Nine years ago, December 10, 2004, respected and award-winning investigative journalist Gary Webb was murdered by a conspiracy of an apathetic citizenry, corporate malfeasance and government corruption. The Sacramento County coroner, Robert Lyons, publically, if hastily, characterized the gunshot wounds in Gary Webb’s head three times before finally ruling the double-gunshot wound to Webb’s face a “suicide,” noting the use of a .38 caliber revolver, the presence of a suicide note and Webb’s close friend and ex-wife, Sue Bell, claiming that Gary, “had been depressed about being unable to obtain employment from another major newspaper for some time.” The San Jose Mercury News, on orders from “on high,” had terminated Gary Webb’s career progression after they claimed they had discovered errors in trivial matters of fact in his career-capping exposé, “A Dark Alliance” (ADA).
The truth, as Sue Bell explains it, is quite clear. From her perspective, Gary was subject to bouts of clinical depression since his ADA story had caused so much criticism and derision to come his way from unexpected sources. Many great communicators of the written word have been known to suffer from schizoaffective disorders (depression being the most “popular”), but Webb had also had several motorcycle accidents in the months leading up to his eventual suicide at age 49. Perhaps not coincidently, Webb ended his life on the same day, albeit seven years prior, he had resigned from the San Jose Mercury News – December 10, 1997 – approximately one year and a thousand lonely nights after his employer had published his career-capping exposé.
Suggesting that “bouts of clinical depression” can be caused in adulthood by a career-related trauma involving the written word, alone, appears insufficient to me. As a person who suffers from bouts of chronic depression as well as post-traumatic stress related to childhood trauma, I can assure the gentle reader that any problems with mental illness Gary Webb had related to his ADA story would have had their genesis long before Webb even made his career choice of, “Journalist,” assuming his illness was not caused by his treatments for situational depression. And, in fact, there were reports of Webb being difficult to work with at times and subject to the kind of bursts of anger that often characterize chronic depression in males. People who suffer from mental illness can spend their whole lives looking outside themselves for “reasons” why they are often irritable, sad or cynical. I think it is fairly easy to see that if a thoughtful person, like Gary Webb, observes the government of their homeland falling completely apart while a flock of “vultures,” in this case rogue elements within the Central Intelligence Agency, can be observed picking at the dying body of governmental order, such disturbing ideas might be used to rationalize or justify a personal distempered condition. But even Webb would have said, “facts are facts”; if all I can see in my life are reasons to be sad or irritable while the world continues to spin, happily if haphazardly, on its axis, the origins of my problem are beyond obvious.
In my experience, I am my own worst enemy. I tend to hide from myself the most obvious of facts. If I have had a problem with my environment, I could never solve your part in my problem. I know this because I have tried, desperately, to do precisely that. We, together, have to accomplish solving our conjoined problem, while I continue to address my problems and you continue to address your’s. If we cannot engage with one another in solving our shared problems, for whatever reason, I must fully accept that fact or I will be consumed in a battle that cannot be won. This is what is ugly and heartbreaking about any mental illness and depression is no exception: I cannot engage with any of my peers because I cannot even begin to engage with myself for whom and what I am. More simply put, if my problem with you is that you are an idiotic Pollyanna or some other classification of being of an unacceptable order, we have only war and conflict to look forward to. If I choose war, I need to get busy engaging you as an enemy or I will suffer defeat. If I choose peace, I need to fit myself into a being who can engage you in a constructive process. Note that we might still be enemies at war, by your choice, but my goal as a peaceful participant is to wear you down with minimal cost to myself and my resources, but also giving consideration to you and your resources because my own goal is to, at some point, engage you constructively as a partner.
