Logomachon






Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words

 

   
  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.

   
   
   
 

2005-06-14
 

Swallowing the "Deep Throat" Line

By coincidence, the week that all the press world was in a tizzy of self-congratulation at the revelation that FBI man Mark Felt was “Deep Throat”, I picked up John Buchan’s John McNabb from a pile of second-hand books.

The argument of John McNabb is simple, as is its relevance to the mystery of Deep Throat. Three forty-something Englishmen, with good war records, at the tops of their professions (law, politics, and banking) find they suffer from the same complaint: life has lost its savor. Seeking to create artificially the zest they have lost, they retire to a friend’s Highland lodge and, using the name John McNabb, send the same letter to three of the great landowners of the neighborhood. Each proprietor is told that over a short span of days, “McNabb” proposes to poach a deer or salmon from his property, defying whatever defensive measures the proprietor might take. The poached game will be returned, and McNabb bets £100 against £50 on his success, the stakes to go to charity. Each of the three patient-adventurers in turn makes his attempt, but not before the story becomes the sensation of the journalistic “silly season”, and each, in the course of gathering allies, has to introduce himself as “John McNabb”.


So Mark Felt says “I am ‘Deep Throat’”. As Ann Coulter remembers, "The fictional Deep Throat knew things Felt could not possibly have known,
such as the 18 1/2-minute gap on one of the White House tapes. Only six people knew about the gap when Woodward reported it. All of them worked at the White House. Felt not only didn't work at the White House, but when the story broke, he also didn't even work at the FBI anymore.
Beyond that, Deep Throat was a smoker and heavy drinker, unlike the abstemious Felt, and the stories W&B told about how they signaled Deep Throat and how they picked the nickname turn out to be impossible. No,
the shadowy figure who made his first appearance in a late draft of All The President's Men was a composite of several sources—among them, apparently, Mark Felt. But in telling the glorious story of "How The Washington Post Saved America," it was more thrilling to portray Deep Throat as a single mysterious individual, spilling his guts to Bob Woodward.
Obviously, as with the doubly fictional John McNabb, more than one person can say with all honesty, “I am Deep Throat”.

That “Deep Throat” is fictional is easy to believe. But the fiction may have gone deeper. Years ago, I think it was an article in Esquire, the point was made about the way Woodward and Bernstein used Deep Throat. Whenever they had only one source for an assertion, Woodward would check with Deep Throat, and son-of-a-gun, good ole Deep would confirm it.

It may be that several people were Deep Throat, and sometimes “Deep Throat” wasn’t anybody.



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