FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Shallowness of Deep Throat

The disclosure of Mark Felt’s identity as Deep Throat inevitably rekindles old American fires still smoldering from over thirty years ago. As an early adolescent in rural Oregon sitting in Mr. Brooks eight grade civics class, I came of political age mixing scenes of Henry Fonda and Twelve Angry Men enacting jury nullification with live footage of the Watergate hearings. This was what democracy looked like.

It was a different age when schools taught students their civil rights and gave them solid advice on how to best deal with the police (“never talk to the police unless you called them”)-unlike today, when cops’ ever-classroom presence finds schools teaching students how to best comply with the police. All of these events were mixed together and the messages of Watergate struck deep at this impressionable age where I saw Deep Throat as a real American Hero-who I later learned look just like Hal Holbrook.

When I later became a scholar of the FBI’s suppression of domestic political movements I came to see that the FBI had played a key role in the development of the Watergate scandal-though without knowing Deep Throat’s identity, my view of this role was incomplete. The way I saw it, was that J. Edgar Hoover’s death prior to the Watergate break-in opened-up the possibility that such a presidential scandal could develop. Hoover would never have allowed this scandal to emerge the way it did.

A few months ago, I wrote the below passage for the forthcoming CounterPunch Book of Monsters:

“Nixon’s relief at Hoover’s death must have been reduced in the weeks and months to follow as the Watergate burglars bungled their break-in, and Nixon’s Whitehouse botched their cover-up-this was just the sort of disaster that Hoover excelled at cleaning-up. It seems probable that had Hoover still been the FBI director as the Watergate cancer enveloped Nixon’s Whitehouse that he would have preempted the investigation that took down Nixon..Hoover would never have allowed the public inspection of FBI agents like Alfred C. Baldwin and G. Gordon Liddy’s involvement in Watergate. Watergate was just the sort of crisis that empowered Hoover over the decades and such crises were the cornerstone of his historical relationships with American presidents wherein he alternately threatened, bailed-out and was then rewarded by presidents from Roosevelt to Nixon.”

Now we know that the Hoover-less FBI played a very large role in the Watergate scandal. But something that is lost in the current focus on Mark Felt is the universe of things known to Deep Throat that he didn’t bother leaking to the American public. Chief among these was J. Edgar Hoover’s secret longstanding illegal campaigns to destroy legal domestic political organizations of which he disapproved. These included a wide range of organizations such as the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, an assortment of racial equality groups, various peace groups and socialist and communist organizations, gay rights and gender equity groups-but these also included surveillance campaigns of things like book buying co-ops and public utility districts.

While the FBI’s COINTELPRO became known in 1971, the extent of Hoover’s interference with American democracy was not known for years. Mark Felt was a Hoover devotee who worked on these very COINTELPRO operations, but he did not feel the need to leak documents on the damage done to American democracy by these illegal campaigns.

Last year I was probably one of the few Americans who read Felt’s (1979) book, “The FBI Pyramid: From the Inside,” his inside account of his years working in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Felt deeply admired Hoover as he directed Hoover’s FBI inspection division, more popularly known as the “goon squad,” the unit of agents who traveled the country seeing to it that local agents followed Hoover’s often twisted and illegal directives.

Now we know that Felt used this book simply to wink at future generations who would know him best as Deep Throat, dethroner of a corrupt American president. With hindsight, Felt’s book is an odd monument justifying the anti-democratic campaigns of the FBI to a world that would come to know him as the man to took down Nixon for his administration’s illegal acts.

DAVID PRICE teaches anthropology at St. Martin’s College in Olympia, Washington. His latest book, Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI’s Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists has just been published by Duke University Press. His Atlas of World Cultures has just been republished by the Blackburn Press. He can be reached at: dprice@stmartin.edu

 

 

More articles by:

David Price a professor of anthropology at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. He is the author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State published by CounterPunch Books.

September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail