[This piece has been substantially updated since it was first posted]
I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that eighteen years after Dark Alliance was published, the release of a film about investigative journalist Gary Webb would inspire a new round of smears. Nevertheless, I am.
In my last post I stressed how the government’s own investigations largely vindicated Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series. Implicit in this, of course, is the obvious point that these investigations only took place because of his reporting. By any normal human standard, that makes him uniquely accomplished as journalists go, and you’d think our media culture might see some practical merit in unequivocally recognizing that, if only to market their own commitment to the truth while neatly compartmentalizing Contra drug trafficking as uniquely Reaganesque and Webb’s ostracism as a grievous anomaly. That Webb is still being smeared almost two decades after “Dark Alliance” on the pages of the New York Times, The Washington Post and by ‘advocacy’ simulacra like The Intercept, shows how little chance elites are willing to take in validating a bullshit-proof purchase on reality.
Of course, Webb’s story remains highly combustible because it is singularly rich in valuable lessons: that the Intelligence Community executes policy objectives without even the pretense of oversight or ethical constraints; that the Drug War clearly has never been about preventing drug abuse; that the intelligence apparatus regards poor, black Americans with the same murderous contempt it regards Nicaraguan socialists and anyone else of no use to the ruling class; and that the mainstream media is a fraud, a highly sophisticated instrument of ruling class disinformation that can shift into propaganda overdrive whenever conditions require it.
Many of the leading players in elite journalism’s own dark alliance with the CIA to destroy Webb continue to ply their trade — Walter Pincus, Howard Kurtz, Tim Weiner and Tim Golden among others –and that itself, apart from everything else, limits how much fault any socially and professionally savvy reporter can find. The system of rewards and punishment that fortifies those mens’ long careers and destroyed Webb’s now guides discussion of his legacy. Among the first to obediently tailor a Kill The Messenger tie-in to these constraints was The Intercept‘s Ryan Devereaux — discussed in my last post — and after publication of his velvet-gloved hit piece, journalists in higher places followed suit.
David Carr in The New York Times, a paper which did so much of the heavy-lifting for the CIA last time around, begins by cynically feigning amazement at the CIA/Contra scandal — “did that really happen?” — and, consistent with the recurring hack insistence on the Agency’s minor, bystander role in its own scandals and cover-ups, reduces its drug-trafficking complicity to “turning a blind eye.” He then proceeds in a vein similar to Devereaux, claiming Webb made himself “open to attack” and disparaging his “deeply flawed”, “oversold” series, his “lurid presentation”, “his willingness to draw causality based on very thin sourcing and evidence”, and his series’ “overheated” language and graphics.
Like Devereaux, Carr deftly suggests this victim-blaming is all conventional wisdom, by disobliging himself of providing evidence for any shred of it, apart from, like Devereaux, citing the original graphic accompanying Webb’s piece, which had a photo of a crack smoker superimposed on the CIA’s logo (inserted above). We know from the CIA document, “Managing a Nightmare“, that this graphic was particularly vexing to The Agency. We also know that this graphic — which simply suggests Agency complicity in the crack epidemic — is indisputably apt. Therefore, whenever you see this 18-year-old CIA complaint trotted out as if the basis for it is self-evident, know that you are in the midst of subservient hack fuckery, even if that hasn’t been plain from the lede on, as it is in Carr’s case.
Keeping to the trail blazed by Devereaux at The Intercept, Carr generously quotes people disparaging Webb’s reporting, including supporters like Kill The Messenger star Jeremy Renner and Carr’s Times colleague Tim Golden. Golden is an unrepentant veteran of the original smear campaign, noted for writing a full page hit piece constructed entirely from interviews with CIA officers, former rebels, and narcotics agents, only one of whom — Aldolfo Calero, the leader of the FDN and certainly involved in trafficking — allowed the use of his name.
“Webb made some big allegations that he didn’t back up” Golden tells Carr. “You can find some fault with the follow-up stories, but mostly what they did was to show what Webb got wrong.” Of course this is bullshit, which Carr knows, since he finally does what Devereaux didn’t do: acknowledge the CIA report that vindicated Webb’s reporting. Webb “lived long enough to know that he did not make the whole thing up”, writes Carr with contemptible, inane flippancy, before noting The Agency’s corroboration at the tail end of his piece.
