This is a fable I ran across from a man calling himself Richard Bell. He does not claim to have invented it.
It’s a fable about 10 monkeys in a cage with a door. They can get out if they want to. Somebody hangs a banana outside the cage. One monkey goes out and reaches for the banana. Suddenly, all the monkeys in the cage are sprayed with a lot of very cold water. When the monkey gets back inside the cage, another one goes out for the banana or a new banana. And the monkeys are doused again. Now, when the third monkey tries to go outside and get the banana, the other monkeys beat him up, because they don’t want to get doused with the ice water. And little by little, all the monkeys in the cage learn not to go out for the banana. And then, one by one, each monkey in the cage is replaced with a new monkey, and each new monkey tries to get a banana and is beaten up by his fellows instead. Only now, there is no ice water. It’s just a reflex. And finally the cage is entirely populated by monkeys who have no experience with the ice water. They just know that, if a monkey tries to go out and get the banana, they have to beat him up.
I apply it to the field of journalism, where so many thousands of reporters at all levels all over the country intuitively know not to go near certain stories, or types of stories, and who will crush anyone in their profession who does.
Gary Webb, for instance, whose piece called “Dark Alliance,” about how CIA was behind the influx of crack cocaine into the Los Angeles area, was viciously attacked by other journalists.Webb died in 2004 at age 49, allegedly a suicide.