That is how the award-winning reporter, the subject of this based on real-life movie met his end. I’m not sure anyone really buys two bullets to the head as a suicide but it fits a pattern of journalists in the United States meeting mysterious ends over the last twenty years. Most of them are unexpected suicides or never solved murders. There is always a smear campaign, like happened to Webb, that precedes and continues after the death.
An earlier blog post of mine about the death of Michael Hastings detailed one recent incident. The ex-counter terrorism chief Richard Clarke even was on record stating that Hasting’s wreck had all the earmarks of an NSA action. After all, Hastings was working on a huge security story, told friends he was in danger and was being tailed before his car suddenly did a 90 degree turn into a tree, exploded – just under where he was sitting – on a busy L.A. street which just happened to be blocked off and empty the moment he was driving on it. Like Webb, he was ruled a suicide.
Webb’s anti-American crime was detailing how the C.I.A. and the security apparatus with the likes of Oliver North, assisted in importing millions of tons of cocaine into the U.S.A. which basically created and fueled the crack epidemic of the 80’s. Why you may ask would they do such a crazy thing? To take the profits and arm the Contras in Nicaragua. Don’t forget, this was the same Reagan administration that by their own admission traded arms to Iran to help the Contras and free some hostages. They didn’t care what laws Congress passed, they were going to do whatever they wished and if you got in the way, you paid the price.
How Gary Webb paid the price is the focus of this movie which is based on Webb’s very detailed book, Dark Alliance. Jeremy Renner does an excellent portrayal and conveys the fear, entrapment that followed his breaking the story. I smile to myself as I write this because I was flipping by Fox News yesterday and John Stossel actually said Renner wasn’t a very big movie star. Apparently, Stossel doesn’t view many movies or he’s just jealous Renner’s paycheck is bigger.
One of the most disturbing facts to be shown in this movie is how other newspapers were used by the government to smear Webb. The Washington Post, N.Y. Times, L.A. Times, all propelled a hatchet job on Webb even when their own reporters thought otherwise. Sometimes it was fear, sometimes it was money or access that made them easy assets for the C.I.A. . This still goes on of course. Who can forget the lies that Judith Miller fed the New York Times for which she was paid nicely by the C.I.A. during the Iraq War? She wasn’t the only one.
It is easy to be preachy but harder to walk the walk. If you are use to a lifestyle, want your job and a promotion, the respect of colleagues, have a family that you don’t want tailed 24/7 and harmed, or have nightmares of ending up like Webb or Hastings, then at some point you concede. After all, the government’s relentless pursuit constitutes torture – mental torture. Like all torture, everyone has a breaking point, (as highlighted in this movie Webb had his), and at some point it becomes convenient to look the other way, go along with the crowd, live to see another day.
This movie is well worth the rental fee. It probably was a brave step for Renner to do it but he portrayed Webb well and in the process did the general public a service. For it is these type of stories that reveal who we really are at our core, what really constitutes the American Dream. For a while that dream was a crack pipe, cash in Ollie North’s socks, and arms to a bunch of right-wing fanatics in Nicaragua.