I have not yet read ADA cover-to-cover, but it is available for free, here. If you love books or want to help Gary’s kids, buy a hardcopy here. As a person who has studied Communication and rhetoric at a graduate level, what I have read of ADA betrays none of the characteristics of the writings of a self-pitying, brainstorming, manic or depressive character void of clear thinking. Gary Webb’s ADA, while categorized as, “fiction,” is far from that genre. In fact, and characteristic of good journalism, Webb pulls a lot of punches that in retrospect should have been fully landed to the jaw of the global power structure. Note that we should no longer waste our time landing blows to the proxies of the global power structure like the CIA, DNI, Homeland Security, Congress, the Courts or the Executive. In fact, the governments of every sovereign nation are mere pawns of global power. Vast concentrations of economic wealth positioned at or near the natural resources we rely on for the energy to perform modern labor is where we will find true global power. When these power structures are engineered to serve the interests of life on planet Earth, as well as the creation and preservation of functional, constructive human interaction, the governments operating beneath these global power structures will eventually come to heel.
Admittedly the ideas Gary Webb presented in ADA are horrific – a secret, clandestine agency within a federal representative government (e.g., the CIA) exists and is profiting handsomely from sowing misery and murder among its constituent pariahs and social outcasts, using those profits to conduct foreign policies not officially sanctioned, or sanctionable, by the federal representative government in question. Note that “horrific” is not unprecedented and, in fact, this despicable behavior happens all the time, now and in the past, in non-representative governments all over the world. That Webb accurately identified and characterized an on-going illegal, immoral and unethical governmental activity is beyond question; that Gary Webb was ruthlessly punished by his society and peers for the sin of speaking the truth to power is a matter of records both public and private. But three takeaway questions Gary Webb left us unanswered in ADA are: 1) Does governing humans have to become such an ugly, forbidding process? 2) Did we have representative government in the United States of America, c. 1987? And, 3) What about now, c. 2012?
Clearly the cognitive dissonance and timing of the ideas presented in ADA, in tandem with their impact on persons more socially and politically powerful than Gary Webb, were allowed to end Webb’s life. Whether that death was a suicide or an assassination is no longer a high priority issue of concern to the collective citizens of the United States. We, as citizens, have questions we still need to answer and consequences we still need to sort through even eight long years later. The families of the dead should be left to grieve in peace with an eye toward reconciliation and healing; as just another apathetic member of a society of turd merchants that have allowed Presidents, public servants and citizens to be murdered in cold blood without consequence, sometimes by the score, it is the least I can do not to dubiously pry open a wound so deep and so profound.
What happened to Gary Webb on December 10, 2004, was every bit as horrific to him, his friends and his family as what he wrote about in ADA, to say nothing of investigative journalism as an occupation. In my personal experience, any “score settling” that needs to take place in order to preserve notions of simple human decency will naturally occur as society comes to accept the truth about itself and its identity. When an entity as massive and slow as a society moves in your individual direction with ill intent, there is little one can do but be crushed. The alienation and isolation of such a position, alone, can be quite vicious; that it also ends with a series of slow, bone-crushing crunches as a life deemed worthless is pressed out of existence makes the matter unworthy of concern for justice or just punishment. As one sows, so shall they reap, for themselves as well as their families, unless society, itself, intervenes.
On this sad and tragic anniversary of the death of American Hero Gary Webb, let us remember the individuals and their families and hold them in our hearts. Let us intervene that we might one day find a way to detach the heroic from the tragic, making the heroic commonplace and worthy of the representative democracy our Founding Fathers had intended for us in the Fall of 1789.
I thought it might be nice to write something for this week, and I tried – I really did – but Facebook locked up on me before I could finish it, trashing the whole bloody clipboard and all of my material just disappeared. So unless you are Michael Nesmith and have some special deal worked out with Zuckerberg, I would compose any weighty tomes offline and then upload. Kind of a, “no red wine with fish,” rule for frequent Facebookers.
Speaking of which, there will be no “loaves and fishes” type miracles between now and December 21. I and the Staff went over this detail fairly early on in the planning process and we decided, based on what happened the first time, there would be no point to it. So, yes, there was a loaf of bread and three fishes and we fed a crowd of about 2,000. That part was true. The problem was that there was a crowd of 6,000 starving Palestinians who had given up the previous night’s meal because they heard what we were going to do and got all excited and fasted. That’s what people do in the Middle East when they get excited – they fast. So, contrary to Catholic reports of this being a “successful” miracle, it actually pissed off about two-thirds of everybody who showed up. Fasting makes people so cranky.
