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G-Man (Pulitzer Prize Winner): J. Edgar…
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G-Man (Pulitzer Prize Winner): J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century (edició 2022)

de Beverly Gage (Autor)

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"A major new biography of J Edgar Hoover that draws from never-before-seen sources to create a groundbreaking portrait of a colossus who dominated half a century of American history and planted the seeds for much of today's conservative political landscape. We remember him as a bulldog--squat frame, bulging wide-set eyes, fearsome jowls--but in 1924, when he became director of the FBI, he had been the trim, dazzling wunderkind of the administrative state, buzzing with energy and big ideas for reform. He transformed a failing law-enforcement backwater, riddled with scandal, into a modern machine. He believed in the power of the federal government to do great things for the nation and its citizens. He also believed that certain people--many of them communists or racial minorities or both-- did not deserve to be included in that American project. Hoover rose to power and then stayed there, decade after decade, using the tools of state to create a personal fiefdom unrivaled in U.S. history. Beverly Gage's monumental work explores the full sweep of Hoover's life and career, from his birth in 1895 to a modest Washington civil-service family through his death in 1972. In her nuanced and definitive portrait, Gage shows how Hoover was more than a one-dimensional tyrant and schemer who strong-armed the rest of the country into submission. As FBI director from 1924 through his death in 1972, he was a confidant, counselor, and adversary to eight U.S. presidents, four Republicans and four Democrats. Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson did the most to empower him, yet his closest friend among the eight was fellow anticommunist warrior Richard Nixon. Hoover was not above blackmail and intimidation, but he also embodied conservative values ranging from anticommunism to white supremacy to a crusading and politicized interpretation of Christianity. This garnered him the admiration of millions of Americans. He stayed in office for so long because many people, from the highest reaches of government down to the grassroots, wanted him there and supported what he was doing, thus creating the template that the political right has followed to transform its party. G-Man places Hoover back where he once stood in American political history--not at the fringes, but at the center--and uses his story to explain the trajectories of governance, policing, race, ideology, political culture, and federal power as they evolved over the course of the 20th century"--… (més)
Membre:DennisThou
Títol:G-Man (Pulitzer Prize Winner): J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century
Autors:Beverly Gage (Autor)
Informació:Viking (2022), Edition: First Edition, 864 pages
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G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century de Beverly Gage

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This book bears comparison with Robert Caro’s magisterial The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York as among the few close studies of how administrative titans confound the democratic process.

J. Edgar Hoover built up the FBI from 1919 to 1972 as a private fiefdom with his rules, his filing system, and his decisions on when to bend the rules.

In spite of Hoover's self-proclaimed impartiality between Democrats and Republicans, Beverly Gage very clearly lays out how Hoover used his office to further his own interests, be it sometimes in line with Democrat interests, sometimes Republican, and sometimes the interests of white supremacists.

This is what clearly differentiates Gage's biography from earlier Hoover biographies. It is the best on focussing on the power and process of government.

In the Power Broker, Caro brilliantly showed how Robert Moses used the power to tax, in one famous instance, to build up his own war chest. Gage shows how Hoover protected his independence from Congress, how he used the power of secrecy, guile, and Hollywood promotion to build the ramparts.

One of Hoover's greatest failures as a bureaucrat came in the lead up to and the aftermath of WWII when he tried to role foreign intelligence into the FBI's gamut of services. After the war, Truman claimed that he didn't want to create a US version of the all powerful German Gestapo and handed off foreign intelligence to a new agency, the CIA. Hoover never forgot the slight and kept his secrets apart from CIA. You could draw a straight line between this and 9/11, when lack of communication between the agencies contributed heavily to Al Qaida's success.

