Thursday, January 18, 2007
O.C. Weekly reporter Nick Schou's new book is entitled Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb. Webb, you will recall, published a series of investigative articles under the umbrella title "Dark Alliance," alleging that Nicaraguan Contras had partially funded their war effort by importing drugs into the U.S. -- with the tacit consent of the CIA. After several years of being denounced as a liar, a crackpot, and a conspiracy theorist, Webb committed suicide in 2004:
"I was familiar with the story when it came out because one of the alleged members of the drug ring was a former Orange County cop," says Schou, "so while other major media outlets were criticizing the story, I was digging in, and found the cop had ties to the CIA" . . . .Bay Area Zemblans may wish to visit the City Lights Bookstore in North Beach, where Mr. Schou will be reading from Kill the Messenger tonight at 7 PM. Admission is free.
What Schou found in his examination of Webb's life doesn't speak well for contemporary journalism. Webb was pilloried in the press, left hung out to dry by his editors and eventually was unable to find a job as a reporter -- which left him suicidal. "What's particularly noteworthy about what happened is that despite some errors, he was right," Schou says. "But the attacks weren't just of his stories but of him ... being a biased reporter."
Schou chalks up many of the attacks on Webb to "professional jealousy and journalistic laziness," as well as to vehement denials by the CIA. Years later the CIA did admit to knowing that the Contras were involved in drug deals, a piece of news that was overlooked by the mainstream media because, at the time, they were obsessed by the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Schou also draws connections between the way the media handled such unruly reporters as Webb and the way the media failed to critique the Bush administration's entry into war in Iraq. "What fueled these mainstream media attacks were government denials," he notes. "This is the same disease that led the media to so highly buy into the story about weapons of mass destruction."