Or associated with a member of the Communist Party, or joined a group that has Communist Party members, or signed a petition or even shared a name with a member of the Communist Party? In all the above cases which are by no means exhaustive you could be in danger of coming under the "scrutiny" of Joe McCarthy's Un-American Activities Committee or one of its many off-shoots. Ellen Schrecker's short history of the McCarthy era takes a look at what happened in the McCarthy era starting with a brief 100 page history of the main period stretching from the just after the War to the end of McCarthy himself: he had moved on to attacking the Department of Defence and this rather than his attacks on Trade Unionists, Artists and Political Activists was what brought about his demise.
In addition to the short history of the period, Schrecker has included another 150 pages of primary documents that include the summing up of the Judge at the Rosenberg case; verbatim accounts of testimony at McCarthy's Un-American Activities Committee; Joseph McCarthy's "I have in my hand. . ." speech in which he claims that there are 57 (or 205 or 207 - the number varied in each rendition of the speech) Communists in the State Department; and the Supreme Courts judgments on aspects of McCarthyism including the dissenting judgement. There are also a number of photographs, including a rather ridiculous one of a young Richard Nixon hunched over some micro-film magnifying glass in hand: the micro-film was the so-called "Pumpkin papers" - allegedly secreted in a Pumpkin by Whittaker Chambers one of the Joe McCarthy's star witnesses in the "case" against Alger Hiss.
Whatever the rhetorical flourishes about fighting for freedom that accompanied this witch-hunt, the reality is that it effected tens of thousands of people many of whom were active members of Civil Society in Trade Unions, Education, Film, Television and Journalism. They could be dismissed from their positions, coerced into divulging all political activities and acquaintances over periods running back decades, black listed from employment in sectors that went well beyond those which could plausibly be called vital to "national security" including - at the sublimely ridiculous level - an eight year old girl who was refused clearance to act in a television programme for "Political Reasons"!
The period labelled "McCarthyism" (and McCarthy was the tip of the iceberg, or summit of the dunghill?) functioned as a way of narrowing the limits of Political debate, disrupting Trade Unions who would often find themselves coming under the purview of one or other of the Inquisitorial Committees when involved in industrial disputes, curtailing the political side of civil society and creating a climate of harassment and fear. The motivation of those involved would appear to be a strong dislike of the New Deal State that formed in the 1930's in response to the Great Depression - many of those targeted were those who had been involved in setting up and administering the institutions that were created during that time as well as a variety of other issues including the puerile view of the China Lobby, that it was Communist infiltrators in the State Department and not Chiang Kai-Shek who had "lost" China.
In all its Schrecker has written an excellent introduction to the era, and the additional primary documents make fascinating reading. Other books that might be of interest include Eric Foners summary that covers the period from the War of Independence to the end of the 20th Century The Story of American Freedom: The Reality and the Mythic Ideal and Francis Stonor Saunders Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War.