Seeing Red: The FBI and Edgar Snow

By Farnsworth, Stephen J. | Journalism History, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Seeing Red: The FBI and Edgar Snow


Farnsworth, Stephen J., Journalism History


The Federal Bureau of Investigation's study of the politics of Edgar Snow, author of Red Star Over China, was marked by inaccuracies and by incomplete analysis. The bureau's reports on him, when compared to his writings, demonstrate that the government created a misleading portrait of the prominent journalist. The bureau's use of his alleged memberships in liberal groups to claim guilt by association likewise showed an FBI pattern of errors and incomplete evidence. Even some of the basic biographical information that the bureau collected on him was incorrect. The irresponsible research on Snow was used to discredit the journalist in the New York Times and resulted in the U.S. government banning his work from government-- sponsored libraries abroad and in congressional loyalty hearings during the 1950s. The resulting scandals effectively ended his journalistic career in the U.S, even though he was never found to be disloyal to his native country.

After Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communists took control of mainland China in 1949, the question "who lost China?" echoed across the United States. Politicians, including U.S. Senators Richard Nixon (R-Calif.) and Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), in many cases fortified with "confidential" Federal Bureau of Investigation files provided by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, attacked leading members of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations and Hollywood writers, directors, and actors for their alleged roles in advancing the Communist cause. Journalists also were targeted by the FBI and by anti-Communist legislators, but government investigations of reporters-most notably Edgar Snow, Theodore White, John Steinbeck, and LF. Stone-have received far less attention from scholars than the bureau's treatment of more well-known government and civil rights figures such as Alger Hiss, Owen Lattimore, Paul Robeson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr.1

One influential foreign correspondent subject to intensive study by Hoover's agents was Snow, the author of Red Star Over China, a landmark 1938 work that introduced Mao and the Chinese Communist movement to the outside world2 Mao, who in 1936 was rebuilding his army in China's remote northwest interior, allowed the young American journalist to stay in the rebels' camp for months. Snow repeatedly interviewed Mao and other top Communists and produced a best-selling work, a project that was and still is recognized as one of the twentieth century's leading journalistic coups.3 His book, together with his magazine articles on China, led to considerable attention on the part of Hoover and his agents, who for decades viewed the Kansas City-born writer as at least a Communist supporter.4

During the 1940s and 1950s, a time when many American politicians and intelligence experts were convinced that the Communist victory in China was at least materially aided by disloyal American diplomats and writers, the FBI investigated Snow in an effort to determine whether he was a Communist. In a file totaling 555 pages, 484 pages of which have been declassified, the bureau's agents reported on and discussed Snow's writings, his speeches, and his association memberships.5 The declassified pages permit an examination of the FBI's investigation. The bureau's multi-year inquiry involved an investigation where agents' suspicions regarding Snow were leaked to others in the government, including members on the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee. The bureau's information eventually found its way into many hands in and out of government and led to additional scrutiny of Snow from the U.S. State Department, lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and reporters covering Washington for the New York Times and other media outlets. The bureau's anything-- but-private suspicions regarding Snow severely undermined his ability to find outlets for his work and his ideas during (and after) the McCarthy era.

Although he was a prominent journalist who spent much of his reporting career in Asia, the Kansas City-born Snow in some ways was an odd target for such intensive bureau scrutiny. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Seeing Red: The FBI and Edgar Snow
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.