But not all of Hoover's failures were his fault. He seemed powerless to curb lynchings, to get convictions against racists in the Deep South, or to enforce Federal law at all in race relations. He blamed a lot of it on the split between Federal and State responsibilities. It seems that the only way he could reduce the power of the Klu Klux Klan was to turn to illegal means. He used illegal wiretaps, subversion, and paid informants. Moreover, most violent crimes were state crimes, outside the control of Federal lawmakers or law enforcement.

So many subversive techniques on so many targets that an argument can be made that the Bureau of Investigation's greatest successes came at the cost of law and order, not at its preservation.

With the nodding approval of Presidents and Attorneys General, Hoover almost single-handedly created the surveillance state. Not only did his FBI surveil known and suspected Communist and anarchist sympathizers, he surveilled legislators, White House staff, civil rights activists, university educators, many government employees, businessmen, and journalists.

He steadfastly refused to elevate blacks to FBI agents, he helped purge all suspected homosexuals from government office, and his hiring focussed on white graduates of his own alma mater, George Washington University in DC, and his own exclusive white fraternity.

Without Hoover the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee Hollywood hearings could not have taken place as he opened up his vast files to select members of the Senate and House. After WWII Hoover got authorization to radically expand his workforce of snoops. And at a time when Federal legislators feared their influence waning, Hoover obliged by lending committees many, many FBI "professionals" as research and policy aids.

One thing that Hoover did not have and Senate committees did have was the power to subpoena. Thus when Hoover empowered the committees not only could he ask the questions, but the committees could compel witnesses to answer truthfully under threat of imprisonment.

But secrecy was his greatest weapon, as it was demonstrated in his exclusive control over the WWII Venona intercepts, Soviet communications during WWII that American codebreakers only succeeded to decrypt after the war. Hoover used them to help break the Cambridge Five but not before the Soviets had stolen the secrets of America's A-bomb project. It also help Hoover finger Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

But neither FDR nor Truman were let in on their secrets. This gave Hoover tremendous leverage.

Gage adeptly explains every step of FBI's rise from a tiny branch of the Justice Department to to a colossus with thousands of employees and billions of reports, transcripts of buggings, and analysis on its filings. Hoover had snitches in the NAACP, the KKK, the armed forces, the SDS, and many more places. She builds a case that the backbone of the crazy right were former FBI G-men trained by Hoover.

I don’t think she’s succeeded, not for want of trying. She’s tied in Murchison and other Texas millionaires, but Hoover didn’t convert anybody, nor did the FBI academy grads.

Throughout his life Hoover never took his eye off the case of Communist subversion and used it to drive Martin Luther King, among others, to distraction. His antipathy to the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement contributed to the rise of reaction in the universities and beyond. Once young people stopped trusting their elders they led a huge cultural change.

There are parallels between that period and the rise of ME-TOO and anti-racism from the murder of George Floyd and others.

I can see that the decline of confidence in lawmakers today and the reaction to Israeli warplanes strafing Gaza as stepchild to the George Floyd demonstrations.

And among history's ironies, there is the picture of Lyndon Johnson seeing Hoover as the only man he could trust in Washington, all the while Hoover is making mincemeat of constitutional protections for individuals, including ML King.

To summarize: Hoover built an army of “investigators” building dossiers on thousands of Americans who never broke a rule and never broke a law in the better part of 50 years he ruled the FBI. A vast part of that surveillance was obtained illegally and thus could never be used in a prosecution. And Hoover prevented anybody from seeing it. When a prosecution could be obtained the FBI could not participate because it had no authority over state crimes. Including lynchings. Including the murder of civil rights advocates. In the 1930’s Hoover’s FBI gained notoriety for “getting” some famous bank robbers like John Dillinger and Baby-faced Nelson even though that really wasn’t his job and his “investigators” weren’t issued firearms, at least not in the beginning, and a few agents were gunned down because they were poor shots and didn’t have bulletproof vests. Franklin Roosevelt authorized Hoover to do something about the “crime wave” overtaking America without truly understanding that the FBI didn’t have the constitutional authority to do anything like that. In fact, none of the eight presidents Hoover served under understood that. They let Hoover create a state of mass surveillance or “a surveillance state” very often using illegal methods. The “crime wave” in the 1920’s and 30’s was largely driven by Prohibition when even Presidents stocked up on illegal booze. One of Hoovers “great successes” although spoken of quietly was using illegally collected evidence that Federal employees were homosexuals who needed to be removed from government. It was called “the Lavender Scare.” This in spite of the well-known fact that Hoover was himself homosexual. His success at counter-intelligence was spotty. After all, the Russians stole the plans for the A-bomb, used the Cambridge Five ring to roll up Western Agents in the Soviet Union, lost two Kennedys and ML King to assassins’ bullets, and laid the groundwork for intelligence mishigas that was 9/11.

