THE BUREAU AND THE COMMITTEE: A STUDY OF J. EDGAR HOOVER'S FBI, THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON UN-AMERICAN ACTIVITIES, AND THE COMMUNIST ISSUE
In 1947 radical journalist I. F. Stone called the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) "the John the Baptist of American fascism." Stone was wrong in his assessment, but at the same time not far from the truth. Fiercely anti-communist though certainly not fascist, HUAC members nonetheless often spoke for others--namely, Federal Bureau of Investigation officials eager to exploit the Committee's public forum in pursuit of specific political objectives. FBI officials covertly leaked carefully-selected derogatory information on dissident political activists and left-wing organizations to HUAC. Their immediate purpose was to shape public opinion and thereby influence the national political debate regarding the Communist issue during the Cold War years. Often encouraged by the White House during the turbulent 1930s, the FBI developed sweeping domestic intelligence or non-criminal investigative standards and programs and, further, a formidable public relations machinery not only capable of promoting the Bureau's apolitical image but of assuming more ambitious tasks. In February 1946 the FBI decided to launch such an ambitious program. Disseminating "educational materials" through HUAC and conservative newspaper reporters, FBI officials set out to develop an "informed public opinion" about the "basically Russian nature of the Communist Party in this country." These efforts escalated further ten years later when the Bureau launched its first formal counter-intelligence program. Never content to confine FBI investigations to bona fide Communist party members, FBI officials sought as well to gain acceptance for their own political belief that radical political and economic reforms were "subversive," as were those who questioned the emerging anti-communist consensus and those who condemned the cultural pollution and blacklists of the so-called McCarthy era. To explain the origins and resilience of the Cold War on the home front solely by reference to the actions and decisions of a single political elite, no matter how highly motivated and resourceful, would be naive. The FBI's impact, however, was considerable and arguably of more importance than the efforts of any other anti-communist interest group. In 1946 FBI officials had their own vision of a better society, the will to make their vision a reality, and the resources to challenge traditional American values in virtually every home in the nation. (The Bureau, after all, not only underwrote much of HUAC's politics of exposure but the similar efforts of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and many of the era's most influential newspaper columnists.) One thing is certain: Had former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and his top public relations specialists, Louis B. Nichols and Cartha DeLoach, been content with mere bureaucratic empire building, the political phenomenon known as McCarthyism would have been far different and far less capable of proscribing debate and limiting national options than it was.
O'REILLY, KENNETH, "THE BUREAU AND THE COMMITTEE: A STUDY OF J. EDGAR HOOVER'S FBI, THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON UN-AMERICAN ACTIVITIES, AND THE COMMUNIST ISSUE" (1981). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8203775.