TLP: Even if You Are Paranoid, They Could Really Be Spying on You
The other day marked 50 years since Ernest Hemingway killed himself with a shotgun. As a sort of tribute, his friend and collaborator A.E. Hotchner wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, making the argument that the suicide was at least partly the result of paranoia and depression that Hemingway blamed on FBI surveillance.
The whole column is worth a read. Hotchner writes that in the last year of Hemingway's life, working on a contract story from Life magazine left him aggravated to the point of exhaustion, which Hotchner figured would be cured by rest.
In November I went out West for our annual pheasant shoot and realized how wrong I was. When Ernest and our friend Duke MacMullen met my train at Shoshone, Idaho, for the drive to Ketchum, we did not stop at the bar opposite the station as we usually did because Ernest was anxious to get on the road. I asked why the hurry.Hospitalizations, electric shock treatments and suicide attempts followed in the months before Hemingway finally took his favorite shotgun and succeeded in the task. Decades later, Hotchner writes, the public release of the FBI Hemingway file revealed 20 years of surveillance, including the phone taps he'd suspected.
“They tailed us all the way. Ask Duke.”
“Well ... there was a car back of us out of Hailey.”
“Why are F.B.I. agents pursuing you?” I asked.
“It’s the worst hell. The goddamnedest hell. They’ve bugged everything. That’s why we’re using Duke’s car. Mine’s bugged. Everything’s bugged. Can’t use the phone. Mail intercepted.”
We rode for miles in silence. As we turned into Ketchum, Ernest said quietly: “Duke, pull over. Cut your lights.” He peered across the street at a bank. Two men were working inside. “What is it?” I asked.
“Auditors. The F.B.I.’s got them going over my account.”
“But how do you know?”
“Why would two auditors be working in the middle of the night? Of course it’s my account.”
All his friends were worried: he had changed; he was depressed; he wouldn’t hunt; he looked bad.
In the years since, I have tried to reconcile Ernest’s fear of the F.B.I., which I regretfully misjudged, with the reality of the F.B.I. file. I now believe he truly sensed the surveillance, and that it substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide.It's no secret that writers are considered to be dangerous. Ask Václav Havel. Or Solzhenitsyn. Or Salman Rushdie. Read about some of Hunter S. Thompson's exploits and where he ended up.
I'm not usually one to sport a tin foil hat. And neither is Hotchner. His other claim to fame is making popcorn and salad dressing with Paul Newman to raise money for charity. But people get nervous when they're talked about. And that can lead to strange places.