Black Mass: A Mass of Black Lies

hare_2074103iThe movie based on the book is out this month. I will go to see it at some point and write about it but it is not something I will rush out to see. I write now to remind those of you who have a particular interest in this matter and will attend the movie to keep certain things in mind.

I have read a BBC review of the movie that gives a good overview. There are other reviews out there that gush with superlatives when describing the acting of Johnny  Depp but the BBC review tells us: “there’s Depp’s hair and make-up. Unable to resist the lure of the dressing-up box, he has a bald wig, brown joke-shop teeth, dazzling contact lenses, and skin more cadaverous than he had when he played a vampire in Dark Shadows. Was the real Bulger ever as odd as Depp is in Black Mass? ”

Keep in mind that this is a movie and will have little connection with the real facts of Whitey’s life. The book, Black Mass, the title a slap at the religion of the parties involved, was written by two Boston Globe columnists with a huge animosity toward Billy Bulger and South Boston. The BBC review noted the movie:  “is the second film at the Venice Film Festival to present Boston as a city mired in toxic cronyism second to present the Boston Globe newspaper as the only institution willing to clean it up. “  What you will be  watching is a paean to the fiction that the Globe was somehow instrumental in bringing Whitey to justice.

If you want to buy that you must know in 1988 the Globe Spotlight Team (which included the two authors of Black Mass) wrote a series about both Billy and Whitey Bulger. It had nothing but good things to say about Billy; it only told  us that Whitey may be a bad guy with a connection (special relationship) to the FBI. It never hinted at Whitey being involved in murders and by 1988 Whitey’s murders were in his past.

We understand that this is a movie and that although it is supposedly closely connected to Whitey’s life most of what will be involved of necessity are great embellishments.

I can suggest the following will be highlighted even though there is no real proof outside of the imagination of the Black Mass authors that these matters happened. First, there will be a showing of a relationship between John Connolly and Whitey while they lived in the projects. There was none. Given the age difference (11 years) that is an impossibility. John Connolly made up a couple of encounters with him which certainly never happened as anyone who grew up in Old Harbor Village knew.

The Black Mass  suggestion that Connolly brought Whitey on as an informant against the Mafia is nonsense. He was the last person who would have had any information on the Mafia in 1975, The guy with the information, Steven Flemmi, was already an FBI informant and being handled by Connolly (cleverly omitted in the book). The years would show that it was Flemmi and not Whitey with access to the Mafia inside information.

Connolly was  not off on some sort of secret plan with Whitey. This will be interesting to watch how the movie handles this. From the top of the FBI,  through each Boston agent in charge and assistant agent in charge, many supervisors and a multitude of other agents, including clerks in the Boston FBI office, it was well known in the FBI that Whitey was an informant. He was approved to be one over and over again and to be part of the FBI secret Top Echelon Informant program.

There is no evidence, as shown by the 1988 Spotlight Report and what has been shown to date that Connolly knew Whitey had murdered anyone. In so far as the movie shows that Connolly had any knowledge of or connection to any of the murders then chalk that up to the fiction of the movie. My recollection is that Black Mass  never suggested Connolly knew about any of Whitey’s murders.

Unfortunately if the movie does not talk about the Top Echelon Informant program and how the FBI recruited guys like Whitey and had them handled by FBI agents whose job it was to protect them or as another agent said “to keep you safe.” The movie gives us half a loaf  of reality and a half of make-believe.

I haven’t seen it. When you do keep in mind some of the things I mentioned. It will make you better understand how fiction can become reality.



33 thoughts on “Black Mass: A Mass of Black Lies

  1. Mtc:

    Yep . An excited speech flow ( burbles/burbling … Lacking vigor or effectiveness ( flaccid ) . Thus … the typo . Glad you got ” burblings” out of ” burbles.” Same diff and one of your lifelong search for an ” ATTABOY ” gets yet one more reprieve. From Me. ATTABOY !!!!!!!! 🙂

  2. Mtc :

    When the argument got too hot you retreated to administratively ” having the last word,” by selectively deleting comments I responded to your argument with. I have enjoyed the efforts you’ve made on your blog, but the blogs deteriorating story arc was recently seen further below the horizon with your flaccid burblingd about Tim Flaherty and DOJ overzealous charging …. HOLD THE PRESSES! !!!!!!!! , and your supremely passive aggressive tolerance of Ms. Freeh’s one trick pony anti Fed yammering, yawling, gurglings , splutterings and splenetic splashings in the Flying Pond Variety Jacuzzi. Yuck

    Well… do your best. Try to tighten things up. When you write well ; well you do.

