The FBI had been keeping an eye on Sartre from as early as 1945. Soon after, they began to investigate his contemporary, Albert Camus. On 7th February, 1946, John Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, wrote a letter to “Special Agent in Charge” at the New York field office, drawing his attention to one ALBERT CANUS, “reportedly the New York correspondent of Combat [who] has been filing inaccurate reports which are unfavorable to the public interest of this country.” Hoover gave orders “to conduct a preliminary investigation to ascertain his background, activities and affiliations in this country.” One of Hoover’s underlings had the guts to inform the director that “the subject’s true name is ALBERT CAMUS, not ALBERT CANUS” (diplomatically hypothesizing that “Canus” was probably an alias he had cunningly adopted).
The irony that emerges from the FBI files on Camus and Sartre, spanning several decades (and which, still partly redacted, I accessed thanks to the open-sesame of the Freedom of Information Act) is that the G-men, initially so anti-philosophical, find themselves reluctantly philosophizing. They become (in GK Chesterton’s phrase) philosophical policemen.
Hoover needed to know if Existentialism and Absurdism were some kind of front for Communism. To him, everything was potentially a coded re-write of the Communist Manifesto. That was the thing about the Manifesto—it was not manifest: more often it was, as Freud would say, latent. Thus FBI agents were forced to become psychoanalysts and hermeneuts—drawn into what the historian Carlo Ginzburg neatly called the “cynegetic paradigm” (a brotherhood of clue-hunting detectives in which he includes Freud and Sherlock Holmes). Thus we find intelligence agents studying scholarly works and attending lectures.
But the FBI were “philosophical policemen” in a second sense: in tracking Camus and Sartre (surveillance, eavesdropping, wiretapping, theft) they give expression to their own brand of philosophical investigations.
Hoover’s FBI was deeply suspicious of philosophers, especially foreign ones, virtually philosophobic; but this does not stop the organisation from developing its own brand of philosophical thinking in response to Sartre and Camus—the FBI files on being and nothingness.
The FBI did not read Sartre or Camus in the original French. One of the agents, having stolen some notebooks and diaries (“obtained from the personal effects”) in early 1945, complains that this “material [is] all in French” and translators were drafted in. Then the investigation proper could begin.
The FBI emerge from these files as neo-existentialists in the classic early Sartrian mould. They, like the early Archibald Macleish, take the view that people, not just poetry, “should not mean, but be.” They don’t like meaning—they are on the look-out for it, especially secret coded meanings, but they don’t like it. They certainly subscribe to the “hell is other people” school of thought. And Hoover, in particular, would be greatly relieved if only everyone across the whole of the USA was an angst-ridden, anomic, introverted loner. In short, an Outsider. What they fear and object to is meaning, and finally, the plot—or narrative. They are anti-narrativists.
The FBI echo Sartre’s classic modernist critique of narrative, in his novel Nausea. Hoover’s FBI are quintessential existentialists in refuting teleological narrative—they would rather have contingency and chaos than telos. The FBI found Camus fundamentally their kind of guy: the Camus of the Absurd and the Outsider, according to which the individual will never really make sense of the world, nor hook up, in any kind of long term way, with others.
J. Edgar Hoover, always suspicious of Communist propaganda, kept files on Sartre and Camus.
"If you haven’t done anything wrong, then you don’t have anything to worry about."
As always, it depends on who is defining “wrong,” doesn’t it?
You know those Entertainment coupon books your neighbor kids sell to make money for their show choir or hierarchical organization with leadership of questionable morals? The ones that let you buy two Sausage McMuffins for the price of one, and tickets to the local sportsball team for $5 off?
It has a card in it. That card can get you a room at the CHSH hotel for as low as $129* a night, which is slightly cheaper than the normal CHSH rate (but might be for a room on the murder floor).
I only mention it now because this is the time of year the urchins are selling those books, so you can probably help out their Dr. Who fan club or cunnilingus appreciation society or whatever they’re raising money for these days, but if you don’t know any kids who desperately need you to show them the value of hitting up their neighbors for money, they also have a website.
That said, the organizers always do a bang-up job of negotiating a fantastic rate, too. Mostly because CHSH attendees are polite and hardly ever burn anything down.
* plus secret incalculable hotel taxes that probably end up being around $50 a night, but the only way you avoid those is a secret blood pact with Rahm Emmanuel.
Good words of advice, put together in a pleasing order.
If you would like to have so much fun that the 17th floor calls, go to CHSH.
Clooney's bat suit was my first thought when I saw that comic, but between the Xanax and the painkillers (im in the hospital) I couldn't post coherently. Glad that you had the same snarky thought! :)
Thanks! I wanted to find a shot with George and Arnold that also highlighted the nipplage, but Google was no help. I almost bit torrented it just to search for the right shot to grab, but my commitment to a joke falls just short of that kind of madness.
Well, THAT joke. There are others that I have gone that far for.
I hope you get well soon. And don’t Bogart the oxies.
The seller vowed to cancel any bids from people with a rating of less than 10. I guess he figured things got too mucked up by the low-rated people and just nuked it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
The bidding started up again, and he cancelled a 1-rated bidder. But I saw the bidding before he did that, so I know what the current bidder’s high bid is now. Hee hee.
Why do people up on their own bid? More than once?
I can only think of a couple of reasons.
They don’t understand how eBay’s bidding works. They want the price to go up as soon as they enter a higher bid. When they don’t see it go up, they think something went wrong and enter an even higher bid.
They keep changing their minds and enter higher bids in a misguided attempt to ensure they win.
I’ve been watching people bid on iPhones for a couple of weeks now. The vast majority of people submit a bid that is the minimum step up from the current bid. If the previous bidder had used the system correctly and submitted their maximum bid, this incremental bidder would go one step at a time every 10-15 seconds (and being instantly outbid) until they were at the top of the heap. It’s like they just want to see their name as the high bidder for a while.
Of course, all that fine curation of the highest bid goes out the window in the last 30 seconds of an auction, when the big guns roll into town.
I guess they don’t think about the mechanism of how the bidding works. Also, it’s in eBay’s best interest for people to bid throughout the length of the auction. That way, the final price is pumped up and their cut of the sale is higher. So there are little encouragements throughout the site to get people to bid early, bid often.
For example, there is a blue bar across the top of that auction that says “It is ending soon, so bid now before you miss out!" I also get emails about items in my watch list "ending soon!" which are actually over in six hours or more.