lunes, diciembre 24, 2012

We All Failed Gary Webb

We All Failed Gary Webb
By Robert Parry
December 10, 2008 (A Special Report)

Since Gary Webb’s suicide four years ago, I have written annual retrospectives about the late journalist’s important contribution to the historical record -- he forced devastating admissions from the CIA about drug trafficking by the Nicaraguan contra rebels under the protection of the Reagan administration in the 1980s.

And each time I’ve written one of those stories, I have received e-mails attacking my acceptance of the fact that Webb committed suicide on the night of Dec. 9, 2004. Some people want to believe that he was really assassinated by the CIA or some other government agency.
But the evidence of his carefully planned suicide – as he suffered deep pain as a pariah in his profession who could no longer earn a living – actually points to something possibly even more tragic: Webb ended his life because people who should have supported his work simply couldn’t be bothered.
Though Gary Webb was horribly betrayed by his colleagues in the news business – and especially his editors at the San Jose Mercury News – he also was taken advantage of by people in the progressive movement, who sometimes exploited his celebrity by having him speak at their events for little or no money.
There is a deeply troubling attitude within the American progressive movement that it bears next to no responsibility for people who speak truth to power and suffer horrible consequences, as Webb did. While sometimes progressives cheer the heroism, they rarely back it up with anything sustainable.
More often than not, after the celebrity fades, the person is left to fend for him or herself as an outcast from a profession that pays a salary and lets a person support a family. Indeed, what happened to Gary Webb – and to other mainstream journalists who took chances in the name of truth – is a powerful object lesson to those left behind, to play it safe.
Progressives often denounce mainstream journalists as sell-outs who are too timid to challenge the powerful or to take on the tough stories. But – by refusing to invest significantly in a media infrastructure – the progressives are partly responsible for the problem.
I must take some of the blame for Webb’s death, too.
When I broke with mainstream journalism in the 1990s – because I wouldn’t accept cover stories about Iran-Contra and related scandals – I started with the idea of providing a home both for honest news and for honest journalists.
I thought it would be relatively easy to persuade enough people of means that this enterprise was worth the investment, but I failed. Because of that failure, I was forced to make a part-time operation in 2000 and went to work as an editor at Bloomberg News, so I could pay off bills I’d accumulated.
When I decided to quit Bloomberg in spring 2004 and resume on a full-time basis, one of my hopes was that the consequences of George W. Bush’s disastrous presidency finally would have convinced people about the need for effective independent journalism.
And I thought that once I had raised enough money, I could reach out to Gary Webb and offer him some meaningful work. However, to my dismay, I again encountered resistance from funding sources and had to delay those plans once more.
As it turned out, I waited too long.


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