For all his faults, Carr looks almost like, well, Gary Webb, compared to the Washington Post‘s assistant managing editor for investigations, Jeff Leen, writing under the brave title, “Gary Webb was no journalism hero, despite what ‘Kill the Messenger’ says.” Readers of my last post may recall that The Agency’s own report singled out The Washington Post as uniquely helpful to bringing down Webb, using a team that consulted with L. J. O’Neale, the CIA’s man at the Justice Department, and which included Walter Pincus, a reporter with ties to the intelligence apparatus going back to the fifties. By way of The Post‘s national reputation, the CIA’s report approvingly noted, it created a “firestorm of reaction against [Webb’s paper,] the San Jose Mercury News.”
Leen’s hamfisted, shamelessly dishonest piece suggests the paper’s cozy relationship with the CIA endures, eighteen years on. Near the top Leen claims “The Hollywood version of [Webb’s] story — a truth-teller persecuted by the cowardly and craven mainstream media — is pure fiction.” Things go steadily downhill from there, with Lee excoriating Webb as vigorously as his colleague, CIA loyalist Walter Pincus, did eighteen years ago, finding very little fault with The Agency or the cannibalism on its behalf. Too much wading around in garbage like this is bad for the soul, so I’ll leave Leen to others, like Robert Parry, who, with Brian Barger, broke the first Contra Cocaine story, and has ardently defended “Dark Alliance” for years.
By far, the best antidote to new injections of old poison is getting the true measure of Dark Alliance and its aftermath, which is enduringly fascinating, revealing and horrifying. It also provides an instructive backdrop to the pernicious clowning of the Celebrity Left. The difference between Webb’s courageous interrogation of racism and power and the exhausting banality of Greenwald’s one-note showboating, the careerist narcissism of Weevgate, and the bad faith of David Graeber’s anarcho-imperialism could not be more stark.
So, inspired by a friend who solicited resources on Webb, I’m providing the following links to things I used in writing my last post and some good material I’ve discovered since. I recommend starting with “Dark Alliance” itself. The Democracy Now interviews and the Cockburn/St. Clair excerpt from their book Whiteout are particularly worth your time. The Huffington Post surprisingly stands out as doing the best reporting to tie in with the film by far and both pieces listed below are worth reading. I invite people to share other resources that I can add via updates.
- Dark Alliance – The Narco News archive of the original series
- Kill the Messenger: How the Media Destroyed Gary Webb — Ryan Grim in The Huffington Post
- Key figures in the CIA Crack Cocaine Scandal Begin to Come Forward — Ryan Grim, Matt Sledge and Matt Ferner in The Huffington Post
- Snow Job – Normon Solomon’s analysis of the media frenzy
- How the Press and The CIA Killed Gary Webb’s Career – The Gary Webb excerpt from Cockburn/St.Clair’s excellent, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press
- The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On – Gary Webb reflecting on Dark Alliance and the ensuing media assault
- Inside the Dark Alliance: Gary Webb on the CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion – Three amazing interviews from Democracy Now
- Gary Webb on ‘Dark Alliance,’ CIA and Drugs – Audio of Webb talking about Dark Alliance at a bookstore, from FAIR
- Managing A Nightmare – The CIA’s recently released account of the Webb affair
- The Storm over Dark Alliance – Peter Kornbluh’s shitty “balanced” report that Devereaux cites in his Intercept piece.
- Why They Hated Gary Webb — Alexander Cockburn, following Webb’s death
- Deposed King of Crack – Jonathan Katz’s pre-Dark Alliance account of Freeway Rick
- LA Crack Epidemic Not a Plot – Jonathan Katz’s post-Dark Alliance reversal
- Reply to My Blog Post on Ryan Devereaux’s piece from Webb’s friend Bob Harris – The Rancid Honeytrap
- The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga — Detailed report on Contra Cocaine trafficking by Robert Parry
- The CIA and the Art of the Uncover-Up — Alexander Cockburn, Jeffery St. Clair
- Wikipedia: Gary Webb
- Wikipedia: “Freeway” Ricky Ross
Hat tip to Walter Glass for inspiring this post.
Resources provided by readers:
The Contras, Cocaine and Covert Operations — The National Security Archive’s comprehensive index of official records documenting “official knowledge of drug operations, and collaboration with and protection of known drug traffickers.”
