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Salem Witch Trials In Massachusetts History Essay

One of the most recognizable periods in American history of timeless oppression occurred during the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts. This was a time of duplicity in the people of the small town and community of Salem. Throughout this chapter of history, many of the people believed anything they heard or saw for reasons of self defense. The fears and suspicions produced hysteria which resulted in the destruction, breakdown, and division within the individual and community. These fears and suspicions lead to a great uprising in the small town and the people. This exemplifies that one can not always believe what one hears or sees because it may not be the absolute truth. The events of the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts are analogs to the modern day example of the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s. [1] 

The Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union can be characterized by paranoia, fear, and propaganda because of the current foreign policies and relationships. [2] For example, two prime events were the red scare and the numerous speeches by the senator Joseph McCarthy that eventually developed the idea of McCarthyism. Soon after World War II, President Truman and his administration were determined to stand up to the Soviet Union with the belief that the United States had won the right to be the political, economic, and military leader of the world and act as a “police”. [3] The focus during this period was the post-war reconstruction and reorganization of Easter Europe, as seen in the Yalta conference. The Soviets refused to recognize the leadership of the United States and challenged the efforts to reconstruct the global economy and society after World War II. As a direct result, the United States began a Cold War struggle to reduce Soviet power and influence. [4] Therefore, it was in this context of increasing American alarm about the Soviet threat that a series of events in the late 1940s caused many Americans to wonder if the United States was beginning to lose this global Cold War struggle to the Soviet communists. However, the thought that Soviet secret agents infatuating the United States alone was enough to inflame existing fears until they burned out of control. [5] These fears were based on vastly exaggerated view of Soviet activities in the United States. Nevertheless, they contributed to the “red scare” that began in the late 1940s and perked during what is known as the McCarthy era of the early 1950s. [6] The red scare and McCarthyism’s influence and radical approaches during the 1950’s, contributed to fear of the Cold War because of the anti-communist hysteria and fear of attack from communist nations.

The red scare was the turning point in American history to ignite the fire of anti-communism and set the paradigm that a communist nation would attack. Many countries fell to communism over time and the United States would desperately soon react. The first country to fall to communism was Eastern Europe and then later China. The United States government and people wanted to preserve their government and as a result the domino theory was formed. The domino theory “speculated that if one land in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect.” [7] The second red scare was the reaction to the discovery of soviet spies in the United States. Many people quickly believed that communists somehow had infiltrated the United States government and were manipulating its foreign policy, causing one U.S. defeat after another. It was a series of political and military setbacks that caused Americans to become increasingly concerned about the growing Soviet threat. This was in fact a threat to the United States’ dominant influence, supremacy, and government. For instance, in 1949, the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb and caused the American people to start worrying about a future attack. In June 1950, communist North Korea invaded South Korea and tried to impose communism over all of Korea. But the President Truman and the United States quickly declared a "police action" and intervened in the Korean Civil War in order to prevent the communist from winning. [8] In the end, these prime events made the American People fear and speculate about communist spies in the United States.

As a direct result of the growing anti-communist hysteria created by McCarthyism, Americans began to look over their “shoulders” wondering whether in fact if communists were in present in their surroundings. The main goal and purpose of McCarthyism was to root out any form of communism from every possible place in America. McCarthyism meant “the slandering of people because of their political views.” [9] Joseph McCarthy began this national crusade against communism with a speech in Wisconsin claiming that he had a list of over two hundred soviet spies that have infatuated the United States. [10] Although the actual number changed from speech to speech, he was one of America’s most influential politicians. His methods were considered vicious and reckless because he sought to accomplish his crusade by any means necessary even if it means to violate traditional American values and Constitutional rights. [11] He accused people, companies, and organizations without any evidence. For example, He formed a blacklist of people he considered to be in support of communism or were communist. McCarthy attacked and accused people with no limit, and even asserted that the United States Government was heavily influenced by communists when he rose in the senate and he attacked President Truman and his advisers:

“Mr. President, at this very moment GI’s are consecrating the hills and valleys of Korea with American blood. But all that blood is not staining the Korean hills and valleys. Some of it is deeply and permanently staining the hands of Washington politicians. Some men of little minds and less morals are today using the Korean War as a profitable political diversion, a vehicle by which to build up battered reputations because of incompetence and worse.” [12] 

Many Americans during this time in history were afraid to speak their mind or talk about their opinions because of fear of being called communists. Consequently, America in the 1950s was overwhelmed by conformity. In addition, since Americans were afraid to voice their opinions, the United States did not have a free and open debate about America's role in the world and our aggressive Cold War policies. They then weren’t able to shape and control their lives, government, and society. Because of McCarthyism, America's democratic institutions and basic civil and political rights were violated. It overall damaged and weakened America's democratic institutions. During the hearings, employers, family members, relatives, and friends turned in each other who they suspected of being involved in communist activities. [13] In the end, McCarthyism broke down the sense of community and brotherhood. 

Overall, the red scare and Joseph McCarthy’s McCarthyism brought forth both positive and negative effects to America. One prime positive result was that McCarthy’s tactics produced long lasting changes in the media forever. Newspaper companies and Television stations finally realized that it was not enough simply to tell what had happened or what was said, but that they needed to tell what the story meant and whether or not it was the truth. By 1954, interpretive reporting and news analysis had become a standard practice and made a long lasting impact in the media improving the news one gets to be more reliable and trustworthy. [14] The negative aspects that resulted soon after were the division and fear it brought to Americans during the Cold War. People lived in fear and avoided to spread their opinions about current events and situations. Joseph McCarthy may always be considered as manipulative and unreliable politician since it can be seen that his motive for using current events such as the red scare in his speeches were for self gain. He successfully played off the people’s fear, anger, and disappointment to get his party and himself to the top of the political ladder by taking full advantage of them when exploiting their emotions. However on the other hand, McCarthy encouraged American citizens to put pressure on our government regarding un-American activities that were occurring at the time and continued to do so. [15] In the end, the theme of anti-communism continues throughout to defend the democratic system of the United States with countless efforts ranging from increasing the U.S. budget for national security to forming the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).


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