I was going to wait until I actually saw the movie Kill the Messenger to write about it, but it plays late in the day, and we don’t usually go to movies unless they play early afternoon. (My God, I’ve become a senior citizen! Soon I’ll be grabbing early bird specials in restaurants!) I might, on my own, take a trip down the hill, but I don’t really need to see this movie to write about some important aspects of it.
- Jeremy Renner: I enjoyed the work of Robert Ludlum. He had inside knowledge of spycraft, and wrote about hard and chiseled people who were never who they appeared to be. There were no good guys in Ludlum’s work except the occasional amateur two got trapped in events over his head. When Ludlum died, his name was trademarked and other people began to write using it, and the work turned to crap. I wish his estate had let his body of work stand on its own.
Jason Bourne was an important character in Ludlum’s work, the only one ever to appear in more than one book. He wakes up on a beach not knowing who he is, and slowly discovers he has abilities and knowledge beyond the ordinary person. I wondered if Ludlum was seditiously inferring that Bourne was part of MKULTRA, the CIA mind control program (MK – “Mind Kontrol” has a nice German ring to it.) Matt Damon became Jason Bourne in our minds, and I enjoyed those movies, like everyone. When the fourth movie was to be made without Damon, I only watched reluctantly. Jeremy Renner playeld Aaron Cross, a man like Bourne. As I watched the movie unfold, I realized that Renner was good, the script and casting was excellent, and the chase scene in Manila at the end one of the best I’d ever seen.
My favorite movie of all time was The Fugitive with Harrison Ford. The Bourne Legacy takes second place now. I know these are not deep and artistic movies, but if they are on the screen, I drop everything and watch them. I cannot not watch. That’s my criteria for “favorite.”
Jeremy Renner, to my surprise, used his own resources to get Kill the Messenger made, as it had languished around Hollywood for over a decade. He thought it was important.
- Gary Webb: In 1996 I had only had internet for a little while in my office, and was one of seven million people to go to the San Jose Mercury News website to download Webb’s Dark Alliance series. Since San Jose is in Silicon Valley, it only made sense that the little newspaper had developed a model website, complete with the ability to link to every footnote in a story. Readers were able to judge for themselves whether or not sources were legitimate and accurately used. Using a dial-up connection, I downloaded the whole series and printed it, a first for me and so many others.
Webb wrote about something that was already on record, Iran Contra, that typical of American scandals, something we only surface-skimmed. He uncovered just one small part of it, that the Nicaraguan Contras, thugs and terrorists from the Somoza regime, were cut off from US government funding by the Boland Amendment, so that CIA turned to its well-documented alternative means of funding, drug running, to raise the necessary cash to supply arms to them. In so doing, crack cocaine, which Congress had been warned about in the late 1970’s, made its first serious inroads into American culture, and became epidemic in the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Webb wrote about the means and methods of getting it into the country, and how the money made its way back to the Contras.
San Jose Mercury News is a small newspaper, but because the Internet was used and was so effective, the story had legs. It traveled and made headlines to the point where John Deutch, Director of Central Intelligence under Clinton, had to travel to LA and face an angry black crowd and lie to them about what had happened. He didn’t get away with it, was caught in the lies. Here’s what happened:
CIA has assets in all major newspapers, as documented by the Church Committee and reported by (real) journalist Carl Bernstein in 1977. Some, like Judith Miller or Anderson Cooper, are easy to spot, but most are mere moles, perhaps never doing anything more than watching what goes on and reporting back to the agency. With the Gary Webb matter, they came out in droves. The LA Times assigned seventeen reporters to its “Get Gary Webb” project. The NY Times and Washington Post all got into the act too. They did what American journalists do so well, attacking anyone who practices real journalism. They destroyed Webb. He was demoted at the Mercury News, and eventually blacklisted, unable to get a job on any newspaper in the country.
Webb committed suicide in 2004. I had trouble accepting that he had done so, as when the CIA does not like someone, a staged suicide is but one means of assassination. What I have read since of the circumstances of his life indicate that this indeed is what happened. At age 49 he could no longer support himself in his profession, even as he had won so many awards for his excellent work. He was living with his mother. End of story, I suppose, except …
“Anyone can commit a murder, but it takes an expert to commit a suicide.” (Bill Corson, CIA agent)
We have living right among us professional liars, murderers, assassins, terrorists. They are centered in Langley, Virginia. Even though their Assassination Manual is public now, we don’t talk about it or them. When Agency enemies die, the mere fact that people know that CIA murders people is usually enough to keep people quiet. They have countless means at their disposal of eliminating enemies, and drugs that induce severe suicidal depression are among them.
Did they get to Webb in this manner? Of course I don’t know, can’t know, never will know. Just remember that the Agency is composed of thugs, murderers, liars, terrorists, and that killing people is one of the things they do best, with their second-best activity being the cover-up. So I will always suspect that Gary Webb was undone 1) by American journalists, who know nothing about journalism, and 2) by the CIA, which might have led him down the path of blacklisting so that he could not work his trade. The Agency also might well have found a way to inject him with a drug that induces suicidal depression. I do not give the Agency the benefit of any doubt. Ever.
But judge for yourself. Here’s a one-hour and twenty-four minute interview with Webb from 2001. In it he is bright, quick, well-versed, alert and possessed of a fully functioning memory. The man is anything but depressed. In short, he exhibits all the skills that made him an excellent journalist, and not a hint of depression.
The last movie* in which CIA featured prominently was the piece of excrement called ARGO, a lie spun into a bigger lie, poorly acted, obviously green-screened, and then given best picture honors even as it wasn’t even a candidate for special effects. (There was one accurate and undeniable fact as portrayed in that movie: Tehran does indeed have an airport. That’s about it, however.)
Kill the Messenger also features CIA prominently. I wonder what treatment the Academy will give it. I’ll write more when I actually see it.
*Charlie Wilson’s War also appears to be based on a CIA-sponsored screenplay. That movie too was a lie, that one sugar coating CIA’s secret war that devastated Afghanistan in the 1980’s.