Probing Deeper into the FBI’s Past

For my Texts in Conversation topic, I will be exploring the research on the link between the FBI and HUAC and the extent of the FBI’s influence on McCarthyism during the Cold War. This investigation into the FBI’s shadowy past comes at a timely moment in history, when the FBI has recently come under fire for announcing a renewed investigation into Clinton’s email scandal through means that may have very well been unconstitutional. The fact that the FBI seems to have decidedly inserted itself into the political scene is highly reminiscent of the corrupt means by which the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover tried to push their own political agenda through subsidiary government agencies.

At this point in time, it is indisputable that the FBI related classified information to HUAC about suspected Communist sympathizers, often times expediting hearings by doing so. However, in terms of being able to properly delineate how influential the FBI was in shaping McCarthyism and how important these file leaks to HUAC were, there is no definitive consensus. While some scholars argue that the FBI served as a major political backbone to HUAC, to the point of almost acting as a kind of puppetmaster, other researchers downplay the FBI’s role, conceding that while the file leaks may have helped the HUAC’s investigations, the FBI acted more as a fellow collaborator, or even as just a cog within a complicated web of anticommunist institutions. Interestingly enough, even though each scholar whose work is discussed in this TiC leans heavily towards one of these perspectives, many facets of his/her argument seem to lend themselves well towards arguing for an opposite perspective, showing how difficult it is to fully agree on the extent of the FBI’s influence. Given what we know now though, I hope to explore my topic more specifically by engaging in the debate as to whether or not McCarthyism should be called Hooverism instead. By zooming from the institutional level into the individual level, I will compare the influential power of the two key faces of this era.

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