appears to have spied solely for money, rather than ideology (as isn't unusual).
  • As a result of McCarthyism, The '50s enjoyed a climate of paranoia where people were blacklisted, and forbidden from getting work in a government organization or in a field related to information (education, culture, broadcasting etc.) but the stigma of the blacklist meant that even fields outside this were reluctant to employ a known or alleged Communist. The paranoia extended to government projects and creepy things that NGOs created. This poster from the Keep America Committee calls the following communist: The Polio Vaccine (or, as they call it, polio serum), mental hygiene (psychology), and water fluoridation. One particular legacy is the motto "In God We Trust" replacing "E Pluribus Unum" in 1956, it was sponsored as a Take That! to communist state atheism, while this negative association is still used against atheists nowadays.
  • The biggest impact on the entertainment industry was of course The Hollywood Blacklist, which initially subpoenaed the Hollywood Ten (all of whom were card-carrying communists) and successfully intimidated the Motion Picture Industry to enforce the blacklist to "clean up the image".note 
    • The hearings performed by HUAC were technically useless since they already had all the names, and did not fish out "new" Communist revelations. They also spread their wings and targeted non-communists and general liberals since the number of communists at Hollywood was quite small (a large number of them, but not all, left after the revelations of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact). There was no evidence that the actual communists (most of the Hollywood Ten) actually engaged in subversive activities, since it isn't clear what valuable state secrets a hack screenwriternote  working under strict Catholic censorship could conceivably provide to Stalin.
    • Anti-Intellectualism was also behind the investigations in the Federal Theatre of The '30s, the proto-Committee under Martin Dies which accused director Hallie Flanagan of producing communist propaganda for producing plays by Christopher Marlowe and Euripides, authors HUAC felt promoted class warfare. In the early '40s, before America's entry into World War II, several isolationist Senators launched a probe of Hollywood producing antifascist films that they considered unduly left-wing. They were humiliated when a studio defense counsel questioned the Senators whether they'd actually seen the films in question (Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Man Hunt, etc.) and the Senators sheepishly admitted they hadn't. The investigation ended shortly afterwards.
  • Of course, there were communist spies, but the biggest catch, that of Alger Hiss, was exposed before McCarthy's Witch Hunt revved-up, and it's highly debated among historians exactly how effective these American Communist spies were as informants. High-placed Soviet agents like Hiss and Harry Dexter White, Roosevelt's undersecretary of the Treasury, were considered suspicious less for their access to government secrets than the idea that they might influence American policy towards the Soviet Union, a much harder issue to measure. Hiss, for instance, was blamed for the outcome of the Yalta Conference between FDR and Stalin, even though he played little role in the negotiations there (and at any rate, the "sellout" of Poland and other eastern European states to Stalin was arguably more the doing of Churchill than Roosevelt), while White actually become president of the International Monetary Fund and discouraged American consideration of a more socialist economic system after the war. Similarly, efforts to prove that progressive and pro-Communist diplomats caused China to fall to Communism were largely discredited, which didn't stop Republicans from adopting "Who Lost China?" as a campaign slogan throughout the '50s.
    • In terms of atomic secrets, the Cambridge Five in England were far bigger coups for the Kremlin than anyone in the States. It was the German scientist Klaus Fuchs who gave the crucial information that sped up the Soviet atomic program (yet he was imprisoned where the Rosenbergs, who were not as decisive, were executed). The role played by espionage in determining the Soviet program is also debated, since the Soviets discovered the Manhattan Project by simple deduction on the part of its physicists.note  Likewise, historians also note that Stalin was too busy during the war to actually devote attention to the atomic program and that it was after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings that he started devoting greater resources to it. The program also based itself on Nazi Germany's own nuclear program and the Soviet Union scooping up their stash of German scientists and technicians after the war (much like the Americans got Werner Von Braun).
    • Leaked KGB documents later showed that Soviet intelligence services benefited from the Red Scare because (a) it focused on people who were apparently communists when many spies are motivated by purely non-ideological motives like money, blackmail, or personal vendetta and (b) the (deserved) backlash against McCarthy gave them cover because people would assume that an accusation was just another witch hunt.
