By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern
Emblematic of Cold War era America, these anti-socialist advertisements for the Virginia Electric and Power Company appear in issues of the Fairfax Herald from the 1950s. These ads emblematically reflect America’s fears over the internal threat of communism, driven by McCarthy’s anti-communist efforts, such as the formation of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. One ad reflects the fears created by this political climate, urging people to “help your friends and neighbors see the danger.”
They also seek to assert American superiority, with one ad saying, “forbidden would be a frequently used word if you had the unhappy task of teaching young Russians…you couldn’t tell them that in America opportunity is unlimited…”
In many respects, an electric company advertisement seems a strange place for fear-mongering propaganda; however, during this time technologies that served to make life more convenient and comfortable were lauded as symbols of capitalism’s success and America’s superiority. This would later become epitomized in the 1959 “Kitchen Debate” between Richard Nixon and Nikita Krushchev, wherein Nixon presented a model American kitchen, adorned with modern appliances, and argued that the conveniences it offered were evidence of capitalism’s superiority over communism.