  3. Matt, I have been wondering and searching for a real valid angle on the hatred for Billy by the authors of Black Mass. To your knowledge, what is the genesis of them wanting to destroy him, why after being told by Morris, he is clean and nothing that you are trying to pin on him is valid or there? I just don’t understand the raging hard-on they had? to try and connect him to everything his brother participated in? To not be a fan of him politically is one thing, to try and put him in jail for his older brother is another thing entirely.

    1. Doubting:

      Billy was quite arrogant when it came to the media. It was hard for any of them to have a fondness for him. The Globe was a big cheerleader back in the busing days for Judge Garrity while Billy was a fierce opponent of his since his decision was directly mostly at South Boston. Then in 1988 the FBI had two agents start interacting with the Globe. Morris for the purpose of trying to get Whitey hit because he figured Whitey had recorded him taking some bribes; and Fitzpatrick who had been demoted by the FBI and pretty much driven out. Fitzpatrick had a thing for Billy since he thought that Billy was protecting Whitey.

      The Spotlight Team did a puff piece during the summer of 1988 on Billy while at the same time talking about Whitey. While doing the run up to that it had learned of the 75 State Street matter, from either Morris or Fitzpatrick, and it was thoroughly briefed on it even though a grand jury was involved in investigating it and the matter was supposed to be secret.

      The 75 State Street came to light when Billy’s law partner Finnerty filed a suit against Brown for fees owed in May 1967. Five or six months later Brown counter-sued and accused Finnerty of extorting $500,000 from him and to pressure him threw in Billy’s name. That case sat there for a bit unnoticed. Sometime after the mid-1988 puff piece, O’Neill and Lehr learned of the case and the investigation. They arranged to have a sit down with Billy courtesy of their nice words earlier about him. When the met this time they started drilling him with questions about 75 State Street. The meeting seemed to have turned quite acrimonious. Billy would later write demeaning comments about the authors and accuse them of betraying their word to him. They and the Globe thought they were on to something and that they could topple Billy but there was nothing there to justify their beliefs. They continued after him; he fought back. For the time being they lost having had the FBI and U.S. Attorney say there was nothing there. O’Neill and Lehr were embarrassed to make much ado about this and have it end up fizzling.

      The Globe was so intent on taking him down that according to what Billy said in his book: between 12/8/1988 and April 2, 1989, a period of four months, under 19 different bylines there were 69 articles about 75 State Street and most were on page one. Aside from that there were six editorials, two op-eds and five cartoons. O’Neill and Lehr had gone out on the limb to take him down and they failed. They were bitter at him over this failure.

      Thus began their vendetta against him. Billy did not help himself in his 1996 book when he was still at the top of his game and he portrayed them in a very poor light. That just further aggravated the wound so they became possessed with him and brought others along with them.

      1. It always comes back to 75 State street, a pretty boring lame thing to pursue. I have a book he signed for my Grandmother and will have to go back and find the digs at the authors. Matt, do you recall a showdown between Bill Keating and William Bulger?? Was Keating trying to move William out of power by running against him?

        1. Doubting:

          Keating went after Bulger and lined up a few rebels in the Senate to go along with him. Keating was looking for a chair of some committee or other and when he didn’t get it started a short lived rebellion which was cheered on by as you might figure the Boston Globe. Bulger survived the attempt (I think he tells of it in the book) and duly punished Keating.

  4. Matt, Jack did not win any awards for The Departed. I think many people realize that any film they watch is not going to be real life as it happened. It is a very strong All Star cast of actors and it should be very interesting to watch.

    1. Norwood:

      Thanks. I stand corrected. You are right Nicholson did not win an award.

