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.

November 19, 2018
David Rosen
Amazon Deal: New York Taxpayers Fund World Biggest Sex-Toy Retailer
Sheldon Richman
Art of the Smear: the Israel Lobby Busted
Chad Hanson
Why Trump is Wrong About the California Wildfires
Dean Baker
Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?
Robert Fisk
We Remember the Great War, While Palestinians Live It
Dave Lindorff
Pelosi’s Deceptive Plan: Blocking any Tax Rise Could Rule Out Medicare-for-All and Bolstering Social Security
Rick Baum
What Can We Expect From the Democrat “Alternative” in California?
Thomas Scott Tucker
Trump, World War I and the Lessons of Poetry
John W. Whitehead
Red Flag Gun Laws
Newton Finn
On Earth, as in Heaven: the Utopianism of Edward Bellamy
Robert Fantina
Shithole Countries: Made in the USA
René Voss
Have Your Say about Ranching in Our Point Reyes National Seashore
Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail