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A Great Journalistic Mystery Solved

It's over. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee have confirmed the story. But here's what's funny: Even if Woodward, Bernstein, Bradlee, Sally, Don and Bo, Mark Felt, Felt's daughter, Bernstein's son's best buddy at camp, Norah Ephron's hairdresser, and the handful of other people who have been authorized to know the identity of Deep Throat all said, in unison, without any caveats, that, yes, Mark Felt is Deep Throat, a lot of people, including commenters on this blog, wouldn't believe it.

Just doesn't sound right, they'd say. Kinda fishy. Too neat. Altogether too tidy a story.

D.T. must be a composite. Or Kissinger, PRETENDING to be Felt. Or a woman in drag. Or...well, someone a lot more interesting than the (yawn) number two guy at the FBI.

One of the purposes of this blog is to teach people to think correctly. It is a hopeless task, because incorrect thinking is usually more fun, and because our school system has refused so far to instruct our nation's youth in critical thought. This is why some people think aliens are constantly abducting people and doing elaborate forms of surgery on them aboard interstellar spacecraft, even though that actually happens quite infrequently.

The revelation that Felt is Deep Throat is a rather boring answer to a fabulous riddle. Felt was always a highly plausible Deep Throat, but he was never as interesting a candidate as, say, William Rehnquist. In fact, as this big news settles in, we have to ask ourselves: Why was Deep Throat such an intriguing figure? Because he single-handedly brought down the Nixon White House? Actually, he didn't. He played a key role, but Woodward and Bernstein today played down his importance. There were lots of other sources for their stories. And there were sources for reporters other than Woodstein, including reporters working at other news organizations.

We made a huge fetish about Deep Throat for one reason: We didn't know his name. The most interesting thing about him was his anonymity, and Woodward/Bernstein/Bradlee's adherence to their long-ago promise. Everyone loves a mystery.

Kooks and conspiracy theorists have gone wild over the years, concocting scenarios in which D.T. was a fiction, or a composite character. Woodward, to hear some of these tales, was a master spy (KGB, maybe?). But the case is now closed, and once again, as so often happens, the solution to the riddle is not complicated but head-smackingly simple: Woodward had a highly placed law enforcement source who had all the FBI investigative material handed to him every day. Source helps reporter. Reporter writes stories. Complications ensue.

The only real mystery left is why Felt wanted so badly to take his secret to the grave. He almost made it.

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 31, 2005; 5:32 PM ET
 
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Comments

Some years ago, I saw Bob Woodward speak on Larry King's TV show and he said that when all was said and done, when we found out who Deep Throat was, it would make sense. I'd say that, if one takes oneself back to that time and place, it does make sense. With the FBI in flux after Hoover's death, there must have been some additional concern among the ranks by L. Patrick Gray's appointment -- a Nixon White House guy, not an FBI guy. Felt must have had some misgivings, and despite his desire to not spill secrets, he probably felt concerned enough to validate the stories that young Woodstein offered up.

I find it additionally ironic to consider the breaking of this story amid the current disdain for unnamed sources in non-media circles. Handled properly -- by energetic reporters and demanding editors alike -- such devices remain critical to our successful democracy.

Barry Spiegel
Peoria, AZ

Posted by: Sensible | May 31, 2005 6:47 PM | Report abuse

What will be the new journalism mystery that we are all wondering about now?

www.goodmorninghouston.blogspot.com

Posted by: Thomas | May 31, 2005 6:52 PM | Report abuse

SHOTGUN!!!

Posted by: MŁ™ | May 31, 2005 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Now that we know who Deep Throat is, maybe someone will come through and solve mystery number 1, where is Jimmy Hoffa?

Posted by: PGKens | May 31, 2005 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Mark Felt was Jimmy Hoffa before going into the witness protection program. It's all coming together now!!!

Posted by: BD | May 31, 2005 7:58 PM | Report abuse

I knew Jimmy Hoffa, Jimmy Hoffa was a friend of mine...Mr. Felt, you are (or were) no Jimmy Hoffa...

Posted by: Lloyd Bentsen | May 31, 2005 8:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm sticking with my original position, on the earlier blog posting -- now that we know fer shur who DT was, who cares? I mean, besides journalists who wanted to put a cap on this story, students of history, and more than a few Vegas bookies?

Interesting to hear the outrage from the likes of Pat Buchanan and G. Gordon Wacko, saying that Felt was no hero and was nothing more than "a snake" (Pat's own words). Felt saved the country and, come to think of it, if it wasn't for Felt and W&B, G. Gordon wouldn't be as famous today.

Although he probably would've figured out some other equally felonious way to become famous in the end.

Posted by: Zippy the other pinhead | May 31, 2005 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Would Joel please confirm that he is neither Woodward, nor Bernstein, nor Bradlee.

Posted by: Not Joel | May 31, 2005 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Once again, a parsimonious explanation in lieu of whatever. William of Ockham was onto something. In hindsight it seems so obvious.

Posted by: InvestiGator | May 31, 2005 9:50 PM | Report abuse

"I don't write for Felt."
-- Michael O'Donoghue

Posted by: A. Tummler | May 31, 2005 10:44 PM | Report abuse

ZTOP (above) is right. Who (in the real world) really cares? Other than the hard-core political junkies (with whom DC is overfull, to be sure), what does Deep Throat's identity matter? Whether it was Felt, or Haig, or Rehnquist, or Pat Nixon, it just doesn't matter anymore (if it ever did).

Let it go, boomers. LET IT GO!

Posted by: PJ | May 31, 2005 10:53 PM | Report abuse

Watergate as a scandal is overrated. One should always investigate the competition.

Posted by: Jack | June 1, 2005 2:03 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes I like to sit back in my sofa, take a deep breath of second hand smoke my dog Benny blows in my face and wonder, What would Jarod Kintz do?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 1, 2005 2:17 AM | Report abuse

The truth is always more sordid and prosaic than the fantasy. Somehow I never suspected that Hal Holbrook was creeping around in parking garages because he was passed over for promotion.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 1, 2005 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Stock market jumps 93 points this morning. Maybe we should disclose a few more secrets so my 401K can reap some shekels before I retire. I work for people who weren't even alive during Watergate. They don't know what it's all about. Jeez,that's depressing.

Posted by: WASP | June 1, 2005 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, but not as depressing as people who WERE alive during Watergate and don't know what it's all about.

Posted by: Achenfan | June 1, 2005 12:04 PM | Report abuse

In Heartburn, Norah Epron's novel about her and Carl's breakup, Carl's name is Mark Feldman.

I guess revenge is sweet.

Posted by: Heartburn | June 5, 2005 4:51 PM | Report abuse

test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test

Posted by: test | July 21, 2006 12:57 PM | Report abuse

test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test test

Posted by: test | July 22, 2006 4:19 AM | Report abuse

I don't know, Friday, the last time I made you an omelette, you vomited in my cave and it stunk for weeks. I thought you were allergic to cheese, but now I just think you are allergic to slavery. Fortunately for you, Jarod Kintz has just shown up on the shores of this here island riding that toy horse of his. Maybe he and The Mythical Mr. Boo can take you away from me so I can be done with you.

Posted by: Robinson Crusoe | September 30, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

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