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WILL!—the G. Gordon Liddy story

Updated: Mar 1



*


Gordon Liddy wants to tell you a story, it’s a story about a sensitive boy who had to overcome his fear—he had to become a brave boy, he had to become a real man.


Along the way, he will stand over the line on the station platform so as to be right next to an express train as it rattles down the track, he will confront a rat down by the New Jersey wharfs, he will bloody bullies with homemade claws, he will, in fact, cook and eat a rat—and then he will tie himself to a tree in a lightning storm to finally conquer his fear of electricity (he’d already shocked himself several times).


This quest—this exercise in Überwindung (self-overbecoming)—will terminate in a little caper known as “Watergate”; because, you see, this is the story G. Gordon Liddy wants you to believe about himself, it’s a story where this frightened and sensitive little boy keeps trying and trying to prove himself and, in the end, he goes just that bit too far—he conquers his fear of breaking and entering and becomes notorious.


This story is a lie.


It’s a lie because Gordon Liddy is a psychopath (with schizoid and narcissitc tendencies). The truth is that Liddy never felt anything in his life—he is empty inside, and not in the sense that he’s in Nirvana, either.


You can tell this is a narrative he has developed to rehabilitate himself post-Watergate because really sensitive children don’t, for example, eat rats to overcome their fear of rats, or electrocute themselves to overcome their fear of electricity, or tie themselves to trees in thunder storms.


Liddy wants you to think that what he did was what psychologists today call “desensitisation”, as in when the gentle psychologist takes his client for a ride in the department store lift, just one floor at first, to overcome claustrophobia.


However, for a “terrified child” Liddy sure manages to jump right in and undertake some very extreme behaviours to “overcome” his fear.


Because he is a liar—he never felt fear in his life, just like he never felt remorse, as we shall see, for all the other destructive acts he inflicted on people.


The key tell for Liddy’s actual “problem” is that when he was five years old he snaffled an automatic from his favourite uncle’s holster, his uncle being an FBI agent, and took the firearm into the living room where the family were—took it in with the safety catch off and the hammer cocked.


His uncle smiled at him, reassured him, and then placed his finger between the hammer and the firing pin.


Now, what child with a “frightened” disposition would do all that? It’s quite a bold move for a five-year-old, isn’t it?


It reminded me of what Ted Bundy did at a similar age, took all the knives out of a kitchen drawer and surrounded his sister with them as she slept on the bed.


The psychopath starts early, you see—and Liddy, just like Bundy, was a psychopath; perhaps not full-blown, because he was “functional”, as they say, but basically a psychopath.


And, like all psychos, Liddy is a glib liar—and so he comes up with this narrative “frightened boy escalates efforts to overcome his fear” to explain how he came to be mixed up in Watergate in the end.


He knows that all men can identify with this story—the struggle to move from childishness to some level of competence, and so he explains that he was an extreme case, a terribly sensitive child who had to “overcompensate” with extreme actions to overcome his “inner whimp”.


But it doesn’t fit, very sensitive people don’t jump to extreme actions to overcome their fears—they have to, by their very condition, start with modest actions, like taking that lift one floor up a building. Liddy, however, being an unfeeling psycho, just went straight for eating the rat—and then he presented this as the struggle of a very weak boy to become strong.


But it doesn’t fit—it just doesn’t fit, Mr. Liddy.


The truth is that though Liddy was attracted to the military and the FBI—to normative occupations—from the start, his behaviour within these organisations, at one level “machine-like”, was always aberrant and destructive.


The fact that he ruined himself with the Watergate break-in was just the logical conclusion of a career within “the power structure”—the army, the FBI, the Republican Party—which was interlarded with negative and self-defeating behaviour.


**


The typical Liddy anecdote, a prototype for all others, comes when he mans an anti-aircraft battery in New York during the Cold War. He wants to be in Korea at the frontline, but he burst his appendix in a robot-like sit-up competition at boot camp and then soldiered on until he was hospitalised—hence he missed out on the frontline, and ended up in New York.


