One could call the McCarthy witch-hunt the propaganda apparatus of the US Cold War with the USSR which began after WWII. The fear & war-mongering, the promotion of surveillance & curtailment of civil liberties were unbridled–& quite frankly unhinged. For children, it was a real-life version of Grimm fairy tales, filled with violence & dangers for children.
The McCarthy era developed as I came of age & because my mother was political & right-wing, we grew up schooled in every accusation against “commies” & “pinkos.” Every liberal was suspect, including the TV weatherman & Minnesota’s Democratic Party senators.
That did not break until the 1960s & the emergence of the US civil rights & anti-Vietnam War movements–although in many ways, it still hasn’t broken because socialists are still considered by many as duplicitous & malignant instead of people with a political critique of inequality. Many leftists have crazy-assed ideas but most of them are not dangerous. Especially to the US government.
The Fifties were a relatively quiescent era politically because dissidents were harshly punished by being fired from jobs, socially ostracized, & blacklisted. At a plant where I worked, liberal & socialist workers were met in the parking lot by armed guards & told they didn’t work there anymore. My own family ostracized me when in the 1960s I became a socialist & got involved in antiwar work. My parents were horrified & stormed heaven for my soul; some family members would not allow their children to spend time with me lest I indoctrinate them (as I had been indoctrinated).
That is exactly the kind of dynamic being promoted now by every equivocating statement by Obama about Muslims & immigrants; by figures like Trump, Carson, & the rest of the creeps running for president, offering fascist ideas about Muslims; by the FBI for a slipshod investigation of San Bernardino & a politically motivated rush to judgement that it was related to Muslims; by media which still can’t provide a coherent account of San Bernardino & relies on photo comparisons of the shooters to show their decline into “radicalism.” (The woman, it was claimed, wore lipstick & makeup before she became an ISIS supporter but then went bare-faced as she grew radical. You can’t make this crap up.)
Quiescence is exactly the opposite of what is required to push back the political forces of racism, xenophobia, nationalism coming at us. Rebuilding the international antiwar movement, building Palestinian solidarity & BDS, demanding immigration & refugee rights are central to that campaign. This is when you understand that international solidarity is not a matter of noblesse oblige but a matter of political freedom everywhere &, in fact, a matter of survival.