How Communists Menace Vital Materials – Presentation Reflection

“How Communists Menace Vital Materials” was created by the Research Institute of America in 1956, which was headed by the United States Congress House Committee on Un-American Activities. The map focuses on the USSR’s use of resources from different regions of the world, and its expanding interests. The map was produced during the Red Scare which was a period in America’s history during the Cold War when mass hysteria spread due to fear of Communism within American society. This was due to the American government’s practice of McCarthyism, which was essentially the making of accusations of treason/ subversion without the provision of sufficient evidence required to back them up. This map was commonly used as anti-communist propaganda within US Congress, and was also circulated amongst the American public.  

In the title, the use of the word “menace” ensues a heavily negative connotation of the USSR and creates the image that its use of resources endangers the existence of those resources, which were described as “vital.” The USSR is portrayed as exploitational towards the nations of the world due to its use of their resources, while America sees the resources of the world’s nations as its own, and seeks to protect them in order to ensure that they are able to use them

This map is also strikingly similar to the map ‘“Gulag” – Slavery Inc’. map discussed by Barney. It transforms Americans’ idea of communism from an abstract concept they were fighting against to a physical place/country they were fighting. Both maps were also circulated among the public in order to provoke increased anti-communist sentiments. “How Communists Menace Vital Materials” was produced by congress as propaganda to show how menacing/far reaching communism is, and was used to show that the US has power of info to make this map, representative of the tensions between the US and USSR.

Essentially, the purpose of this map is to generate support for anti-communist efforts in America and to create an ideological war between capitalism/democracy and communism. This was done through the spreading of fear within the American public of communism itself, and its rapid spread and growing influence. The map dehumanizes communists, and creates the sense that they are the “other.” The result of this is a misunderstanding of an entire people by the American public, and the spread of hysteria, anti-communism, and McCarthyism.

Additionally, the discussions that ensued during the presentation were insightful, as it was clear the audience was able to understand the meaning and overall purpose of the map and how it correlates to and reflects the sentiments of the Cold War era. The audience was able to identify the significant map elements, such as the provocatory title, use of imagery, and the projection as rhetorical tools.

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