Pubdate: Thu, 30 Aug 2001
Source: Rolling Stone (US)
Issue: Number 876
Section: Pg 92
Copyright: 2001 Straight Arrow Publishers Company, L.P.
Author: Mim Udovitch


In 1978, Al Giordano, now forty-one, was arrested for criminal trespass 
while protesting a nuclear power plant in New Hampshire. He was sentenced 
to 100 days in jail but succeeded in causing enough trouble to get kicked 
out after twenty. Since then, he's been causing various kinds of trouble as 
a political organizer and a reporter and, in general, continues to afflict 
the comfortable. Now he's being sued by a multibillion-dollar opponent who 
isn't having a whole hell of a lot more luck with him than the New 
Hampshire jailers.

The deal with the current litigation is this: In 1997 Giordano had gone to 
Chiapas, Mexico, to hang with the Zapatista rebels. He was then 
thirty-seven and had been, until the previous year, the political reporter 
at the Boston Phoenix. "I wanted out of journalism," he says. "II had been 
covering politics, but nothing was happening in politics." He began to read 
Spanish language newspapers. "And I found that even though Mexican 
journalists are subject to much more repression and danger than journalists 
in the United States, they're far more courageous in reporting on difficult 
subjects like the Drug War."

Consequently, in the spring of 2000, Giordano launched, a 
nonprofit pro-legalization site that presents Giordano's reporting on the 
Drug War as well as the best of the Latin American reporting in 
translation. ("Pro-legalization is just the train; Giordano says. "The 
destination is much more sweeping authentic democracy, peace with justice, 
human rights.") The lawsuit, which was filed in New York State Supreme 
Court last August by the National Bank of Mexico - Banamex - alleges libel, 
slander and interference with prospective economic advantage. The alleged 
defamatory statements involve reports that major narcotics trafficking was 
occurring on property owned by Roberto Hernandez, the bank's owner and 

It is probably safe to say that this suit is not about money. Since filing 
the suit, Banamex was sold to Citigroup for $12.5 billion and Hernandez, 
who ranks 387th on Forbes magazine's list of the wealthiest people on 
earth, is worth about $1.3 billion. Conversely, Giordano's most valuable 
possessions are a $1,200 laptop and a guitar. It is also probably safe to 
say that in filing this suit, Banamex didn't know with whom it was picking 
a fight. If you took it in a straight line from the dissatisfaction with 
the world he began to express as a student at Mamaroneck High School in 
suburban Westchester County, New York, to the present, the Bronx-born 
Giordano's biography would go like this: In 1976, when he was sixteen, he 
went to Albany and testified before a legislative commission in the state 
Senate against nuclear power, felt completely ignored and concluded that 
the tactic of lobbying the government was futile. He was arrested for what 
would be the first of twenty-seven times on May 1st, 1977. When he was 
twenty and living in a cabin in Rowe, Massachusetts, running the Rowe 
Nuclear Conversion Campaign, which ended in the first-ever shutdown of an 
operating nuclear power plant in America, he met Abbie Hoffman, who called 
him "the best political organizer of his generation." The two worked 
together until Hoffman's death in 1989, opposing us. intervention in 
Nicaragua and fighting to save the Delaware and St. Lawrence rivers. He 
also occasionally worked on political campaigns, notably for Sen. John Kerry.

Around 1988, after winning more than twenty referendums and political 
campaigns in a row, it occurred to Giordano that he could also effect 
social change through journalism. For the next eight years, he worked as a 
political reporter, ending up at the Phoenix, where he still occasionally 
publishes. Unhappy with what he saw as the decline of journalism in the 
U.S., he wrote an essay to that effect called "The Medium Is the Middleman; 
which his friend the late Jeff Buckley adapted into a song called"The Sky 
Is a landfill"(it appears on Buckley's posthumous 1998 album, Sketches for 
My Sweetheart, the Drunk). Shortly after that, Giordano moved to Mexico.

Obviously, given the sale to Citigroup, Banamex can afford to continue 
filing suits against Giordano in as many cities, countries or universes as 
they can find a pretext for, effectively turning Giordano into a full-time 
international defendant. "This is a harassment suit," says Giordano, who is 
currently $200,000 in debt from his legal battles. "Narconews is the canary 
in the coal mine, and if that bird stops singing, then all the miners of 
authentic journalism will have to evacuate the mine."
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