Finally I discovered it. For years I’ve wondered about the apparent hatred Alan Dershowitz has for William Bulger. The bilious barrister’s bile blasts Bulger whenever he can. It sometimes seems that Bulger has stolen his first born when one reads of his frequent furious fulminations fired at him.
I always wondered about its genesis. It seemed to me that from an objective point of view one would think they would be best bosom buddies. They have much in common.
Both are height challenged. It can be said of people of their height that they have a Napoleon complex. Napoleon was about 5’ 2”. I think Bulger is somewhat taller than that. Dershowitz’s friend Howie Carr (Dershowitz wrote the inner flap of his book) frequently refers to Bulger as the “corrupt midget” a term he stole from Judge George Daher who double-crossed Bulger and got taught a lesson not to fight with one who controls your pay. Daher apologized for using the term whereas Carr thrives on using it.
Dershowitz although smaller than Bulger and hovering around or below that Napolean’s height escapes Carr’s jibes at his height. This another example of the old saw: “an enemy of my enemy is my friend.” However since both are close to each other in height that would not be a reason for the animosity.
Eliminating that and looking for some other similarities one has to agree both are very smart. No one questions their intellectual ability. Few can match their abilities in the public arena for thoughtful ideas. Neither would win a Pultizer in the scientific fields but in the every day field of public oratory their verbal skills shine above their peers.
Their philosophies seem to differ. Bulger being Irish and Catholic graduated from Boston College and Boston College Law School. He has fond connections with Ireland. He adhered to a more conservative philosophy sticking to the more traditional values as taught by the Catholic church with a great emphasis on helping the down-and-outers; Dershowitz being Jewish whose parents were Orthodox Jews graduated from Brooklyn College and Yale Law School. He is a big supporter of Israel. His philosophy is more on the liberal end of things as one would expect from a life time in academia and his New York Jewish background which always seemed to produce many who pushed the envelope making America a better place.
The difference in their ethnic background should not have given rise to the animosity. The Irish and Jews like most people after the Civil War came to America for much the same purpose, to escape oppression and poverty. Neither group was particularly welcome; both groups were immersed in poverty. Many survived in slave-like working conditions until being able to form unions. Jews tended toward self-employment as we saw with the mom-and-pop type stores probably because they knew that was the only way to survive. The Irish shied away from that type work and toward public employment jobs or working for others as laborers perhaps because they were more welcome than the Jews.
A study done of Jewish and Irish kids in grammar school in the early part of the 20th Century showed that their intellectual abilities were equal. It was the home life that made a difference. The Jewish parents pushed education; the Irish parents pushed security. Jews, as wanderers, were more prone to risk; the Irish stuck to their land so found more safety in not venturing out. That too would account for the differences in philosophy – newness was to be feared or embraced.
What then was it that brought about this great loathing. Prominent Boston Lawyer Harvey Silverglate said of Dershowitz who he has worked with that: “He’s opposed to any form of tyranny” noting how he always wants to help the underdog. It seems to me that for Silverglate to be right he should have added “except when it comes to his own against Bulger.”
Dershowitz seems to want to have things he doesn’t have. He tells us that as a kid: “I was always the designated fighter of my group. If we were set upon by people from outside the neighborhood, it was expected of me to be the one to get the bruises” When I read that having been in many street fights I thought, “hardly.” The article went on to confirm my thinking. One of his buddies from that time said: “I can’t remember one scuffle he got into.”
Dershowitz was not the type who would be fighting. By the way those outside people were usually the Irish kids. Did you know the West Side Story was originally conceived to be a musical about “the conflicts between Jewish and Irish-Catholic communities in lower Manhattan?” Could that account for his feelings toward Bulger?
It could be but it would not account for the level of hate. I’ve pondered this hostile relationship between Bulger and Dershowitz for a while now and I think it is more than this. I could never put my finger on it. I tried to think of the way both men communicate. I realized listening to Bulger talk is like enjoying a perfect spring day; listening to Dershowitz is like hunkering down awaiting a late fall northeaster. One is light; the other is darkness. One leaves you happy, the other leaves you angry. One lifts your spirits; the other gives thoughts of suicide.
Then right out-of-the-blue it came. Bulger has the one thing that I’d suggest Dershowitz would like more than anything else in the world: a quick wit defined as: ”a natural aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way to create humor.” It’s a good feeling to finally solve a puzzle.