J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph McCarthy, and Roy Cohn were titanic figures in midcentury America, wielding national power in government and the legal system through intimidation and insinuation. Hoover's FBI thrived on secrecy, threats, and illegal surveillance, while McCarthy and Cohn will forever be associated with the infamous anticommunist smear campaign of the early 1950s, which culminated in McCarthy's public disgrace during televised Senate hearings. In Gossip Men,
Christopher M. Elias takes a probing look at these tarnished figures to reveal a host of startling new connections among gender, sexuality, and national security in twentieth-century American politics. Elias illustrates how these three men solidified their power through the skillful use of deliberately misleading techniques like implication, hyperbole, and photographic manipulation. Just as provocatively, he shows that the American people of the 1950s were particularly primed to accept these coded threats because they were already familiar with such tactics from widely popular gossip magazines.
By using gossip as a lens to examine profound issues of state security and institutional power, Elias thoroughly transforms our understanding of the development of modern American political culture.