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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Hero?

XXX marks the spot.

PSAYINGS.5X.1. Am I the only one who's having trouble with this? Let me give you my timeline. First, I heard on the radio that Deep Throat has finally come forward to announce his identity. He's a ninety-year-old man who used to be Number 2 at the FBI. My immediate thought is of a deathbed confession: an old man wants to get a burdensome and painful weight off his chest. Later that afternoon, I turned on TV cable news and there I saw footage of the old man smiling and waving at the camera next to his beaming daughter. Here's that picture:



Then the daughter appears to be giving a press conference, and I concede her words are something of a blur to me because she seems to be taking a bow on behalf of her old man and using syllables that sound something like "he-ro." Subsequently, I seem to hear the same syllables being tossed around by other TV pundits. They keep replaying footage of the old geezer smiling, waving, smiling, as if he really is pleased as punch with himself. Apparently, my deathbed confession take was delusional.

As should be abundantly clear to everyone here, I am no lawyer and so I do not understand all the legalities associated with Mark Felt's role in the Watergate investigation, but my gut feeling is that they can't possibly create the sort of context that would make this guy a hero.

I do have sympathy with the plight of a whistleblower -- generally underlings in some huge organization that is doing wrong and can't be stopped from inside. I understand their need for secrecy in the amassing of evidence, both as a practical investigative tactic and as a safeguard against the possibility of harm befalling them or their families. I do not believe that it is always wrong to be an "informer," as my lifelong fondness for the movie On the Waterfront should attest. I liked it before I knew it to be Elia Kazan's defense of his naming of names in congressional investigations of the Communist Party, and I liked it after that (though I note that many on the righteous left continued to defame Kazan even after the fall of the Soviet Union made it possible to confirm that many members of the American Communist Party were, in fact, Soviet spies).

The informer can indeed be heroic. Whatever its beginning, the climax of such a hero's tale occurs when he comes forward to put a face on his charges; he testifies in public to some commission or committee responsible for determining the truth. This one act simultaneously puts his integrity to the test of cross-examination and kills or mutilates his career in the organization he is exposing. It is a moment both brave and tragic -- the latter because a whistleblower with real information has almost always been an accomplice in wrongdoing to that point in the road where his conscience called a halt. The real life instances of a Serpico whose hands were clean throughout are rare. More often, life imitates the fiction of On the Waterfront, where Terry Malloy (Brando) has gone along with wrong or illegal practices because it was simpler, easier, or more profitable to do so.

After the climax of the heroic version of this plot comes the denouement, where there can be redemption for earlier sins because the hero is willing to pay a price even if the law gives him immunity. Elia Kazan gave Terry Malloy a redemption he himself was denied by his erstwhile peers in Hollywood. After enduring a terrible beating, Malloy returns to work at his old job, proving his courage and his loyalty to the principle that had inspired his actions.



What part of this rite of passage can we connect with Mark Felt? Almost none of it. He was no underling. Rather, he was a very powerful executive who could have made a huge impact by going public as soon as he objected to the goings on in his organization. Did he? No. He chose a route so sleazy that even the men whose careers he helped make gave him a nickname borrowed from a dirty movie. Did he come forward after the presidential downfall he worked to effect had been accomplished? No. He remained at the FBI because his career there was more important to him than helping to salve the national wounds that have continued to fester ever since. The character he most resembles is the phantom sniper who, according to 40 years of conspiracy theories, got away with the assassination of John F. Kennedy: he hides in the shadows to bring down a U.S. president, then disappears without ever having to account for his deeds. He's a creature of the dark, a dishonorable self-aggrandizing weasel, a well-connected coward, a snitch.

Too mean to say about a ninety-year-old? No. Think of the scorn and abuse that has been heaped on Linda Tripp. What's different? She had the guts to come into the sunlight. This guy comes blinking out into the spotlight decades after the fact, and he actually has the nerve to bask there like a contented reptile. Doesn't anybody have a sharp stick they want to use?

UPDATE:  WE BEEN TOLD!


