Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies
By Marc Aronson (Candlewick Press, Ages 12& Up, $25.99)
“King, there is only one thing left for you to do….Take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”  This is a demand Dr. Martin Luther King received in an anonymous letter in 1964.  He believed the letter was telling him to commit suicide.
In a new book written for young adult audiences (12& Up), Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies Marc Aronson notes that based on his research more than likely the letter was written by William Sullivan, an assistant director of the FBI. Aronson, an historian and member of the faculty at Rutgers writes compellingly about the mystique and realities of J. Edgar Hoover.  His book presents facts supported by meticulously researched documentation including memorandums from the FBI itself.  From mobsters to Masons and activists to actors, Hoover prided himself on having and at times creating the “goods” on folk.  Through projects including the infamous COINTELPRO, the FBI infiltrated organizations ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to the Communist Party and in 1967 began seeking informants in any black organization it could reach, especially black nationalists groups.  The Black Panther Party was one of its prime targets.  I must say, I was somewhat perplexed that the book makes no mention of 1970s revolutionary icon Angela Davis.  But the women’s liberation movement also was targeted by the Bureau.
Hoover really laid the blueprint for domestic spying and how the land of lies emerged into conscripting global players.  The “Age of Lies” has extended well into the 21st century and is now so deeply embedded in the culture. While Hoover (a master architect of fear) may have hoodwinked the country into believing he gave it the security needed, he held an unbridled power like none other during his time.  One of the key features of the book focuses on a section in the Epilogue entitled “How I Researched and Wrote This Book.”  It is crucial for books of this nature to be set in context, for too many writers allow their words to wobble in the wind without some sense of historical, social or cultural context.  I could see Aronson’s book  being used in discussions around Suzanne Collins’ post-apocalyptic young adult novel and wildly popular film The Hunger Games:  Both intriguing and reflective of where we’ve been and where we’re going as a country mired in a mega cauldron of lies, historical revisionism and the illusion of security.  J. Edgar just might be so proud of the fear paradigm imbued in this country and now tangled in its own spymaster, techno-barbarism.

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