  • The ugly consequences of the Red Scare was the fact that the likes of McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover used the word Communist to justify repressive surveillance to counter actual social reform programs. The Civil Rights Movement and the advocacy by African-Americans for integration and equality, despite wide bi-partisan support, was tagged "communist" and the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. was investigated by Hoover as a communist spy, and Hoover spent most of his time in The '50s spying on local movements rather than tackling organized crime such as The Mafia, which greatly benefited from the distraction of federal government. On a global scale, American fears about communist expansion led them to sponsor and back several repressive regimes and governments, and sponsor coup d'etats in Chile and Iran. This later involved Operation Condor, which used anti-Communism as an excuse to come to power and enforce oppressive policies, the effects of which obviously extended beyond supposed sympathizers and party members. The operation itself was a brutal crackdown on Communism in those countries, and once again its effects extended way beyond that.
  • Concurrent with the anti-communist witch hunt was one against homosexuals employed by the government, the so-called "Lavender Scare". The first reason for purging them was, as you'd guess, simple homophobia (they were declared "not proper persons" to employ). Secondly, because being openly homosexual could get you fired, they were vulnerable to blackmail by foreign agents who could coerce them to pass along information or be exposed. This rested on a catch-22, of course-they were only vulnerable in this way because they could not be open about their orientation. Perhaps ironically, McCarthy's chief counsel Roy Cohn was himself strongly rumored to be a closet homosexual, and this was a rumor present even in those days. The Army-McCarthy hearings, which arose when Cohn was unable to get a male friend (whom he was rumored to have a relationship with) exempted from military service causing McCarthy to accuse them of using this to interfere with his investigation of them, saw Army counsel Joseph N. Welch allude to this, infuriating Cohn. Since the hearings were broadcast on live TV, the public was exposed to McCarthy's tactics directly, contributing to his fall from grace, along with Cohn. Roy Cohn eventually died of AIDS-related illness in 1986, while still denying that he was a homosexual. Also ironically, the actual Soviet Union persecuted homosexuals as well, but the Soviets did it with the idea that homosexuality was "bourgeois decadence". It's worth noting that Communism has no position on gay people as an ideology: Russian society was at fault, as homophobia dated prior to the U.S.S.R. Bourgeois decadence was just an excuse. Initially the Bolsheviks had a more tolerant attitude, too, decriminalizing homosexual sex. This was later banned again by Stalin.
  • The Red Scare is Older Than They Think; a period in 1919-1920 was called the First Red Scare. The Palmer Raids were carried out under the Wilson Administration during this time to crack down on Communists, anarchists, leftists, and various other radicals and anti-war activists. They make the McCarthy hearings look like an Oxford Union debate. Thousands of resident aliens were deported for their political beliefs, with many others imprisoned. Some states went so far as to outlaw even advocating certain political beliefs under "criminal syndicalism" laws. Like the second Red Scare it arose from a genuine threat (the 1919 anarchist bombings) but then got completely out of control.
  • Of course the Red Scare is Older Than They Think, and it has been going on since the 1850s, ever since labor rights became a large issue. A good example would be the Chartist movement in England, as well as the various debtor's prison which was abused by the government to deport radical agitators among the working classes to Australia (and wrongly coloring the perception of "criminals" who settled there).
    • In the continent this was a backlash against The Enlightenment, The French Revolution and Revolutions of 1848, which had campaigns of White Terror against agitators, Jacobins and working-class rebels, who were either killed by armed thugs, deported to distant colonies, shot by occupying armies and in the case of the Paris Commune of 1871 (which killed nearly as many people as the Reign of Terror) submitted to a bloody purge. Karl Marx was himself a victim of this persecution since he was exiled from Germany and France to England for these reasons, and it was a key reason why Marx was reluctant to rule out violence. Marx, along with his partner, Engels, spent the rest of their lives in exile.
    • Indeed Fascism owed its appeal largely to its strict anti-Communist policies. Italy had its Red Scare after World War I, ending in 1922 with Benito Mussolini taking over the country. Due to the Italian people still remembering what happened the first time, post-World War II attempts at igniting a new one failed miserably, to the point that during the Cold War Italy had the strongest Communist Party of NATO, a party that was actually in power for a while, and which because it parted ways with the Soviet Union over the invasion of Czechoslovaka, allowed it to retain much of its prestige. The Communist Party of France had a similar prestige, to some extent because the Communists had played a very large role in the Resistance during World War Two.