Washington Post’s Slimy Assault on Gary Webb — Robert Parry, the co-author of the first, largely ignored reporting on Contra drug trafficking, unpacks WaPo’s latest hatchet job.
Gary Webb: In His Own Words — an interview of Webb by the Guerrilla News Network / Narco News
KXJZ’s Insight: Gary Webb — features interviews with Robert Parry, one of Webb’s sons, Peter Kornbluh, and others
Obituary of Gary Webb & “The Pariah” — Charles Bowden, Webb’s friend and confidante. Via the Web Wayback machine
“The Pariah” — Charles Bowden, Esquire Magazine (alternative link to above, via Jacob)
The CIA-Contra-Crack Cocaine Controversy: A Review Of The Justice Department’s Investigations And Prosecution — U. S. Department of Justice
The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux is No Gary Webb
Philip Agee and Edward Snowden: A comparision
Review from Amazon.com “Kill the Messenger”
I drove 140 miles, round trip, in foreboding weather, to attend the nearest U.S. opening.
It was well worth it.
First some context.
I’ve freelanced for decades, including during a war, successfully exposed major governmental corruption, weathered concerted retaliation and have been regularly appalled at the weakness of corporate, bureaucratic and political weasels who abandoned ideals, professionalism and integrity, “going along to get along.” I was aware of Webb’s writing and vilification at the time they occurred, in the late ’90s, but for over 50 years I had a front row seat for even pre-Nixonian “drug wars” through the “crack epidemic,” genocidal American imperialism, and the treatment of many other reporters who dared challenge the status quo, who had the courage to painfully examine the quaint and naive notion of collective national decency.
Webb’s story, so artfully recounted and performed, was unfortunately true. He was accused of distorting the actuality of Reagan-era hypocrisy, but his reporting was accurate. He never accused the CIA of intentionally destroying the social fabric of minority communities, but made it clear that Harlem and Watts and Chicago’s South Side were victims of “collateral damage,” the inevitable consequences of the abandonment of any pretense of morality ostensibly possessed by the Reagan administration.
Indeed, spurred by new information about the practice of questionable property seizures, Webb had once again picked at the scab covering the decade-old, gangrenous infestation of our government, later well described by Robert Parry in his October 2004 Salon piece, “How Kerry exposed the Contra-cocaine scandal.” To get the story, Webb had exposed himself to blood curdling danger, both at his own home in the U.S. and on the scene, in Central America.
Perhaps the worst betrayal of public trust by this film is depicted in recapitulation of the collective response of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, after being pressured by the CIA and the State Department. The papers’ responded with hyperactive involvement in the personal destruction of Webb’s reporting, reputation and life. Previously. the same papers, pressured by Reagan administration officials, buried Senator John Kerry’s investigation, and shared subsequent malfeasance in their facilitating the Bush/Cheney administration’s illegal and genocidal invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The NY Times and Post had some odious history themselves. Reporters Ray Bonner and Alma Guillermoprieto were reassigned to boring beats after their courageous exposure of the incredibly savage El Mozote Massacre in El Salvador.
There, the U.S. trained, funded and armed Atlacatl Battalion murdered almost a thousand peasants, largely neutral evangelical Protestants, and mostly women and children, on December 11, 1981. Stanley Miesler’s El Mozote Case Study, published in the Columbia Journalism Review, exhaustively documented their fates.
This film captured all those similar disgraceful elements. It needs to be seen by a wider audience just as it would be wise to make “Dr. Strangelove” part of a core curriculum in the formal education of American adolescents.
Forgive my ignorance. Did Gary Webb get any Pulitzers for Dark Alliance? The series should be taught in every Journalism 101 class. Wishful thinking, I know.
Chao ong, om Nguyen,
Webb got an award at the end of the “Kill” film, from Northern California reporters’ assn., but as far as nationallly, he got bupkes.
He had won a group Pulitzer for some of his other reporting. If you look at the Wikipedia page, you’ll see he got a lot of recognition for excellence before Dark Alliance.
I can’t see a conformist, elite outfit like the Pulitzers giving him an award when he was no longer even employable. Tom Friedman has gotten Pulitzers. It’s largely meaningless as a benchmark of excellence, I think.
I guess it’s kind of like being a Nobel laureate with Obama and Kissinger. I was mostly wondering how much recognition his outstanding work has received. I used to enjoy Taibbi’s takedowns of Friedman.
