The J. Edgar Hoover Maneuver


“I’m gonna tell on you” is one of the oldest tropes in the history of sibling interpersonal dynamics. Given sufficient maturity a civilized human being sheds this tendency. But in the world of hegemonic power-lust, withheld-for-profit revelation is very much alive and well.

My hero Kurt Vonnegut, long before he became world-famous, wrote a classic science fiction story entitled “The Report on the Barnhouse Effect.” In it he imagined Professor Barnhouse, a man of conscience becoming more and more psychically powerful through accidental discovery of the key to Mind Over Matter. Soon he attracted the interest of the American military, who wanted him to use his power to destroy enemy weaponry, and to inflict domestic weaponry on the enemy. Professor Barnhouse humbly asked if it wouldn’t be better to solve the causes of conflict, for instance moving cloud masses to relieve drought. He was told he was being naive. Soon after, seeing the handwriting on the wall, Barnhouse escaped military jurisdiction and hid out, destroying ALL Weaponry when and as it was revealed to him. What followed was called “The War of the Tattletales.”

I won’t be a tattletale and reveal what happened next, but it is one humdinger of a good story and I urge you to read it.

J. Edgar Hoover was tattled on in a book by Fred J. Cook entitled The FBI Nobody Knows. When Rex Stout, creator of Nero Wolfe, read it, he was so impressed and outraged that he wrote what for my money was the best of his stories, The Doorbell Rang, which had Nero Wolfe defying the FBI in the pursuit of the greater public good, not to mention the mystery he had to solve.

J. Edgar Hoover needed tattling on. He abused his power shamelessly.

Here are the words to the acrostic:

Jury’s been out since Ham & Shem
Eavesdrop/know stuff/aye: dilemma
How & when to reveal/demean
Out in the open & onto the scene
Otherland voices revealing un peu
Voltage delivered sans call from the Guv
Ever-electrical verdicts to share
Rosenbergs roasted in long underwear

Historical note: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for passing secrets involving the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. The FBI was instrumental in their conviction and execution. What is particularly interesting is who was, and who wasn’t, executed. Should Ethel have been electrocuted? Shouldn’t her brother, David Greenglass, have been executed? And what about Gold and Fuchs?

“Lives in the Balance” was written in the mid-Eighties by Jackson Browne, protesting Ronald Reagan’s war crimes in Central America. It is for my money one of the best protest songs of all time, applicable to a multitude of American improprieties involving administrations across the political spectrum. And, tragically, “Lives in the Balance” does not and has not amounted to a hill of beans as far as Saving the World goes. But, Jackson, you had to try, and your “Lives in the Balance” earns my admiration.


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