Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Who Killed Gary Webb?

The other day, when I wrote about the Crimes of Ronald Reagan, Constant Reader Yellow Fringe asked if I had seen the movie or read the book Kill the Messenger. I hadn't done either one, so I went to Netflix and put it into my "want" list -- it won't be released on DVD until Feb 10 -- and then I scouted my local library and was able to get a copy of the book.

It is, to give it its full title, Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb, by Nick Shou. It tells the story of investigative reporter Gary Webb and how he was destroyed by the very media he worked for, print journalism.

Webb was in the investigative reporter game for many years, with several different papers. Along the way he picked up a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on a California earthquake, but that "shaker" wasn't the biggest one to hit Gary Webb. It was his three-part series "Dark Alliance" in the San Jose Mercury-News in 1996, about the CIA-Contra-crack cocaine connection, that blew up in his face.

Even though Webb never said that the CIA was behind the sudden crack cocaine epidemic that hit the US, and especially Los Angeles, in the early 1980s, the mainstream papers climbed all over him. Leading the charge was the LA Times -- smarting over the "scoop" Webb got on them, no doubt -- which vilified Webb and fed into the other papers "discrediting" Webb, for claiming something that he did not claim.

All Webb did was ask a few pointed questions about some curious connections between the CIA, the Nicaraguan "contras" and the drug shipments that were coming into the US from Latin America. The CIA of course denied any participation in, or knowledge of, any thing of the sort, and their lackeys at the LA Times and the Washington Post bought the whole story. Back in those days, even after Watergate(!), big media were still in bed with government, and, according to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, especially the CIA. It likely still goes on.

It wasn't until several years later that a CIA internal investigation established that, yes indeed, whoops!, there were some connections, the same ones that Webb had `questioned. The report was "coincidentally" released the first weekend that our old friend Monica Lewinsky made the news, and even then the neo-yellow-journalism papers were slavering over reports of a sex scandal involving the president of the United States, and not so eager to follow up on some boringly tedious report from an "uninvolved" government agency.

Reading this book, I was constantly reminded of the whole "Rathergate" incident from 2004 -- never mind the content of the story; instead make the story about the reporter covering it. Dan Rather vanished into oblivion, and we never did manage to settle the whole question of G.W. "Baby Doc" Bush's alleged military service.

I've heard it described as "censorship by noise". If one person is telling the truth, let him, but drown him out with a thousand people calling him a liar. Kill the messenger.

And that's what happened to Gary Webb. His life was ruined and he spiraled into depression and unemployment (no one was willing to hire a "disgraced" journalist, even if he did have a Pulitzer), and finally in 2004 he was found dead from two shots to the head. It was ruled a suicide.

So who killed Gary Webb? It is possible that it was a legitimate suicide; he may have pulled the trigger himself but it was his fellow journalists in the media, along with the shadowy government world of the CIA, and the contras, the amoral "founding fathers" of Nicaraguan death squads, who loaded the gun.

Highly recommended for its insight into a very ugly slice of our history.


One Fly said...

The days of yesteryear in this area are at the top of the heap say with Irak. Treasonous killer bastards they were and still are.

Yes they killed him - that's what these fuckers do.

They did whatever they wanted. Few cared then and a lot less do now.

What a shitty message.

After the SOTU many are hoping again but the reality is that not one thing will be done to assist the middle class from those in power.

the yellow fringe said...

The rise of manufacturing in Arkansas is more due to Ollie North than Bill Clinton. North was throwing money at back wood machine shops all over Arkansas to make guns (so they were not from known manufacturers) the CIA would give to central American "freedom fighters". They flew drugs into ghetto's, spent the profit in Arkansas and flew the guns south.