Dark Alliance continues to be widely and falsely described as seriously flawed even by ostensible proponents. He was never able to work in journalism again. In addition to being smeared, he was betrayed by his editor and coworkers. I was surprised he even got the Bay Area Reporters prize.
I linked to the Dark Alliance series in a couple of my posts in the past. Not that it means much in a post-Greenwald world. Glad to see someone sticking up for him and the work he did.
So glad you followed up with this post, especially after the venal hit piece yesterday from Bezos’ WAPO Nooz (thank you ”Rancid Sassie”).
Something that is useful in that hit piece (personally I couldn’t stomach reading it past the first paragraph), for those unaware, is that the San Jose Mercury News was at that time a large part of an historic, not at all powerless, ‘News Paper’ entity, Knight Ridder, which owned at least 80 major newspapers across the major cities of the ‘United States’ at the height of its rein.
(Yes, sorry to be anal, but I would still like to know why such a hot spot of wealth and DOD money (Silicon Valley), in one of the wealthiest counties in the world, at that moment, is still considered to have had a small town paper with no stunningly large benefactors who could have blown all others out of the water had there been any interest in revealing the truth. Perhaps Greenwald’s Pal, Dan Gillmor, can share some insights on that?)
Actually, in 2002 and following, Knight Ridder did a far better job of exposing the bullshit we were being fed by the likes of the NYT and the WaPost about Saddam’s supposed “WMDs”
how about this? http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB2/nsaebb2.htm
found above, after reading: http://consortiumnews.com/2014/10/18/wposts-slimy-assault-on-gary-webb/
wow these are both great. I keep promising myself to go poking in the official records, but haven’t gotten around to it. Parry has been great from the beginning. Glad to see he’s still on the job. Thanks!
Freeway was on Joe Rogan’s podcast a couple times. If you can put up with Rogan its worth hearing from the horses mouth.
Ross is fascinating. Thanks for the tip.
Regarding the comment I made above:
I should have written 80 legal (as in separate business entities for tax purposes) news entities (versus hardcopy newspapers), most of them major city news sources. The figure could be overstated, but I don’t believe by that much, if it is.
At the time that Jeff Leen – yesterday’s hit piece author, who is now WAPO’s assistant managing editor for investigations – worked at the Miami Herald, the Knight Ridder Corporate Headquarters was in Miami. In 1998, the Corporate Headquarters were moved to San Jose, California.
In 2006 those news entities were purchased by McClatchy and G.W. Bush’s horrid buddy, Dean Singleton’s Media News Group (which purchased The San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa [East Bay, CA] Times, and a few others). As I recollect, the sale was largly rumored in even ‘mainstream’ media, to have been pushed by Monopoly claims and actions against Knight Ridder (interesting that the information is not included on the Knight Ridder wiki page. Also interesting that none of Knight Ridder‘s VIPs are noted at all there, where are they now:
Dan Gillmor, has had a tech column at the UK’s The Guardian – where he was a very vocal advocate for Glenn Greenwald’s Freedom of the Pre$$ Foundation™ – since February 2008. Dan Gillmor wrote a business and technology column at the San Jose Mercury News, from 1994 to 2005. I’ve no doubt he knew Gary Webb.
loud and clear. apologies.
Pleasant experience, Tarzie with more “breaking news” that he’s cribbed from others. When your heroes are Mark Ames and 124 different twitter personalities who have pithy one-liners that say nothing, you can convince yourself that you’re a real journalist, even when you dig up nothing, even when you reveal nothing. Or even when you dig up something someone already dug up previously, and even when you’re repeating someone else’s blatherings.
I am quite impressed by the backward look of Our Host’s brilliance. Among all things plaguing America now, it would seem that Our Host continues to believe it’s all about NSA vs CIA, and he knows this because he let someone cadge drinks off him for the purpose of mining those things they call sources on TV and in movies, and the cadger told him things. Were the things true? It matters little, if at all. What really matters is that Our Host has sources, and Our Host has a computer to type on, and Our Host is great at self-promotion. If you think about it for a few moments, not tied to your computer, you may even see there’s almost no difference between Our Host and those he lamely accuses of sloppy work.
All in all, quite impressive.