    • Adolf Hitler did it too! Actually, Hitler's opposition to both systems rested on the assertion that they were controlled by Jews. The NSDAP's membership numbers were boosted by men who previously joined free corps and militias that fought communist uprisings and "Soviet Republics" such as the one of Bavaria, after said free corps and militias were outlawed. Later, the Nazi seizure of power came about from capitalizing upon the Reichstag Fire, an arson a Dutch communist committed, burning down the building. This let them get President Paul von Hindenburg to suspend legal rights. All Communists and most of the Social Democrats were rounded up by claiming they were involved (this was never proven). He used their absence to later have himself be given dictatorial powers by the Reichstag, with only the remaining Social Democrats voting against (others had been bribed or threatened to vote for this). The German Communists and Social Democrats were then all put in concentration camps, or fled abroad (mostly to the USSR). Opposition to "Judeo-Bolshevism" as the Nazis called it, was a core part of Nazism, and remained a strong motivating force in their actions, up into World War II.
    • A similar "White Terror" happened in Taiwan, except that one ended up with a lot more people in prison (it didn't help that Red China got very, very close to retaking Taiwan after the Nationalists fled there and the threat of invasion was quite real for some time).
  • Finland had its most notable Red Scare after the Civil war in 1918, which the socialist Reds lost. The communist party was banned and the Investigative Central Police started hunting Soviet spies. Ironically, the anti-communist Lapua movement became a much bigger threat to peace and order during the 1930s and the government re-focused on suppressing right-wing extremism. Also interesting to note: the vast majority of Finnish communists sided with their homeland during the Winter War (the Soviet invasion of Finland early in World War II). Other Finns expected them to side with their fellow communists (aka the Soviets), but the Finnish commies had no intention of siding with Josef Stalin after his purges.
  • The Weimar Republic had this to a certain degree: if you compare the sentences for politically-motivated murder during that time, you'll find out that a member of the left-wing who killed a member of the right-wing was likely to be punished harder than a member of the right-wing killing a member of the left wing. Society had a certain fear of Communism, and like the prejudices against Jews during that time, Hitler used this whenever he could.
  • Francis E. Dec, a schizophrenic with a cult following (like Plan 9 from Outer Space cult following, not Church of Happyology cult following), was so worried about the Red Scare that he tore down his brother's house's red wallpaper, and then spent months scraping the red paint that was underneath off. Granted, when the Communists are in league with the Mafia, Catholics, atheists, Nazis, Jews, blacks, the medical community, and the CIA, all under leadership of the Mad Deadly Frankenstein Computer God and for the sake of killing (or "sneak executing") Dec, you take that shit seriously.
  • The Red Scare was used to legitimate the Suharto military regime in Indonesia- by accusing those who didn't agree with the government of being a Communist-aligned sleeper cell and a threat to Indonesia that must be removed. He proceeded to rule Indonesia for 32 years (1966-1998) after he toppled the previous government in a CIA-backed coup, during the escalation of The Vietnam War. These days "Awas Bahaya Laten PKI" (Beware of the latent danger of PKI, PKI being Partai Komunis Indonesia/Indonesian Communist Party) is still around as a Catchphrase, although it's mostly dead save for ultraconservatives, satirists, and conspiracy theorists.
    • To elaborate: The previous president, Soekarno, had a staunch anti-western policy and declared NASAKOM (nationalism, religion, and communism) as the main ideology of Indonesia (displacing Pancasila, which is the official ideology). On September 30th 1965, a coup d'etat (which a majority of scholars agree to be a False Flag Operation) resulting in the 7 highest-ranking officers dead or mentally incapacitated, was extinguished by Suharto, who was then hailed as Big Damn Hero. With Sukarno losing support (Muslims note  were hating his ideology, and the armed forces prefer Suharto) and since Suharto is the 8th highest-ranking officer, he assumed control (temporary, but later, permanent) and started a Communist purge with an estimated death toll of more than 500,000 lives (whether they are really a member of the Indonesian Communist Party, collaborator, accused of being a member, or a member of unrelated party that just so happened to have similar acronym) which the CIA lists as the 4th bloodiest massacre of the 20th century. While the CIA still claims Plausible Deniability, interviews with former CIA agents reveals that the CIA pretty much compiled a hit-list for the death squads, with the US and Swedish governments sending weaponry, funds, and clothing. After Joshua Oppenheimer's documentary films The Act of Killing and Look of Silence, the US government is getting more pressure to declassify files detailing US involvement in the massacre.
