Pubdate: Wed, 15 Oct 2014
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Copyright: 2014 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Valerie Vande Panne


Many years ago, I heard a story that the CIA purposefully allowed the
funneling of crack cocaine into Los Angeles and other inner cities
across the country in order to fund a war in Nicaragua. It was told to
me on the street. I didn't read it. As a young woman living in the
Bronx, I heard the story again and again, as matter-of-fact as the sun
rises each morning in the east. The CIA, everyone said, knew where the
crack was, who it came from, and despite the War on Drugs, the flow
was never impeded, rather the lowest level of addict or poorest and
most desperate of the pushers were the ones targeted for

I didn't know where this story came from. I only knew that to the
poor, the black, or the Hispanic American, it was true. It angered me,
and fueled my fire to end the drug war.

Then, through a journalist I knew committed to telling the truth about
the War on Drugs, I met a man named Gary Webb - and learned that not
only was he the journalist who had exposed this "Dark Alliance"
between the CIA and crack cocaine, but his career and his life were
destroyed by his fellow journalists for it.

Webb, unable to regain the career he was made for, committed suicide
in 2004.

It's strange to sit in a theater today, and watch Kill the Messenger,
a film starring Jeremy Renner as Webb, portraying his groundbreaking
story and subsequent destruction by fellow journalists. No, strange
isn't the correct word - infuriating is. The media killed a man, cut
his balls off with their words for doing nothing more than telling the
truth. Sure, he scooped the L.A. Times. But the L.A. Times didn't
further his story - rather, they attacked Webb, and admit doing so.

As an esteemed colleague said in an aside to me last week: the L.A.
Times newsroom deserved to be gutted for being such petty assholes.

But it wasn't only the L.A. Times attacking Webb. They went at him
with the New York Times, and the Washington Post (the reporters there
had worked for the CIA).

And still, the New York Times doesn't acknowledge their role in this
drama. Greg Grandin comments on the New York Times' reaction to
Webb's story (that continues to this day via their media critic David
Carr) in a recent article for The Nation:

Carr tentatively suggests that perhaps journalists should have better
spent their energy reporting the larger story, rather than
relentlessly fact-checking Webb. At the same time, though, he
presented the campaign that ultimately drove Webb to his death as a
"he-said-she-said-who-can-ultimately-say?" matter of interpretation,
given ample space to Webb's tormentors, like Tim Golden, who wielded
the hatchet for The New York Times...

Understand: Webb's reporting was validated by the government's own documents.

Such is the state of media criticism that Carr could make notice of
[a] "little-noticed" Senate report [authenticating Webb's reporting]
without pointing out the obvious: it was "little-noticed" because
newspapers, like his, little noticed it ...

Grandin continues:

Carr's worst offense against Webb - other than not mentioning that
Webb had won a Pulitzer Prize, for his work with a team of reporters
investigation the 1989 San Francisco earthquake - is that he blames
Webb himself for his downfall ...

Why does all this matter? On a very small scale, because the New York
Times, supposedly the most respected source of journalism in the
world, had the chance to issue a mea culpa and tell the truth, and
chose rather to blame their victim.

But of much greater importance to note: Webb's story was the first
news story to "go viral" - before that was even a phrase. It was 1996,
the Internet was new, and suddenly, a small paper in Northern
California mattered, and a story could be read by anyone, from
anywhere. It was, in every way, a game-changing moment for journalism.

What should have been celebrated and acted upon with consideration by
other journos on the street and up into the halls of Congress, was
instead scrubbed, in a fit of anger, jealousy, and conspiracy.

Webb, a man who told the truth - a truth proved by the government's
own documents - was destroyed, along with tens of thousands of
Americans who succumbed to, or knew someone who succumbed to, crack.

Then, a few years later when the government released documents that
supported the truth Webb exposed, the media was too busy covering
President Clinton's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky to care.

Today, we have a continuation of this scenario: There is overwhelming
evidence that the Drug War (among many, many other acts of our
government) is a farce; that prohibition does not work; that money
stays in the hands of criminals and law enforcement; that we are the
largest incarcerator on earth; that the bulk of our incarcerated are
there for non-violent drug offenses. We know these things - both
intuitively as a nation and with facts and figures from our own
government. The poor in our nation perhaps know these truths most
intimately, and they have carried on Webb's story long after his
colleagues discredited him. To them, whether they knew Webb's name or
not, Webb was a hero who validated what they know as truth.

Yet the bigger story every day is Kim Kardashian.

Worse, journalists today rarely dare go where Webb did; rather too
many spend their days finding cat videos or drumming up fear of people
from the Middle East, or Ebola.

Authentic journalism, said Webb, is telling the people what the
government doesn't want them to know. That's what he did, and he paid
dearly for it.

Our democracy and our people are only as strong as our press - we have
an opportunity now to return to authentic journalism. We must, in
fact, and permit Webb's story to inspire us to a deeper commitment to
truth - anything less is to let Webb's purpose go in vain.
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MAP posted-by: Richard