In summary, pig poop balls
Dude, I attribute. If people think I’m doing anything here but synthesis and criticism, it’s not my fault. Since it’s clear I think all but a few journalists are pretty much the scum of the earth, can’t imagine why you think I’d pretend to be one. Go complain over at The Intercept. They’re the ones calling reblogs “journalism” and the lazy summarizing of largely redundant documents “investigative”. I reckon you have a contact or two over there, or at least the highly coveted commenting privileges.
I wish I were as good at self-promo as you suggest. Might finally get around to putting up a PayPal button.
If you think my complaint is ‘sloppy work’, you clearly have not been detained by actually reading me.
because genuinely clever individuals who are liberated from the shackles of their computers are naturally desperate to throw shade on the multiply marginalized modes of dissent that go on here.
Thanks, Tarzie, for pulling together links for review concerning the recent release of “Kill the Messenger.” I appreciate your efforts in this regard, if, for no other reason, than it saves my lazy butt from having to do it.
I haven’t had a chance yet to view the movie, but I will do so. I’ve been following Webb’s story from the get-go and am curious to see how it’s addressed by Renner and others involved in the film production. Totally unsurprised at the drubbing the movie & Webb are getting once again by the corporate-fascist lackey media.
Gee whiz, if this is just such a “nothing” story (run along children, nothing to see here…), then why are the so-called Bigs in the nooziness bidness making it their duty to cough up numerous hairballs about the film and Webb (yet again). Oh we don’t need to pay attention to the CIA bc that was so last century?? or something?
BTW, minor nitpick (very minor). Up above you comment that Gary Webb was never able to work as a journalist again. True that Webb was pretty much drubbed out of & ostracized by the “Bigs,” which is where he wanted to go, but he was hired in his last year at the small-town weekly Sacramento News & Review, who appreciated that Webb really belonged elsewhere. But they did, indeed, hire Webb, and he wrote for that weekly (which does a decent job esp at following local and state politics). Not where Webb should have ended up, but also not like he didn’t continue some work as a journalist until he took his life (RIP).
I was told by kickass investigative reporter Beau Hodai that Webb worked for years in legislative research in Sacramento as well, before his unfortunate suicide, a great loss to his family and his profession.
Legislative research for the state is not journalism.
Honestly, what is the point of this, to insist that the campaign didn’t produce its intended effect?
The accounts of his loved ones suggest his pre-suicidal misery owed at least in part to feeling left behind by journalism. I just reviewed the language I used. I said his career was destroyed and I think that’s a fair assessment.
Yeah, I just saw some stuff he did as a freelancer from the early aughts also which made me realize I need to express his exile in more nuanced terms. I do think it’s fair to say his career was ruined even though he practiced journalism again. He had a lengthy period working for state government because he was out of the field.
Yes. Agree with that. Webb, actually, was too good and too truthful for the Big Nat’l News organizations anyway. Always were propaganda in varying degrees, but growing more and more corporate during the time that Webb first published his stories in the SJMN. It’s obvious that Webb wanted to go to NYT or WaPo, but the days of the Pentagon Papers and similar were already gone by the time Webb came along. The Internet was not quite ready yet to provide Webb with at least an alternative forum there. A casualty of the times, more’s the pity.
I was living in southern California at the time of Gary Webb’s Expose, ‘Dark Alliance’, and in Los Angeles at the time, there was a lot of rising indignation, and I mean it was heavy, you could feel the disgust; yet life was still hopeful that something positive was going to materialize from all that god awful – – well, in the article I was reading, it mentioned that the Mercury News had ‘transitioned’ Gary Webb from Star Reporter to like the ‘Announcement Section’ of the paper, well, when I read that, I thought to myself, ‘Let me call this guy, and congratulate a rising star” – at the time, I thought he would be vindicated, the evidence was really overwhelming — well I called the San Jose Mercury News, asked for Gary Webb and was given this very intrepid voice, “for he knew more about his upcoming impending doom than any one” I for myself, thought, oh Gary, you’ll get over this, there was simply too many sources backing up his research.
Well, when I learned that he had two bullets to the head, and was thus, “suicided” by someone not himself. I remembered our conversation, and I recalled, that he didn’t want me to even relate his story to himself, he was trying to get me to be not interested in his story – his phone was of course being monitored, and at the time, I was totally unaware.
