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Red-baiting, also known as reductio ad Stalinum (/ˈstɑːlɪnəm/) and referred to as "red-tagging" in the Philippines, is an informal logical fallacy that intends to discredit the validity of a political opponent and the opponent's logical argument by accusing, denouncing, attacking, or persecuting the target individual or group as anarchist, communist,[1] Marxist, socialist, Stalinist, or sympathetic towards these ideologies.[2] The word red in the phrase refers to the color that traditionally symbolized left-wing politics worldwide since the 19th century. The word baiting refers to persecution, torment, or harassment as in baiting.[3]

In the United States, the term red-baiting dates to as far back as 1927.[4] In 1928, blacklisting by the Daughters of the American Revolution was characterized as a "red-baiting relic".[5] A term commonly used in the United States, red-baiting in the American history is most famously associated with McCarthyism, a term which itself originated in the two historic Red Scare periods during the 1920s (First Red Scare) and 1950s (Second Red Scare).[6] In the 21st century, it has been argued that red-baiting does not have quite the same effect it previously did due to the Revolutions of 1989,[7] but some pundits have argued that notable events in current American politics indicate a resurgence of red-baiting consistent with the Cold War era.[8][9]



An anti-redtagging banner in a protest against the closure of Lumad schools, December 3, 2020.

Communism has generally been viewed with disfavour and particular distrust by large sectors Philippine society ever since the country gained independence from the United States on July 4, 1946. Shared ideological preferences with the United States, resulting from more than four decades of assimilation and exacerbated by the onset of the Cold War, has resulted in Filipinos being understandably predisposed to suspecting groups and individuals of Communist sympathies.[10][11] This predisposition makes redtagging an effective tool used by players in the political arena, given that it authorizes law-enforcement agencies and the military to act on the taggings.[11][12][13][14]

Redtagging is almost never employed against foreigners, including members of ruling communist parties, owing to the principle in international law of noninterference in another country's domestic affairs. This can be seen especially in the government's cordial relations with the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and the Communist Party of Vietnam,[15][16] both of which are ruling parties of ASEAN member states. ASEAN itself strongly upholds the principle of noninterference,[17][18] given Southeast Asia's long and traumatic experience of division along colonial lines. One of the notable exceptions to the nontagging of foreigners was US citizen Brandon Lee, an ancestral-domain paralegal in the Cordillera Region. Lee was tagged as a Communist and automatically therefore an "enemy of the state", and was subsequently shot four times.[19] Liza Soberano and Catriona Gray, US and Australian citizens respectively, have also since been publicly threatened, the former with assassination and the latter with rape.[20][21]

United States[edit]

20th century[edit]

Red-baiting was employed in opposition to anarchists in the United States as early as the late 1870s when businessmen, religious leaders, politicians and editorial writers tried to rally poor and middle-class workers to oppose dissident railroad workers and again during the Haymarket affair in the mid-1880s. Red-baiting was well established in the United States during the decade before World War I. In the post-war period of 1919–1921, the United States government employed it as a central tactic in dealing with labor radicals, anarchists, communists, socialists and foreign agents. These actions in reaction to the First Red Scare and the concurrent Red Terror served as part of the organizing principle shaping counter-revolutionary policies and serving to institutionalize anti-communism as a force in American politics.[9][22]

The period between the first and second Red Scares was relatively calm owing to the success of government anti-communism, the suppressive effects of New Deal policies on radical organized labor and the patriotism associated with total mobilization and war effort during World War II.[22] Red-baiting re-emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s during the period known as the Second Red Scare due to mounting Cold War tensions and the spread of communism abroad. Senator Joseph McCarthy's controversial red-baiting of suspected communists and communist sympathizers in the United States Department of State and the creation of a Hollywood blacklist led to the term McCarthyism being coined to signify any type of reckless political persecution or witch-hunt.[6]

