Clip from "Good Night and Good Luck"
The Salem witch hunts were an unfair judgment of a group of people. This is a constant trend throughout human history. One group feels they can or should assert power over another. Whether it is to cover something up and get off free, like the girls in the Salem trials. Or if it is to boost your approval ratings like Joseph McCarthy during his “communist hunt”. There’s always some type of gain in the exploitation of others, often times to help yourself.
There are many similarities between the Salem witch trials and Joseph McCarthy’s “communist hunt”. From 1945 to around 1952, America endured the Red Scare. The Red Scare, the hunt for Communists, was epitomized in the McCarthy trials when many innocent citizens were labeled as Communists. In many ways, it resembled the notorious Salem Witch Hunt of the 1690's. Both involved fear, prejudice, and a lack of respect for civil rights of the citizens. The Red Scare was a time in history when the United States was in apprehension of the communist government of Russia. In the Salem witch trials people were in trepidation of witchcraft the same way that Americans were in apprehension of communism. Distinguishing attributes are comparable between that of The Crucible by Arthur Miller and the Red Scare in American history. During the time period when the witch trials occur in The Crucible, people are forced to either confess to the crime of witchery or shove the blame towards a different person. The trouble in The Crucible begins when Abigail Williams blames Tituba for the girls dancing in the woods when she says: “She made me do it! She made Betty do it” The statement starts all the pandemonium that emerges in Salem. That quote is a superb example that Miller presents in his dialog concerning the way people were acting during the time of the Red Scare. During the Red Scare McCarthy had employees of many companies sign loyalty oaths that stated they were not a communist or sympathized with any communists and the best way to get around any further questioning was to shove the blame towards a different person.
Another large similarity between the two is that during McCarthy’s time he campaigned for John M Butler against four-term incumbent Millard Tidings, with whom McCarthy had been in conflict during the Tidings Committee hearings. In speeches supporting Butler, McCarthy accused Tidings of "protecting Communists" and "shielding traitors." McCarthy's staff was heavily involved in the campaign, and collaborated in the production of a campaign tabloid that contained a composite photograph doctored to make it appear that Tidings was in intimate conversation with Communist leader Earl Browder. In the Salem Trials the girls who did not want to get caught would act like the person on trial was performing witchcraft on them and act out an elaborate production of the “spells”. These are similar because creating a fake photo to make someone appear as a communist is similar to creating fake magic to make someone appear like a witch.
Arthur Miller's The Crucible reflects the development of a feeling of anti-privacy by depicting the intense drama of the Salem Witch Trials in a context of the McCarthyism of his own time. In The Crucible, Miller strains to focus on the desperate emotions which engulfed the Salem townspeople and led to the eventual defeat of privacy and as well as common sense. While both Abigail and McCarthy accused people of horrendous crimes, neither of them ever proved the guilt of those indicted. When those accused of being witches or communists went to trial, they were questioned in an atmosphere that would put anyone on edge. The courtroom of Salem was a place few desired to occupy, especially with the dark eyes of Assists John Hathorne and Jonathan Curren glaring at them. Once on the stand, those accused were pounded with questions, many of them repeated until the person testifying would change his answer to please the court and get himself out of the limelight. This method of questioning was used again in the HUAC trials. Each person called to testify was asked "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?" In both the Salem witch trials and the HUAC trials, those on the stand were virtually harassed until they gave the answer their tormentor desired. The trials were not alike only in the line of questioning; they also both involved "spectral" evidence to prove the guilt of the accused. Abigail and her adolescent girlfriends called out in opposition of those against whom they held grudges or simply did not like. Some of these people were hung because they would not admit to appearing in spirit or trafficking with the Devil. While the spectral evidence in the HUAC trials was slightly otherworldly, it was nonetheless an indication of guilt through the same sort of "crying out."
There were many similarities between McCarthy’s communist hunt and the Salem Witch trials. Although not all concrete some would say that Arthur Millers play was a metaphor for the communist hunt.