Shortly after I finished reading the book I was sharing the experience with a friend. The first question he asked me about the book was were the Presidents Hoover served under afraid of him?

You would think that’d be a question Gage would have addressed directly, but I don’t recall as she had. Certainly John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson had reason to fear Hoover, who had plenty of unsavoury information about both men in his files. And they were Democrats, he Republican.

Hoover was, after all, answerable to them and he was a stickler for process. Besides, they were elected to the highest office in the land. Hoover served at the pleasure of the President. I don’t think Eisenhower or Franklin Roosevelt were the kind of men who were much afraid of anybody, they couldn’t have won WWII if they were.

But Hoover’s tactics stuck to Presidents. Whatever he did affected how people came to see the President and ultimately, the United States of America.

Which leads to ask a question that Gage avoids: How good was Hoover at his job, even at defining what the FBI should be. In order to evaluate Hoover it would have been helpful to find another individual who built an investigative police force and compare them.

Perhaps the best person she could have compared Hoover to would have been the British crime czar Sir Robert Peel, a Conservative, who among other things founded Scotland Yard. His modern policing featured the civilian nature of the domestic police and the need for consent among the policed.

Hoover did not keep this front and centre.

Finally, how good and how useful is FBI to the democracy under Hoover? My grade: C-. ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
Wonderful history ofthe Hoover FBI era ( )
  JosephKing6602 | Jan 10, 2024 |
An epic look at the life of J. Edgar Hoover a man synonymous with the birth, growth and importance of the F. B. I. A tremendous amount of research to bring this man to life. From his youth you see how he develops many of his attributes like self discipline, determination and a misogynistic and racist bent. .The book ranges over his seventy seven years from fighting gangsters in the twenties to fighting radical groups in the sixties. Many of his practices were unsavory but but he had a profound effect on American culture. ( )
  muddyboy | Sep 3, 2023 |
41. G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century by Beverly Gage
reader: Gabra Zackman
OPD: 2022
format: 36:36 audible audiobook (864 pages in hardcover)
acquired: May 19 listened: May 19 – Jul 24
rating: 4.5
genre/style: Biography theme: random audio
locations: Washington, D.C.
about the author: History professor at Yale (Yale alum, 1994)

Goodness, where to begin.

It worth spending a moment to point out that J. Edgar Hoover was considered an American hero during his lifetime. He was the one who built and defined the FBI as a mythically clean-cut law abiding, apolitical, white-collar, effective law enforcement organization that broke the 1930's crime rings, led communist crackdowns, and caught and prosecuted some WWII spies. He was supported and depended on by presidents FDR, Eisenhower, Johnson and Nixon, who considered him a close friend. He joined the justice department in 1917, led the FBI from 1924 (under a different name. He got to name it the FBI), appointed under Calvin Coolidge. He served as director under eight presidents (Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, FDR, Eisenhower, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon), for 48 years until his death of a heart attack or stroke in 1972. His approval rating among Americans was over 90%. And he was given a hero's funeral, with a passionate speech by Richard Nixon.