Sad. He was already dead when I spoke to him; spiritually outside of time.
i was a babe in woods, totally unaware that he knew he would be killed – sometimes, it’s only after something else happens, that you can actually hear the conversation as it was taking place, for i too was outside of his time, our cruel sadistic reality, where truth-tellers are killed for uttering the obvious, and liars are rewarded with Nobel’s Highest award.
Your last couple posts are a penetrating and comprehensive analysis of the current state of the media. The HuffPo piece was a surprisingly powerful review of the precedents leading to what Dark Alliance uncovered and the establishment’s fallacious vilification of Webb.
Someone beat me to the Nat’l Security Archive link, here are a few more resources (I think there’s an additional source or two at your previous post, too):
Internet Archive also has a number of resources, including:
— Another archive of documents to complement Narco News https://archive.org/details/Webb-CIA-Crack-Documents
— A short doc, “Gary Webb: In His Own Words”, consisting of an interview of Webb by the Guerrilla News Network / Narco News https://archive.org/details/Gary_Webb
— An interview of Parry, one of Webb’s sons, Kornbluh, and others, by KXJZ’s Insight https://archive.org/details/Insight_051207
— An archived Esquire article/obit by Webb’s confidant Charles Bowden http://web.archive.org/web/20041229204435/http://www.esquire.com/features/articles/2004/041217_mfe_webb_1.html
DOJ’s OIG report http://www.justice.gov/oig/special/9712/exec.htm
There also a bunch of good bio’s from FAIR associates, Narco News, GNN, CounterPunch, Parry, etc.
P.S. I have taken some steps to communicate more securely, such as forcing https, and was doing so well prior to the Snowden revelations (some of which I find useful even as your critiques of the media environment, impact, and motives continue to hold muster).
Thanks for the links. I’ll add them in.
Have you read the Justice Dept. or CIA Reports? I have been deferring to other sources that say they corroborate Webb’s story but on reading them, I’m less sure that they do.
Actually this URL is to the full report http://www.justice.gov/oig/special/9712/ so is probably better to use than the Executive Summary alone. I have not yet read much of DOJ’s report.
Enjoying this series. Odd how it all links, patterns are formed etc.
“He then proceeds in a vein similar to Devereaux, copiously disparaging Webb for his “deeply flawed”, “oversold” series, his “lurid presentation”, “his willingness to draw causality based on very thin sourcing and evidence”, and his series’ “overheated” language and graphics.”
I wonder if sometimes ‘we’ get so inured to such nonsense, we forget how deeply strange it is. My guess is people who visit this site are generally of a vaguely leftist bent, probably a bit sceptical, and probably reasonably well-read. Personally I’m 1), 2), and not nearly as 3) as I’d like. But even so the propaganda is so relentless, so 24/7, so endless in it’s mendacity it is, I think, forgiveable if this deep strangeness is not always obvious. Propaganda works, after all.
The quote strikes me as especially strange, because it’s as though it was written not long after Webb’s original piece. Kicking the journo wasn’t clever; kicking his corpse is just bizarre. Especially bizarre because, surely, Carr knows that Webb was, in most respects, proved correct. Carr is thus trolling. Stating – in strong terms – an opinion he knows to be wrong, for purposes that serve power is one aspect of trolling. Chomsky is perhaps too kind on these people: he allows that they are so indocrinated that they don’t question the status quo. I wonder if perhaps they know it’s all bullshit, but don’t care. They write with a smirk. Always thought psychology wasn’t Chomsky’s bag.
Still. NYT eh? Don’t read.
Great comment, H.
Yeah, I think we do forget sometimes how bizarre it is and how insidious. How far this shit reaches into people’s psyches. A friend — who is a great admirer of Dark Alliance, a radical and very sharp person — remarked that he was surprised that Gary Webb was so on point in his interviews. Not nutty at all. I was shocked that he was surprised, but I think we’ve all been there. Some part of the poison gets into our blood from time to time. People learn Webb’s story and think surely something must have been off there. Our culture is so conformist that there is a kneejerk inclination to think any really stirred up mob must be at least right in part. Which provides an opening for people like Carr and Devereaux to work their insidious magic.
