When describing the slide of a society into paranoia, self-destructive rhetoric, intolerance and fear it’s worth remembering that it starts small, it is followed by many other small events and it just gathers momentum, the small things accumulating until it becomes impossible to question why something is being done without becoming a legitimate target of the thing you question.
The establishment of the Fish Committee in 1930 (http://goo.gl/EpRe) was a direct, knee-jerk reaction to the perceived threat of Communism in the United States. We’re not going to examine here how no one thought that the rooting out of ideas (of all things) was a bad thing or how difficult it would be for Communism to find a foothold in a nation that was as free-spirited and individualistic as America.
The fact that the Fish Committee was an accepted and acceptable response paved the road in ever evolving, small steps for the creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), just fifteen years later. The HUAC would become the power based for Joseph McCarthy (http://goo.gl/V5H6A) who exploited the fear of Communism and to press his accusations that the government was failing to deal with Communism within its ranks. McCarthy also began investigations into the numerous homosexuals working in the foreign policy bureaucracy, who were considered prime candidates for blackmail by the Soviets.
Thus we went from a clash of ideologies that revolved around personal freedom to a climate of fear where in the ‘free’ world homosexuals were legitimately persecuted as potential threats to national security. The slippage was barely noticed. By then the fight had become about righteousness. Comic books for instance were seen as, perhaps a hotbed for finding information about lurid behavior, overt sexuality, and “horrible things.” They were seen as a corrupting moral influence of the young and had to now come under government scrutiny.
To avoid that the Comic Book Industry set up the Comics Code Authority (http://goo.gl/gzOq) to self-regulate its content. An overseeing organization that was not abolished until 2011.
In an echo of the many articles that appear blaming video games, today, after WWII there was a rise in juvenile delinquency in America (http://goo.gl/NWa2SI) and the UK (http://goo.gl/3qK1En) which many attributed to comics.
All it took to change a country from the beacon of hope for the world to a place where no one knew whom to trust were baby steps. And good intentions. The symptoms, should anyone have bothered to look, lay in the absurdity of what was being policed: sexual behavior, individual morality, reading habits, comics….