The CIA Hounded A Reporter Till He Died
In the 1980s, reporters discovered that the CIA-backed Contras in Nicaragua trafficked a whole lot of cocaine. Few people in America really cared about the news. Then in 1996, reporter Gary Webb put out a series on the subject, adding, “Hey, cocaine? That’s the same thing that’s hurting America RIGHT NOW!” Suddenly, Americans cared a whole lot.
Everyone got mad, including the media, who mainly got mad at Webb. How dare he come forward with information they already knew — and, they argued, how dare he go further using bad sourcing they’d rejected. The media ostracized him, and in the end, Webb was found dead. He had been shot in the head twice. It was ruled a suicide.
You can now take a minute to think about that last sentence and consider just how obvious it is that any corpse found with two bullets in the head is the victim of a cover-up, not a suicide. And when you’re done, let’s step back in and point out that in reality, it’s entirely possible for someone to die by suicide with two shots fired through the head. The first shot goes out the cheek, totally failing to kill. And while plenty of people who survive a suicide attempt go on to never try again, if someone is in pain, the sudden appearance of a bullet wound in his face is unlikely to lessen it, and that’s when they fire shot number two.
So, conspiracy theories aside, Webb did kill himself. Still, Webb did so because his life went downhill following the publication of his cocaine series, thanks to a campaign waged against him by the media, with the CIA’s assistance. In an internal document that the public got their hands on years later, the CIA described how they broke with policy to discredit Webb, helping journalists who wanted to run stories taking Webb down. The media were already quite keen on attacking Webb. “We’re going to take away that guy’s Pulitzer,” said one person on the L.A. Times Gary Webb team (not “we’re going to beat him to the Pulitzer” — they were referring to a Pulitzer he’d previously already won).
And so, the last decade of Webb’s life was not quite as happy as it might have been. As for why the 2014 Jeremy Renner film about Webb was released in just a handful of theaters and then vanished before making back half its costs, well, that's a conspiracy more insidious that anything the CIA could cook up.
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