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Big Red Menace

red meance posterJust how serious was the “Red Menace” inside the U.S.?

Baby boomers in the 1950s and 1960s came of age amidst widespread fears of a communist plot to take over America.

FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover worried that these children were vulnerable targets. Subtle and not-so-subtle anti-communist themes permeated entertainment, schools and  churches. The popular 1962 documentary movie Communist Target: Youth, with an introduction by Robert Kennedy, detailed how the left preyed on politically naive young people around the world. The message was clear: hearts and minds of shabby chic decorAmerican baby boomers could be corrupted, too.

The question was asked over and over:

Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party? Or a “front” group?

Most of the accused weren’t disloyal and severed their connections once the Cold War began. Invoking the 5th Amendment was often treated as a guilty plea in the court of public opinion. But contrition could bring instant redemption. Lucille Ball registered as a Communist years earlier. I was young, she explained to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and only did to please my dear old socialist grandfather. She was back on the set of I Love Lucy faster than you could say “you got some ‘splaining to do!”

By the time baby boomers were becoming teenagers, the Communist Party had shrunk to a mere 5000 and gone underground. fight communismDuring that time, according to J. Edgar Hoover, some 1500 of those “members” were FBI agents. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the U.S. government kept the Communist Party in business. “If it were not for me,” Hoover bragged, apparently missing the irony, “there would not be a Communist Party of the United States. Because I financed the Communist Party, in order to know what they are doing.”

When a baby boomer generation of left-wing activists formed in the mid-1960s, they were careful to disassociate their activity from the discredited organizations of the past. It was the pop culture “New Left.”

Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.

 

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