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Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary We Paperback – 31 Oct 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press,U.S.; 1 edition (31 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560259302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560259305
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14 x 1.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,346,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Gary Webb was the epitome of journalistic guts, but instead of winning a Pulitzer he was betrayed by his employers and slandered by his profession. Here is the true story, brilliantly if sadly told, of the reporter who unmasked one of the most evil conspiracies in American history." Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums "Gary Webb took on a historic task, to investigate a subject that is forbidden and secret. He glimpsed an essential truth, and two years later the CIA admitted even more. By then, Webb was discredited, disrespected, and destroyed by his own journalism community. His epic story, faithfully examined by Nick Schou, will never die until all the secrets he tried to probe are revealed." Tom Hayden "Kill the Messenger is a great book -- smart and eminently fair -- about the pitfalls tough, aggressive journalists like Gary Webb face when breaking stories that question the myths that the mainstream media feeds us. If America's major newspapers had spent ten percent of the time they did going after the CIA as they did in destroying Gary Webb's career, journalism could once again be a profession to be proud of." Joe Domanick, author of To Protect to Serve: The LAPD's Century of War in the City of Dreams

About the Author

Nick Schou is an award-winning investigative journalist with OC Weekly who has also written for LA Weekly , the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and the Washington City Paper. He is the author of Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World (Thomas Dunne, 2010) and The Weed Runners: Travels With the Outlaw Capitalists of America's Medical Marijuana Trade (Chicago Review Press, 2013). He lives in Long Beach, CA.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 38 reviews
91 of 93 people found the following review helpful
Kill the Messenger a moving tribute to a great reporter 5 Dec. 2006
By Diana L. Barahona - Published on
Format: Paperback
Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb

by Nick Schou

Since it was the country's major newspapers who did in Gary Webb, it is not surprising that Nick Schou's book about Webb's life and "Dark Alliance," his controversial story about the CIA and crack cocaine, has yet to be reviewed by any of them.

Unlike most of his critics, Gary Webb was a real investigative reporter with a Pulitzer to his name. He dug relentlessly into corporate and government corruption and by all accounts had I.F. Stone's gift for researching documentary evidence. He was also not afraid to seek out sources and question them until he got answers: "One of the ways people would harass each other in Columbus was by saying that Gary Webb of the Plain Dealer wants to interview you. It was a way of giving people heartburn," said a former co-worker.

Webb's instinct for the big story led him to investigate a scandal which had been all but ignored by the media for a decade: the CIA's knowledge of drug trafficking by people linked to its counterrevolutionary war against Nicaragua in the 1980s, and its protection of those traffickers even as they peddled crack in the inner cities of the United States. The story, "Dark Alliance," was published in three parts by the San Jose Mercury News in 1996. It sparked outrage in African American communities, which had been devastated by cheap crack cocaine in the 1980s, and where many suspected the government was behind the epidemic.

Then the backlash began: The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times all assigned teams of reporters to investigate Webb and find fault with the series. When the executive editor of The Mercury News caved in to the pressure and backed off from the story, Webb felt humilliated by his paper and eventually resigned. He never got a job at a major newspaper again, and fell into a depression which ended with his suicide in 2004.

Schou was moved to write Kill the Messenger because, as an investigative journalist himself, he wanted to set the record straight. He had worked with Webb, investigating a retired Laguna Beach cop, Ronald Lister, who proved to be the crucial link between the CIA and Los Angeles crack wholesaler "Freeway" Ricky Ross. It was this point, more than any other, that newspapers had seized on to discredit Webb--the lack of a "smoking gun" that tied sales of crack in the inner cities to the CIA. While Webb had high hopes that the discovery of Lister's role would clear his name, the Los Angeles Times chose to dismiss Lister as a "con artist."

Webb's series forced the CIA Inspector General to do an investigation, much of which vindicated Webb; but by the time the final report was released in 1998 the big three newspapers had destroyed his career as a newspaperman.

At the same time that Kill the Messenger illuminates the CIA-cocaine connection, it paints an intimate portrait of Webb through interviews with his former bosses and colleagues, family and friends. This is an honest but respectful tribute to a hardworking and talented man who broke the story that many thought would never be told, and who paid the ultimate price.

66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
CIA trained and funded Contra death squads also coke dealers 20 Feb. 2007
By Drew Hunkins - Published on
Format: Paperback
"The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media." - William Colby, former CIA Director

Kill the Messenger does a tremendous service by providing the reader with a detailed account that touches on all the issues that led to Gary Webb's downfall and ultimately his suicide. Also the book delves into the CIA/Contra cocaine smuggling that went on under the radar during the counterinsurgency war that raged in Nicaragua. Of course Webb unearthed much of the story.

