By Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali
Pride Contributing Writer
“You must see this movie, particularly if you want to understand how crack and the “drug war” devastated our community”. Dr. Gerald Horne on the film Kill The Messenger.
If“Kill The Messenger” was still in theatres in Toronto I’d say “run, don’t walk to the theater to see it”. Michael Cuesta’s film starring Jeremy Renner is more a documentary, than it is an action thriller.
It tells the story of Gary Webb who was a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter. He is best known for his 1996 series of articles Dark Alliances which he later published as a book, Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion.
Growing up I always heard that the truth shall set you free. Life taught me the opposite— it can also get you jailed, chased into exile or killed. Officially, it is said that Webb committed suicide. Unofficially it is believed by many that Webb was murdered by the state for pulling the covers off an open secret. The PG rated“Kill The Messenger” captures in 112 minutes the story of a journalist who was destroyed after he exposed the CIA’s role in importing cocaine into California with money from counter-revolutionary Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Freeway Ricky Ross was a major player in the drug trade. Ross’ network went from South Central Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Cincinnati. St. Louis and other places in the U.S. of A. It is said that Ross turned powder cocaine into crack. This crack was turned over to the street organizations (gangs) the Crips and the Bloods. This created a generation of crack baby’s which was another blow against Africans in America.
While the San Jose Mercury News is a small publication it was one of the first newspapers that had a website. The single spark of Webb’s story started a prairie fire. However another story burnt hotter than Webb’s. When President William Jefferson Clinton transformed the Oval Office into an Oral one, Monica Lewinsky became more famous than Webb. The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post attacked Webb. Even the “liberal” Nation magazine joined the pig pile. Because the Los Angeles Times was the home base of Ross they flipped out and assigned 19 reporters to cover the Webb story. This team of reporters called themselves,“The Get Gary Webb Team”.
Webb was sent to the minor league by the San Jose Mercury News. After being dropped by the minor league publication Webb was unable to find employment. His marriage fell apart and he was forced to move back with his mother. He suffered from depression and didn’t have enough money to purchase his mediation.
Robert Parry of consortuimnews.comand John Kerry raised this issue before Webb was killed. Parry was the first to break the story 30 years ago as an Associated Press journalist. Ten years later Webb uncovered the story, tucked away inside a Senate subcommittee report from a few years before.
Kerry, current United States Secretary of State, then a U.S. Senator headed The Kerry committee. They found that there were links between the Contras and the U.S. State Department .The Huffington Post Washington Bureau Chief, Ryan Grim pointed out how the Webb story went further than Parry or Kerry. Says Grim, “He had two specific Nicaraguan importers and one specific wholesaler named Freeway Rick Ross” The two Nicaraguans were Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes and Norwin Meneses Cantarero.
The Washington Post is still on Webb’s case. A recent story in this daily, “Gary Webb was no journalism hero, despite what ‘Kill the Messenger’ says. Webb will go down on the right side of history. Imperialism and its supporters will go down on the wrong side. This film proves that you can kill the messenger but not the message.
Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisiana, and grew up in Los Angeles. He left Los Angles after refusing to fight in Vietnam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the United States were colonial subjects. Richmond is currently working as a producer/host of Saturday Morning Live on Radio Regent (radioregent.com.) He can also be heard on Diasporic Music on Uhuru Radio (uhururadio.com). His column Diasporic Music appears monthly in The Burning Spear newspaper.