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 Post subject: PE Question #24 ~ The Author's Goal
PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:00 am 
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pg xiii – Burrough writes in the Author’s Note:

“Above all, this is a book about how the FBI became the FBI. The files allowed me to pursue one of my central aims: to reclaim the War on Crime for the lawmen who fought it. Men like Charles Winstead and Clarence Hurt, the two agents who killed Dillinger, have long remained anonymous, even as movies are made about the murderers they hunted.”


In your opinion, does Burrough accomplish his goal?



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:49 am 
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I was a little puzzled by that comment as I was reading the book because, even though how the FBI was formed was addressed, the book seemed to be more about the Enemies to me. There was much more character development of them as well. Really, the information on how the FBI was formed would fill a few pages.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 12:09 pm 
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I felt that Burrough did accomplish his purpose. About all I'd known previously about the early FBI was that Hoover was accused of doing some unsavory snooping and being heavy-handed and getting away with too much. I learned that it started out as the lowly BI and didn't begin to become influential until the Lindbergh Law. Then, through the stories of all the gangsters, I watched the Keystone Kops slowly turn into a more skilled unit. We learned the names and a bit of background on various agents, many of whom had barely been mentioned before. Unfortunately, the FBI became too powerful, too corrupt. "The Bureau wrestles with its legacy to this day." I felt that I got educated. :cool:



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 1:14 pm 
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Before I read the book I expected it to deal more with the agents and Hoover than the gangsters so I was pleasantly surprised when I learned a lot about both sides. I liked the footnotes that gave credit to all the agents that were involved in the Bureau at that time and that were mentioned in the book. I can appreciate the amount of research that went into those few lines on each agent! :notworthy: That gave them some long overdue credit since the Bureau/Hoover was so adamant about keeping them out of the spotlight and sharing any credit where it was due at the time. I was ignorant of the origins of the FBI and never realized that it really came into it's own based on the stories it created of these gangsters of the 1930's and by manipulating publicity and public opinion.



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 1:38 pm 
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I agree ~ I learned more about the FBI than I ever wanted to know! :-/
But do I remember any of the agent's names? No. Well, Crowley, but only because his name has come up here in the discussion. The discussion here had been mostly about the gangsters, yes? Because that's what Johnny will be playing. If said discussion was more on the FBI and the agents, I might have paid closer attention to it/them whilst reading.
Do I remember the gangsters' names? You bet! Does Burrough make them come alive, as it were, as intriguing, compelling, fully-realized and human individuals? Yes. Does he do the same with the FBI agents? No. Of course, there's still a mystique surrounding Dillinger and his ilk, so I guess it's only natural the agents who were in hot pursuit would get short shrift, particularly since their stories were buried for so long. However, knowing their part of the story does nothing to add to my overall knowledge base, or my opinions about of them. Well, in Purvis' case it does; making it worse than before!
On the whole, I find the gangsters' stories were much more memorable than the FBI/agents' stories. Sorry, Mr. Burrough. It's just my opinion, of course. :hatsoff:



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 2:52 pm 
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Huh. I wonder, then, why the title of the book is what it is.

Burrough didn't glamorize or glorify the origins of FBI. Some of their actions would be like the Keystone Kops were it not for the sometimes unintendedly tragic consequences. I think the book's outlook was as honest as possible; when the FBI did well, he gave them credit, and when they didn't do so well, he wasn't reluctant to point it out.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 6:37 pm 
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I certainly learned a lot about how the FBI became the FBI. I also felt that a lot of the 'glory' was taken away from Hoover and Purvis and I did learn about the agents. But Fansmom's point about the title is a good one. He has commented on Winstead and Hunt being unknown while movies are made about the murderers they hunted. But he does give rather a lot of attention to said murderers and at times, well, they are the ones I wanted to read about, and not because Johnny is playing one of them either.
(Oops pressed submit too soon.)
All the same, Burrough's attention to detail and the extra footnotes are impressive



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 7:08 pm 
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Yes, the footnotes were quite informative. I was impressed by the amount of research that was put into every person, place and event. :notworthy:

I’m not sure if he accomplished his goal or not. Although it was full of information about the FBI and its agents, most of which was entirely new to me, I don’t feel it reclaimed the war on crime for them. Much of the information imparted about them was not complimentary, nor did it indicate that they had any sort of control over the war on crime….until Cowley intervened. I sympathized with them at times, though, because they were not given the resources to do their jobs; and I salute them for their bravery—especially the ones who gave their lives for the war, as it were. So in that sense, I think he honored their memories by telling their stories, reclaiming some respect for those individuals who fought the war.

I felt it was a nice balance between the enemies and their pursuers. It makes sense to elaborate more on the enemies than the FBI agents because I think it makes for a more interesting story. And I think the title fits the contents--Public Enemies is printed in a much larger font than that of the FBI. It indicates that this book is mostly about the gangsters of 1933 – 34; but it is told in a way that explains the FBI’s evolution, which was directly a result of the Public Enemies.



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 8:10 pm 
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fansmom wrote:
Huh. I wonder, then, why the title of the book is what it is.

You could almost say the title lets the reader draw their own conclusion about exactly who the 'Public Enemies' were, the gangsters or the FBI? The way the untrained, desperate agents played fast and loose with public safety, allowing innocent people to be put in harm's way and not paying particular heed to the legality of what they were doing in any given situation - well, a case could be made for the subjects of said title going either way.



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 8:24 pm 

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Well, I learned that the FBI was 75 years old....so imagine my surprise the other night while watching TV, and some guy said they were celebrating their 100 anniversary...I wanted to yell at the TV.