One thing the mainstream press liked to do was treat the Contras as if they were a mutually exclusive entity separate from the CIA. Thus when the establishment media reported that the Contras dabbled in drug smuggling they could simultaneously report that at worst the CIA just turned a blind eye. Unfortunately for the CIA and the powers that be, the Contras were wholly trained and funded by the CIA. The CIA and the Contras were essentially one and the same. If the CIA never existed the Contras never would have even been conjured up and never would have been able to wage a bloody war against civilian targets, raping and pillaging throughout the Nicaraguan countryside and sending massive quantities of cocaine into the United States; much of which landed at the doorstep of Los Angeles and other major cities that had just started to feel the sting of Reaganite socio-economic policies.

Webb was basically the first journalist who truly blew the lid off the CIA's Contra cocaine smuggling operations that went on during the early and mid 1980s. Kid glove treatment does not one receive when exposing one of the most powerful and violent institutions in world affairs. Webb was basically vilified by the pillars of establishment journalism for having the temerity to report the truth. The Washington Post and New York Times attacked Webb's work once they realized Dark Alliance was gaining traction among the American public due to it being given extensive coverage via the Internet and black talk radio. The Post even went so far as to have a journalist who was in the pocket of the CIA write a story highly critical of Webb's findings. Being that the Post and Times more or less ignored much of the CIA skullduggery that went on during the 1980s it's not surprising to see the treatment they dealt to Webb because of his chutzpah. Kill the Messenger lays all this out for the reader to dissect. It's interesting to note that the same Post reporter who bashed Webb had decades ago written a highly critical review of Philip Agee's excellent book Inside the Company, a book which exposed CIA lawlessness and abuses.

Webb unearthed that one Contra (CIA) fundraiser, Norwin Meneses, was actually considered the "King of cocaine" in Nicaragua. Kill the Messenger provides the outline in which L.A.'s street gangs were at the end of a chain of a covert action to equip and arm the CIA's Contras. Meneses, and other thugs, play a major role in the book and in the covert action outlined therein. Of course cocaine was a primary funding source. Narcotics often play this role when money must be drummed up in a secret fashion. Of course during the 1980s was when coke was turning to crack and sweeping up the lives of much of the underdogs and poverty stricken.

One technique the mainstream media used in attacking Webb's story was to lament the fact that he often relied heavily on the testimony of criminals under oath. Apparently these sources never talked to a prosecuting attorney, since DAs often rely on such testimony in order to arrive at justice. Kill the Messenger addresses the fact that a respected French journalist who had covered Nicaragua in the 1980s, rushed to Webb's aid because he knew the core of Webb's work was genuine and true. He felt the U.S. media attacks against Webb were completely unjust. It should be remembered that in highly charged issues of this type there often is no proverbial smoking gun. What serious researchers are forced to do is put together a case based on the best available evidence in order to construct a highly probable scenario.

This book should be required reading; it exposes a dark side of American foreign policy that had obvious domestic implications as well. What went on with United States involvment in Central America 25 years ago was ostensibly a modern day extension of Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine. Webb was a courageous person who did the American public a great service by weaving the pieces together and providing this incredibly important story. In a just world he'd now be chilling out on the beach with a cold drink in his hand and Pulitzer at his side.
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
A Pulitzer Prize none the less 27 Jun. 2008
By M. S. Ramsey - Published on
Format: Paperback
The previous reviewer caused me to check out Pulitzer Prizes. I have followed many stories by the author and have found him to be an excellent reporter and I couldn't believe he would make such a mistake. The reviewer is wrong, Schou is right. Webb was indeed awarded a Pulitzer. It was as part of a team, but he had one none the less. Do ball players have any less stake in a championship win because they are on a team?

(1990) Pulitzer Prize, in General News Reporting, awarded to the Staff of the San Jose Mercury News for its detailed coverage of the October 17, 1989, Bay Area earthquake and its aftermath. Webb worked with a team of 6 reporters including himself, on the Loma Prieta earthquake.

The take away here is that the government forced corporate media to kill this true story. They then went on to destroy Webb. There is no liberal media. Everything you see on your television or in print from corporate media has been approved by the Ministry of Truth.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
The scary truth 8 April 2007
By Weston Taussig - Published on
Format: Paperback
As the editor of the Applegator Newspaper, I have many books crossed my desk. I was captivated from the beginning to the end. And the story confirmed many of my fears. If one has any interest on the CIA, I highly recommend this book.

J.D. Rogers

Editor of the Applegator Newspaper
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb 9 Jan. 2007
By M. K. Net - Published on
Format: Paperback
Well-written, direct and serious treatment of a personal as well as national story. It's a page turner for the armchair reader and a must for any student or teacher of journalism for its careful examination of the complex relationship between investigative reporter and editor. Its title exactly reflects the objective treatment Schou gives to a still controversial subject.
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