Even then he flouted the rules to undertake the final test for his class, conning a sergeant into the belief he was really on the register (“Fuckin’ army, don’t know their ass from their elbow!”), and so dragged his body through the mud, in darkness, under machine-gun fire, his guts bound together with homemade body armour; but he wasn’t posted to the frontline—because he broke the rules, and his superiors found out.


It was all for nothing—and not for the last time.


In New York, the bored and frustrated Liddy (IQ 137-142, by the way) decides to irritate the commanding officers by playing “strictly by the book”—so he’s meant to sound an alert when there’s any “air defence threat” in the area (which, in practice, means never—that’s the tacit understanding).


But he sees some puffs of smoke over some distant block and so “dutifully” (mischievously) sounds the alert—the result is that some Catholic saint’s day is stormed by the army and the police, on the look out for “the airspace violation”, which is just Sicilian firecrackers (Liddy smirks that he set “community relations” with the mobbed-up locals back at least a year—as we shall see, this is typical Liddy, he loves to smirk over the destruction he causes).


Liddy is then mystified that his superiors hate him—want to “get him”, although that was a predictable outcome. Indeed, it actually frustrated any chance Liddy had to get to Korea—to get anywhere—because he antagonised his superiors.


You might think “ha-ha youthful hijinks, boys will be boys” except this incident—the appendix incident too—just sums up the whole Liddy career. On one level he is this highly intelligent, highly patriotic, machine-man who can and will go above and beyond for his country—will overcome any obstacle you set him (even if terrifies him at first WILL!).


However, he is also a psychopath—and psychopaths are known to engage in impulsive and destructive behaviour, especially directed at authority figures or figures they perceive to stand in their way or who somehow dare to frustrate them.


This is why Liddy is paradoxical—attracted to the army, the FBI, the law, the Republican Party and at one level a disciplined machine-man, but at another with no respect for authority and a determination to “get”, at whatever price, anyone he perceives to have frustrated him (read, stopped him from doing what he impulsively wanted to do in the moment).


This is why his behaviour is ultimately not helpful, and why Liddy was actually a liability for anyone who hired him—he was dangerous precisely because he was at one level so intelligent and highly efficient, but at another level he was impulsive and anarchic.


And his high intelligence and lack of emotion led him to break the law in the most extreme ways (ultimately, it led to Watergate—which was linked back to the White House, in part, because Liddy hired an FBI man whose fingerprints were on file, so that his alias didn’t hold up).


So Liddy, like all psychopaths, can’t really take orders and is very impulsive—he has a low boredom threshold (why he was desperate to be in the front lines—he prayed for WWII to last longer, at least two more years, as a child so that he could join the army).


Liddy’s low boredom threshold is revealed in his constant job changes: the army, then a stint training for the Juilliard music academy, then the FBI (“I could only go as far as deputy director”), then law with his father, then politics, then political espionage. Liddy just couldn’t stay still, just like Bundy—an intelligent man, more psycho than Liddy, who swapped occupations and locations all the time but who was, on the surface, a “model” middle-class man (apart from the nurses he bludgeoned to death).


Liddy’s problems with authority continued during his prison stretch for Watergate—these were somewhat more justified, because he dealt with prison wardens who did things like let five men burn to death in a recreation room that caught fire (when the prisoners picked up the phone to call the guard to say there was a fire the guard just said, “Prisoners aren’t allowed to use this phone.”).


So Liddy began a campaign against the warden—because he slighted him, not because he was cruel to the prisoners—and ended up bugging his phone, disrupting the prison’s memo system, and, finally, getting the warden fired (the next warden walked away when he saw Liddy—he feared Liddy, unheard of in American prisons).


It’s all very impressive, but at a certain level pointless—because Liddy wouldn’t be in all these confrontations, not to mention fights and dominance challenges with black prisoners (running over the carcass of a rat at one point), if he wasn’t so impulsive and didn’t attack authority in the first place.


But he can’t help himself, because he’s a psychopath—so he’s very impulsive and just attacks people he feels have slighted him or obstructed his goals and he does so without remorse (although brought up Catholic, a religion he later drops, Liddy always totally believed in revenge—and he would go to great lengths to secure revenge, he was a vindictive man; if you crossed him then Liddy would, sooner or later, get you).


