When Jimmy Conway grabbed Henry Hill’s youthful face and said never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut, I nodded my head in agreement. Goddamn right, Jimmy! That was kid stuff, though–stealing furs, robbing truck drivers, bagging coke, then describing it all to a judge a few years down the road, pointing in the courtroom at the guy who used to be your fellow foot soldier, thereby making a disgrace of yourself like a filthy rat. Kid stuff! This here is snitching, pure and uncut:
“I don’t think that [this] changes the power of the photographs he produced,” said a smart man on NPR about Ernest Withers, and I agree. Unforgivable rat finkery aside, this new information about him makes his photos even more meaningful in context of what we just found out about him–people in the movement strongly suspected they were being tailed, trailed, spied on, and the guy taking pictures of them knew it firsthand and kept snapping away. He churned out thousands of pictures of kind-faced, sympathetic individuals on buses and in picket lines, adding a stunningly energetic Lionel Hampton photo or two along the way.
Why would the Feds be so inconsistent with their suppression techniques, though? They got valuable information from an informant, but let him keep taking pictures of men and women with kind, sympathetic faces? Since frontline imagery is one of the tools of informative persuasion for which the movement is best known, it seems like the FBI would’ve seen to it that negatives were “accidentally” destroyed, or brought the paranoid hand of justice down much harder on the man who was creating those images. They’re now on display in museums, wordless black-and-white evidence of brutal times and brutal laws. Destroying the negatives seems like such an obvious way to go. But then, I forget sometimes that J. Edgar and his drones were not known for their intelligence.
And here, in contrast, some trifling type of behavior that’s not really “snitching” at all; it’s just an assortment of various attempts by a man with a dumb nickname to get out of jail a little sooner. I haven’t seen this kind of penny-ante nonsense get the kids so heated* since Cam and Anderson made intense faces at each other and discussed the serial killer who lives next door.
* as of this writing, 30 comments from rap nation over at XXL.
The O’Jays, “Back Stabbers.” Because it’s Gamble & Huff, with the god Thom Bell in charge of strings. And because “Rat Heads” by E-40 wouldn’t upload, and the only other songs available about rats and snitches getting theirs in the end were, ironically, ones by noted rat employer Game and noted alleged rat Curtis Jackson. Oh the sweet, terrible irony.