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 Post subject: Public Enemies Question #26 ~ And in the end...
PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 8:59 am 
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Epilogue, pg. 543:

“In the years since the War on Crime, critics have questioned almost everything about it. Was it necessary? Was it real? Were rural bank robbers the public menace the FBI said they were? A number of historians have argued that the War on Crime was little more than a public relations ploy, a federal giant stomping out criminal insects, a dovetailing of Hoover’s ambition with the needs of the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal policies. This line of thinking suggests that the events of 1933-34 were all sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Would you agree or disagree?


Noodlemantras, we have come to the end of another discussion! :-O As always you all have been witty, wonderful and wise. :hatsoff: Feel free to go back and answer any question. Just because we have posted the last question doesn't mean the discussion has to end!



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 10:17 am 
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Well, as usual, I can see both sides. I absolutely believe that The War on Crime was, in reality, less about protecting the public than furthering the government's and Hoover's personal agendas. However, ultimately, something along the lines of the FBI would need to be formed. What would society be like, over time, if the Enemies and any future wanna-bes continually held up smaller establishments, like Bonnie and Clyde, and banks like the others, knowing that there wasn't an entity that could stop them? There wouldn't be anywhere that the public could go and feel reasonably safe. They had better transportation and weapons than the law.

The Enemies were dangerous to the public, even though they didn't really see themselves that way. I wondered more than once, reading the book, what it must have been like to be forced to function as a human shield, or to have to ride on the running board of a speeding get-away car through town, protecting people who obviously had no concern for others. The Bureau might have been a bumbling embarassment in the beginning, but it probably had to go through that incarnation in order to become the efficient (thanks to Cowley) Bureau it became. In the end, there was literally nowhere that Karpis and the others could go.

With that, :thanks!: to DITHOT and Liz for all your work in organizing our discussions and to the other Noodlemantras for the intelligent and interesting discussions! :grouphug:


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:16 pm 
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Oh man, I knew I should've finished this book!! The epilogue says it all for moi.

IF the FBI hadn't been formed, I think eventually the local town, county and state law enforcement offices would've learned to work together. They would've come up with ways to communicate and cooperate in a way that allowed jurisdiction issues to be more fluid in the pursuit criminals across state lines. They could've come up with a coordinated plan to cover such contingencies and they ultimately would've been able to get the job done. The key, of course, was that everyone had to agree that the perceived threat to public safety was real and that the benefit of capturing said criminals was going to be advantageous to maintaining law and order throughout the region/country. In other words, they had to agree on The Big Picture.

IF the FBI had been formed by a person or persons who possessed a modicum of morality, foresight, brains and courage, it might have become an effective, useful agency for coordinating and supporting local law enforcement. Instead, under the watch dog mentality and vindictive, ego-driven craziness of J. Edgar Hoover, it became the heavy-handed, manipulative, uber-suspicious, myopic, lying, covert, small-minded, cover-up prone thing it is today. (just my opinion of course!)

IF the gangsters had been allowed to continue their 'crime spree' without the benefit of federal attention, I think they would've stopped it anyway. It was just not cost effective in the long run. It was actually the federal attention that kept them in the game, IMO. How could they cease and desist with all that dramatic press coverage and celebrity going on? Without it, I feel sure they all would've ended up either killing each other or retiring offshore.

Oh! What a great discussion you moll-mods have led! I can't believe it time to turn myself in and hand over my gangster alias already. I've thoroughly enjoyed the comments, insights and opinions voiced by all youse guys!
BB :hatsoff:



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:29 pm 
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Well I suppose you can’t have gangsters running amok in the Midwest robbing banks and creating mayhem. I can see how the laws at the time, and the local corruption, made it difficult to stop the crime wave. I can also see how the financial and societal circumstances of the era created an atmosphere rich in motive and opportunity. However it seems there was opportunistic behavior on both sides of the law. Hoover saw a way to expand the influence of his department (as well as his own) by exaggerating the crime wave, demonizing the criminals and creating the belief in the need for more law enforcement. A harmonic convergence of place, time and people. Would the gangsters have faded away on their own? Hard to say, but some of them were already talking about “retiring” and moving out of the country. Would others simply have taken their place? Probably. Although the FBI became Hoover’s personal power base from which he was able to use and abuse many, there were some needed laws that were created as a result. Here I’m thinking of the federal laws of interstate travel in regards to robbery and kidnapping and making the killing of a federal agent a crime. I was surprised to find out those laws were not already on the books. There was a lot of sound and fury but I can’t really say it was all for nothing.



