Every society consists of individuals who have unique characteristics, attitudes, and fears. They respond to various threats in different ways when taken separately; however, being united, they acquire some common features peculiar to a certain community. That is why such a phenomenon as paranoia is associated with masses of people believing or fearing some object, idea, or issue. This factor can be often used in politics to create the image of the enemy and support the current course promoted by the government or other political actors.
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One of the bright examples of such manipulation is the cultivation of the irrational fear of communism during the Cold War by Senator Joseph McCarthy. In his famous speech, he cultivated the idea of a significant threat of communism and contributed to the emergence of paranoia.
Trying to persuade people and make them think in a certain way, the Senator emphasizes the basic differences between the Western and Eastern world, between communism and the political system of the USA. One of the main aspects compared is moral as the pillar of every society. For instance, he states, “The real, basic difference, however, lies in the religion of immoralism…invented by Marx, preached feverishly by Lenin, and carried to unimaginable extremes by Stalin” (McCarthy, 1950).
Developing this idea, he continues that communists are sure that the dominance of this model can be supported by militarism and expansion, and they are already in the US government to undermine its work (McCarthy, 1950).
In such a way, he calls these nations immoral and a threat to the existing world order. However, these statements are not accurate because of the nature of power and politics. Every state is immoral as policy presupposes strategies that should be, first of all, effective and only then ethical. Furthermore, the USA also utilized its growing military force to spread its influence which makes it similar to the USSR. In such a way, the speech can be considered an ideological weapon that tried to justify the current position of America and make people support the existing course.
Similar paranoid moods emerged after the attacks of 9/11 when people were scared, and there was the need for the enemy, which can be blamed for this terrorist act. There was a significant public response and debates about the nature of Islam and its dangerous character (Motamedi, 2017). For instance, by replacing the word “communism” in McCarthy’s speech with the word “Islam,” the already known image of the world’s evil emerges.
There are many similarities in the way people considered communism in the past and this religion today, as well as there are many mistakes in their perceptions and beliefs about these issues as fear was the main reason for the emergence of this inaccurate framework.
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Analyzing these two issues, it is possible to draw comparisons between anti-communist and anti-Islam rhetoric. They both emerged as the answer to the growing uncertainty and lack of credible information about these paradigms. Moreover, fear was a key factor promoting the evolution of paranoia and the appearance of enmity towards communism and Islam. Furthermore, in both cases, in the 1950s and after the 9/11 attacks, society needed the enemy that could be blamed for failures and problems. In such a way, the dominant ideology contributed to the deterioration of the image of these two ideas and the cultivation of the growing people’s dissatisfaction with them. The case shows that the crowd can be easily manipulated by using its fears and existing moods to achieve the needed result.
McCarthy, J. (1950). “Enemies from Within” speech delivered in Wheeling, West Virginia. Web.
Motamedi, S. (2017). Proliferating a culture of fear: Islam in a post 9/11 America. Political Science Student Papers and Posters. Web.