      I agree it should be interesting to watch and I look forward to catching it at some matinee after it opens. When I do I’ll give my review. Good comment.

  5. Matt…GK,

    msfreeh-free for five days now…

    Famous last words…

    Sept. 4, 2015 2:44pm

    “Blogging is not truth,….behavior is truth” -msfreeh

    Evidently very true, but here’s…

    My version.

    “Hijacking a blog is not truth,…being a holier-than-thou hypocrite who flees from confrontation is the truth”

    1. Rather:

      We do need people like MS in the world; from all I can tell he has done some worthy things in his life and is a person of strong opinions which differ from others. I asked him before not to throw articles from other sites onto the comments here but rather make a quick reference to them. In the last few he’s just done nothing but that so in order to keep some sort of order I have to kick him off for a while.

      1. Matt,
        It never dawned on me that you “barred” him from the site.
        I assumed that my calling him out on the condescending (no, I guess they were blatant) insults drove him underground.
        So,…..msfreeh is in “the hole.”
        Am I to assume that’s why our other irascible, eloquent (and much more entertaining than msfreeh) commenter has been MIA ?


        1. Rather:

          I didn’t bar MS. I just took down two or three of MS’s recent posts that had nothing to do with the subject at hand and were paste and copies from other sites. I told him before I didn’t want all the clutter. I let it go for a while and finally decided it was too much. MS has decided not to post anything further since that time.

          I did that once to the other person you refer to. He left for a while and then came back. He went back to his old ways, the only ways I assume he knows, but I let him go on. Then suddenly, recently, he stopped writing. Why, I have no idea.

          I’ve only done that to three people since the site has existed. One was so irate he never returned; the other did and has now left; and MS is out there somewhere. I assume all of them are doing well in whatever they do and probably just got tired or reading me or commenting.

  6. Howie Carr is first and foremost an entertainer. I would not look for the truth in entertainment and certainly wouldn’t expect to find much there.

    1. @Henry Barth, so true. And if pro sports weren’t enough of a diversion for the local populace to crowd out serious interest in issues that matter (as MTC mentioned more or less, I believe), Howie Carr and other “news and issues entertainers” would fill the void handily. We are turning ourselves into a nation of lightweights, however elitist that may sound.

      1. GOK:

        Perhaps because we are living in these days we see the preponderance of the “lightweight” factor. It very well could have been around us a lot longer than we would like to believe. I’ve pointed out how I’ve done some reading lately about America in the early 1900s. There sure were a lot of lightweights around at that time. Perhaps because the NFL scam with its year round intrusion into our lives and its creation of the fantasy stuff and its ruination of the game of football with the drum of commercials has gathered these folks into one big bundle which make it more obvious the country is in trouble.

    2. Henry:

      That is because you are a wise man, unfortunately not too many are like you and few know that Howie is nothing more than what you suggest. That is what is so difficult about dealing with the man; he’s a very likable guy in person and it is difficult to attribute to him the opinions he spouts out; but the dilemma is solved when we accept that it is act to an adoring audience. He could be as liberal as his former foe Ted Kennedy but he has to keep that to himself; he has a routine that has a following so everyday he goes out to please his fans. Good comment.

  7. Matt, There are many interesting observations and comments from your readers. I would like to set out a website that was established to fight for John Connolly’s freedom and correct the wrongful characterizations that the newspapers and the local writers have thrown at John and continue to do. My email is RichardBaker42@AOL.COM if anyone wants to learn more about John Connolly, or just chat. The website is [“The Justice Watch Blog”]. When typing the website, type it exactly how it appears in the brackets. There are other websites similar to the one created for John, so type it exactly the way it appears in the brackets [including the word “The.” [Sorry to repeat myself.] Lastly, Matt I know that you believe John Connolly was guilty in his Boston Trial, but, I will not go into that for the moment. You also believe that he was wrongfully charged and convicted in Florida. This you got right. Keep posting. I am in regular contact with John Connolly and have been for the past 13 years. Dick Baker

