Fbi, red scare, anarchism, socialism, repression, political theater


The Red Scare of 1919-1920 has been presented as a wave of anti-Radical hysteria that swept post WWI America; a hysteria to which the state reluctantly capitulated to by arresting Radicals and deporting those alien Radicals they deemed most threatening. This presentation, however, is ludicrous when the motivations of the state and its conservative allies are examined. The truth of the matter was that almost all of the people targeted by the Red Scare represented no significant threat to the institutions of the United States and were merely targeted for holding Leftwing ideas, or being connected to a group that did. This work examines how the Red Scare deportations were used as a performance to gain power and funding for the Bureau of Investigation and how the Bureau sought to use this performance to set itself up as the premier anti-Radical agency in the United States. While the topic of the Red Scare of 1919-1920 has been thoroughly covered, most works on the subject attempt to cover the whole affair or even address it as part of a larger study of political repression in the United States. In these accounts these authors do not see the Red Scare as a performance, which culminated in the Soviet Ark deportations, put on by the BI in order to fulfill its goal of expanding its own importance. This work addresses the events leading up to climactic sailing of the Soviet Ark, as political theater put on by the BI and its allies in order to impress policy makers and other conservative interest groups. Since the Soviet Ark deportations were the climax of the Red Scare performance, this work addresses the event as a theatrical production and follows a three act dramatic structure. It begins by exploring the cast of characters, both individuals and organizations, in the BI’s performance. This is followed by an analysis of the rising action of the BI, and other reactionary iii groups in the evolution of their grand performance. Finally the deportations serve as the climax of the Red Scare in this performance that the BI and its allies would use to justify an expansion of their influence. Through the use of government records, biographies, and first hand accounts, this work explores the Soviet Ark deportations as the high point of the first Red Scare, the point in which the BI and its allies took their quest for expanded power the furthest before having to change course. The grand performance that the Bureau of Investigation put on is looked at, not as a response to placate others – something the BI was merely swept up in – but as a performance that they designed to meet the specific needs of their campaign to grow their agency, a performance for which they were willing to draft those that represented no real threat despite the consequences to those individuals.


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Graduation Date





Crepeau, Richard


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program









Release Date

December 2013

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic, Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities

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