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Wow! What a ride!
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:56 pm 
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Very well stated, molls! "A federal giant stomping out insects" is not a bad description of the War on Crime, but, as you all have said, the 'war' was still necessary and led to the formation of a needed agency (that still gets in trouble every now and then...) and needed laws. The whole thing was done with so much fanfare, but it livened things up in those somewhat depressing years and is livening things up again around here!! :grin:
Sorry I missed joining in some of the discussions, but I read them all and, as usual, was soooo impressed with everyone! :bouquet: and, as usual, soooo impressed and grateful to our hardworking and gracious moderators!!! :thanks!:



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 4:43 pm 
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Was it a public relations ploy? Yes. I think it was spurred by Hoover’s ambition and ego. But I also saw it as a way to send a message that Crime did not pay. However, the means in which they went about fighting the war on crime were not to my liking. Too much bumbling, too much fanfare and too strong an arm. Like you, Sheri, I always see both sides. Seems I'm always on the fence, perpetually looking through my gray tinted glasses. And I agree with DITHOT, that if the PEs had retired, there would be more PEs to fill the void.

Parlez, you should try to finish the book, even though the discussion is over. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Betty Sue, thanks for participating even while you were in Florida. :cool:

It has been an interesting and exciting discussion. Thank you, Noodlemantras, for your insightful contributions to the discussion. But although the official discussion has ended, we have much more to look forward to as this film begins shooting. And much thanks to Bryan Burrough, who will be keeping it alive for us in his Vanity Fair blog throughout the length of the shooting schedule. And thanks to Emma for catching that and posting it on the Porch.

http://www.vanityfair.com/ontheweb/blogs/daily/2008/03/bryan-burroug-1.html#more



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 5:22 pm 
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I'm not ready to hand over my gangster alias either, Parlez. I think I'll hang on to it at least for meeting and greeting John in Columbus :-O as I'm sure it will be an entree to a long, intimate, fascinating conversation.... :flirt: (IN MY DREAMS!! :baby: )
Ma Dillinger



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:56 pm 
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For the most part, I agree. The political motives and the personal power trip/ego of Hoover were the basis of the War on Crime. And who did they target? Mostly a handful of country boys robbing small town banks and a couple of amateur kidnappers. If there was really a "war", why not wage it against the more organized mobsters in the big city?

It is hard to look back now, 70 years later, and imagine what life was really like, and truly know how things would have developed under other circumstances. I think that local governments would have found a way to co-operate with each other and become more effective within their own departments. I don't believe that bigger is necessarily better, and while the FBI had some new scientific techniques at its disposal, I still think local law enforcement agencies could have handled matters if given the chance. Perhaps I am naive. :-?

As always, our moderators have done a fabulous job -- the tidbits were outstanding, the questions were well thought-out and produced some great discussions. :disco:

All my fellow Noodlemantras, you rock! :bounce: You always give me lots to think about. I feel like my brain grew a couple of sizes through the PE experience.

And we still have our personal interview with the author to look forward to. It is all good.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:58 pm 
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Betty Sue wrote:
I'm not ready to hand over my gangster alias either, Parlez. I think I'll hang on to it at least for meeting and greeting John in Columbus :-O as I'm sure it will be an entree to a long, intimate, fascinating conversation.... :flirt: (IN MY DREAMS!! :baby: )
Ma Dillinger

WooHoo! You go girl! (or should I say moll!) I've no doubt your moniker will come in handy for breaking and entering into the wonderful world of PE filming in Columbus! I'll keep mine too, in case this Big Bohemian gets to the great state of WI and to Little Bohemia for the filming there! :cool:



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 8:14 pm 
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Parlez I had the same thought as you in an earlier thread that the states would work out the jurisdiction problems eventually.

