J. EDGAR HOOVER AND THE RHETORICAL RISE OF THE FBI: THE PUBLIC CAMPAIGNS AGAINST VERMIN, THE FIFTH COLUMN, AND RED FASCISM.
Underhill, Stephen Michael
Parry-Giles, Shawn J
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This project examines J. Edgar Hoover's rhetorical leadership of the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman administrations (1933-1953). Hoover launched and sustained a concerted domestic propaganda program that helped enhance his own political power and invented the FBI as a central force in domestic and international matters. In the process, he re-envisioned conceptions of U.S. citizenship by promoting notions of idealized citizenship. Hoover entered law enforcement and U.S. politics during the early decades of the twentieth century--a time of increased use of public campaigns sponsored by the U.S. government and presidential administrations to alter public opinion on important policy matters. This period witnessed, for example, the country's experimentation with domestic propaganda during World War I. While the Soviet Union and Germany used disease, vermin, parasite, and body metaphors to organize their own domestic propaganda campaigns in the following decades, Hoover used these same metaphors to advance the need to purify America and exterminate its social pariah. Through his public campaigns against vermin (1933-1939), the Fifth Column (1939-1945), and Red Fascism (1945-1953), Hoover constructed a reality in which corruption and subversion were immutable elements of democratic life. Increasingly, Hoover's tactics of threat and intimidation began to mimic the tactics of threat practiced by America's enemies, moving the country closer to what many at the time called a police state. Hoover's coupling of propaganda and coercive tactics ultimately helped him to rapidly expand the FBI and undermine his superiors and counterparts in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Whereas Roosevelt benefited politically from building up a secret police force, Truman inherited a cunning FBI director eager to use his power to expand and exploit the rhetorical presidency during the Red Scare.