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The Fear Factor Essay

The Salem Witch Trials and the 1950’s Red Scare were both the product of fear, hysteria, suspicion, and false accusations. These black events in American history had countless similarities that led to the persecution of many innocent individuals. In many ways, these events were initiated because of human nature and fear of the unknown. It is a natural instinct of all animals to proceed with caution when presented with something that is different. This reaction is a defense mechanism to protect ones self from potential harm and caused the mass hysteria to spread.

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and the Witch Trials began with a few young children, Abigail Williams, Marry Warren and Mercy Lewis, accusing some of the town’s women of dancing and chanting in the woods. This was the basis for all their evidence, a few children’s stories. In addition, both the incidences had leaders that fed and fueled the hysteria. During the Witch Trials, one of the main “Hanging Judges” was Danforth. He was a main contributor to the hysteria and fear of witches that swelled throughout the communities. Though Danforth did not directly accuse people of practicing witchcraft, he chose to believe the fits that the children of the jury put on in the court. The Children were believed to be innocent and it was given that their voice was the word of god.

The equivalent of the Witch Trial jury during the Red Scare was the committee that charged people of communism. It was named the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). They sought out people whom they thought were either communist or a threat to the integrity of America. People were called before the committee if they had any previous connection with communist activities. In the late 1940’s, a senator by the name of John McCarthy began what was known as blacklisting.

The people, who were believed to be a communist, were added to a list that rendered them shunned and they had to pay a fine of $500. Many of these people’s lives were ruined, employers did not want to hire them and their names became less then reputable. In both scenarios, the only way a person could clear their name was to name others who were involved in witchcraft or who were communists.

In conclusion, situations such as these, which are based on fear and hysteria rather than hard evidence, can only be resolved when the sane people take control. Only then can peace and order be restored to the public. The two developments however both end with tragedy. In the case of the Witch Trials, 20 people were hanged and many others suffered emotional damage. The Red Scare caused numerous people’s reputations to be lost and careers smashed. The inability of people to accept others differences is bound to cause conflicts. Almost every society around the world conforms to the normal so as to not attract attention, for some there is little or no toleration.


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