      • To add insult to injury, Sukarno's Communism is Marhaenism (named from a farmer Sukarno met one day), explicitly not similar to Soviet Communism. In fact Sukarno challenged the Soviets to prove which Communism was superior, by personally funding the construction of a statue (Dirgantara statue, commonly known as Pancoran statue) with an outstretched hand toward Moscow. And to add Aanother insult, the 1965 tragedy happened before the statue's main body started construction, so rumors abounded that it was supposed to be an eye gouger that were used by the coup perpetrator.
  • Noam Chomsky argues that this is a method of social control, by accusing people who question the system of being communists or communist sympathizers. Currently, he says it's been updated to terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. His book Manufacturing Consent (and a film based on it) elaborate this view.
  • A specific example: famous British actor Sir Michael Redgrave was suspected of (but never actually blacklisted for) being a Communist sympathizer because of his known left-wing ideology and for meeting Soviet agent Guy Burgess during a trip to Moscow in the 1950s. The BBC reportedly had to get an all-clear from MI-5 before permitting Redgrave to broadcast. MI-5's response was that Redgrave had "made a fool of himself" but nothing more, and so could carry on broadcasting.
  • Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) definitively proved that in the long term, economic inequality increases exponentially because it has always been, is, and probably will continue to be the case that the average increase in the value of capital (r) exceeds the average increase in the value of wages (g). The general reaction to the book was depression, since most readers recognized the political difficulty or even impossibility of correcting r > g given the influence of wealth over politics. Communists and Socialists criticized Piketty for not using his fame to argue more strongly for measures to correct r > g, Anarchists criticized him for not advocating the end of rulership, and Liberals and (economically Liberal) Conservatives outright accused him of being a (closeted) Communist. The very idea that capitalism was fundamentally anti-meritocratic was so toxic to Liberal "free market" belief that most Liberal journals wisely decided not to mention it, and instead condemned him in general terms for the statistical inaccuracy/deception he used to push his "Secret Marxist Agenda". Though Piketty is a support of the French Socialist Party, they're hardly Communist (that's another, far smaller party), more center-left at best.
  • A variation of this happened right after September 11th, 2001 when Al-Qaeda destroyed the twin towers, damaged the Pentagon, and forced down another aircraft. After several more attempts, the United States began to extend surveillance programs, and other agencies got extra funding and jurisdiction. One of the things that spawned from this was the "No-Fly List" used by the TSA. It itself is a largely secretive list of names of people forbidden from boarding any commercial flight in the United States. While it was sound on paper, the problem is that people could be put on that list, never know it, and worse yet, only find out after booking a flight to an expensive destination.
    • To illustrate how bad it was, a person could be added for so much as having a funny-sounding name. Some were added to the list because of a post someone didn't likenote  Worse yet, kids as young as six years old have been put on the list for being scared of the metal detectors at airports. Many people have been barred from flying because they share the name of a terrorist (or suspect), even infants. Needless to say, this list does not have a very popular following.
  • Ever since the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008, this sentiment made a resurgence among the American right towards Democrats. Many conservatives have derided Obama's platform as a Communist manifesto and derided his signature Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) as socialized medicine even though the actual law is based on a free-market plan created by Republican Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts. The increasing popularity of senator Bernie Sanders and his ideological compatriots during Obama era has only intensified this sentiment (especially after the spectacular collapse of Venezuela under Nicolás Maduro). Of course, this was a familiar tactic even prior to Obama and Sanders,note  but the fact that Sanders self-identifies as a democratic socialist gave this kind of attack a layer of credibility that it didn't previously have. The socialist smears against Obama and Sanders have lead to rather contentious accusations of bigotry since historically white supremacists have used red-baiting to justify hostility towards Blacks and Jews.
    • As Sanders and his ideology became more mainstream, Republicans began to use this line of attack to criticize not just Sanders but the Democratic party as a whole. Some moderate Democrats even tried to use this tactic in an attempt to frame Sanders, and to a lesser extent Elizabeth Warren, as an existential threat to the Democratic party... all while actual socialists criticized Sanders for not being socialist enough.note  The attack grew to such a point that, during the 2020 presidential election, incumbent US Republican President Donald Trump tried to frame his Democratic opponent Joe Biden as a "radical socialist", despite Biden's long-standing image as a political moderate. While Biden ultimately won the presidential election, this smear did cause him to underperform among Cuban Americans in Florida, costing him the state and leading to a much closer election than anticipated.
    • This was no surprise to people on the left in Great Britain, who saw the same sort of people demonizing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for the same set of reasons, compounded with additional allegations of questionable antisemitism.note 

 
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