From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/dec/02/j-edgar-hoover-and-me
Clint Eastwood's film obscures the fact that Hoover's obsession with sniffing out so-called subversives terrorised America
I'd rather have a dead son than a daffodil son.
– Judi Dench as J Edgar Hoover's possessive mother in the Clint Eastwood filmThe Federal Bureau of Investigation's long time chief, J Edgar Hoover, almost was a member of my family. In the 1920s, during the infamous "red scare" Palmer Raids, agents of his newly-formed Bureau of Investigation arrested, beat up and tried to deport my immigrant father for "criminal syndicalism" (union organising).
Combatively anti-labor, reflecting the director's prejudices, Hoover's "G-men" also tried stemming the 1930s union upsurge, in which both my parents were vocal rank-and-filers, by threatening militants and their sympathisers and feeding dirt to employer groups and anti-union newspapers. During the second world war, the FBI split their energies between tracking down the few Nazi spies and much greater number of home-grown radicals and union redhots – no real difference between them Hoover could see except that the Bolshevik menace would always be uppermost in his mind. My mother, cousins and favorite uncle all became fodder for Hoover's extraordinary card-index system.
From the time I was 16, and later during the cold war, the FBI was on me for 15 solid years, even – illegally snooping – when I emigrated to England. How could I make these fedora-wearing, smartly-suited snoops understand that, influenced by a James Cagney movie, I had been a Junior G-Man myself by sending in Quaker Oats boxtops? I proudly wore my tin badge and pinned to my wall J Edgar Hoover's commendation letter to me.
It's all coming back to me because I've just seen Clint Eastwood's draggy, so-darkly-lit-it's-hard-to-follow, superficially detailed but essentially untruthful case for the defense of America's Himmler as a homosexually repressed mama's boy. I'm a fan of Leonardo di Caprio but, hey, come on, you don't send a boy to do a very, very weird man's job, even with the best makeup artists in the world. The script, by Dustin Lance Black, who did such a great job with Milk, is an obscurantist mess of voice-over and backtracks and flash-forwards, where everything but the kitchen sink is dragged in – Emma Goldman! The Lindbergh baby! – but dramatic and even factual truth is left out.
Continue reading at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/dec/02/j-edgar-hoover-and-me