The Feeling of Being Watched

August 27, 2013 | 1

To give context to a new William Vollmann essay about reading his own FBI profile (available to subscribers only, sadly), Harper’s Magazine published a few pages from Vollmann’s file online. Among other things, they reveal that the FBI considered Vollman “exceedingly intelligent and possessed with an enormous ego.” (For a taste of the Harper’s essay, you can read this WaPo article on Vollmann’s connection to the Unabomber.)

is a staff writer for The Millions. He lives in New York.

One comment:

  1. Went over to the Harpers article and read a bit. Found this very creepy, especially in light of recent articles on the “borrowing” of classified NSA information for domestic criminal investigations. Some chilling factoids:

    a.) “-2047 William T. Vollman. Predicated on a referral from a citizen”…

    By a strange coincidence, I was sitting this morning on the DC subway next to a woman who is a docent at the National Holocaust Museum. She was preparing some material for their new exhibit on private citizens and neighbors collaboration/cooperation with the Nazis during World War II. She mentioned learning in her study materials that during the round-up of Jewish residents of Paris, over 4,500 local police participated and provided substantial help to the Nazis, making the whole process much more “efficient” than it would have been otherwise. Some rounded up their former neighbors. Why?

    We talked about Hannah Arendt, the concept of “the banality of evil” and the idea that so many human beings will fall in line with whatever is the dominant system at any one time. Woven into this, another sinister threat, the eternal presence of the malicious and expedient who will take the opportunity of an event like to to make good or revenge themselves. The Salem Witch trials come to mind.

    This very month, I’ve heard, post Snowden, anecdotes of government agencies encouraging DC bureaucrats to “watch” one another. I’ve also read about the ruined lives of brave whistleblowers whose careers tank after speaking out about a wrong in their agency. Sadly, the freezing out sometimes extends outward, even to their churches and neighborhoods, filled with other federal employees.

    b.) “UNABOMBER’s moniker FC may correlate with title of VOLLMANN’s largest work, novel Fathers and Crows. That novel reportedly best exemplifies VOLLMANN’s anti-progress, anti-industrialist theme/beliefs/value systems and VOLLMANN, himself, has described it as his most difficult work.

    He revels in immersing himself in the seamy underside of life. He reportedly has used drugs (crack cocaine) extensively. He reportedly owns many guns and a flame-thrower.

    • VOLLMANN’s meticulous nature, as described above, is consistent with manufacture of and presentation on UNABOM devices. Several witnesses have commented that UNABOM packages appeared “seamless” and “too pretty to open.”

    Very creepy. I’d hate to have a petty bureaucrat pry into the whole of my life and pick out the pieces that would fit into his narrative. I worked in a federal agency for several years, and have personal experience in how easy it is to get labeled a “loose cannon.” Especially if you’re a little ornery, like I am!

    c.) “By all accounts VOLLMANN is exceedingly intelligent and possessed with an enormous ego.”

    Oh boy. Intelligence and an ego… what a threat to the Homeland….

    Very scary stuff. Particularly with the prevalent refrains of the comfortable citizen: “if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about” or “They wouldn’t be looking into him/her if they didn’t have a good reason.”

    I don’t believe for a minute human beings today are any different than those in Paris during the Occupation or Salem in the 17th Century. We need to be very, very, very awake! A cell in Cuba and an orange jumpsuit could await any one of us, otherwise.

    Moe Murph
    Washington DC

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