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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