Saturday, June 23, 2007

Are you still being followed by the teenage FBI?

Howie Klein of Blue America sent me this book:
So Angie’s back on the Blue America list and I hope you’ll join me in donating some money to her campaign. We’re not going to find a better candidate, not anywhere, to help us reclaim our country. Avalon Books sent us a box of the just-released YOUNG J. EDGAR: HOOVER, THE RED SCARE, AND THE ASSAULT ON CIVIL LIBERTIES. Each book has been autographed by author Ken Ackerman and it sells in stores for $28.95. Every Angie donation for $30 or more gets a Blue America thank you with a book (until the box is empty.) Add a cent to your donation if you don’t want the book. One more thing, Jacquie is already planning out an aggressive paid-media strategy for CO-04 in ‘08, so if you want to stick some dough in the Blue America PAC, please don’t be shy.

I've read the first chapter, and it's already got me hooked. Why a book about J. Edgar would be fascinating all these years later? Here's a quote from the book:
But back in 1919, just four years earlier, it had all made perfect sense-the Red Scare, the Raids, the fear. Most thinking, informed Americans agreedL World War I had ended, but the country was still fighting, against anarchists and communists at home just as surely as it had fought the Kaiser's Germany in Europe the year before. American soldiers still faced bullets on Russian soil in 1919, and Bolshevism was sweeping the world. Anarchists had exploded bombs in American streets, and people had been killed. Radicals had infiltrated labor unions and threatened to topple major industries. The country demanded safety and someone had to act.

A. Mitchell Palmer and his team had taken responsibility. Had there been excesses? Certainly. But that didn't change the fact. The principal fact was the bombs, and the danger of more bombs, and the duty to protect Americans. Everything else took a back seat.

The parallels to today's Global War on Whatever We Define As Terror are pretty obvious. Americans, in an understandable yet selfishly shallow way, excuse many sorts of bad behavior when they feel threatened, and the Right today does all it can to give a megaphone to threats real and imagined.

The book's author, Kenneth Ackerman, said this in an editorial in my hometown LATimes:
Yet when Hoover showed up for his first day of work at the Department of Justice in June 1917, he was a bright 22-year-old, just out of law school. He still had boyish good looks and was cocky and driven. The country had just entered World War I, and Hoover had avoided the wartime draft. Instead, he was ready to help win the war at home, to save the country from spies and subversives.

What changed this young eager beaver into the crass, cynical tyrant of later years?

The fact is, Hoover learned his attitudes and worldview from teachers at the Justice Department during his early years there, when the country was going through a period much like today's war on terror.

Indeed. Here's Kenneth Ackerman's website: