Truman’s Speech on Fear of Communism and Islam

On February 9, 1950, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy delivered the famous speech – “Enemies from Within” in Wheeling, West Virginia. The speech was a direct attack on President Truman’s foreign policy, which McCarthy claimed was treasonous because it allowed communist sympathizers to run the State Department. As such, McCarthy warned that communism would spread unprecedentedly as the Cold War progressed. He argued that the United States would inevitably lose the war if immediate countermeasures were not implemented.

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According to McCarthy, communist nations were countries that promoted atheistic communism, and specifically members of the Soviet Union. In these countries, Marxism was the guiding governance principle where land and factories were being operated as single entities. Additionally, Lenin’s ideology of a one-party police state was being practiced. Besides, communism did not respect God. McCarthy argued,

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. This religion of immoralism … will more deeply wound and damage mankind than any conceivable economic or political system. (“Enemies from Within Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s accusations of disloyalty,” n.d., para. 7).

Therefore, McCarthy feared that communism would infringe on the Western and American democratic space and erode basic human rights that were being enjoyed in the post-World War II period. Additionally, McCarthy claimed that Joseph Stalin was ready for a war that would replace Christian democracy with atheist communism. As such, world peace was at stake as a communist revolution was inevitable, according to McCarthy.

However, Senator McCarthy’s charges were not accurate. He was advancing political rhetoric, which is common in American politics. For instance, he said that Joseph Stalin was ready for a military confrontation to advance communism. However, these claims were untrue because even though the Cold War was underway, it never precipitated into military engagement until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992.

McCarthy also implied that communism was winning and America was losing the Cold War battle, which was also false given that the US ultimately triumphed. Senator McCarthy also claimed to have a list of 205 communism sympathizers working in the State Department only to revise the numbers downwards to 57 two days later. Nevertheless, he did not release the names to the public, and thus the number could not be confirmed.

After replacing the word “Islam” with “communism” in the speech, there are numerous similarities between what McCarthy said and claims made against Islam in the post 9/11 era. After the attacks, it was argued that the terrorists wanted to make Islam the world religion, which is similar to McCarthy’s allegations of Stalin trying to make atheist communism universal. Besides, after the attacks, the CIA was accused of being complicit because it allegedly had intelligence about the same. Similarly, McCarthy was accusing some individuals in the State Department of sympathizing with Stalin and communism.

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I believe it is valid to draw comparisons between anti-communism rhetoric and anti-Islam rhetoric because they are based on one premise – fear. The two forms of rhetoric are demagogic, as they appeal to popular passions and prejudices, and Senator McCarthy was a master of these tricks (Pearcy & Clabough, 2018). Similar to the post-World War II era, where political rhetoric was used against communism, anti-Islam sentiments were popularized after the 9/11 attacks. Therefore, it suffices to compare the two forms of rhetoric because they mirror each other.


Enemies from Within: Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s accusations of disloyalty. (n.d.). Web.

Pearcy, M., & Clabough, J. (2018). Demagogues and the guardrails of democracy. Social Studies Research and Practice, 13(3), 345-356.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Truman’s Speech on Fear of Communism and Islam'. 18 June.

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