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June 2013


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for June, 2013

Whitey Bulger: Anti-Hero or Sociopath?

Alison McLennan is the author of Falling for Johnny, a suspense novel based on the Boston underworld with a fictional character inspired by James “Whitey” Bulger. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science.

Whitey Bulger/fbi

By Alison McLennan

The media often calls leaders of crime syndicates sociopaths or psychopaths. The term sociopath refers to a subset of anti-social personality disorder, an axis-two diagnosis, which does not qualify someone for the insanity defense.

The DSM-IV defines anti-social personality disorder as “a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.” As opposed to psychopaths, sociopaths have normal temperaments.  They may be risk takers who have a hard time with authority and rules. Sociopaths are often charming, entitled narcissists who use and manipulate people for their own ends with no empathy for others.

In literature, film, and television, the anti-hero is an archetypal character displaying many of the same villainous traits as a sociopath, yet also possessing some capacity, no matter how small, for virtuous acts. Because the flawed anti-heroes are more realistic than those perfect goody-two-shoe heroes beyond reproach, the anti-heroes are more sympathetic and more interesting to non-secular audiences.

The anti-hero constructs an internal narrative which rationalizes and justifies bad behavior. Tony Soprano from the Sopranos, Walter White from Breaking Bad, and Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment are examples of anti-heroes. For obvious reasons members of gangs and crime syndicates prefer to identify with anti-heroes rather than socio-paths. Within the narrative construct of the anti-hero, criminals are able to rationalize their crimes and inhumane behavior.

The high-profile trial of James “Whitey” Bulger provides a striking example of a crime boss who identifies with the anti-hero. Journalists who have written biographies of Bulger and are currently covering his trial accuse him not only of nineteen murders, racketeering, and extortion but also of “trying to control the narrative.” Indeed, with the mountain of charges Bulger faces there seems little hope of acquittal. The defense is obsessed with repudiating charges that he was an informant and also that he was involved in the murders of two women.

Johnny “the Executioner” Martorano was one of the prosecution’s star witnesses. He took the stand last week and described in detail twenty murders he committed. Matorano cut a deal with law enforcement to testify against Bulger and served only twelve years. His testimony was chilling and bizarre. He showed little remorse and told the court he thinks of himself as a ‘great guy’ who only killed to protect his family and friends. From these statements it appears Matorano preferred to view himself as a vigilante instead of a Hit man or a mass murderer.

Although the narratives of felons may be delusional, understanding the mindset of the criminal “anti-hero” can help federal law enforcement and may be a useful supplement to the traditional diagnostic approaches of criminal psychology.  A relatively new field of study called narrative psychology may be tremendously useful in predicting and understanding the behavior of the delusional anti-hero.

As federal law enforcement deals with the next generation of delusional anti-heroes, narrative psychology could become a useful tool. In clinical situations psychologists construct categories to describe deviant behavior, but in real life people construct narratives to cope and make sense of their lives.

The current popularity of the anti-hero means that more disturbed and alienated people will adopt that persona. According to Dr. Katherine Newman of Princeton University, sixteen-year-old school shooter, Jeff Wise, had embraced the anti-hero archetype and was following a video game like behavioral script to act out his narrative.

Public support and trust in federal law enforcement is essential to national security. Yet the high profile trial of James “Whitey” Bulger may have negative public relations repercussions. The trial, which is receiving a lot of media attention, exposes past FBI corruption in Boston and also may lead the public to question prosecution tactics of cutting deals with dangerous killers like Martorano.

This public relations fall-out may necessitate the FBI to construct a new narrative. While the Boston FBI began with the noble intentions of working with Bulger  to take down the Italian Mafia, those good intentions were overshadowed by internal corruption and led to the rise of  James Bulger, a dangerous and delusional anti-hero who reportedly terrorized Boston for decades.


FBI Launches Probe of Police Chief in Long Island After Suspect Allegedly Beaten

Steve Neavling

The FBI is investigating Suffolk County Chief of Police James Burke after allegations surfaced that he beat a man who broke into his car, NBC 4 New York reports.

Christopher Loeb, 26, said he was home in Smithtown when Burke attacked him on Dec. 14.

He is accused of stealing the chief’s gun belt, ammunition, handcuffs and other items stuffed into a duffel bag in the chief’s SUV.

Russian President Putin Says He Had No Grounds to Arrest Snowden

Steve Neavling 

Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained Tuesday that he had no authority to take custody of the NSA leaker-turned-international fugitive, The Washington Post reports.

Both countries exchanged blows over the handling of Edward Snowden, who arrived in Russia from Hong Kong on Saturday.

Putin told the U.S. that he had no grounds to take Snowden into custody.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry responded that Russia was defying international convention by permitting a fugitive to be loose in an airport’s transit zone, the Post wrote.


(Medford Historical Society)Kyna Hamill

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Russia Says It Has No Jurisdiction to Apprehend Snowden at Airport in Moscow

Steve Neavling

Russia rejected criticism today that it illegally assisted the former government contractor charged with exposing secret U.S. surveillance program, the Washington Post reports.

Edward Snowden, 30, was expected to board a flight from Russia to Cuba but never did.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the Moscow has an obligation to help.

“We think it’s very important in terms of our relationship,” Kerry said. “We think it’s very important in terms of rule of law.”

But Russian officials said they have no jurisdiction over Snowden because he’s inside a security transit zone at an airport that is controlled by foreign diplomats.

Defense: Accused Mob Boss ‘Whitey’ Bulger Was Never an FBI Informant

Steve Neavling

Accused Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger was never an FBI informant, his attorneys plan to argue today at his murder and racketeering trial, Reuters reports.

It’s important to Bulger’s image to show he was not a snitch.

Defense attorneys said ex-FBI handler, John Connolly, who is in prison in connection with the case, received money from Bulger for information, but their client never fed information to the FBI.

“It should be for the jury to decide whether they believe this person was an informant,” said defense attorney Henry Brennan, of Boston law firm Carney & Bassil.

FBI Continues to Investigate CIA Director Patraeus Following His Resignation

Steve Neavling 

The FBI investigation of CIA Director David Patraeus has not ended and remains active, the USA Today reports.

Attorney General Eric Holder said as much during a virtually unnoticed exchange last month with Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican.

“While an extra-marital affair itself is not classified as an ‘intelligence activity,’ the investigation of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) originated with the possible hacking of Director Petraeus’ e-mail account, an act that had the potential of compromising national intelligence,” the report says.

While Patraeus’ extra-marital affair was not “intelligence activity,” his e-mail account is another story, the USA Today wrote.

‘White House Down’ Features Man’s Fight to Save President After Losing Out on Secret Service Job

Steve Neavling

A 4-minute trailer of Roland Emmerich’s thriller “White House Down” was released with much fanfare.

The film focuses on a capitol policeman, played by Channing Tatum, who was denied a dream job with the Secret Service.

But while taking his girl on a tour of the White House, Tatum’s character, John Cale, must protect the president (Jamie Foxx) from a heavily armed paramilitary group.

Also starring in the film are Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Richard Jenkins and Joey King.