Monday, December 13, 2004

Our Free Press

A bowed head for Gary Webb, who took his own life late last week. Webb wrote the explosive 1996 series for the San Jose Mercury-News about the contra/CIA/cocaine connection that helped to finance the US war on Nicaragua. (The back story, excerpted from Webb's book, "Dark Alliance," is here, with a transcript of a Webb appearance here.) Of course, such allegations could never be true in these United States, so Webb & the Merc-News got whacked by the corporate press and its government mouthpiece (or is it the other way around?). The attacks were so brutal that the Merc-News pissed itself, apologized and ran, leaving Webb exposed and ultimately broken.

Happily for the Merc-News, its act of journalistic and moral cowardice won it the much-coveted Good Dog award, given to press outlets and journalists who go beyond mere bowing & scraping and really grovel before centralized power.

Unhappily for Webb, his career was pretty much ruined, and he obviously felt there was no alternative to his final desperate act. The destruction of Gary Webb shows that there's a price to pay in the Land of the Free when you presume to expose the criminality of the state. Obedience to and the tacit acceptance of the corporate status quo is required of those scribes who wish to "make it" in US media. For every Seymour Hersh, there's probably a half-dozen Gary Webbs, banging their heads against the marble wall of the press establishment. Thankfully, there's a Web-based generation that operates independently of the major media, a generation that replenishes itself every year with fresh voices and perspectives. Quality varies, of course, but I'll always prefer those who at least attempt to uncover the sad truths to those who gladly help maintain happy fictions.

Update -- If you wanna see the pull enjoyed by journos who side with state power, check out this piece about the odious Bob Novak. This makes Gary Webb's death all the more tragic.

(Thanks to pal Doug Henwood for the head's up.)

Update 2 -- Another Webb obit, from my old friend and former stablemate Jeff Cohen.