Red-baiting is the act of accusing someone, or some group, of being communist, socialist or, in a broader sense, of being significantly more
leftistat their core than they may appear at the outset. The term is used mainly with the intention of discrediting the individual's or organization's political views as dishonest and/or haphazard. The implication in red-baiting is usually that the target represents an ill-intentioned external force which has no proper place in a given political party, coalition, or union.
Alternatively, red-baiting can also be a tactic by a critic of communism wherein s/he raises negative aspects of countries or governments which the communist is supposed to support (notably the
Soviet Unionand China) with the intent of "trapping" the communist into conceding that his/her ideas are part of a totalitarianideological structure.
Red-baiting is more often associated with
McCarthyism. It does not now, in the 21st century, have quite the far-reaching effect it did during either of the two historic Red Scare periods of the 1920s ( First Red Scare) and 1950s ( Second Red Scare). This is usually because most Radical Leftgroups are more forthcoming about their politics than their forebears may have felt they could be in the context of the Red Scare periods. The words "socialism" and "communism" are not equated with "terrorist," " traitor" or "conspirator" today the way they often were in the two Red Scare eras. A somewhat contrary view would hold that there's been a persistent and concerted effort associated with the conservative right in the U.S. since at least the time of Ronald Reaganusing red-baiting to influence changes in the federal judiciary ("activist judges"), the "liberal media", and, most recently, the reputedly extremely leftist faculties of colleges and universities.
* [http://www.socialistworker.org/2005-1/540/540_03_Movement.shtml "What kind of movement do we need?"] Socialist Worker article arguing that red-baiting is weakening the anti-war movement today, and has a history of being used to discredit legitimate activist organizations.
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