So my Staff said, “never again.” And with all the kids and baby carriages nowadays, people are going to steal – and you know they will – so it doesn’t matter if you prepare a proper miracle, it’s just never going to be enough. People are hungry. Starving. They think it’s for booze, or food, or sex, or drugs, but none of that is true. Anyone who’s ever come off a long bender, lost a lot of weight, ended a polyamorous relationship with two or more bisexual nymphomaniacs, or fried on mushrooms in a crowded college dorm at night after rolling in a field of sticky weeds — they will tell you, “life is very hard to adjust to without adding challenges.” As a person who knows a lot of people who at one time drank, drugged, ate and screwed their way into what they thought was heaven, I can tell you to save your money, keep your empty baby carriages at home, the whole event will be seen on cable. Yes, we’re talking to HBO. Unless Roy Jones, Jr. tries to make another comeback the night of the 21st, the End of the World, Part One, is coming. The people at HBO warned me that the Jones fight could happen, so my Staff is working with Roy’s publicists to make sure it doesn’t – probably going to cost me a couple weddings or a half dozen annulments, but don’t worry. We are going to make December 21st, 2012, happen for a lot of people. Not everybody wants to leave home in December anyway – it’s too damn cold.
We’ll do our best to have a nice lineup, maybe some Dylan, Joan Baez for sure – if they’re still getting along – Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young – whoever’s left over by then – we’ll have them over for some coffee, maybe some nice Baklava, talk about what really happened in the 1960’s and where we screwed it up. So, yeah, Judy Collins has already turned us down.
That’s always a nice way to start a confessional program – talking about the mistakes we’ve made. Jerry Springer doesn’t do that, notice? Some of my Staff talked to Jerry’s people so, unlike some HBO programs, this one won’t have any midgets, dwarves, little people, swords, naked women or fancy dresses. Maybe we can give a little on the naked women, but it has to be tasteful – maybe the waist-up, or something – because HBO wants to make money. I just worry that it will end up like backstage of a Jimi Hendrix concert. I asked the man upstairs if we could raise the dead before the End of the World, Part One, because I wanted Jimi to play the Star Spangled Banner or Purple Haze or All Along the Watchtower, but He said, “no.”
When the man upstairs says, “no,” you really don’t have a lot of wiggle room to negotiate. I tried once. I still have the scars. Take it from me. Don’t improvise. Do what makes you happy and don’t start talking about what’s wrong with other people’s neighborhoods or you could end up nailed to a tree or something. I thought the white jackass was a nice touch, kind of cutesy, kind of a slam – and He warned me – but then, before you know it, some fasting Palestinians got a hold of me and they let a camel thief go rather than the first Jewish rabbi-comedian to ever mix religion, magic tricks and some juggling into the same act. A lot of people don’t know that about me, but I juggled on the side at bar mitzvahs to make ends meet when the carpentry stuff got slow, usually in the Spring. It’s come in handy on Sundays when all those prayers start backing up and we get short-handed.
All of this to say, be grateful for your family and friends today. The End of the World, Part One is coming, it is real – we’ve put down a deposit – so it’s just a matter of getting the people who want to be a part of it in the flow and usually – somewhere near the first or second run-through – a theme starts to come up like popcorn. Someone in the group, or one of my Staff catches it, and before you know it, we have a show that everybody likes and wants to be a part of. We can start with the Winter solstice, but that’s really kind of lame and this should be extra-ordinary. With Andy Williams gone and Tony’s voice not what it used to be, it’s just not the same. Somebody remembered Claudine Longet, but, with all that snow and skiing – the Penn State thing – I just didn’t want to go there. But I’ve seen some of the storyboards and met with some of the lighting guys, I’ve got to say we’re in for a real treat this holiday season. All the drama, all the excitement, all the butterflies, all the anticipation – and then, a pearl left with the crowd to ponder just in time for Christmas Eve.
I’ll try to come back online as time permits and the planning for a theme starts to reveal itself, but I’ve been kind of busy with ObamaCare and all the disappointment – and the tears…there have been a lot of tears. On both sides. It’s what happens when you let your criminals retire to live in Preston instead of Corcoran, but I’ll leave you with that as a cliffhanger and get back to tie it off before we get too close to the final go-live date.
