13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2011
Jay Feldman's book is another important addition to the literature of surveillance, scapegoating and secrecy embedded so deeply in the history of the United States.
This tradition of American paranoia is long. Its roots started to grow in the Salem witch trials towards the end of the 17th century, and then the nativist tendencies along the Know-Nothing groups of the 19th century spread their wings deep into the beginning of the twentieth century. This is the starting point of Felman's book. He discusses in detail the anti-German hysteria during WW1, when the theater of the absurd reached its apogee, for example, after Sauercraut became "liberty cabbage, while a hamburger got the name of "liberty steak". German language courses were removed from school curricula and even whole towns were renamed to remove any hint of German influence.
The Palmer raids, the deporation of Mexicans during the thirties and the concentration camps which were populated by Japanese-American citizens during the Roosevelt years followed. To be more precise, there were 112000 ethnic Japanese who were incarcerated in concentration camps along the West coast three months after the Pearl Harbour attack. This was Executive Order 9066, issued by Roosevelt. But according to Jay Feldman, this was not because of the attack. Racism was the sole cause of the Japanese and Japanese-American relocation and this process began at least five years before "the infamous day" and was originally aimed at Communists, Fascists, and Nazis.
In a report published in 1982, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Interment of Civilians stated that this order "was not justified by military necessity...but because of race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership".
In the fifties Joe MacCarthy made his appearance on the paranoic stage, while the sixties had the COINTELPRO and CHAOS programs-all programed and aimed at the liberty of American citizens. The methods used by the FBI (under the sick and perverted mind of Edgar J. Hoover), the CIA , the NSA and other government agencies remind one of the same methods used by totalitarian regimes elsewhere in the world during those times. The FBI, for example, did not hesitate to violate the law in order to achieve its goals. KKK informers and infiltrators often took part in violent acts, and the bureau, while not condoning such behaviour, did not expressly forbid participation. "You can do anything to get your information", the FBI told the informer Gary Thomas Rowe, who was ultimately indicted for the March 1965 slaying of the civil rights demonstrator Viola Liuzzo. "We don't want you to get involved in unnecessary violence, but the point is to get the information". In spite of the 500000 "subversives' whose cases were analyzed between 1960 and 1974, not one individual was prosecuted for planning, advocating, or attempting to overthrow the U.S government-which was the alleged reason for half-million investigations. As the syndicated Washington columnist Joseph Kraft, who had been the subject of an intense eavesdropping effort beginning in 1969, said: "We came a hell of a lot closer to a police state than I thougt possible".
The Church Committee, which was established in 1975, and whose purpose was to investigate the illegal actions of the agencies mentioned above, came to the conclusion that "government officials -including those whose principal duty is to enforce the law-have violated or ignored the law over long periods of time and have advocated and defended their right to break the law". Those strictures which were imposed on the FBI and additional agnencies, curbing their illegal actions, were again disregarded after the 9/11 attacks, because they "have hampered our ability to fight terrorism. The FBI was now authorized to monitor libraries, political groups, religious organizations and the Internet, as well as the international phone calls and e-mails of thousands of individuals within the United States-all these under the Bush administration and with the help of advanced technology.
This book shows to what extent democracy is abused by the authorities which were assigned to protect it, showing how fragile democracy can be.
It should be wise to quote Idaho Senator William Borah's words, written in the twenties: "The safeguards of our liberty are not so much in danger from those who openly oppose them as from those who, professing to believe in them, are willing to ignore them when found inconvenient for their purpose, the former we can deal with, but the latter, professing loyalty, either by precept or example undermine the very frist pronciples of our Government, and are far the more dangerous".
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
There is the popular saying that those who don't know their history are destined to repeat it. When I picked up MANUFACTURING HYSTERIA by author Jay Feldman and began to read it I found it clear that we had already made that mistake. The book takes us into programs and plots inside the United States that go back as far as the early 1900s that were suppose to ensure the country's safety and security but began a way in which groups of people were targeted and labled as a threat---whether they actually were or not.
In this country we had Presidents and other individuals in authority who gave the ok for rights to be trampled on and action to be taken that were said to be in the best interest of the American people but those without a voice in the United States were helpless against them. Feldman has given me a history lesson that I have never before experienced and educated me on events that took place less than a hundred years ago that have led the way for some of the politics and behavior we see today.
The lesson? For one it is the obvious: it is our responsibility to know our history. If nothing else Feldman's newest book is proof that we can't expect anyone else to educate us about how the events of our path are shaping our lives today. There is also the importance of knowing what's going on in the world today, even if you think it has no direct effect on you. To note take an interest in world affairs and understand how the rights of many are being trampled upon opens the door for us to one day be victims of the very same actions.
There is no other way to put it: Jay Feldman's book MANUFACTURING HYSTERIA is something that should be required reading for all of us. Our future and the freedoms we enjoy will certainly be in jeopardy if we don't begin to educate ourselves and others today.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2012
What distinguishes this important book is the balance of thorough research, engaging prose, and the author's refusal to go easy on injustice in any form. Throughout "Manufacturing Hysteria..." Jay Feldman documents the effects of fear-mongering and outright abuses of power on the American temperament and character over, roughly, the past hundred years.
