One of the few pieces of literature they threw at me in high school that actually helped me understand the human condition was The Crucible, a play by Pulitzer-prize winner Arthur Miller. If you've never read it, I highly recommend it.
Miller wrote of the Salem witch trials of 1692, not a very bright moment in the history of our country, to illustrate the harm being done by Senator Joseph McCarthy and The House Un-American Activities Committee during their tireless pursuit of Americans they believed to have pro-Communist sympathies. Miller helped me understand why fear of persecution encourages group hostility, and results in condoning outrageous things like burning women at the stake simply because someone's cow dropped dead.
Miller always believed that he had been targeted by the HUAC because he refused to allow a member of the committee to be photographed with his wife, Marilyn Monroe. Hell hath no fury like a rebuffed fan, I suppose. His subsequent refusal to cooperate with the HUAC -- he wouldn't give them a list of names of writers they wanted -- resulted in him being labeled a pro-Communist.
Imagine, losing your writing career because you wouldn't pick up a torch and set another helpless writer on fire in front of a screaming mob. Not that something like that could ever happen or even be suggested in today's enlightened, fair-minded and intelligent publishing industry.
There is no doubt that Arthur Miller's silence cost him, because one of the most effective group control tactics is to use fear of persecution: the "If you're not with us, you're against us" threat of reprisal. He took a big risk, refused to cooperate with the HUAC, and was made into an example by them, at least until a judge overturned the unfair conviction in 1958.
When the president finally shut down Joe McCarthy and the committee, I imagine Arthur Miller was one of the few people involved who didn't have to wash the writer soot from his hands, bury the burned-out torches and pretend it never happened. His hands stayed clean.
Thank heavens we no longer live in the era of witch hunts, of the women or writer variety.