Monday, March 29, 2010

Red Scare Redux

I ran across a small publication stuck in a collection of my grandfather’s books. It’s something that was published by the American Legion back in the early 1920’s and as you can see from the cartoon on the cover (left) it was concerned with the perceived threat of a communist takeover.

Now at the time, the Red Scare was a serious concern. Just as terrorist bombings capture the headlines today, bombings by anarchists and revolutionaries prompted the same degree of outcry in 1918-1920.

This little booklet was designed to make Real Americans aware of this insidious threat to their way of life. The left hand pages had news photos of worker riots or the aftermath of bombings, always pointing out how many foreign-born agitators were involved. The right hand pages had the narrative, with supporting newspaper clippings. The text read:

Hundreds of thousands of agitators are at work in this country. They are amply supplied with funds from some source. They work under cover. (page 2)

They spread the doctrines of sabotage and destruction hoping to bring about a state of confusion and fear which will enable them to dominate industry. (page 3)

They preach the bomb and the barricade to wreck the machinery of civilization that they may build a tyranny of their own upon the ruins.(page 4)

 - One the headlines on this page reads: [President] Harding Quits Pew to Praise Preacher.  Dr. Clark Warns of Republic Being Turned Into Socialistic Democracy. “White” Plea Is Made.

Self preservation demands that we rid ourselves of those who plan destruction of all we have built. (page 5)
- One of the headlines on this page reads: Worker Party Out for Red Revolution and Soviet America

They work secretly and cunningly and appeal to the uninformed because their cause is hopeless if exposed to the light of reason. (page 6)

Preachers of communism and anarchy abuse “free speech” by attacking the government which guarantees them “free speech.” (page 7)

- One of the clippings on this page reads: Asks South to Lead Fight on Radicals. Reds are Inciting Negroes

So here we are almost ninety years after this booklet was written. In a new century, in a new world. And yet, it seems to me that the tropes haven’t changed that much. Alarmist outrage fueled by fear – it all seems sadly familiar.

- Ralph

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