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Red diaper baby

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 27, 2009 at 06:47

In Reply to: Red diaper baby posted by joe on July 23, 2009 at 18:18:

: : : Can you give some background on the phrase "red diaper baby" which I have heard twice in the last week but never before? The earliest I am finding it used so far is 2001.

: : I'd not come across the phrase before here in the UK - not surprisingly, as we have nappies here.

: : It appears in an article in the Nebraska paper The Columbus Telegram in March 1972. The context of that article suggests that the phrase was well-established then.

: Kenneth Keniston has spoken of "the Red diaper babies in 1968 Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth. New York

According to the Wikipedia, s.v. "Red diaper babies," the term describes "a child of parents who were members of the United States Communist Party (CPUSA) or were close to the party or sympathetic to its aims." The article further points out that the term is also used of the children of any parents who were considered radical in their political philosophy.

I believe the term has mostly been used by men and women whose parents were accused of radicalism and sympathizing with Communism during America's "Second Red Scare," as the Wikipedia terms it. This is the period from the late '40s to the late '50s, dominated first by the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) and then by hearings by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his committeem, usually known as the McCarthy Committee.

I imagine everyone present knows what these committees were up to. Nominally their intent was to uncover the Commies and Comsymps who were destroying America, with the destruction of careers and reputations an unavoidable side effect, along with the generation of an enormous amount of hostility between those who supported the hearings (upwards of 50% of the population) and those who regarded them as vile and loathsome, as well as totally uninformed and useless, attacks on the liberties granted every American by the Constitution.