Nonfat Latte Dude

It was bound to happen sooner or later. One of the mighty intellects of the left was certain to expose our pretense of being as well educated and discerning as the average liberal and descend upon us like a ton of bricks. It has now officially HAPPENED. Here's a ruthless fisking of yours truly captured from a site called nonfat latte liberal:

In the glow of finally finding out who Deep Throat was, I thought the right might have to acknowledge that, yes, Media, with all it's [sic] sensationalist failings, plays an important and irreplaceable role in American Democracy (as in any). Sounds like it was a bit too much to hope for. From Instapunk:

He chose a route so sleazy that even the men whose careers he helped make gave him a nickname borrowed from a dirty movie...He's a creature of the dark, a dishonorable self-aggrandizing weasel, a well-connected coward, a snitch.

The only word I can find for this critique is despicable [sic]. Instapunk then goes on to canonize [?] Linda Trip [sic] while hurling venom at Deep Throat. Instapunk's logic is laughable, profound [sic] flawed and oversimplistic. He asserts that to be an acceptable informer one has to mimic "On The Waterfront." In particular, one must be low level or lack the credibility to come forward immediately [sic] and one must [sic] at the soonest point in time allowable, come forward. The argument goes like this:

[not a quote, despite appearances] He should have come forward during the Nixon Administration. He did not. Therefore he is bad. He should have come forward immediately after the Nixon administration's fall. He did not. Therefore he is a "reptile."

What a convenient dichotomy, putting informers of late that the right likes in one box and one the right dislikes in another [Sorry, we missed the class in sentence diagramming that equates 'informers' with 'one'.]. The obvious conclusion I draw from this, call me crazy [I do], is that informers that [sic] do not come forward are bad. What do we call informers who do not come forward? That's right [sic] boys and girls, we call them anonymous sources nowadays. And guess who has been railing against anonymous sources these last few weeks? [I think the right has been concerned about the abuse of anonymous sources, dude, because it's too easy to pursue dubious stories by imputing debatable facts to unnamed operatives who have unknown motives and agendas.]  The right. [uh, yeah, Sherlock.] It's a shame that the right is too self important to acknowledge that what Newsweek did was sloppy but not on it's [sic] face wrong. [Allow me to translate: the MSM continues to do what it has always done: I agree.]

The man, whatever his motives, is a hero. If I push an old lady out of the way of a moving bus because she's in my way][sic] it's not as wonderful a thing as saving the lady altruistically [sic], but as Prime minister [sic] "Peace in our time" Chamberlin [sic] can tell you [comma anywhere ever?] politics is about consequences and not intentions. Deep Throat exposed a president who rigged an election by excluding the most competitive candidates. [He did? Now that’s a scoop. Or should I say scewp, mallboy?] Is he pure as the driven snow? Of course not. Is criticizing how he exposed Nixon's perfidy appropriate, maybe, maybe not [punctuation check immediately following sentence structure check]. But claiming that his act is cowardly because he chose to keep his job [sic] as opposed to hoping for the story book like [sic] ending (as Instapunk seems to think he should have) [sic] in order to help "salve the national wounds that have continued to fester ever since." [oh me, oh my, I was really hoping for an end to the sentence.] Crying about Deep Throat not coming forward isn't something I've seen a whole lot [sic] in the post Watergate years.

Worse, Instapunk goes on to compare Felt to JFK's assassin, a comparison that warrants the word I used earlier, despicable [sic].

What those tighty righties are so upset about is Newsweek. They're worried that admitting the great positive change that Deep Throat initiated in this country, however painful, would mean that they would have to admit that the MSM is a positive force and, worse, that anonymous sources are necessary. If Instapunk thinks Felt was such [sic] "coward" [sic] then what of the countless administration officials who said nothing? Apparently they're better because snitching and not coming forward makes you a "reptile".

Say what you mean [sic] Instapunk; Felt, by throwing his lot in with the media, is your avowed enemy, regardless of his actions.

Call us -- that is me, InstaPunk -- humbled. Knowing that Felt is my enemy makes me fearful indeed. I am prostrate before you. But if the architect of my ruin has any curiosity about my notations, he can learn the story behind all the [sic]'s by emailing me at punk@InstaPunk.com, as always. Perhaps my eagerness to offer up information will make my sentence in the Berkeley gulag lighter. I can only hope, in all humility.

By the way, latte boy, InstaPunk has said, and always will, exactly what I mean. Next time, bring a gun. It's a better weapon for you than English, but I still wouldn't count on winning.

UPDATE:  Thanks for the link Glenn -- welcome to InstaPundit visitors. Feel free to take a look around.







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