"One of the most insidious degradations of democracy," Feldman writes, "is the scapegoating of minorities--be they ethnic, racial, religious, political, or sexual--because to deny the civil liberties of any specific group, even in the name of national security, is to take the first step toward curtailing the civil liberties of all." Yet modern American culture and society have been fraught with such "goats": German-Americans during and after the First World War, Japanese-Americans and (to a much lesser extent) Italian-Americans during World War II, immigrants and trade unions during times of economic downturn, peace demonstrators during times of war, and countless others.
"Manufacturing Hysteria" tells the stories of forgotten victims like German immigrant Robert Paul Prager, who was lynched by an Illinois mob in 1918, but it also offers a close and detailed look at familiar periods when American values and ideals were threatened most by those whose proclaimed purpose was to expose "anti-American" beliefs, behavior, and activities. Of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Feldman reminds readers that, "For all the hundreds of individuals McCarthy accused, he never discovered or exposed a single Communist or any instance of espionage." There's something hauntingly current about the author's view of McCarthy as "a creation of the press; even those reporters who despised McCarthy--and they were by far the majority--lent him credibility by their relentless coverage of his baseless charges and masterful evasions." We need only look back as far as the original field of contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination to see how candidates who spout vague and unfounded accusations of "anti-Americanism" make headlines and are granted free and seemingly endless exposure in liberal and conservative media outlets alike.
Other reviewers have termed the book "required reading." I certainly agree with the assessment. It's difficult to imagine a group of readers who would not find something in "Manufacturing Hysteria..." to make them reflect on the fact that, in the author's words, "democracy requires vigilance," and that people much like themselves can easily become "scapegoats" if that vigilance lapses.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2012
As Jay Feldman's bibliography and references make clear, his is not the first book to document the abuses and dangers of a society that, over the course of the past century and continuing today, has ignored Constitutional protections in order to spy on American citizens who had done nothing other than hold political views that differed from those of the people in power. In countless cases, in fact, the citizens spied on didn't even hold differing views, but had made some sort of tangential connection (such as attendance at a meeting) to groups that were under suspicion. And those groups themselves were often completely misunderstood, being labeled subversive or dangerous on the flimsiest of grounds.
The value of this book is not that it presents any pathbreaking revelations about the sickening excesses carried out in the name of national security by the FBI, CIA, Congress, or any other governmental agencies or institutions; what is important here is the compilation of information on how deeply the culture of surveillance and distrust of the American citizenry has become embedded in the government's modus operandi. It may be true, as another reviewer suggests, that Feldman's treatment comes down especially hard on the Republican Party, which always seems to be behind the most nefarious abrogrations of constitutional protections documented here; but Feldman dishes it out pretty strongly to many Democrats as well, including Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, LBJ, and even Obama. Despite its obvious liberal tendencies, the book does not shy from documenting horrible examples of government interference in the free expression of speech and ideas for which left-leaning administrations were responsible. These things happened and can't be denied, regardless of who supported them. And Feldman's highly readable overview will make you scream with anger at the injustices that have been perpetrated in the name of security while ignoring the very foundations of liberty on which America was founded.
Feldman's perspective covers not merely surveillance issues, it should be noted, but issues related to racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice. This country has always had a mean streak about such things, and Feldman's book helps us understand the issues in the context of official suppression of thought and expression.
I highly recommend this book as necessary reading, especially as so many of its points are relevant to today's hot button issues, such as the Occupy movement, the immigration debate, and the treatment of Muslims and homosexuals. Feldman's coverage is very wide, so he could not cover all egregious examples of overkill in government security actions, and I missed especially the 1930s Dies Committee attacks on leftism in the WPA and the destruction of that institution's Theatre Project, but even small quibbles like this do not persuade me to give this important book less than 5 stars.
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2013
This is a well-documented book, concentrating on the period World War I through the Vietnam War. It contains just the right amount of detail, without bogging down. The book begins to peter out in the 70's and 80's. An epilogue discusses civil liberties in the G. W. Bush era. The book's copyright is 2011.
My big question is, what would the author say about Obama's handling of civil liberties? To his credit, Feldman faults those heroes of modern liberals, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt for their various civil liberties violations, despite the fact that the author is clearly a liberal himself, based on his praise of labor and New Deal legislation. Is Feldman a civil libertarian? Or is he, like so many others, a faithful Democrat who turns a blind eye to Obama's atrocious civil liberties record, a record far worse than GWB's? (For example, Bush did not have a kill list and did not send drones to assassinate three U.S. citizens. And Obama has used the infamous Espionage Act to prosecute more people than all previous Presidents combined.)
If Feldman is a civil libertarian, then I look forward to an update of Manufacturing Hysteria.