The history of anti-communist red-baiting in general and McCarthyism in particular continues to be hotly debated and political divisions this controversy created continue to make themselves felt. Conservative critics contend that revelations such as the Venona project decryptions and the FBI Silvermaster File at least mute if not outright refute the charge that red-baiting in general was unjustified.[23][24] Historian Nicholas von Hoffman wrote in The Washington Post that evidence revealed in the Venona project forced him to admit that McCarthy was "closer to the truth than those who ridiculed him".[25] Liberal critics contend that even if someone could prove that the United States government was infiltrated by Soviet spies, McCarthy was censured by the Senate because he was in fact reckless and politically opportunistic and his red-baiting ruined the lives of countless innocent people.[26] Historian Ellen Schrecker wrote that "McCarthyism did more damage to the constitution than the American Communist Party ever did".[27]

21st century[edit]

In the 21st century, red-baiting does not have quite the same effect it previously did due to the fall of most Marxist–Leninist governments,[7] but some pundits have argued that events in current American politics indicates a resurgence of red-baiting consistent with the 1950s.[8] The United States government's measures in 2008 to address the subprime mortgage crisis such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program were not only criticized as corporate welfare but red-baited as a "gateway to socialism".[28][29][30][31] Political activist and author Tim Wise argued that the emergence of red-baiting may be motivated by racism towards President Barack Obama and fear that the progressive policies of his administration would erode white privilege in the United States.[8]

Some commentators argue that red-baiting was used by John McCain, Republican presidential nominee in the 2008 presidential election, when he argued that Obama's improvised comments on wealth redistribution to Joe the Plumber was a promotion of "socialism".[9] Journalist David Remnick, who wrote the biography The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama,[32] countered that it should now be obvious that after one year in office Obama is a center-left president and the majority of his policies are in line with the center-left Democratic tradition.[33] In July 2011, The Fiscal Times columnist Bruce Barlett argued that an honest examination of the Obama presidency must conclude that he has in fact been a moderately conservative Democrat and that it may take twenty years before Obama's basic conservatism is widely accepted.[34] Similarly, author and columnist Chris Hedges argued that the Obama administration's policies are mostly right-wing.[9][35]

In April 2009, Representative Spencer Bachus claimed that seventeen of his Congressional colleagues were socialists, but he would only name Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been openly describing himself as a democratic socialist for years.[36] Sanders countered that American conservatives blur the differences between democratic socialism and authoritarian socialism and between democracy and totalitarianism. He argued that the United States would benefit from a serious debate about comparing the quality of life for the middle class in the United States and in Nordic countries with a long social-democratic tradition.[37]

In May 2009, a number of conservative members of the Republican National Committee were pressing the committee and by extension chairman Michael Steele to officially adopt the position that the Democratic Party is "socialist". Over a dozen members of the conservative wing of the committee submitted a new resolution, to be eventually voted on by the entire committee, that would call on the Democratic Party to rename itself the Democrat Socialist Party. Had this resolution been adopted, the committee's official view would have been that Democrats are "socialists".[38] The resolution stated as follows:

RESOLVED, that we the members of the Republican National Committee call on the Democratic Party to be truthful and honest with the American people by acknowledging that they have evolved from a party of tax and spend to a party of tax and nationalize and, therefore, should agree to rename themselves the Democrat Socialist Party.[39]

On Wednesday 20 May 2009, supporters of the resolution instead agreed to accept language urging Democrats to "stop pushing our country towards socialism and government control", ending a fight within the ranks of the Republican Party that reflected the divide between those who want a more centrist message and those seeking a more aggressive, conservative voice such as the one expressed by the Tea Party movement.[40] Frank Llewellyn, national director of Democratic Socialists of America, argued that Republicans never really define what they mean by socialism and are simply engaging in the politics of fear.[41]

