How would he know …
Posted by DNW on 2011/12/01
A recent movie release has dredged up an old and suspect accusation concerning one of this country’s more divisive political figures.
Although J. Edgar Hoover had an astonishingly long political life, what is even more astonishing is the long lasting relish with which he is hated by so many.
Yet hatred alone isn’t quite satisfying enough an emotion to constitute a full meal for the real gourmands of Hoover-hate. Garnishing their bowls with accusations of hypocrisy, as well as malice, allows for a drizzle of contempt to be added, so that the diner may more fully enjoy the savor.
Take Rex Reed the film critic, as an example. In his review of Clint Eastwood’s film, “J. Edgar”, Reed writes,
“Mr. Eastwood is too old to tackle a personality so complex; he knows nothing about what it takes to turn the character flaws of a cross-dressing mama’s boy into an attention-craving closet queen like Hoover. …
Soft-soaping his corruption, the movie barely touches on these facts and refuses to take a stand on the many ways he proved himself a major hypocrite. While ranting homophobic prejudices against gays, he was a closet homosexual who carried on a private love affair with assistant deputy F.B.I. director Clyde Tolson …
Despite documented eyewitness accounts of Hoover’s secret passion for cross-dressing, fueled by his strong, dominating mother (Judi Dench, flawless again), he is revealed posing with his mother’s necklace and silk dress against his chest only once, following her death. (F.B.I. employees behind his back called him “J. Edna Hoover”.)”
Placing aside the peculiarly gratuitous swipe at Eastwood’s age, if Reed were being used here as an example of anything more than a knee-jerk Hoover hater spewing the run-of-the-mill “everyone knows Hoover was a miscreant” hatred that Hoover haters invariably spew, then it might make sense to engage in a line by line rebuttal of the kind suggested as exercises by authors of introductory “critical thinking” texts.
Reed in fact, does pack so many raw assertions into his rant that a critical examination of it could keep a class of college freshmen busy for weeks:
“Soft-soaping his corruption, the movie barely touches on these facts …”
” While ranting homophobic prejudices against gays, he was a closet homosexual …”
“carried on a private love affair with assistant deputy F.B.I. director Clyde Tolson …”
“documented eyewitness accounts of Hoover’s secret passion for cross-dressing”
“F.B.I. employees behind his back called him “J. Edna Hoover”.”
But Reed is of course not the originator of these charges and is merely mouthing them; for what are probably his own reasons. Reasons which anyone who has had the misfortune of seeing Rex Reed speak on television, might have already deduced.
However, serious left-leaning news sources such as the Washington Post have even discredited this line of attack; demonstrating, that it is one which is incapable of being made in good faith by informed persons who are interested in including such trivia as say, the truth, in the construction of their narratives :
FBI agents upset over movie alleging J. Edgar Hoover was gay
By Carol Morello, Published: November 29
“Since “J. Edgar’s” release early this month, hundreds of agents have griped about the film on xgboys, a closed e-mail list for FBI retirees that takes its name from one of Hoover’s pet dogs, which in turn is a play on the old nickname for federal agents, “G-men.”
“I don’t know anyone who’s not extremely upset,” said Bill Branon, a former agent who is chairman of the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation, which grants scholarships to college students studying law enforcement and forensics. “It’s not only because of our admiration for him. It’s the fact it’s just not true. If it were true, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. But don’t do that to the poor guy when he’s dead and gone.”
… mostly, they say, they are offended on his behalf because the intimation that Hoover was gay is false. They say agents, apparently a gossipy bunch among themselves, would have heard about it if it were, because Hoover was always tailed for his protection, despite his objections; they called it “Hoo-Watch.”
J. Edgar Hoover, 1952
By Jeff Stein, Published: November 11
“Too good to check!” reporters sometimes joke when they hear a story so fantastic they fear checking it out, lest it turn out untrue.
Likewise, the public seems determined to cling to the story that J. Edgar Hoover, the piranha-jawed director of the FBI for over 40 years, liked to par-tay in a cocktail dress, fishnet stockings, full makeup and a wig.
No matter that it’s almost certainly untrue, based as it is on a single discredited source, according to almost every historian of the FBI, including the G-man’s fiercest critics. …”
Why is the public “determined to cling to the story” as the Washington Post asks?
Perhaps we need to ask those who are constantly peddling the story (apart from Rex Reed of course) why they are so determined, in the face of historical evidence, to cling to, and perpetuate it.
As for me, I am neither a special fan of J. Edgar Hoover, nor a practicing historian.
Nor, for most of the period under discussion was I either alive, or in any state of growth and development to interest myself in such “questions”.
I was able however, just recently to directly ask someone quite close to me about one of the sweeping claims Reed makes. This concerns the state of affairs which Reed in an implied categorical portrays as a matter of general knowledge among the FBI rank and file; that is, “F.B.I. employees behind his back called him “J. Edna Hoover..”.
The question I asked was: “In all your years there, did you ever hear anyone make such a remark, or even insinuate such a thing?”
The answer was a simple and levelly delivered,
“No. I never heard anyone say that,
or anything like it.”
I guess then, people will just have to ask Rex Reed just how it is that he supposedly knows, what he claims to know that everyone else knew.
Maybe he was “there” too.
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