Gary Webb: How The Noble Fourth Estate Killed One of Its Own

GARY WEBB

“If we had met five years ago, you wouldn’t have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me,” Webb concluded. “And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job . . . The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress.”–Gary Webb

A college dropout with twenty years of reporting experience and a Pulitzer Prize on his resume, Gary Webb broke the biggest story of his career in August 1996, when he published “Dark Alliance,” a three-part series for the San Jose Mercury News that linked the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to America’s crack-cocaine explosion via the Nicaraguan contras, a right-wing army that aimed to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government during the 1980s. Many reporters had written about the CIA’s collusion with contra drug smugglers, but nobody had ever discovered where those drugs ended up once they reached American soil. “Dark Alliance” provided the first dramatic answer to that mystery.

But in the months following its publication, the story was subjected to ferocious attacks by the nation’s biggest newspapers, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Soon Webb found himself out of a job. After being assigned to a tiny regional bureau, Webb quit the paper and never worked in daily journalism again. On December 10, 2004, Webb committed suicide.

The attacks continued even after Webb’s death. The Los Angeles Times stooped unforgivably low by publishing an obituary that ran in newspapers across the country, which described his life as the author of “discredited” stories about the CIA. The paper even went further, following up his obituary with a lengthy feature story stating that Webb had suffered from clinical depression for more than a decade, even before he wrote “Dark Alliance.” Titled “Written in Pain,” it painted Webb as a troubled, manic-depressive man who had repeatedly cheated on his wife and a was reckless “cowboy” of a journalist.

Such a portrait offered a misleading caricature of a much more complicated man. Interviews with dozens of Webb’s friends, family members and colleagues revealed that Webb was an idealistic, passionate and meticulous journalist. Those who knew him before “Dark Alliance” made him famous and then infamous say he was happy until he lost his career. His colleagues almost universally loved, respected and even revered him.

The controversy over “Dark Alliance” was the central event in Webb’s life, and the critical element in his eventual depression and suicide. His big story, despite major flaws of hyperbole that were encouraged by his editors, remains one of the most important works of investigative journalism in recent American history. The connection Webb uncovered between the CIA, the contras and L.A.’s crack trade was real and radioactive. Webb was hardly the first American journalist to lose his job after taking on the country’s most secretive government agency in print. Every serious reporter or politician who has attempted to unravel the connection between the CIA, the Nicaraguan contras and cocaine, has lived to regret it.

The World’s Youngest Person Is Born


And from The Onion yesterday:

DELHI, INDIA—Harinakshi Himati, an 18-inch, 10-pound baby born less than one minute ago to Delhi taxi driver Ganaresh Himati and his wife Chameli, has been declared the world’s youngest person by the United Nations Census Bureau. “This is an honor, to be sure,” said Mr. Himati, displaying his daughter to the public for the first time. “Her mother and I knew she was young, but this is very unexpected.” Harinaksi displaced her older triplet Chaya as the world’s youngest person and is expected to hold the title for a few seconds until the birth of her sister Varija.

A Cliff’s Notes Review: How the Bush Administration Operates

DENNIS HASTERT

And the Foley Saga Continues: The Republican Minuet

This interesting comment from Glenn Greenwald was noted by Andrew Sullivan today in his Time Magazine blog, The Daily Dish:

“This scandal is like the Cliffs’ Notes version of a more complicated treatise on how the Bush movement operates. Every one of their corrupt attributes is vividly on display here:

The absolute refusal ever to admit error. The desperate clinging to power above all else. The efforts to cloud what are clear matters of wrongdoing with irrelevant sideshows. And the parade of dishonest and just plainly inane demonization efforts to hide and distract from their wrongdoing: hence, the pages are manipulative sex vixens; a shadowy gay cabal is to blame; the real criminals are those who exposed the conduct, not those who engaged in it; liberals created the whole scandal; George Soros funded the whole thing; a Democratic Congressman did something wrong 23 years ago; one of the pages IM’d with Foley as a “hoax”, and on and on.

There has been a virtual carousel — as there always is — of one pathetic, desperate attempt after the next to deflect blame and demonize those who are pointing out the wrongdoing. This is what they always do, on every issue. The difference here is that everyone can see it, and so nothing is working,” – Glenn Greenwald, calling it like it is.

Play: Help Hastert Hide the Perv

PLAY THE GAME: HELP HASTERT HIDE THE PERV

OR VISIT THE YMCA: THE YOUNG MEN’S CONGRESSIONAL ASSOCIATION

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