• Marccooper5_1

Back To Home Page

« Sticking With The Gary Webb Story | Main | Homeland Insecurity »

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Mark Schubb

Thanks, Marc. Well said.


Good Job Marc. That Webb's basic allegation is probably true is hard to discount. During the Viet Nam war, I remember "rumors" about the CIA funding some of their actions in SEAsia with golden triangle dope. Did that happen? I don't know, but I wouldn't doubt it.

Marc Cooper

GM..thanks. yes it happened. Here's The Bible on that issue: http://www.drugtext.org/library/books/McCoy/default.htm


Jeff Cohen has a fine article on Webb, who it turns out wasn't the only person to be smeared a conspiracy nut for noting the drug connections behind funding the Contras:

"In 1989, when Sen. John Kerry released a report condemning U.S. government complicity with Contra-connected drug traffickers, the Washington Post ran a brief report loaded with GOP criticisms of Kerry, while Newsweek dubbed Kerry a "randy conspiracy buff."


Of course, as Jerry Lembcke has pointed out in the CNN Tailwind Tale, it's only one small part of a much bigger problem--namely the causes of military adventures like Nicaragua. The drug connections were relatively minor in degree of harm caused by that US war.

John Moore (Useful Fools)

I have noticed that even the comments supposedly sticking to the topic are often more about the CIA and Contras than about the gentlemen who took his life.

I do want to comment on the suicide. I don't know the exact circumstances, but it sounds like the guy was in a long term depression. Depression can be caused by, and also causes a low self esteem - a dangerous cycle. Serious depression is nothing like feeling low or grieving, it is a dramatic and horrible change, normally temporary, in one's persona and cognition. It means that a decision to commit suicide may be far from rational, as the cognitive changes result in less ability for rational thinking, and especially for appropriate perspective. I speak from too much experience. It is the loss of perspective and self esteem that often leads people to believe that the world, their family, their friends would be better off without them. It is also the excruciating mental torment that leads people to put an end to it.

It is likely (but not certain) that this poor guy could have been helped, but depression causes isolation causes depression. Lack of esteem causes one to not want to seek help. Lack of mental energy also. If fact, it may be that the apparent Prozac suicide effect results from people gaining the energy to do suicide before they get the other benefits (reduction of the other symptoms).

I think our society is more tolerant of mental illness than it used to be. But it is still relatively ignorant. The people who need to know about it the most are sufferers of these kinds of diseases, regardless of the cause (physiological and environmental). Then they are more able to help themselves (including by seeking help).

GM I'm sure could talk to this more.

Mark, of course, can choose to delete this, but here's a bit on blog comments (metacomments, I guess).

I do not find Steve repetitious, and I disagree with everything he says (and until Marc decided to stop responding to steve, responded to a lot of it because I disagreed). It think what he does, and what I do, and some others, is to want to respond to many articles or assertions because we have something to add or frequently something to disagre with. In other words, discussion gets started, one which may or may not produce new information or insight. It also drifts.

I think what is often perceived as redundant are postings that have the same general perspective, but often contain new information. The redundant bell goes of because "hey, I've heard too much on that subject from that guy," not necessarily because it's all the same.

This is hardly new. Anyone with experience with Usenet or BBS knows that it is the normal state of affairs.

However, the owner of a blog is just that - the owner. He can set his rules. That's his privilege.

Marc Cooper

John.. indeed it looks from the comments of Webb's ex-wife he succumbed to overwhelming depression. And, yes, American society today seems to tolerate more mental illness...maybe that's a by-product of "diversity."


I would agree John, only it's quite natural that comments veer toward the topic of CIA-contra and the media since 1) it has so much to do with much of what drove Webb to depression and 2) Marc's comments in these recent threads are themselves, much like yours or mine, directed toward such issues.


Should anyone be interested, an excellent book on the subject of Suicide is "The Savage God" by A. Alvarez. Although the book is more than 30 years old, it's an excellent book and easy to follow. I used it when it was fairly new doing research for a graduate class in Psychology and still remember it as a classic in suicideology.

Marc writes, "And, yes, American society today seems to tolerate more mental illness...maybe that's a by-product of "diversity."

It is my belief, based on nothing more than my observations Marc, that as we become more diverse we become more isolated, breaking down into smaller and smaller enclaves of sameness to guard against loss of self in a huge universe. One result of this is DECREASED tolerance for mental illness, as well as decreased tolerance for others because the others differences have been crammed down thier throats in the name of PC Diversity. (Sorry, PC just ticks me off no end)

Many is the patient I have worked with who hesitated for years to get treatment because they didn't want anyone to think them "Crazy" even sometimes to the point of paying cash rather than let even their insurance company know they had depression or some other emotional condition. Thomas Szazz decried the power of psychiatrists to "commit" people to hospitals against their will, wrongly I think. Who, knowing Mr. Webb was about to commit suicide (literally self murder), would not have had him committed for treatment for his depression and despondency in the hope that he might find reason for living?

Keep an eye on my blog http://gmscorner.blogspot.com for a more in-depth look at depression, despondency and suicide in the near future.


I intended to include the following in the post above. Sorry for two entrys on similar subjects.

