Monday, June 06, 2005

Unsatisfying denoument?

After all is said and done, how much of a hero is W. Mark Felt, the newly (self-)exposed Deep Throat of Watergate fame? Two comments in Mark Steyn's most recent piece in the Chicago Sun-Times seem apt:

Like the ''Star Wars'' wrap-up, ''How Mark Felt Became Deep Throat'' feels small and mean after three decades of the awesome dramatic burden placed upon it. The nobility of the Watergate myth -- in which media boomers and generations of journalism school ethics bores have sunk so much -- seems cheapened and tarnished by this last plot twist.

The best thing I read on the subject in the last few days was a 1992 piece by James Mann from the Atlantic Monthly. He doesn't identify Deep Throat, though he mentions Mark Felt in an important context. But get a load of this remarkably shrewd paragraph from 13 years ago:

''By coincidence, the Watergate break-in occurred on June 17, less than seven weeks after Hoover's death and [FBI outsider] Gray's appointment [as acting director]. The FBI took charge of the federal investigation at the same time that the administration was trying to limit its scope.

''Therein lies the origin of Deep Throat.''

* * *
thanks to All The President's Men, the media took it for granted they were America's plucky heroic crusaders, and there's no point being plucky heroic crusaders unless you've got the dark sinister forces of an all-powerful government to pluckily crusade against. Think how many conspiracy movies there've been where White House aides are the sort of chaps who think nothing of meeting you at 2 a.m. in parking garages, usually as a prelude to having you whacked. In films like Clint Eastwood's ''Absolute Power'' or Kevin Costner's ''No Way Out,'' political appointees carry on like that routinely. That image of government derives principally from the Nixon era.

No comments: