Underhill authors historical account of J. Edgar Hoover based on newly released documents

Marshall University’s Dr. Stephen M. Underhill has published The Manufacture of Consent: J. Edgar Hoover and the Rhetorical Rise of the FBIwith Michigan State University Press. It is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and other retailers. Underhill examines how longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover incited the Red Scare to undermine Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, as well as the New Deal.

Underhill was the lead reference person for declassified FBI and Department of Justice documents at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland (2007–12). He filed FOIA requests to declassify records from the FBI’s Classification 94 (Research Matters) to document Hoover’s domestic propaganda campaigns in the mid-20th century, indicating that Hoover utilized the power of his position to steer U.S. culture away from social democracy. The book also explores his ties to fascist leaders of the time, and how he passed for straight by villainizing gay people—hiding his own love affair with his second-in-command, Associate Director Clyde Tolson. Underhill contends that Hoover’s impact on American public life haunts us today.

Underhill is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Marshall, with an emphasis on rhetoric grounded in the interplay of history and politics. He focuses on institutionalized power in critical and cultural contexts, including matters of law enforcement and national security discourse. His work appears in Rhetoric & PublicAffairsQuarterly Journal of SpeechWestern Journal of Communication, and Voices of Democracy.

Underhill joined the Marshall University faculty in 2012. He earned a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Maryland (2012), an M.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Portland (2005), and a B.A. in Political Science from Sonoma State University (2001).

“I want readers to know that from the advent of mass media, critics warned that it imperiled democracy,” Underhill said. “Our national leaders have pulled the levers of power to divide Americans against themselves, ultimately to advance secret agendas. Until we address the problem of propaganda, democracy remains in jeopardy.”

For more information about the book, visit the Michigan State University Press website.

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