Americans love a good conspiracy theory, and plenty have been bandied about this election season. But what about conspiracy theories that turned out to be, well, not theoretical at all?
By now, most Americans have learned about Senator Joseph McCarthy’s overzealous hunt for supposed Communist agents and sympathizers within the ranks of American society in the late 1940s through the 1950s. McCarthy was exposed by reporters like Edward R. Murrow for the blustering bully he was, but the government continued its search for Communists well after the McCarthy years. COINTELPRO, an FBI program launched by J. Edgar Hoover in the mid-’50s, attempted to infiltrate and sabotage the functions of groups the Bureau considered “subversive” – a broad group ranging from the Black Panthers and Students for a Democratic Society to groups protesting for women’s and civil rights, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers. King was a particular target of the group and was subjected to continual harassment at its behest. COINTELPRO’s tactics as saboteurs involved breaking down trust among members and potential allies in other groups by spreading rumors, publishing falsehoods, and even attempting to break up marriages (like that of King and his wife, Corretta Scott) and other relationships to sow discord in leftist groups’ ranks. In 1971, COINTELPRO was exposed when activists broke into the FBI and stole files detailing its operations.
Tom Cruise is back as Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, taking on a conspiracy of epic proportions in a fight for the truth. Don’t miss the action in theaters and IMAX, opening October 21.