People have been going on and on about Leen’s awful piece in WaPo, but I find shit like Devereaux’s and Carr’s pieces are easily as toxic, because they feign sympathy and appeal to a more self-consciously sophisticated rube. Greenwald and up-and-coming Omidyar clown Liliana Segura could never credibly close ranks around Leen’s piece, but Devereax’s piece, No Problem! A lot of people think Devereaux’s piece is actually positive. They feel the same way about Carr’s. Ultimately these pieces concede that Webb got things mostly right, but the emphasis on flaws waters that down, and provides the smear campaigners and the CIA with half an alibi. The implication certainly is that Webb could have mitigated or avoided the beatdown if he’d just been less of a trigger-happy hack. That his problem wasn’t simply that he had too strong a grip on reality.
I think Chomsky allowed for both possibilities. I recall him speaking once about journalists who played the system like a drum, but it was in the optimistic context of reporters who do so in order sneak truth in when no one is looking. Surely genuine operatives, which is essentially what people like Walter Pincus are, are knowingly disinformative. I think others are paternalists who make least/worst calculations about stirring up the rabble. There is one hack quoted in a couple of the pieces on Webb explaining how he ignored a story — I think the first Contra Cocaine story — because of its potentially negative impact on ‘The Republic.’ I think Carr’s lede can only be explained in one of two ways: he is deeply ignorant about how the CIA historically operates, or he is pushing the envelope on cynical, deliberate propaganda. The smear-laden piece suggests the latter. It seems deliberately disinformative to me.
“People have been going on and on about Leen’s awful piece in WaPo, but I find shit like Devereaux’s and Carr’s pieces are easily as toxic, because they feign sympathy and appeal to a more self-consciously sophisticated rube.”
I think you might agree that Carr’s piece is arguably more toxic. I liked the slow poison metaphor. To continue, if I may, it’s like the difference between a poison you observe – and can thus counteract – and one that is hard to discern. The latter may be more harmful.
Also, naturally, the two ‘opposing’ pieces are Good Cop\Bad Cop. When it comes to it – both are cops.
I mostly agree, though I think you could say that in addition to being good cop/bad cop they’re working different crowds. What they all have in common is keeping the quality of Webb’s reporting an open question so that the campaign against him retains some legitimacy as independent criticism against his reporting, rather than a smear campaign largely driven by the CIA and its media confederates. They also all remain somewhat vague on the extent of The Agency’s complicity in Contra drug-trafficking — as if this too is an open question — even though all of this is crystal clear.
I wonder if perhaps they know it’s all bullshit, but don’t care.
Don’t know if you’ve ever read On Bullshit, but Frankfort argues that the bullshitter is not concerned with the truth, only in what they are trying to communicate. A liar, on the other hand, cares about the truth because they are trying to hide it. He claims the bullshitter is more dangerous to society.
What does the bullshitter want?
The bullshitter is seeking recognition. To be known as smart, worldly, knowledgeable. If you’ve ever seen Cheers, Cliff Claven is the prototype.
It’s a short book, so Frankfort doesn’t get into the history to prove if we’re awash in it now more than previously. But if you watch tv or spend any time online, there’s no shortage of pundits spouting off on various subjects they clearly know nothing about..
It’s an interesting theory. I often wonder, who are these people, and where did they come from? A quick glance at their backgrounds provides no evidence of competent knowledge, yet they proliferate.
No I haven’t. I am aware of it, think the context I first heard of it was regarding Tony Blair. But thanks for recommend, will read soon enough.
And, not having read the book, your comment tells me that Blair may well be the perfect example such phenomena. The consumate communicator.
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The real news had a good interview
I had the same take on The Intercept piece, but didn’t quite imagine exactly how it would legitimize the torrent or lies and attack that you expose
Yeah, it was a very sneaky hit job. It hit me wrong immediately but I didn’t realize just how bad it was until I gave it close inspection.
Thanks for the link. I haven’t watched the interview, but I wasn’t too crazy about the piece Cohen did. I thought it was very bland and minimizing.
I love what you’ve been attempting to bring to light regarding the venal and untimely demise of Gary Webb.
You’re on at Floyd’s place.
Really great work.
This is a decent review of the “Kill the Messenger” film for any who are interested. Written by Jim DiEugenio, a friend of Bob Parry’s and someone who met Gary Webb:
Excellent work on taking down The Intercept and the other horseshit lackeys.
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Here’s a better link to Charles Bowden’s Pariah article:
Bowden is a brilliant political author/commentator, right up there with Hunter S. Thompson and Alexander Cockburn.
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