    1. Richard:

      Thanks for the email. I hope those who come here will take the opportunity to visit “The Justice Watch Blog” to examine the case involving John Connolly in greater detail. I did agree that he was properly found guilty in the Boston trial (because of the letter) but that he should never have been charged in Florida and that having been charged the Florida court had to come down with an absurd decision to keep him in prison. I’m happy that you have been on this for as long as you have and wish you and John all the luck in the world in fighting for his freedom. As for his sentence on the Boston case I thought that was excessive especially after I learned that the judge took into consideration in making that sentence the charges of which John was found not responsible. Further, at a minimum when it was discovered from an FBI informant that Frankie Salemme was perjuring himself John should have received a new trial. Salemme was a critical witness at the trial against him for he was the one who implicated John in the absurd suggestion that he tipped them off about the indictment coming down something that I never accepted. And overall, that an FBI agent who was doing what his job required him to do has spent more time in prison than people who admitted murdering other people or many of the Mafia leaders who he managed to put out of business is really no less than shocking. Perhaps someday the idea that this rings like another Dreyfus matter (it is not only Jews who can be imprisoned wrongfully because of their beliefs or ethnicity) because of the zealousness of people who want to punish some who refuse to lie to save their own skin. John believes he was betrayed by the Department of Justice; he was actually betrayed by the FBI because he was doing what it wanted him to do. He was sent into combat and told to handle these criminals and, as another agent said to Mark Rossetti, “my job is to keep you safe.” that also was John’s job. Rather than letting him hang out there as if he had done something wrong; the FBI should have backed him to the hilt, admitted the ill-conceived Top Echelon program was going to get agents jammed in as it did John, and stopped him from being prosecuted in Florida by insisting, like it did in the Ruby Ridge case, that the DOJ utilize the Supremacy Clause. Give John my best if you see him. I’ll do what I can to keep his case out in the light for no other reason than his incarceration is a total miscarriage of justice.

  8. I don’t know Matt, I think Bostonian’s stopped thinking for themselves and are happy to be spoon fed whatever the Globe reporters — and let’s not forget my dear friend Howie Carr — want to feed them about Bulger! Hell! They believe Martorano, Flemmi, Weeks, and Morris! (And let’s not forget that Morris did have input in the book. )
    Bostonian’s have chosen to believe ‘whatevah’ because they don’t want to feel responsible for having let Wyshak, Kelly, and the Department of Justice — going back to Barboza – get away with all the criminality, in my opinion, they got away with. (Joseph Salvati and three other men were sent to rot in prison for a murder they didn’t commit just to protect sweet Joe Barboza. The truth of that crime, which the DOJ committed, went all the way to the top! And, ho-hum, no one seemed to care enough to demand changes within the DOJ).
    As long as the Globe reporters — my friend Howie, and Johnny Depp can mesmerize the masses, nothing will change.
    As Joseph Salvati’s heroic attorney, Victor Garo stated to members of Congress, the attitude of the Federal Court, the FBI, and the US Attorney’s Office in regard to the horror they put Salvati and the others through: “The Truth be damned.”
    Matt, could you pass me a cold one, I just wanna kick back and be entertained by Hollywood, the Globe, and the Herald. The Truth be damned!

    1. Janet:

      Agree with some things and disagree with others. Yes, there is a huge assumption the Globe is on the level when it has always worked with an agenda. One that permeated the institution was the hatred of Billy Bulger because he was disdainful to it. There was the busing war where the Globe was the big cheerleader for Judge Garrity’s ill considered destruction of the Boston Public Schools where the damage fell mostly on South Boston which was Billy’s home district. It became the goal of the Globe in alliance with the federal prosecutors to destroy Billy.

      The authors of the book Black Mass were O’Neill and Lehr. O’Neill had become friends with FBI Agent John Morris to the extent Morris was briefing him on the FBI investigation of Billy and he became upset with Morris when Morris told him there was nothing to investigate. He urged him to continue the investigation despite knowing that. (This is all according to Morris) Lehr had as an informant Robert Fitzpatrick who had an unearthly hatred for Billy Bulger and according to his book felt he was out to destroy him even though in his only contact with Billy he was treated kindly but he took that as a mask. He never pointed to anything Billy did to hurt him but lived in the belief he had a personal war going on with him.