It wasn't until Watergate that public opinion turned. The arrests leading to Watergate happened a week or so after Hoover's death. As part of the investigation, the FBI files were opened up, and country learned for the first time all the secret activities the FBI had been up to the last 48 years, spying, wiretapping, infiltrating and intentionally disrupting organizations deemed dangerous...or just leftwing. Martin Luther King was wiretapped, as was Malcom X. The Black Panthers were destroyed by infiltrators. The FBI was listening everywhere. And no one outside the FBI previously really knew. Hoover, in death, has become a villain he never realized he was, and a scapegoat of everything wrong with conservative paranoid America in the 1950's and 1960's. Where does one go with all these stories.

Hoover was born and raised in Washington, D.C., where he would live his entire life. He went to college locally, at George Washington University, where he joined Kappa Alpha, a notoriously southern and racist fraternity. His first government job was with the Library of Congress, and the information skills he learned there would influence his career. He was very conservative, something he was open about, and he was gay, something known but not widely, and never acknowledged. He later had a life-long partner, his main assistant in the FBI, Clyde Tolston, and they basically lived as a married couple.

His first infamous efforts in the Justice Department were as an active part of the Palmer Raids in 1919, during a Communist scare. Several radicals were found and arrested, with information carefully collated in part by Hoover, but public opinion turned against the law enforcement, and raids were a great justice department failure. Hoover dodged the blame. In an odd sequence, he was appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation by a liberal US attorney general who believed in Hoover's integrity and capacity. Hoover did some really important things as director, defining the FBI myth. Needing to breakdown the resistance of local police toward federal interference, he created the first national database of fingerprints. Local police would contribute and then use the FBI to get matches. He also created the FBI academy, where police from around the country were sent for FBI training, being trained into the FBI mentality, and developing FBI connections and loyalties. Academy graduates would form key contacts throughout the FBI's history.

Up till WWII, Hoover's crimes were one of methodology and preference. He set up the FBI to be loyal to him, and under his thumb, despite his simplistic views on crime. He was in full control and very demanding. But once WWII began across the ocean, FDR needed surveillance, and he turned to Hoover. And then the wiretapping began, and the breaking of foreign codes. It was never legal. But Hoover had Roosevelt's encouragement. The British counterintelligence were horrified by Hoover because he was so unimaginative to them, and unsophisticated. (But also the British intelligence had a Russian spy at the highest lever, Kim Philby.) What I found interesting is that FBI would eventually identify over 100 Russian spies activity working for the Soviet Union in the United States, some in key roles, but they couldn't prosecute. Because the way they got the information was either illegal, or too secret to share. So, for example, Hoover knew Ted Hall was a key spy who gave Russians critical atomic bomb information, but he never prosecuted.

This became a policy. Collect information through any means possible, but then sit on that information, which was too valuable to divulge. Hoover would use it, but not in court. After his death, Nixon missed Hoover's influence, because he thought congressmen would be so afraid of the information Hoover had on them, they would never have been able to act against Nixon. But the truth is, no one outside the FBI understood just how extensive the FBI database was.

Hoover's fervent anticommunism became popular in the early Cold War, during the time of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and Joseph McCarthy's era. Hoover found McCarthy a problem, because he was so self-promoting, and bombastic and a liar. But Hoover supported the goal of fighting American communists. Among his policies, was investigating every government employee and even schoolteachers, looking for Communist affiliations. Hundreds were confronted and investigated, and around half lost their jobs. Ironically, he also was in charge of rooting out homosexuals in government.

The origin of COINTELPRO was as a tool against Communist organizations, a way to fight these organizations without going through the courts, or congress, or anyone. FBI agents would infiltrate Communist groups, and then actively disrupt them, creating conflict and divisions and distrust. It was effective. The techniques were later used against the Klu Klux Klan, and then against the non-Communist new left and civil rights groups, most notoriously the Black Panthers.

