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Film Description: The Hoaxters is a 1952 American documentary film directed by Herman Hoffman about the threat posed by communism to the American way of life. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and won the Oscar for best documentary in 1953. It was also endorsed by the FBI, the State Department, and the Psychological Strategy Board, the coordinator of the U.S. government’s Cold War propaganda activities between 1951 and 1953. The film compares communism to a snake oil salesman at a carnival, as well as equating it with fascism. At one point it says that the call of communism is “that of the old-time medicine man whose phony brew promised to cure everything, being swallowed cheerfully by the gullible until rigor mortis sets in.”

To the left is the first half of the the film. Evident in this part of the film is fear of the “fifth column” in America. A “fifth column” is used to describe a perceived subsection or group within a country (or any larger collective) that is working for that country’s enemies. The concept of a “fifth column” has been used historically to justify any number of atrocities, and fed the “Red Scare” of the 1950s, when there was hysteria over the perceived threat posed by Communists in the U.S. This hysteria was fed by Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, a right-wing Republican, who initiated highly publicized probes into alleged Communist penetration of the State Department, the White House, the Treasury, and the US Army.


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