In 1996, Gary Webb, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, gets a tip from the exotic girl friend of a drug dealer that links the 80s CIA to cocaine smuggling in Nicaragua. Sounds like a Hollywood movie, right? It’s a true story of an idealistic journalist who tenaciously follows the story, putting himself and his family at risk. The story he uncovers links the crack epidemic in the U.S. to drug dealers who were using their profits to fund CIA-backed rebels in Nicaragua. Because the Reagan administration was unable to get the backing of Congress to support the rebels in Nicaragua, the CIA supposedly took it upon itself to fund operations by allowing cocaine into our country. Nice, huh? And they wonder why Americans have become so cynical over the years.
Gary Webb was an award-winning journalist. In 1990 he won the Pulitzer for general reporting for his coverage of the Bay Area earthquake in 1989. He was a good writer looking for the big scoop and then he stumbled upon it and it split his world wide open. He doggedly pursued the story whether it took him to Nicaragua or Washington D.C. In 1996 he wrote a series of articles entitled the Dark Alliance about cocaine smuggling which was published in the San Jose Mercury News to much praise. Within a very short period of time, however, he was in trouble. He received threats from drug dealers and CIA operatives. His story made a lot of people uncomfortable. His editors suddenly demanded on-the-record sources. Of course, he could not produce any drug dealer or CIA operative source willing to go on record. His newspaper backed away from him. Other major newspapers viciously attacked his writing. As a result of his unwillingness to back down from the assertions of his story, he was banished to a small bureau and eventually he resigned.
He paid a very heavy price for his stubborn dedication to his story. He was never able to find work as a journalist again. The movie does not delve into the examination of his facts or the nature of the threats against him or the final unraveling of his life, but it’s a very exciting, eye-opening story. Actor Jeremy Renner does an excellent job of portraying Gary Webb. The movie is based on Webb’s book, Dark Alliance, and a book by Nick Schou entitled Kill the Messenger. Go see it.
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