An interesting aspect of Hoover was that he worked against both the KKK and Civil Rights. He was a hard conservative that basically didn't want any cultural changes, as least not from the perspective of a Washington, D. C. southerner. And he blamed everything wrong on the country on groups undermining this status quo. But he also had his limits. When Johnson asked Hoover to plant wiretaps in the Democratic National Convention, Johnson's own party and a completely illegal request and unethical for the supposedly non-political FBI, Hoover agreed but demanded the request in writing. When Nixon became president, he was very frustrated that Hoover would not do whatever he asked for. Hoover balked at the requests, stalling. Nixon was forced to create his own dirty-work group, the Plumbers, the group busted in Watergate.

Over the years, Hoover became a power-center. The FBI ran to his rules, kept the hot information private. He had connections throughout the country through his FBI academy, and ex-FBI agents, several of whom were elected to congress. Politically, Hoover was very savvy, a conservative serving in liberal presidential administrations, often the only conservative of prominence. He had ways to creating trust. He was famous for making anyone, of any political persuasion, who came into his office, walk out thinking Hoover was on their side. Thurgood Marshall liked Hoover and would defend him publicly, even as the FBI was actively undermining his NAACP. During the 1950's, Hoover's favorite decade, he made key connections, and became close friends with Joe Kennedy, JFK's father, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, giving him deep connections to the next three presidential administrations. (He was also on close terms with Robert Ford, Nixon's successor.) It meant he stayed around, was publicly praised, viewed and talked about as an American hero. Those listening closely, the woke ones, if you like, were critical, but were also part of a small minority that had no popular traction.

If you can't tell, I found the book excellent. It's the first Hoover biography in 30 years and it's thorough and well done. It's a tough read in that Hoover is a tough person to spend a lot of time with. I felt some internal relief when he passed away in the book. The problem with processing Hoover in our heads is that he wasn't all bad, and never saw himself as doing anything wrong. He was of his era. But the crimes add up, and they got very hard to read about. So, an excellent biography of a difficult, unpleasant, but important American figure.

-------

addendum:

After post this, I thought about all the stuff I didn’t mention - southern lynchings and Jim Crowe, the Rosenbergs, the jfk assassination, and the insights into Truman (not consulting experts), Eisenhower (had to be baptized so he could promote Christian America), the Kennedys (hot headed and mob connected and not supportive of civil rights), Johnson (and his efforts to keep conservative southern support and push civil rights), MLK, and Nixon (who comes across almost human). There is a lot within.

-------

2023
https://www.librarything.com/topic/351556#8201534 ( )
1 vota dchaikin | Aug 4, 2023 |
**So pleased to see this win the 2023 Pulitzer for Biography!**

The damage one man can do is astounding. It comes as no surprise to me that J. Edgar Hoover was a terrible man. I am fully aware that he was given unchecked power for half a century by presidents Republican and Democrat, and that he used that power to orchestrate the ruin and murder of people who were unacceptable to him, mostly Black and Jewish Americans. I am reasonably well schooled in 20th-century US history, and no one, no one, is more central to 20th century US history than Hoover. But there were many things about Hoover I did not know, things that surprised me (and not in a good way) and that filled in the gaps in my knowledge. Gage writes like a prosecutor, a really good one, laying out her case and in the end it turns out most everything that is wrong with America today is connected to the beliefs and actions of J. Edgar Hoover. I don't mean to be hyperbolic, Hoover is by no means solely responsible for the devaluation of the lives of Black people, for the hubris of January 6th and Charlottesville idiots, for the back door dealing, for the villainization of anyone who seeks to be an honest broker, for wage compression, for absurd Congressional hearings about trumped up scare scenarios (HUAC, violent lyrics in rap/imagery in video games, the dangers of social media and tech in general) that absolutely do not matter but keep lazy people distracted while bad people fiddle about. But all these things and more have some connecting thread to Hoover. He nearly single handedly devised and maintained the Cold War. He literally ordered agents to not intervene to stop lynchings, and refused to participate meaningfully in investigating murders by judges and sheriffs and other powerful men, allowing them to police themselves to avoid federal overreach(this is still the way many in Congress and on talk radio think things should be.) If fact, he chose to not tell the Dallas police about credible assassination threats made against John Kennedy because he did not want to "interfere" is local law enforcement. He created the Red Scare and the Lavender Scare (this very very Gay man routed out and destroyed the careers and lives many many civil servants because they were Gay - unless they were his friends, in which case he covered for them), dividing people and creating identity politics. There is so much more. He was depraved.