      The book Black Mass was the product of corrupt agent Morris (who admitted accepting $7,000 in bribes and for forced to disclose another $5000 plus vacations in Florida from another Top Level Informant) who had tried to have Whitey murdered by the Mafia by disclosing he was an informant and agent Fitzpatrick who pretty much felt injured by what he says is his attempt to close Whitey out as an informant. You had two Globe writers with a huge grudge against Billy and two FBI guys with a similar feeling. Given that it came from that mud of hatred you have to know that much was pure venom.

      Howie Carr made his living off denigrating Billy Bulger who he called the corrupt midget like he does now against the poor people struggling to survive. He is vile in his comments against them and a preacher of hatred. His book on the Brothers Bulger was laughable but he did well with his nonsense because he and the others made Whitey into the consummate villain and let those besides whom his acts were those of a babe get a pass for the sole purpose of getting Billy.

      As for the Bostonians, they are proud of their interest in their professional sporting teams and pay very little attention to other things. It is a good diversion for most. They are not going to bother with delving deeply into things that don’t affect their lives and who can blame them.

      As for Barboza, there was probably one innocent person who went to prison and that was Joe Salvati. The Patriarca tapes back up Barboza’s claim that he had to get clearance for the hit on Teddy Deegan from Henry Tameleo and Peter Limone – as for Louis Greco the jury is still out. Barboza never put Tameleo or Limone at the scene of the crime. He was cross-examined by skillful defense lawyers for five days who had all the reports that were available and the jury still believed him. Much of the case has been the product of revisionist history in an attempt to bloody Paul Rico who put Patriarca in prison. Keep in mind the Mafia was out to get Rico and Connolly because they were the two most effective agents against them in the Boston FBI office. It did a good job in having the “good guys” do its dirty work.

      There are levels upon level of deception and lies in this story. Peeling back the levels takes time and effort which most people don’t have. You are right they follow the line put out by the newspapers, watch the commercials on television, go to bed and listen to talk radio while commuting. That make a simple life. It is also why we some of the politicians, judges and prosecutors who we do.

  9. Hi Matt: I suspect that movie-goers interested in the facts are going to be disappointed in Black Mass. The director is bound to be taking some major liberties with reality, including the relationship between Connolly and Bulger. I read somewhere that the director wanted to warm up Johnny Depp just a bit, since his portrayal of Bulger was too cold and ruthless. The idea was to turn Bulger into a human being. That’s one of the realities of commercial filmmaking. People just won’t turn out to see a movie in which the hero is a total scumbag. The Henry Hill played by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas was a much nicer fellow than the low life that Hill actually was. And so it goes.

    I also suspect that Johnny Depp is getting rave reviews partly because the critics are tacitly comparing his performance to that of Jack Nicholson, who did a preposterous turn as Bulger in The Departed.

    I think the other Globe-inspired movie, Spotlight, is almost certainly headed for commercial disaster. People just won’t pay to see a movie about priest perverts.

    1. Dan:

      Agree that Nicholson was putrid in the film The Departed but he and the film (a remake of a Hong Kong movie three years earlier) won Academy Awards. So look for Johnny Depp to do a repeat. I was wondering what the other movie was about so thanks for the tip. I’m sure not going to rush out to see that.

  10. I think Black Mass discussed Connolly’s involvement in the Callahan murder, but I think it came out before his trial, can’t remember exactly. It might have been the subsequent, updated book written by Shelly Murphy and Kevin whathisname.

    1. Dave:

      Black Mass was written in 2000. It was after the information was given the prosecutors by Martorano and Weeks. That information was available to the authors of Black Mass. There is some discussion of Connolly during their chapter on Callahan and Halloran but nothing to suggest he knew of the murders. Reading the chapter again I see much wrong in their conclusions. In their vendetta against Billy Bulger they write that when Whitey was interviewed by the FBI that he sounded like his brother Billy.

    1. GOK:

      I’m sure it is billed as an accurate portrayal in the same manner the book is portrayed. a

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