If you think the title of this blog is some kind of metaphor, think again. The “Irish Godfather” (in the words of WBUR senior reporter David Boer), James “Whitey” Bolger of Boston is finally on trial at the age of 83 after several years as a fugitive. He is accused of nineteen murders among other crimes. Along with their reporting on the trial, All Things Considered on NPR broadcast a brief background feature entitled, “Prisoner and Politician: The Bulger Brothers Led Different Lives.”
No, they almost certainly didn’t.
William Bulger was President of the Massachusetts state Senate for many years. They had different titles but they obviously held onto one powerful empire.
I haven’t yet read Howie Carr’s book, The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter of a Century, so I can’t speak to all the details. But simply listening to the NPR story, one can see how assiduously an institution like Public radio will work to try to keep listeners from considering how local and state government might be enmeshed with organized crime syndicates.
NPR pretends that the only possible scandal is the way William Bolger contacted his fugitive brother and didn’t inform authorities—and how he refused to cooperate with the investigation. We’re supposed to believe that the most powerful man in Massachusetts State politics and the most powerful gangster in the Boston area just happened to rule their respective kingdoms at the same time and happened to be brothers. Further, we are supposed to believe that, once the gangster was on the run, the politician happened to commit crimes (not reporting his location) out of loyalty to his brother—but that loyalty never touched his previous political career.
According to Wikipedia,
“Beginning in 1975, Bulger served as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As a result, the Bureau largely ignored his organization in exchange for information about the inner workings of the Italian American Patriarca crime family. Beginning in 1997, the New England media exposed criminal actions by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials tied to Bulger. For the FBI especially, this has caused great embarrassment.”
The fact that his brother was the most powerful politician in the state had nothing to do with why the Boston Office of the FBI gave him this amazing deal? Would having a powerful local politician for a brother have nothing to do with your ability to get people in federal, state, or local law enforcement positions to commit crimes?
In the days of his youth and the beginning of his criminal career, Whitey was in Alcatraz for a string of bank robberies. According to NPR, he got out early due to “one of these strange happenstances” in Whitey’s life (one among many, it is admitted). Their local neighbor was about to become Speaker of the House in Washington DC, and was well connected to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons. So he used his influence to get Bulger released early so he could return to Boston and start building his underworld empire.
Is that the behavior you expect from a Speaker of the House?
Boer hints at the truth, saying that both brothers’ careers rose together and that the politician, William Bolger, would threaten opponents with the words, “You are not a friend of the Bulger family,” when everyone knew his brother was a killer.
The scandal here is not really local politics and criminality. The scandal here is how carefully our media works, even when the truth should be common knowledge, to hide the criminality and corruption of major cities and state governments. This is only coming out now that the brothers are old and no longer in power.
So who is the media covering for now?