The Stagnant and Development of Mass Media and Surveillance Compared between the Salem Witch Trials and the Red Scare

Primary Materials

The propaganda displayed from the Salem Witch Trials is a prime example of the fear instilled in people during “The Burning Times” otherwise known as the time during the Salem Witch Trials where it was believed by the Catholic Church to burn witches to purify their souls. In the image showing the chaos of the town during this time it shows several townspeople holding crossing while scrambling make fires and dragging several people towards them, while others in the background are cheering and it shows the townspeople as barbaric and desperate to put an end to the rumors consuming the town. Another public event that happened was the trials themselves. In the picture of the trials you see a small girl laying on the floor in the courtroom as if she is claiming not to be a witch and with one concerned person in the crowd that is thought of to be a relative, but the judge and other people in the courtroom taking no sympathy to her in fear she might be a witch. The propaganda during this time had a lot of influence and directly reflected the town itself, and showed them how they were acting but it was almost as if this type of behavior was dismissed during this time because of the fear and paranoia that had taken over the town.

Salem Witch Trials Propaganda

The Published List or Hollywood Blacklist during this time was the main form of mass media during the Red Scare. It was published in newspapers and was given out to employers in Hollywood to stop the people from obtaining jobs and isolating those who were on the list and exiling them from the public. Lionel Stander was one of the first actors who was subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee and after being publicly announced as part of the Communist Party and consequently was fired from his job at Republic Pictures where he was contracted. This form of media had everyone questioning and trying to find new victims that could possibly fit the very lenient criteria it took to be put on the list. The list during this time served as fuel to the fire during this mass hysteria and gave the HAUC more control in their suspected victims.

Hollywood Blacklist

Propaganda that was used in the Red Scare was presented in a way that showed American becoming like the Communist countries of China, North Korea etc. In the first Ad presented to us the title is “The Red Iceberg” with America on a ship headed toward the Iceberg otherwise known as Poland, Hungary, China, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and North Korea which were all communist countries during this time. This was used to make the United States think that this is the direction we were heading and that we would end up like these countries. The Ad below then shows a Russian teacher in a monotone voice saying “Communism is the answered all the entire world’s problems, it will bring you a heaven on earth in which everyone will be happy.” While teachers in Russia probably would never say something like this it displays them in a robotic sense and shows them teaching the communism in the classroom with children of blank stares listening to her. Portraying that this is what the people who are communists now are influencing the children of the United States and if we do not stop it this is going to be the cycle our country will continue doing; teaching communism to our children. The fear these Ads put on society during this time was classified as a mass hysteria and was kept going by a cycle of accusations and fear of what our country could turn in to.

Red Scare Propaganda

So What

With my research presented I am tying the connections between the Salem Witch Trials and The Red Scare and outlining the similarities mass media had in the conduction of keeping surveillance during these times. The research in my primary materials outlines the main idea of the public creating this mass hysteria by fear of an idea of an unrealistic future that was created by the mass media. This fear created a cycle of accusations and assumptions and it was displayed through propaganda and many other things displayed for the public’s view. The propaganda from the Salem Witch Trials was notorious for showing people being prosecuted for their crimes in very public settings instilling fear in others almost as that was another form of mass media during that time. In the secondary source CayerMedia, they elaborate more on the propaganda during these times and how it was used to instill fear along with accusations that were also used to keep the ideas of unrealistic mass hysterias happening for so long.

Salem Witch Media

The Published list was the main form of mass media used during The Red Scare, which was a public display of all the alleged Hollywood communists during this time. In Matthew Guariglia’s blog Visions in Red it elaborates on the discusses and analyzes the direct relationship between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the House Un-Americans Activities Committee. It describes the FBI as the puppet master feeding information to the HUAC for public disposal, and that the whole time this riot of concern was fueled by the media. It explained Matt Cvetic and Joseph McCarthy’s role; McCarthy being the one who started the mass hysteria and Matt Cvetic the example that gave the media a run for their money, being an informant for the FBI between them and Pittsburg’s Communist Party. It explains the signing in of the Smith Act by President Roosevelt and saying any act of advocacy on overthrowing the government, public or private, was illegal. William Albertson was then mentioned being framed by the FBI and exiled from the communist party for “releasing information” that the FBI then claimed later was a ploy to scare them later on, however, Albertson was shunned from his community he had been a part of for 40 years. Lastly the FBI was then forced to terminate the Red Scare by the public discovery of the Counter Intelligence Program.

Hollywood Blacklist

While the time periods between the two mass hysteria's are over 300 years apart the connections are still evident with both being driven by society unknowingly during that time because of the fear of things their society could turn into. With the propaganda from The Salem Witch Trials and The Smith Act from The Red Scare are both further evidence of the continuous and mass hysteria that was going on during both of these times

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