In July 2009, talk show host Glenn Beck began to devote what would become many episodes on his TV and radio shows, focusing on Van Jones, a special advisor in President Obama's White House Council on Environmental Quality. Beck was especially critical of Jones' previous involvement in radical protest movements and referred to him as a "communist-anarchist radical".[42] In September 2009, Jones resigned his position in the Obama administration after a number of his past statements became fodder for conservative critics and Republican officials.[42] Time credited Beck with leading conservatives' attack on Jones,[43] who characterized it as a "vicious smear campaign" and an effort to use "lies and distortions to distract and divide".[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Red-baiting - Definition of red-baiting by Merriam-Webster". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  2. ^ "Redbaiting - definition of redbaiting by The Free Dictionary". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Baiting - Definition of Bait by Merriam-Webster". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  4. ^ "City Crowds Silent On News Of Deaths". The New York Times. 23 August 1927. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  5. ^ "New York Times" 3 April 1928 'D.A.R. Head Defends Order's Blacklist'
  6. ^ a b "Dictionary, Encyclopedia and Thesaurus - The Free Dictionary". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  7. ^ a b Leibovich, Mark (28 February 2009). "'Socialism!' Boo, Hiss, Repeat". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Wise, Tim (11 August 2009). "Red-Baiting and Racism". CounterPunch. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d Hedges, Chris (2010). Death of the Liberal Class. Nation Books. ISBN 9781568586441.
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  22. ^ a b Edsforth, Ronald; Bennett, Larry (1991). Popular Culture and Political Change in Modern America. Suny Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-0765-3.
  23. ^ Haynes, John Earl; Klehr, Harvey (2003). In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage. Encounter. ISBN 1-893554-72-4.
  24. ^ Radosh, Ronald (11 July 2001). "The Persistence Of Anti-Anti-Communism". FrontPage Magazine. Retrieved 27 February 2009.
  25. ^ Woods, Thomas E. (2004). The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-89526-047-5.
  26. ^ Theoharis, Athan (2002). Chasing Spies: How the FBI Failed in Counter-Intelligence But Promoted the Politics of McCarthyism in the Cold War Years. Ivan R. Dee. ISBN 1-56663-420-2.
  27. ^ Schrecker, Ellen (Winter 2000). "Comments on John Earl Haynes". Journal of Cold War Studies. Harvard University—Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 27 February 2009.
  28. ^ "TARP Is The Gateway To Socialism Doesn’t Add Up".
  29. ^ "The President's Permanent TARP Bailout Socialism Bill".
  30. ^ "Socialism - TARP, Stimulus fraud".
  31. ^ Fox & Friends. Fox News Channel. 29 April 2009.
  32. ^ Remnick, David (2010). The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. Knopf. ISBN 978-1-4000-4360-6.
  33. ^ "Adopted and Rejected; Supreme Court Vacancy; Path to the Presidency; Phoebe Prince: Bullied to Death?; Back to School in Port- au-Prince". CCN. 9 April 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  34. ^ Barlett, Bruce (22 July 2011). "Barack Obama: The Democrats' Richard Nixon?". The Fiscal Times. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  35. ^ Hedges, Chris (2011). "The World As it Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress". Nation Books. ISBN 9781568586403.
  36. ^ Akers, Mary Ann (10 April 2009). "The Sleuth - Spencer Bachus's Past With Socialists". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  37. ^ Sanders, Bernie (22 April 2009). "...and socialism". Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  38. ^ Hallow, Ralph Z. (23 April 2009). "Steele urged to label Obama a socialist". The Washington Times. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  39. ^ "Proposed RNC Resolution Recognizing the Democrats' March Towards Socialism".
  40. ^ "GOP Votes To Condemn Democrats' "March To Socialism"". The Huffington Post. 20 May 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  41. ^ Llewellyn, Frank (22 July 2009). "Socialism And The Politics Of Fear". CBS News. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  42. ^ a b Brodey, John (6 September 2009). "White House Official Resigns After G.O.P. Criticism". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 September 2009.
  43. ^ Von Drehle, David (28 September 2009). "Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?". Time. 174 (12): 30. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 18 September 2009. See cover.
  44. ^ Wilson, Scott; Franke-Ruta, Garance (6 September 2009). "White House Adviser Van Jones Resigns Amid Controversy Over Past Activism". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 September 2009.