"The Crucible" is a fictionalized account of the famous Salem witch trials, which caused public mass hysteria leading to false accusations; conditions that also existed during the Red Scare, a period of American history in which the accusation of communist sympathy could lead to professional and personal destruction. The term "witch hunt" originated with the Salem witch trials, and this term can be applied to the Red Scare, also known as McCarthyism.
In February 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed to know the names of "card-carrying" communists who worked in the U.S. State Department. This kicked off a period of paranoia and accusation known as the Red Scare, with "red" symbolizing communism. The practice of searching for and accusing people, including those guilty and innocent, of some object of public paranoia has since been labelled as "McCarthyism." This term is synonymous with the term "witch hunt," which refers to the Salem witch trials that were fictionalized in Arthur Miller's play, "The Crucible."