Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Gary Webb, R.I.P.

The finest journalist ever to get fired for telling the truth is dead at age 49. The official cause of death on the death certificate will be suicide. But, as we shall see, he had much help getting to that point. The story of the life and death of Gary Webb says much about the state of American politics and what passes as "journalism" in today's America. Gary Webb's claim to fame was a series called Dark Alliance, which documented connections between the CIA, Contras, and the beginnings of the crack epidemic in Los Angeles. Not a single fact in Gary's expose' of CIA knowledge of Contra drug peddling in the early days of the the crack cocaine epidemic in L.A. was ever refuted by the CIA or anybody else. Indeed, the CIA eventually even confirmed some of the more important facts. Yet because Gary was not one of the "cool kids" working at one of the "newspapers of record", Gary was piled on by every major newspaper, who collectively laughed at him as a conspiracy theorist or worse -- despite every single fact in his newspaper series being backed up by court records, FOIA documents, and eyewitness testimony. Leading the charge was (ex?) CIA agent Walter Pincus of the Washington Post(1), who broadly pooh-poohed the notion that the CIA had knowledge of contra drug dealing -- despite the fact that one of his very own articles says the CIA at the very least turned its head when the subject of drugs came up. Indeed, the CIA's very own classified report verifies that the CIA was aware of drug allegations revolving around the Contras, and ignored them, indeed, working out an agreement with the Department of Justice regarding those drug allegations where the DoJ agreed to look the other way (though the declassified version of the report whitewashed that conclusion quite a bit). In addition, a FBI report later admits that the Contras ran *SEVERAL* drug rings, not just the one that Webb documented. Once those revelations came out, no major newspaper ever picked up that story or apologized to Webb for trashing his career. Webb was "damaged goods", whose articles had been "discredited", and no newspaper was willing to state otherwise despite the new evidence that vindicated Webb.

Before those reports by the FBI and CIA provided verification of Contra drug rings operating in America, the editor of the San Jose Mercury-Press caved. When given the choice of believing the "newspapers of record" or believing what his own eyes were seeing looking at Gary's evidence, he chose to disbelieve his own eyes -- he demoted Gary Webb, and eventually fired him. From there Webb moved on to the California Assembly, where he worked as an investigator for the Speaker of the House, doing good work such as exposing Governor Gray Davis's corrupt deal with Oracle until said Speaker (Herb Wesson) was term-limited out of office.

From there he moved to a small weekly "alternative" newspaper as a part-time stringer, and was embroilled in a messy divorce.

It is likely that Gary Webb committed suicide. According to a journalist who called the coroner's office, the cause of death was most likely a shotgun. According to neighbors, he had been depressed over the divorce and the loss of his home, as well as his inability to get a job at a major newspaper. For telling the truth, he had lost his career, his livelihood, his wife and kids, and his home. Stories about red light cameras did not pay the bills, and were so trivial and unimportant in any event. His body was apparently discovered by the movers who had come to remove his goods from the house. The suicide note, according to press reports, is being kept private.

And so it goes, here in the United States of Delusion, where every day we labor under the illusion that we want the truth -- when, in fact, we punish anybody who dares tell it to us.

Note: The official whitewash by the presstitutes who destroyed Gary Webb has begun. The AP now claims that not only was Dark Alliance "discredited" (how, when there are now literally a half-dozen public reports by even the CIA's own inspector general supporting the facts therein?), but also claims that Webb was fired from his job with the California Assembly for failing to show up for work. He was actually fired with the rest of the former Speaker's staff as part of a house-cleaning when a new House speaker, Fabian Nunez, took over.

- Badtux the Truth-seeking Penguin


  1. Walter Pincus, "How I Traveled Abroad On CIA Subsidy," San Jose Mercury, 18 February 1967, p. 14, where Pincus describes how he served as a CIA asset in the National Student Association.
Misc. Links:
  1. A dKos journal on Gary
  2. Another dKos journal on Gary
  3. dKosPedia entry on Gary Webb
  1. I have no evidence as to whether Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus is or is not still a CIA asset, just that he was one in the past. Whichever is the case, he clearly has a conflict of interest in anything dealing with the CIA, and it is interesting that he led the charge against Webb.
  2. Regarding "presstitutes": I have had dealings with a number of American "journalists" over the years. In that time, I have met only a small handful who viewed their job as finding out what the truth was. The vast majority viewed their job as getting quotes from party A on one side of an issue, getting quotes from party B on the other side of an issue, and transcribing these quotes into the newspaper, with no effort to detirmine who was telling the truth.

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