The Death Of A True Journalist
What can I say? Today, I am in shock. Journalist Gary Webb has died, victim of an apparent suicide. A note was found on
his door that said: ''Don’t enter, just call the emergency crew.''
Webb’s work has featured prominently in these pages. He is listed on our Top Dogs
page. His Dark Alliance
is the epitome of three-bone quality journalism. Indeed, his 1996 “Dark Alliance” series for the San Jose Mercury News was one of the classics of internet news, showing the power of this new medium, with its hyperlinks and ability to
allow readers to tunnel down into a story, retrieving ever greater detail and documentation.
And documentation there was. Completely by accident, Webb stumbled upon the story of a lifetime, a tale of a group of
right-wingers from a corrupt kleptocracy in Nicaragua who had been deposed. Their zeal to regain power included
financing their counterrevolution by trafficking in crack cocaine. And certain members of the Reagan administration,
including George H.W. Bush and Oliver North, were only too willing to look the other way as they plied their deadly
wares in the ghettos of America’s cities. Oliver North’s diaries, alone, are filled with hundreds of references to drug
With Webb’s death, the mainstream press like the LA Times and AP have already started rewriting history. It isn’t enough that he’s gone, they feel the need to dance on his
grave, if for no other reason than to cover up their own inadequacies.
Nice try. Only one problem. As Bob Parry points out in the piece below, the CIA’s own investigation confirmed what Webb
had written—that the Agency not only turned a blind eye to the criminal activities of their intelligence assets, but
even went so far as to obstruct US law enforcement attempts to crack down.
Many Americans labor under the misguided illusion that our country has a free press. Not surprising, since we once did.
Today, however, America has a corporate press. Following rule changes enacted during the Reagan period, America’s
once-independent press has morphed into an increasingly small arm of the entertainment industry. Where hundreds of
independent news outlets thrived, today more than 90% of every single news source that Americans access is owned by one
of a handful massive corporations.
I never knew Gary Webb, except through his words and video speeches. From what I saw, Webb struck me as someone with
both feet squarely on the ground.
Today I am in shock. But I will get over it. I really don’t know how Webb died. Did he really lose hope in both humanity
and America, did he just give up? Or is this just one more outrage, the latest in a long string that sees leaders from
the Left dying under mysterious circumstances while the right-wing band plays on. I don’t know. But something stinks.
I will get over it. I will move on. And let me just close with this: if ever it happens that somebody arrives at my door
and they encounter a note that says “Don’t enter, just call the emergency crew,” then you will all know I’ve been
murdered. I’ve never contemplated suicide, I never will.
Five years ago, you wouldn’t have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me… I was winning
awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests. So how could
I possibly agree with people like Noam Chomsky and Ben Bagdikian, who were claiming the system didn’t work, that it was
steered by powerful special interests and corporations, and existed to protect the power elite? 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, Into the Buzzsaw