March 2017


Gary Webb’s story can be summed up in three headlines:

GARY WEBB: CIA PROTECTING CONTRA DRUG RING

WEBB’S CIA-CONTRA DRUG STORY FLAWED

SUICIDE OF BLACKBALLED REPORTER WHO BROKE CIA-CONTRA DRUG RING STORY

There are a lot of things that might be said about this story: about how it became a Gary Webb story rather than a CIA story,  or about the decentralized formation of politically-driven journalistic lynch mobs, or about the reasons why intelligence services’ black-bag operations inevitably form alliances with organized crime.  But one angle is especially relevant today.  This enormous Republican scandal was the internet’s first viral story, and not only did the establishment media do what they could to discredit it — thus putting themselves on the wrong side  of the biggest revolution in their biz since the invention of the printing press — but the Democratic Party (with a few honorable exceptions)  also failed to respond, with the result that this story only lives on as a Bill Clinton scandal: the Mena airport.

And this story is where Alex Jones and Michael Ruppert got their start: if the watchdog media and the opposition party fail to do their jobs, someone else will step in, and they won’t necessarily be high-minded or honest. Conspiracism is the direct result of Katherine Graham’s establishmentarian dictum “The public doesn’t need to know everything”.

Kristina Borjesson, ed., Into the Buzzsaw, Prometheus, 2004.

Michael Levine, Big White Lies, 1993, Thunder’s Mouth Press (almost unavailable when Webb wrote his articles but tells a similar story from the same period).

Michael Levine, “Mainstream Media: The Drug War’s Shills”, in Into the Buzzsaw, pp. 157-194.

Nicolas Schou, Kill the Messenger, Nation Books, 2006.

Gary Webb, “The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On”, in Into the Buzzsaw, pp. 141-156.

Gary Webb, Dark Alliance, 1998, reissued in 2014 by Seven Stories Press.

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There is more to want than there is to get, and since democracy came along anybody can want anything they want to want, so nobody is happy. And on top of that, since Freud came along desire is an obligation, so we are filled with a desperate desire to desire. Dissatisfaction is structural, and satisfaction is merely the impossible dimensionless point separating hope and regret, anticipation and loss, and life is the Malthusian proliferation and decimation of swarms of hopes .

 

While the post-WWII leaders American intelligentsia were reading Kierkegaard and Heidegger and glumly accustoming themselves to a post-radical, post-humanist, establishmentarian  world of   diminished expectations and elite irony, the Americans who really counted were whooping it up as they devised new and better ways of crushing all opposition and founding their empire.

Sigmund Freud’s shadow hung over the Twentieth Century like a dark storm cloud (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ditzy heroines ca. 1930 were “hip to Freud”) , and it was Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays who invented the science of public relations which rules us today.
During WWI Bernays, along with the two other founders, Walter Lippmann and the Rockefeller press agent Ivy Lee, were in charge of America’s internal propaganda effort.After the war Ivy Lee worked for the Nazis, while Bernays worked to gain the right to smoke cigarettes for the beaten-down women of Puritan America, who were never allowed to have any fun.
 
Lippmann, already the brains behind the New Republic tabloid, became one of the  elder statesmen of the Democratic Party and one of the founders of neoliberalism. And finally, in 1956, Ivy Lee’s nephew William Burroughs revolutionized American literature. That’s a lot of culture to pack into 40 years.
 
That’s all you need to know right there. Various other Americans were once thought to be culturally important in some way, but in the long haul none of them amounted to a hill of beans.