The communist witch hunt was a time of unjust persecution and false accusations, with many similarities with a previous event; the Salem witch hunt. The Salem witch hunt, though on a much smaller scale, was still devastating to their economy, and hurt them for a long time after that. There are many similarities between the communist witch hunt and the Salem witch hunt, but there are also many differences. The biggest one that comes to mind, would be how much they affected America as a whole. Of course there are more examples of all the differences, but well start out with the context behind all of the propaganda.
In Salem, Massachusetts practically everyone in that town was religious. In fact, the laws of Salem relied heavily on the Bible. You were more likely to get in trouble for being drunk or talking blasphemy then you would be for stealing something. Some punishments included being whipped, being dunked into the water, hanging, and paying fines. This was just for minor stuff, so it must have been terrible for them when they thought that they had witches.
Everyone started freaking out, especially since it started with the local Reverend’s daughter and niece. They thought that anyone could be a witch, and so mass hysteria broke out. Neighbors were accusing neighbors because of a simple rivalry, they even put two dogs to death because they mightve been involved in witchcraft. The people who really put this power into play though were the Putnams. They were the richest people in the town and they wanted more land, so they started accusing their neighbors of being witches because if you confessed, then your land would be sold for auction. At some point, they accused Giles Corey and his wife, Martha, but they died with honor and didnt confess so that their children could have their land.
1950s America was also very religious, though the population was a lot bigger than it was in Salem. The 1950r’s were a lot less extreme in the religion department though. It is, after all, in our basic civil rights to practice whatever religion we want to, or to practice no religion at all. One of the main reasons that America was a lot more religious was because of the baby boom, the rising population decided to move into suburban places, and there were a lot of churches there. Most people wanted their children to grow up good, and so they decided to start trying out different churches to try and best make sure that their children were upright. In fact, it is estimated that about 57% of the population was religious in 1950.
America was already weary of communists at the time because of the Cold War, but McCarthy fanned the flame when he accused his rival for senate seat of being a communist. America started freaking out because there was no way an Atheist communist could be in our good Christian country. Other people used this to their advantage, mostly to try and get elected into office. This wasnt neccessarily true for just house seats either, oh no. It could be for anything, like anyone who produced any type of media. Two people might have opposing views, and then suddenly one of themr’s a communist, and has to be taken in to the state for questioning. They would also immediately blacklist those people (actors, actresses, directors, etc.).
The Crucible by Arthur Miller and the communist witch hunt have many similarities. One of them would be that the social repercussions of being accused are quite similar. If you were accused of being a witch in Salem, then you were tried unfairly, you mightve been beaten into submission, you might get away with it if you falsely confessed. If you were accused of being a communist during the Age of McCarthyism, then you would be taken to the HUAAC (House of Un-American Activities Committee) for questioning, youd be pressured into giving out names of other communists, you also couldnt defend yourself using the Fifth Amendment or else it wouldve been considered suspicious.
Another thing worth mentioning is that Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible as an allegory for the Communist witch hunt. While the Salem witch trials was an actual event that took place, Miller saw the similarities and decided to write a book about it. Miller himself was accused of being a communist after publishing his book, and refused to testify in front of the HUAC. While he was blacklisted in Hollywood, there were still plenty of other places that enjoyed his masterpiece. Germany even liked it so much, that they put on a play of it, and Miller and his wife were invited.
While they do have many similarities, they also have many differences. The most obvious one would be that the types of people targeted were very different. In Salem, the ones who were most accused were the poor people, or the people who were already convicted of doing a crime. In fact, the trials really only stopped once people who had a much higher stature in their society got accused . Itr’s quite the opposite in the case of the communist witch hunt; they mostly went after people who were of a higher stature like those in the senate, or someone influential like media producers. The only reason it stopped, was because McCarthy tried to accuse the military, but lost and started losing his popularity.
Another difference is what those in power thought that they were accomplishing. Those in Salem thought that they were doing a good thing by trying to get rid of all of those witches. Those in power during the McCarthyism age though were really only in on it so that they could get more popular so that they could get elected into office. Those intentions vary case to case though. Maybe some of those in Salem just wanted to get popular, and maybe those in the HUAC thought that they were doing the right thing.
In retrospect, both of those things that happened to us was devastating at the time. Innocents were thrown in jail, peoples lives were ruined. There are many similarities and differences, but only you can decide if itr’s more similar or different.
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