It was a good run.
From May 2 to June 22, I shared a last name with number one most wanted man in America (alphabetically: the list isn’t weighted by severity of crime, despite how that would make for a fun debate about whether wiretapping was worse than extortion and whatnot).
You would think that in this age of heightened security that having the same name as America’s most wanted criminal would have been a problem. You would be wrong. I was not in the slightest way inconvenienced. I was not stopped at any airport terminals or bus stations. No unmarked white vans appeared outside my window. Maybe if my name was Allah Akbar-Bulger, it would have been a problem. But as is, it wasn’t.
I made two jokes on facebook: one about how Whitey Bulger was number one with a bullet and then how he was arrested, but I was still on the loose. I bought a copy of the Times and the Post with his cover stories, and I’m gonna frame them both.
But people are more aware of Whitey now, and I think that’s going to be weird and sort of fun, in a grim way. Even for a bad guy, Whitey’s a pretty bad guy.
The one good thing people consistently say about him is that he kept drugs out of South Boston. A) he didn’t and B) it’s a very odd side effect of the war on drugs that people would be OK with terror and murder as long as it fought weed and cocaine.
His criminal activities didn’t benefit anyone except for himself and his associates. He didn’t even innovate criminal operations: he just borrowed a playbook from the mafia, creating a “protection” network where he squeezed legitimate and illegitimate businesses for payments by threats and acts of violence (He muscled his way into owning a liquor store by putting a loaded gun in front of a baby, who gummed the pistol like a chew toy).
And his rise to the top of the crime pyramid was marked by cowardice and luck. A dopey FBI agent named John Connolly made Whitey an informant during a crackdown on Boston’s mafia. While Whitey was ultimately a crummy informant—Connelly filed reams of false paperwork puffing up Whitey’s value—but the crackdown was a huge success. The absence of the Italian mob created a power vacuum, which Whitey’s Winter Hill gang filled. So the end result of the FBI’s anti-organized crime efforts in Boston were to swap out one brutal crime regime with another.
And the replacement regime was arguably far worse, as its FBI connection gave them a buffer from law enforcement interference. And while Whitey was a run-of-the-mill criminal aside from his cruelty, Connolly appears to be one of the worst FBI agents of all time and is currently serving a 40-year prison term.
Whitey’s an Irishman who doesn’t drink. He hated drugs but made sure he had a piece of every cocaine deal in South Boston. He’s a mobster described by his peers as being as “evil as Lucifer.” He’s a rat who sold out his fellow thieves and made the FBI look like chumps.
Also, while the Departed is a good movie, it would have been a lot better if at least a half an hour were carved out of it.