In this project, I argue that J. Edgar Hoover’s style of political realism should be studied by critics because it long preceded that of President Harry S. Truman. The style belonged to a stockpile of anti-Communist imagery that helped to shape how the Truman Doctrine speech was drafted and how audiences interpreted its meanings in more local domestic politics. When Truman finally announced that the Soviet Union had challenged international protocol, I argue that he confirmed the vision that his Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director and other detractors had developed throughout the New Deal to discredit reformers who challenged issues of race, labor, and police technique. In this way, anti-Communist containment rhetoric limited the president’s ability to control the domestic security and economic agendas. The stockpile of anti-Communist discourse belonged to, I also argue, a relative of political realism—literary realism and its spinoff, literary naturalism. My final argument is that the FBI director refurbished key tropes in the stockpile, which helped Truman’s congressional opponents invoke Hoover’s authority within the executive branch and thereby displace the president’s credibility as commander in chief. Combined, Hoover and his allies in Congress and elsewhere used rhetorical realism to communicate a deterministic philosophy about human nature through a diffuse mythic narrative, coordinated between Congress, Hollywood, the press, and official FBI discourse.

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