The second Red Scare was a charade orchestrated by a tyrant with the express goal of undermining the New Deal—so argues Stephen M. Underhill in this hard-hitting analysis of J. Edgar Hoover’s rhetorical agency. Drawing on Classification 94, a vast trove of recently declassified records that documents the longtime FBI director’s domestic propaganda campaigns in the mid-twentieth century, Underhill shows that Hoover used the growing power of his office to subvert the presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman and redirect the trajectory of U.S. culture away from social democracy toward a toxic brand of neoliberalism. He did so with help from Republicans who opposed organized labor and Southern Democrats who supported Jim Crow in what is arguably the most culturally significant documented political conspiracy in U.S. history, a wholesale domestic propaganda program that brainwashed Americans and remade their politics. Hoover also forged ties with the powerful fascist leaders of the period to promote his own political ambitions. All the while, as a love letter to Clyde Tolson still preserved in Hoover’s papers attests, he strove to pass for straight while promoting a culture that demonized same-sex love. The erosion of democratic traditions Hoover fostered continues to haunt Americans today.
About the Author
STEPHEN M. UNDERHILL is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Marshall University. He served as the lead reference person for declassified FBI and Department of Justice textual records at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland, from 2007 to 2012.
“Stephen M. Underhill’s book is a brilliant investigation into the ways J. Edgar Hoover co-opted the rhetorical themes and techniques of twentieth-century American liberals and progressives to fortify a virtual American police state. If the past is preface, read it as a warning.” —NED O’GORMAN, author of The Iconoclastic Imagination: Image, Catastrophe, and Economy in America from the Kennedy Assassination to September 11