Table Topics questions are meant to stimulate family and classroom discussion.
Use the questions below after reading,"Rooting out Reds"
- The early '50s were obsessed with discrediting those with real or
imagined ties to the Communist Party. Was the Communist threat to America real,
imagined or overstated? Was the existence of nuclear technology a factor
in the obsession with spies? What do terms like "Cold War" and "Iron Curtain" communicate
about the geopolitical realities of post-war divided Europe? Why did fearing Communists abroad
translate into fearing Communists at home?
- Treason against the United States, defined as "levying war . . . or
adhering to its enemies, giving them aid and comfort" is illegal.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, press and assembly.
The 1940 Alien Registration Act made it a crime to advocate violent overthrow of the government or
to be a member of an organization that advocates it. In your opinion, do these laws have overlapping
areas of conflict with one another?
- Washington state had a long history of populist and union activism.
Many activists came under suspicion of being Reds and were subjected to rumor,
innuendo and damaged reputations. Today, folks on both left and right experience
pejorative name-calling such as "feminazi," "extremist," etc. Can you think of others?
Are there recent situations of reputations smeared by rumor or guilt through association?
- Seattle Times reporter Ed Guthman won a Pulitzer Prize for clearing UW professor Melvin Rader, charged
with being a Communist. Why was being a Communist considered a crime? Could people
be charged with this today? In today's era of Oklahoma City, Unabomber and Viper
conspiracies, how can we distinguish between dangerous subversives and those who
merely sympathize with paramilitary and cult ideas? Were government actions
that resulted in loss of life at Randy Weaver's Ruby Ridge or the Waco,
Texas, compound justified? How does a democratic society protect the freedom of
unpopular ideas while protecting itself against the violence those ideas may inspire?
- "Guerrilla artist" Jason Sprinkle was charged with the Washington State Explosive Act
for abandoning his truck with "bomb" written on it. Was Sprinkle's art statement a freedom of
speech issue or the equivalent of yelling "fire" in a crowded theater? What if the person yelling
"fire" explained it as performance art? Should intent be a factor, since Sprinkle's art was
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