Stained Red A Study of Stigma by Association to Blacklisted Artists during the “Red Scare” in Hollywood, 1945 to 1960

Stained Red A Study of Stigma by Association to Blacklisted Artists during the “Red Scare” in Hollywood, 1945 to 1960

By
Elizabeth Pontikes, Giacomo Negro, Hayagreeva Rao
American Sociological Review. June
2010, Vol. 75, Issue 3, Pages 456-478

We suggest that moral panics exert spillover effects through stigma by mere association. Individuals are harmed even if their ties to stigmatized affiliates are heterophilous, and high-status individuals can also suffer. This creates a broadcast effect that increases the scale of the moral panic. Analyzing the U.S. film industry from 1945 to 1960, we examine how artists’ employment in feature films was influenced by their associations with co-workers who were blacklisted as communistsafter working with the focal artist. Mere association reduces an artist’s chances of working again, and one exposure is enough to impair work prospects. Furthermore, actors’ careers are impaired when writers with whom they worked are blacklisted. Moreover, the negative effects of stigma by mere association hold even when the focal artist has received public acclaim. These findings have broad implications. When a few individuals or organizations are engaged in wrongdoing and publicly targeted, stigma by association can lead to false positives and harm many innocents.