I also gained an appreciation for how hard the keystone cops had it...no cell phones, no guns, no computers, no coordination...everbody out for themselves, and around every corner a bad apple in their own barrel. Even if they weren't trained for a stakeout, sometimes I felt like they were missing common sense. Seemed like the only people that were able to work around the lack of technology were the bad guys....how in the world they always managed to find each other from town to town beats me.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 8:42 pm 
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There is no doubt , I learned a lot about the FBI.
Well I guess you can say he met his goal because telling how the FBI was formed was a double-edged sword, revealing as much negative as positive.
I will say he laid most of the fault on the leadership and not the officers carrying out their orders. Really when you look at the whole picture, some of the older more experienced lawmen came in and saved the day. At least they could shoot. The young agents had a really tough job considering their boss and what they were up against so I will say they gained my respect.
I think the fact that they were so inexperienced made the criminals look more experienced but that was not necessarily his intention.
Parlez I didn't think to wonder myself, but I like your point that the title left you to decide who where the Public Enemy. If he had that in mind I will have to give him a lot more credit.



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 8:50 pm 
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Yes.

And no. :blush:

I definitely learned a lot about the early days of the FBI and the men who served under Hoover -- both the college boys and the cowboys. They suffered from a lot and their boss was a :censored: who made their lives and their accomplishments more difficult than needed to be. And they do not deserve to fade into anonymity.

The bold part of the book's title is Public Enemies, and I certainly learned a lot about them as well. Maybe the public enemies were meant to be a tool to tell the FBI's story, if this quote from Burrough was his main goal for writing the book. (Ok, I know we have a special interest in one particular gangster and we all wanted to learn whatever we could about him. OUR goal was to get a dose of Dillinger). But Public Enemies is so much larger than one person or one group of persons! To me the main thing that Mr Burrough accomplished was to give us an overview of the War on Crime -- the FBI, the gangsters, the nation -- if the bigger picture was part of his goal in the telling of the story, the he accomplished it.

I know I said in the beginning that I had struggled with this book and it was drudgery trudging through the pages and pages of facts. Now that I have finished it, participated in this discussion, finished the tidbits, and begun to read further, I am so glad I stuck it out. Public Enemies has given me a great background, even if I don't remember every detail or every name in the book. And it will remain in my library as an excellent reference book.

Sugar


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 10:02 pm 
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Yes, he did. Even though the origins of the FBI are not at all flattering to that organization, Burrough pointed out their mistakes and their triumphs. They were disorganized and very poorly trained. Communication was also poor. Lying came easy to the FBI when it was a matter of public relations as in the case of Ma Barker. I would have blamed it on the times and lack of technology, but as has been pointed out the criminals of that time had no trouble communicating with one another, or finding each other when necessary. They even got in touch with members of other gangs.


It seems that we needed laws to protect us from the FBI, so perhaps you are right about the title, Parlez. :cool:



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 10:39 pm 
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Men like Charles Winstead and Clarence Hurt, the two agents who killed Dillinger, have long remained anonymous, even as movies are made about the murderers they hunted.”
I overlooked this part of the question in my first answer so I am taking another shot at it. If Burrough wanted us to learn about these fellows, he succeeded. but not necessarily in the light he insinuated above. They are two of the three fellows who shot at Dillinger but evidently they hit their target. It seems Winstead fired the fatal shot and I remember his name in that context.
If his intent was to make them famous or credited for their kill, I don't think he succeeded. I was one of those who thought they were too anxious to shoot and that their standing orders must have been to kill him at the signal from Purvis. Remember the agents remembered no one said "halt" or "your under arrest" and he was shot from behind. I guess the better question should be how are they remembered?



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 11:18 pm 
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gemini wrote:
Men like Charles Winstead and Clarence Hurt, the two agents who killed Dillinger, have long remained anonymous, even as movies are made about the murderers they hunted.”
I overlooked this part of the question in my first answer so I am taking another shot at it. If Burrough wanted us to learn about these fellows, he succeeded. but not necessarily in the light he insinuated above. They are two of the three fellows who shot at Dillinger but evidently they hit their target. It seems Winstead fired the fatal shot and I remember his name in that context.
If his intent was to make them famous or credited for their kill, I don't think he succeeded. I was one of those who thought they were too anxious to shoot and that their standing orders must have been to kill him at the signal from Purvis. Remember the agents remembered no one said "halt" or "your under arrest" and he was shot from behind. I guess the better question should be how are they remembered?


And the question may also be "were the old ways better?"

I keep thinking about an earlier comment that these rural gangsters attended one room county schools when they could and they all could read.

Today mr nebraska and I drove past a rural school on our way to an appointment - but this rural school has been closed and swallowed up by the larger school district.......mainly for the tax money the district can gain by absorbing the smaller district. This rural school was the refuge for kids who didn't make it in the large district, a place where the teacher/student ratio was lower even if the teacher had more than one grade level in her room, where the staff/student ratio on the playground at recess was low enough to ensure safe monitoring. People CHOSE this district for their children because it had a lot to offer.......Now those students are forced back into a larger school -- because we are now in the modern enlightened time. Similarly, when a criminal is arrested, he now gets to go through a legal maze (technicalities?) financed by the public defender/penal system tax dollars of people like myself and mr nebraska who get up and go to work every day to try to make the world a better place. Is this really progress? If a prisoner needed medical care such as mr nebraska has received in the last week, who would pay? Or is it better to put an end to it and be done with it.......I have some very mixed feelings about this issue.

I am sure there are a lot of gray areas, BUT...........when I read PE, and I realized that there weren't years and years of legal hair splitting and thousands of dollars spent on a guilty man, I really thought maybe we hadn't really made true progress........

Sugar, running and ducking and looking for cover


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