***


Schizophrenic features: as a child on the station platform, Liddy decided to become a train—he was a machine like the train. The way Liddy “swallowed” the machine, absorbed it so as to become a machine, is shamanic—it’s also schizoid (“I’m made of rancid aluminumim inside, and the wires are melting”). Well he was a less extreme case, but it’s there for sure—“I am just a machine”.


It also manifests in his habit, adopted from Eastern asceticism, of burning his own hands and arms with matches—and not just for a few moments, like Lawrence of Arabia. No, Liddy does it until his tendons are ruined—until he has a great black burn that goes all the way down to the bone. He does this in front of women and prisoners, almost causing them to faint at the smell of burned flesh.


It’s because he’s wired wrong in some way, he’s a broken toy—he doesn’t feel anything inside in emotional terms, and the extreme physical pain, until he literally burns the nerves away, is just an attempt to bring his body into line with his internal state.


If you read Liddy, he also sounds somehow flat (flat affect) and hollow—like a machine, like there’s “nothing there”. He tries to make jokes but they never work because he doesn’t understand how actual humans make jokes.


So he talks about how he selected his wife because she was Celtic-Nordic and could do calculus with ease and was a certain height and proportion—and then he says, after he gives us this little eugenics card, “She had it all. I fell in love” or something like that. It’s meant to be a joke, but it isn’t really funny because it’s obvious that Liddy feels no affection for this woman one way or the other.


In a similar incident with his father, with whom he had a very vexed and competitive relationship (same schools and universities), the young Liddy vomits right on his face from the top bunk on a train after his first ever experience with heavy drinking. “That man,” as Liddy put it, “had style” because the next morning Liddy senior doesn’t make a fuss about it—but you can tell Liddy derived satisfaction from the vomit in his father’s face, because he doesn’t like people who stand in his way.


Indeed, his father worked out there was “something wrong” with Liddy—and refused to buy him a gun. But his favourite uncle, the FBI agent, did—and that influenced Liddy’s decision to pursue his FBI career.


For Liddy, the dynamic, as far as a machine can have a dynamic with its “creators”, is that he is an Italian who struggles to be German—his mother is Italian, his father Germanic; and he wants to be like his father—his mother barely features in his purview—but he fears he has too much Italian emotionalism (actually the opposite) and not enough Teutonic “eis”.


At the FBI, Liddy quickly became a ghostwriter for J. Edgar Hoover—in this capacity he learned to forge Hoover’s signature and then used to torment his colleagues by making it appear that they had been sacked or were subject to disciplinary actions. Liddy was sadistic and when he encountered sadism in others saw it as natural, because for him “everyone is like that”.


Indeed, among the last scenes in this book is Liddy engaged in an automobile duel with journalists after he left prison—the pursuit reduces his wife to tears (Liddy shakes them in the end, no matter what the cost).


To return to his schizo tendencies, Liddy also engages in peculiar word-play around his school, SS Peter and Paul, and Hitler’s Germany, Hitler’s SS—during his time at the school Hitler had just attained power and he used to listen to his speeches with the family’s German maid, an ardent Hitlerphile (she thought the Hindenburg was sabotaged—and maybe she was right, being a bit schizo herself).


She was replaced, in the end, by a German-Jewish maid—Liddy refused to eat from a spoon she had touched. However, Liddy basically played throughout his life with this idea he was “a Nazi”—he screened Triumph of the Will for Nixon staff, sang the Horst-Wessel-Leid in the shower to intimidate black prisoners (successful), and he named one operation “Night and Fog”, another organisation ODESSA (he bragged about his actual contacts with the real ODESSA group).


However, I think this was all just psycho-narcissism. When Liddy speaks about Jews and blacks he is respectful, provided he doesn’t have a beef with that individual—as often happened in prison, because he was in a DC jail and DC is the black city with the white house. However, his views on these races were entirely conventional, often appreciative.