This jurisdiction thing reminds me of this scene in all my favorite police movies.

The FBI walks up to the local investigator and says this crime is now under our jurisdiction. Usually it's followed by the local detectives making a snide remark.

I guess this shows that there will always be competition between agencies.
The FBI in the book didn't want the police involved (once they gained a little know how) and they resented the postal inspectors for handling one case.
I always wonder at the borders for the FBI and the CIA. It seems a few less agencies would make life simple. The Home land security fiasco comes to mind. .
I guess at this point I am wondering if we needed the FBI and I do think they made the Crime war a reason to exist.
I agree with Betty Sue, I don't know if I am ready to give up my gangster alias. It makes me realize that this great book discussion is over and I would rather drag it out a bit.



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 12:11 am 
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Well, I'm certainly not ready to give up my alias. I need to be lucky a little bit longer--maybe forever. :chill:



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The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 1:44 am 
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nebraska wrote:
For the most part, I agree. The political motives and the personal power trip/ego of Hoover were the basis of the War on Crime. And who did they target? Mostly a handful of country boys robbing small town banks and a couple of amateur kidnappers. If there was really a "war", why not wage it against the more organized mobsters in the big city?
.


Nebraska, I truly agree. A "war" as I stated surely doesn't involve a few people on both sides. I'm sure it originally came out of Hoover's mouth.
As for going after the Mob, that must have been out of the question back then, for I think the Mob was huge and very active then.

Aw... :-/ I'm sad this was our last question. It was a lot of fun on a great read of a fascinating book. I really enjoyed everyones thoughts. And yes, Nebraska, my brain grew too. Push the envelope like. I really enjoy using the gray matter.

Thanks bunches :smiliewithhearts: to DITHOT and Liz for all the thought provoking questions and cool tidbits.
Cajun Kitty



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 5:15 am 
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I think that Burrough was right when he commented on the criminals having the chek to hunt, challenge, and be ready to kill the 2 fed agents that had Frank Nash. This to me is a sign of things getting out of hand. So I woudn't say it was all nothing. On the other hand, I'm also reminded of the syndicate guy who seemed quietly amused by the FBI wanting a guy that he knew the syndicate would kill. He knew they posed no threat to him at that point. So the FBI went after the most high -profile of criminals rather than the most serious IMO. So I agree with nebraska . And they committed murder doing it.

This discussion seems to have really flown by - a sure sign of the fun we've had. I'm sorry to see it end but am looking forward to the Q and A and the blog. Many thanks to Liz and DIDHOT for your great efforts and thought-provoking questions. :thanks!:



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 11:55 pm 
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On another thread I mentioned that J. Edgar Hoover lead the "anti-Communist" Palmer Raids in 1919-1920. They were stopped because one politician refused to allow the illegal raids to continue. I think that those raids were a precursor to Hoover's later "war on crime." Both were witchhunts, designed to cast Hoover as a knight in shining armor(not "shimmering" LOL), slaying dragons he'd invented. He needed an enemy, and was willing to create one if one didn't exist. He practiced with the Palmer raids, and when his illegal acts were stopped, he learned from the experience and moved on to try again.

A policing body that would be able to cross state lines seems necessary, but not the autocracy Hoover created.

I can't believe the discussion is over! Where did the time go? And, as always, you guys are the best!


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 12:09 am 
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I think I would have to answer this question with one of my own. What if the FBI was never formed and never became what it is today? A patchwork of local and state police officials could not cope with what criminals were becoming and are today. Just as we needed national consistant rules for interstate commerce, we need consistant national rules governing interstate crime. So even if Hoover was an egomaniac, maybe he was the right egomaniac in the right place at the right time.


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