chapter  3
Painting Them Red: Periodicals and the Proliferation of American Anti-Communism 1935–1950
Pages 36

In the mid-1930s Martin Dies, a conservative, New Deal bashing congressman from Texas established a congressional committee designed in part to determine the scope and influence of the Communist Party of the United Sates. Coined the Dies Committee, this band of xenophobic congressman embarked on a campaign to identify the presence of “subversive” activity within the United States and targeted both right wing extremists and left wing progressives. In the late 1930s, Dies directed his attention west and pinpointed the film industry as an epicenter of “red” activity. His initial investigation of Hollywood, eventually continued by his protégé and successor J. Parnell Thomas (under the moniker the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities or HUAC), marked the unofficial beginning of arguably the greatest domestic purge in American history. The success of the Dies Committee, and eventually the Thomas Committee, created a window of opportunity for demagogues such as Joseph McCarthy who capitalized on the contentious climate and rose to fame. Preaching the imminent downfall of the nation, McCarthy cultivated an atmosphere defined by fear and paranoia by advancing the theory that a “red” revolution had been commenced within. Why the majority of the nation so willingly accepted such a premise stands as the subject of this chapter. With the cooperation of some of America’s most circulated magazines, the “red scare” was successfully propagated allowing the Un-American Activities Committee and eventually Senator McCarthy to paralyze the nation and ruin the careers of so many unsuspecting Americans. A thorough analysis of the anti-Communist commentary contained in popular American newspapers and magazines from 1935 to 1950 demonstrates that the repressive social tenor established in the pre and immediate post war years “painted” many targeted individuals “red” and prevented them from avoiding the stigma of traitor.