The Manufacture of Consent: J. Edgar Hoover and the Rhetorical Rise of the FBI

In this episode, we’re joined by Dr. Stephen M. Underhill to discuss his book, The Manufacture of Consent: J. Edgar Hoover and The Rhetorical Rise of the FBI. Topics include the FBI's relationship with Hollywood, Hoover's interest in scientific racism and Anglo-American nationalism, and the conflict between the surveillance state and the New Deal.

In his new book, The Manufacture of Consent, Dr. Underhill treats J. Edgar Hoover’s tenure as FBI director as a case study in political power, focusing on the rhetorical nature of that power. He analyzes Hoover’s relationship with the presidency, the press, and the film industry to reveal the ways in which Hoover was able to use prevailing discourses of racial, gender, class, and religious hierarchies to dominate the media and to create and sustain the role of the FBI in United States society. Thus, the book illuminates both the history of the FBI and the political and ideological debates of the era. As Ned O’Gorman puts it, the book is a brilliant investigation into the ways J. Edgar Hoover coopted the rhetorical themes and techniques of twentieth-century American liberals and progressives to fortify a virtual American police state. 

Dr. Underhill is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Marshall University. He served as the lead reference person for classified FBI and Department of Justice textual records at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland, from 2007 to 2012.

The Manufacture of Consent: J. Edgar Hoover and The Rhetorical Rise of the FBI is available at msupress.org and other fine booksellers. You can find more information about the book on its Facebook page, and Dr. Underhill is on Twitter @s_m_underhill. You can connect with the press on Facebook and @msupress on Twitter, where you can also find me @kurtmilb.

The MSU Press podcast is a joint production of MSU Press and the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. Thanks to Daniel Trego, Madiha Ghous, Kylene Cave, and the team at MSU Press, especially Elise Jajuga and Julie Reaume, for helping to produce this podcast. Our theme music is “Coffee” by Cambo. 
MSU Press