Many had never heard of journalist Gary Webb until he took his own life last December. Before that, though, he was a hero to people who revered investigative journalism. Now some of his most important work is available on the internet for the first time since it was disappeared in 1996.
Gary Webb was also a hero to anyone concerned about politics and the drug prohibition, both the professionals and those of us following along at home. All through the ’80s rumors circulated through the highest and lowest echelons of society that our government was involved or complicit in the drug trade, using the War on Drugs to provide cover for shady doings.
The rumors were confirmed during the Iran-contra hearings where, if you were paying attention, you learned all kinds of revealing stuff about government corruption and criminal behavior. Fascinating stuff if you have the stomach for it.
Folks couldn’t wait for the press to unleash the full fury of a betrayed country into the living rooms of an unsuspecting populace. It would be glorious — our fourth estate in high-dudgeon, wielding the mighty pen, speaking truth to power. It would be almost a cleansing ritual — expose the beast, drain the poison from the body politic, and let the healing begin.
Only it never happened and now here we are almost 30 years later, after a brief reprieve during the Clinton era, reaping what was sown back then. We have the same cast of characters, the same playbook, and we’re in what I hope is the final act of this miserable farce being played out on our national stage.
In the story so far, there have been two real heroes — a certain John F. Kerry who as a new Senator fought the evil beast and cut off one of its heads in the financial sector. The other hero was Webb, a well respected journalist who followed the money and dug up a story that no one wanted to hear. He ran with it, printed it, stood by it, and paid for it with his career and, eventually, his life.
When the story came out in 1996, the hounds were set loose and the backlash was brutal. Webb’s paper, The San Jose Mercury News, had a web site devoted to the story called “Dark Alliance.” You could read the story as it was published and view the supporting evidence and documents. It was groundbreaking.
When the bloodletting and backpedaling started, the web site was taken down. The cd copies were destroyed. Evidently,at least one remained and has been found in Gary Webb’s personal effects. It had some 1996-level copy protection on it, but that was easily overcome with current software tools. The good folks at Narco News have recreated the web site in all its original glory. It makes for fascinating reading.
cross-posted from Unbossed