Happy Thanksgiving, God Bless you and your’s – have a lovely day. If you’re reading this, you’ve earned it!
I understand that Native Americans resent our imperial relish over Christopher Columbus’ discovery of what he wanted his padrones to believe was Asia; I also understand that we, an imperial army of herded sheep, ran the ancestors of our indigenous people into near-extinction by being more in number, racked by pestilences of flesh and blood too putrid to be considered wholly human and by being less conscious of our surroundings and more willing to commit atrocities for the sake of putting one in the “W” column. Thanks for pulling us through those first couple of Winters, gang.
But given the same circumstances in reverse, we would all be singing the praises of herds of free-roaming buffalo, our Adonis-like physiques, interfamilial-sex, the beauty of the natural world and the strange and ironic impulse to kill in spite of our love of peace, understanding and harmony. Perhaps the world would be a better place had this reversal of fortune taken place, rather than having all such things hammered into taboos of varying depth and rationalization. Goddamn socialists.
But isn’t the way these events transpired a legitimate expression of Love’s way?
Nothing freely chosen has ever been wasted; the beauty of native culture may have been wiped out of a dominant surface appearance, but it has since sprung eternal in the taboos of our many longings for utopia, for complete gratification, for the preservation of natural beauty, for our desire for individual dignity. Had the roles been reversed, or even reversible, our taboos would have been our secret greed and envy of the possessions of other men or women; our wish for more organized social and political structure; our desire to eschew self-sacrifice in favor of a desire for dominance and control of our natural world and its seemingly immutable role in resolving our many difficulties. In short, which ideas have more dominion in the human psyche, the ones we put on for pretentious, chest-pounding displays, or the ones we have kept hidden, even from ourselves, for safe keeping? And which ideas hold greater promise for a grander vision of tomorrow, the ones we beat each other to death with, or the ones that survive the carnage of our narcissistic self-destructiveness to guide our values and our highest aspirations for times of ever greater abundance?
Perhaps you saw Gary Cooper on the silver screen in the middle of the twentieth century, resolute and stoic in his remonstrations to be brave and certain in spite of the odds stacked against him; but I could have easily seen Chief Crazyhorse on horseback leading a charge into the jaws of certain death. Perhaps you saw Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd or Al Capone gunning down a heartless establishment represented by J. Edgar Hoover and President Herbert Hoover; but I could have easily seen General Armstrong Custer slaughtered at Little Big Horn by a native population hungry for social justice.
Protestations and sympathies aside, the ethos of the Knights of Columbus continues to figure prominently in our increasingly imperial culture of religious zealotry and dubious certitude. Whether it was in the shipyards of Gdansk or in the assassination of Archbishop Romero of El Salvador, the Holy Roman Church continues to figure prominently in our missionary zeal to both expand our national sovereignty as well as to drive the native peoples of the lands we conquer into a state of misery so profound that what the Christian Church has to offer becomes the only avenue through which the need for human hope can survive.
I acknowledge the suffering of the indigenous people of the Americas to the present day, but I would have an easier time justifying their continued criticisms of our imperial culture if they could also provide us with a viable solution in the form of a social model that could bring both peace and order to its constituents as well as keep them safe from imperialist pigs like ourselves.
Show me how anything present in pre-Columbian American culture represented anything but a tempting invitation to the mentally and/or emotionally deranged to invade and subjugate their culture and I am all ears. I am fully on board with any movement that holds social justice as its ultimate goal, but that movement also needs to have a primary goal of keeping its constituents safe from the psychopaths in our midst. The lizards of our ancient past continue to assert their drives to subjugate, manipulate, coerce and control those among us in possession of a clear and functioning conscience, probably to the end of reliving their original failure and extinction. In a universe whose driving force is to increase the fitness of all life forms spawned within it, we cannot allow ourselves to rest on our laurels while there are still psychopaths living among us who utilize their human skin only as camouflage to hide their internecine intent.
By all means, scoff at those who view this day as a day of victory over native cultures everywhere; but do not ignore the point that having such a holiday as Columbus Day in general celebration means that, as a species, we have much work left still to accomplish.