Red Baiting is an effort to discredit political opponents or policies by associating them with social-democratic, socialist or communist parties. Any movement or organization advocating social justice, peace or protection of the natural environment may be subject to red-baiting.

In the immediate post-war years the newly organized liberal American Veterans Committee' or AVC was subjected to red-baiting attacks by the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The American Legion in particular was fearful of competition for members from the upstart organizational rival. Strong among veterans who were attending college on the GI Bill, the AVC endorsed the solution of international problems through the United Nations, veteran's benefits and ending racial discrimination. At the University of Minnesota, the AVC Chapter organized pocketing against the Minneapolis Real Estate Board against restrictive covenants that prevented a Japanese-American veterans from buying the house he wanted. In the American South the struggle was more basic--veterans had to learn to cooperate in racially integrated chapters. New open membership groups are easy to infiltrate and by 1948 the AVC was tearing itself apart in fighting stirred up by external enemies of any non-conservative veterans organization.

During the late 1950s and 1960s Dr. Martin Luther King and other leaders in the Civil Rights movement, the NAACP and SCLC were red-baited by segregationists. Conservatives targeted The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and the National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC), to name but a few. During the Sixties the FBI conducted a variety of operations intended to disrupt dissident organizations or prevent them from making common cause with one another.

Red-baiting has never gone away. In a 2010 speech at the “Defending the American Dream” weekend political rally organized by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, conservative Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz from Texas claimed, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.” This was untrue. Is Senator Ted Cruz our new McCarthy? Jane Mayer. Huffington Post. February 22. 2013. In what seems another similarity to the actions of Senator Joe McCarthy, rather than retreat from the unsupported accusation when it was challenged, Cruz insisted it was true.

Contemporary red baiting commonly takes the form of name-calling as when the dark money group A Better America Now released a flyer attacking a Democratic Party candidate with he following language: "The same left-wing extremists who support Pete Gallego want more burdensome regulations that put the interests of spiders above our need to create more jobs." "The best way to stop left-wing extremists from killing jobs is to vote against their hand-picked candidate Pete Gallego."

Desperate candidates are tempted to descend to red-baiting as a smeer tactic. For example, in September 2013, New York City mayoral candidate Joseph J. Lhota attacked his opponent, Bill de Blassio, with the following: "Mr. de Blassio's involvement with the Sandinistas didnlt happen in 1917 -- it happened 70 years later when the cruelty and intrinsic failure of Communism became crystal clear to anyone with a modium of reason. Mr. de Blasio's class warfare strategy in New York City is directly out of the marxist playbook. Now we know why." Source: "A Candidate's Attack on 'Marxist' Strategy.' Michael Powell. The New York Times. September 26, 2013. A23. That New York City in 2013 bears no resemblance to Nicaragua in the 1970s or Russia in 1917 ought to be obvious to anyone with a modicum of reason. Then there the question of whether Llota felt some affinity for the rightist military dictatorship of Gen. Anastasio Somoza thatw as overthrown in a popular revolution led by the Sandinistas or whether he felt some affinity for the rightist Contra terrorists who attempted to overthrow the Sandinista government. In early November the Post followed up with an infantile cover showing de Blassio and the traditional hammer and sickle symbol of communism.

Red baiting is often associated with rhetorical outbidding as when WorldNetDaily columnist/Fox News regular Erik Rush endorsed the arrest by a "law and order, legitimate administration" of news bureau chiefs for treason on TruNews with Rick Wiles. Republicans have even described the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration's market based reform of health care provison, as communism. In a display of remarkable ignoance of world history, American Family Association activists Sandy Rios and Jerome Corsi likened President Obama to Chinese communist revolutionary leader Mao Zedong in he sought to cause the breakdown of the family to grow the size of government.

At the 2015 CPAC meeting Brent Bozell ranted that the left, “will do anything, using any means at their disposal, legal or otherwise” to deny conservatives of their freedom of speech and that the government isn’t “all that different from the East German Stasi.”

Some who engage in the practice freely admit that they do so without regard to fact. For example, David Horowitz has stated that, “I encapsulate one mentality under ‘communist’ even though that doesn’t mean that they supported Stalin or that they’re members of the party or that they believe in the dictatorship of the proletariat. If you don’t understand that economic redistribution is a threat to individual freedom, then you won’t see that. You are on that Left. I call that a communist mentality.” Thus almost everyone to the left of Horowitz, which includes a majority of Americasm, is a communist. left of Source: David Horowitz: ‘Conservatives Are So F**king Well-Mannered’ Cole Stangler. In These Times. December 12, 2013.

Joel S. Fishman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs describes former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as "indiscriminately" using Soviet terminology in his book Peace, Not Apartheid. (See Fishman's July 2012 propaganda piece dressed up as an academic article, "The BDS Message of Anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, and incitement to discrimination" in Israel Affairs, Vol. 18. No. 3, Pp. 412-425.)

Robert Reich contends that the sort of closed minds susceptible to accusations of this kind are the product of "hermetically sealed ideological zones that are almost immune to compromise or nuance." He may be correct but they clearly predate the emergence of the contemporary balkanized markets for news and opinion.

In a especially stupid exercise in red baiting The Blaze carried a "photo essay" of Communists and Radicals at the September 21, 2014 climate march in New York City.

In this description of Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell's book Science Left Behind, "the left" is condemned for its "fear of science." Apparently the authors are unaware of the conservative efforts to repress Darwinian evolution and climate science.


  • Theodore Kornweibel. 1998. "Seeing Red": Federal Campaigns Against Black Militancy, 1919-1925. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253333377.
  • Robert L. Tyler. "The American Veterans Committee: Out of a Hot War and Into the Cold." American Quarterly. Vol. 18, No. 3, (Autumn 1966). Pp. 419-436.

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