It is easy to fall back on the excuse that as a Gay man the pressure to live a lie twisted him, but that is too simple. For one, he did not really live a lie. For 44 years he openly lived with his partner Clyde Tolson. They were invited everywhere as a couple including to the White House wedding of one of LBJ's daughters. There are letters between him and presidents (Johnson and Nixon) that speak of them as a couple. When Hoover died, the soldiers folded the flag placed over his coffin and handed it to Tolson. I mean I assume they did not hold hands or anything, but they were not in the shadows either. Under his rule he was in fact the only Gay man (well, also a few friends) who got to live comfortably with his partner. The truth is that he was a martinet and a despot. He was a man whose belief in White supremacy was the most foundational most central belief he possessed. Hoover belonged to a fraternity that had a pledge of a belief in White supremacy in its charter, required frat houses to hang a Confederate battle flag over their doors and held annual blackface parties. It is from this fraternity that Hoover hired for the FBI almost exclusively, and the fraternity was a primary source for his social and business relationships all through his life. Hoover was a bad man. Yes, I imagine he had some feelings of self-loathing stemming from his homosexuality and the social condemnation of LTBTQ+ people in the time he lived, but that does not erase the fact that he was a dimensional bad man, that there were a lot of reasons for his villainy, and yet none of them justify a bit of it.

There is more, to learn, and you should. One of the most illuminating bios I have ever read. ( )
  Narshkite | Jul 30, 2023 |
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"A major new biography of J Edgar Hoover that draws from never-before-seen sources to create a groundbreaking portrait of a colossus who dominated half a century of American history and planted the seeds for much of today's conservative political landscape. We remember him as a bulldog--squat frame, bulging wide-set eyes, fearsome jowls--but in 1924, when he became director of the FBI, he had been the trim, dazzling wunderkind of the administrative state, buzzing with energy and big ideas for reform. He transformed a failing law-enforcement backwater, riddled with scandal, into a modern machine. He believed in the power of the federal government to do great things for the nation and its citizens. He also believed that certain people--many of them communists or racial minorities or both-- did not deserve to be included in that American project. Hoover rose to power and then stayed there, decade after decade, using the tools of state to create a personal fiefdom unrivaled in U.S. history. Beverly Gage's monumental work explores the full sweep of Hoover's life and career, from his birth in 1895 to a modest Washington civil-service family through his death in 1972. In her nuanced and definitive portrait, Gage shows how Hoover was more than a one-dimensional tyrant and schemer who strong-armed the rest of the country into submission. As FBI director from 1924 through his death in 1972, he was a confidant, counselor, and adversary to eight U.S. presidents, four Republicans and four Democrats. Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson did the most to empower him, yet his closest friend among the eight was fellow anticommunist warrior Richard Nixon. Hoover was not above blackmail and intimidation, but he also embodied conservative values ranging from anticommunism to white supremacy to a crusading and politicized interpretation of Christianity. This garnered him the admiration of millions of Americans. He stayed in office for so long because many people, from the highest reaches of government down to the grassroots, wanted him there and supported what he was doing, thus creating the template that the political right has followed to transform its party. G-Man places Hoover back where he once stood in American political history--not at the fringes, but at the center--and uses his story to explain the trajectories of governance, policing, race, ideology, political culture, and federal power as they evolved over the course of the 20th century"--

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