17 September 2023

The Red Menace: Anti-Communist Propaganda of the Cold War

Every age has its bogeyman.  If you grew up in 1950s and 60s America you would have been bombarded with anti-communist propaganda. In hindsight it is perhaps easy to raise a wry eyebrow.  Yet at the time the threat was taken very seriously indeed. Here, hysteria intact, are a few of the stranger messages delivered to the American people.

Is your washroom breeding Bolsheviks?
“Employees lose their respect for a company that fails to provide decent facilities for their comfort” goes the by-line for this advertisement.  Yes, quite possibly, but does that really mean that they are going to turn into rampaging Bolsheviks because the paper towels at work are rough on their hands?  This apparently was a real danger back in the fifties and sixties.  Fortunately the introduction of soft tissues on a massive scale helped to avoid the commie takeover of the western world. 

So, of course, this menace had to be fought.  What better way than to donate “Truth Dollars” to help Radio Free Europe operate?  Then, those poor folks behind the Iron Curtain could hear all about the failings of the system under which they lived.  The USA’s own brand of democracy was obviously destined to spread throughout the world and liberate its various peoples.  Strange how that was exactly how the communists saw their own ideology.

When we look back, how could we fail to realize that the four beatmen of the apocalypse were responsible for the spread of communism throughout the known world?  These revolutionary Liverpudlians hypnotized people with their radically political lyrics and helped spread the subversive message of communism.  Nikita Khrushchev was known to write their lyrics, such as the insidious, “We will crush you, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Red Iceberg
In 1960 many people feared that America would go the way of other communist countries, such as Poland and China.  To halt the spread of the red menace even comic books were enlisted in to the fight.  Where fifteen years before threat had been from Japanese imperialism and European fascism the sixties was where the communists took center stage as the bogey men of their time.  Islamic Fundamentalists may well be today’s menace but you have to wonder what the people at the top will scare us with in twenty years time!

Is This Tomorrow
Apparently in the fifties and sixties people were so scared of the threat from communism that they forgot all about their punctuation marks.  They had to be told of the evil of this ideology.  So, the word was spread that in commie countries people fight in the street, women are attacked and throttled in broad daylight and there is brutality from the police.  This must have scared the hell out of the average US citizen as it couldn’t have sounded like any of their own cities in any way, shape or form.

During the war movie stars had been enlisted to raise morale and funds.  Here, John Wayne gets a letter from the great and the good to remind people that freedom does not come cheap and easy.

When America is in crisis then it usually isn’t long before an intellectual gets the blame.  Here, a finger is pointed at them en masse.  Flippancy aside, the red menace was considered real by many.  Yet in the fight against one form of perceived political extremism, dangerous thoughts were allowed to be disseminated on the home front.  Many had their lives and careers ruined because they had been (often wrongly) accused of being communists or sympathizers. 

When the going gets tough, the tough get bombing.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the comic book world took fear of communism to the extreme.  Nuking the Russian capital, it seemed, increased sales.  Fortunately, this fiction was ultimately stranger than the truth.

If nothing works, tell them that they are going to steal your women. Just in case that doesn’t work tell them that they are going to be sterilized in to the bargain. It's little wonder that the word socialist can still be flung at someone in the US as an insult.

Image Credit Flickr User KT Ries