Liddy just liked to play with the National Socialist imagery because it shocked people—he could use it to “yank people off”, upset liberals. He didn’t believe in any of it—other than he admired their discipline, forwardness, and toughness.


A Hungarian prison guard, an exile after 1956, once tried to protect Liddy in jail from a prospective attack, but Liddy had already armed himself and relished the chance to take on his would-be assailant. “So it’s true what they say, you really are a fascist,” said the Hungarian guard—but Liddy didn’t believe, he was just a schizo-psycho; just relished a fight, the excitement.


He went on and on about the National Socialist angle because he liked the ruthlessness and he liked to shock people. He was a typical American of his time in every other way, with liberal views on race—though he was very patriotic.


However, he did have some odd connection to National Socialism through some of the schizo-type wordplay SS (Catholic) and Hitler’s SS. Liddy is an excellent writer, and, in fact, a psychological assessment he paid for when he left university suggested that he should have become an editor of academic journals—he would have been brilliant at that, and his word skills granted him his position as J. Edgar’s ghostwriter; but, of course, the psych assessment didn’t account for Liddy’s low boredom threshold and desperate need to kill.


But at another level, the assessment was right—Liddy would have excelled at that job, and also wouldn’t have ended up in so much trouble. But it was in his very nature to ignore sensible advice.


But his wordplay is schizo and he had a “rat obsession”—he eats the rat as a child on the day Pearl Harbor happened, later he has to run through a rat in prison, and there are other “rat allusions” in the book; and it’s all foreshadowing for the Watergate dirty tricks, which were known as “rat-fucking” (so rats had some schizo magic for Liddy—and, as I write this, I happen to have a dead rat in my attic. I can almost smell it—it smells hot, like all death).


He also describes, and this is genuine and important, how in those days American children used to give the Roman salute to the flag every morning at school (the pictures still disturb some people) and he talks about how he never had any trouble with the Roman salute, loved it, but found prayer hard to do correctly (even though the nuns scolded him if he didn’t cross himself the right way).


That was genuine—and it reflects a real facet to reality, one I’ve mentioned before, which is that Europeans would prefer to stand and salute a god or Godhead and not kneel to pray. Liddy’s experience, his preference for the Roman salute, is just what comes natural to Europeans.



However, for the most part, his interest in Hitlerism is tied up to his narcissism and need to shock people—oddly, despite this book’s title, he doesn’t mention Nietzsche, but he was obsessed with “willpower” in the raw sense, the idea that you push yourself again and again to grow stronger (the book’s epilogue describes it as an exercise in self-overbecoming, and the way he abandoned his Catholic faith speaks to that, but he never mentions Nietzsche himself).


As an aside, sometime after Vatican II, in the late 1960s or early 1970s, Liddy’s wife, on about her sixth child, was told by a priest that if the rhythm method didn’t work for her then she could use the pill due to her health—that pretty much sums up what the Church’s actual stand on contraception is (i.e. it’s basically okay).


Liddy was also a narcissist. He would say things, without thought, like “we then moved to a 15-room house, though it couldn’t be described as a mansion”. Well, Mr. Liddy, if a 15-room house isn’t a mansion then I don’t know what is.


Liddy blithely lists all his achievements, all his father’s achievements (from Swedish knighthoods to mayoralties), all his children’s achievements at the back of the book—on and on he goes, carefully mentioning the expensive suit he wore when he first worked for the FBI and also the car types he drove (which I assume were top models back then). The man was a total narcissist, a total braggart—although I think this all stems from the fact he doesn’t really understand how actual humans are, just like his humour is always slightly “off”.


****


The last fact, the fact that makes it all make sense, comes with the revelation that Liddy’s father is not perturbed to visit him in prison because he visited his own father in prison—that’s right, Liddy, so obsessed with blood, comes from criminal stock.


And we know that’s true because Liddy’s son—one of his progeny whom he spouted so proudly about, medal ribbons and all—recently lost his licence to practice law because he downloaded child pornography (sadistic, no?).


The Liddy family line was always rotten, that’s the “eugenic truth” behind “the will” of G. Gordon Liddy.





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