Dr. Patrick Corrigan (PsyD)(Dr. Corrigan is a Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at Northwestern University and Executive Director of the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, both in Evanston, Illinois.) was the subject of an interview in Medscape http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/494548?src=mp (registration required).

In the interview, one of the statements by Dr. Corrigan responding to a question by the Medscape interviewer is as follows:

Medscape: Let's go on from there. How does stigmatization interfere with treatment of mental illness?

Dr. Corrigan: As I discuss in the paper, there are many people who decide never to get treatment even though they would benefit from it. So people who want to avoid labels, avoid treatment so their neighbors don't see them coming out. Or for that matter, they don't want to admit it to themselves, so they don't go see a psychiatrist.

The next issue is people adhering to treatment. Some people already in treatment have identified themselves as having mental illness but might have that "why-try" effect: "why should I try to get better, I'm not capable of doing it." Therefore, they might not adhere to services as well as they should. These 2 effects might lead to worse care and worse outcomes.

It's a tough problem, and I don't think it will get better in the short term. In the long term, I continue to have hope. Part of the reason I teach Rehabilitation Counseling at my local university is to get my students interested in being advocates for the mentally ill. (Sounds like heresy coming from a conservative some of you may be thinking).

At any rate Marc, great writing (as usual) and thanks for expanding awareness about a great human tragedy.

jim hitchcock

Interesting that the New York Times didn't claim any personal involvement in the attacks on Webb in the their obit :

"The articles led to calls in Congress for an investigation, but major newspapers discredited parts of Mr. Webb's work. The Mercury News reassigned him to a suburban bureau, and he quit the paper in 1997."

At the head of the story they simply said the articles Webb wrote
were `discredited'.

Marc Cooper

Yes. The NY Times obit was more decent, mentioning the congressional investigations and not exaggerating its own role. On the other hand, the Times has reversed the chronology of events... in reality the congressional investigations concluded AFTER the "discrediting" series appeared in the NYTimes, the Post and LA Times.
I think the proper thing to say in the lead would have been that Webb wrote a series of disputed (or contested) articles about CIA and relation to drug dealers that ruined his career even though they culminated in important congressional investigations... something in that spirit.
But you know... no institution is more reticent to admit mistakes that news organizations... they reek of arrogance... just ask Dan Rather.


Fine work, Marc---both researching and writing. You really laid the whole thing out so well and, in doing so, honored Webb's memory and contribution.

I'm glad you named some names.

And just to remind us that nothing is ever simple, here’s a weird irony---which excuses nothing, of course---but I notice that one of the skanky LA Times obit writers was also on the paper’s King/Drew writing and research team, albeit a junior member of the team.

La vida loca.


By the way, a really excellent book on the subject of depression is "The Noonday Demon" by Andrew Solomon. (It won the National Book Award" a couple of years back.)


I throurougly enjoyed the obituary, don't want to appear picky but am left to wonder why the diss at Maxine Waters. Even if she overstated the case, as you claim Webb did, she still was consistently one of the few elected officials who valiantly tried to shed light on this dark episode of the Reagan/Bush era. Hysteria, perhaps, but should that not be expected from the black communitty whose suspicion of the very worst from govenment is afterall well justified.

In fact Waters met and interviewed Webb on numerous occasions, she persistently followed this breach of justice and in 1998 revealed a letter between the CIA and the Justice Department. This letter had freed the CIA from legally reporting drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered the Nicaraguan contras and the Afghan rebels.

Maxine, in my books, has remained one of the few Democratic politicians with any spine and is hardly worthy of the title "demogogue".

too many steves

Excellent Marc.

I know I shouldn't be but I am often surprised at the extent to which people within an organization, especially supposed altruistic ones, will go to protect what they believe or perceive to be their reputation or honor or whatever.

It truly is shocking to me that the Times would make such an effort to discredit someone, up to and including his death. Apparently they considered him a bad guy not because he wrote a lie but because he exposed their incompetence on the matter.


Well, I guess the obituary was less about Webb's life than an expose of the malicious dishonestry of the LA Times; but, I guess that's a matter of choice and we might approach things differently.

Regarding depression and attitudes.... As part of my work, I deal with the IRS for clients and explain why payments or returns are late, get penalties abated, or just clear up communication issues. I've had several situations where the client had suffered a complete breakdown and was in a severe state of depression. (This can easily happen with small business owners who do not have support structure.)

When you try to describe a disability as mental to a tax collector, you rarely get anywhere. They understand cancer or car accidents but not mental disease. There have been exceptions to this, but those were judgements by local revenue officers who trusted me.

My job would be easier and those suffering from depression could be helped if government, credit card companies, and everyone else didn't pile on and drive the taxpayer into a deeper funk. Right now I'm very concerend about a client who last year made $500,000 and now cannot even function. I wish I knew how to make people accept this disease as legitimate.

I'm especially sorry that no one could see the despair of Webb.

On one last issue, for which I hope to be permitted to add a footnote.... steve had remarked that his responses to those on the right had changed as a result of the participation on this site. That is, I think, the first time I've heard anyone say that they actually have changed their mind or actions as a result of reading this. Like that joke, I thought I was talking to a wall, but I see one change. I wonder if there have been others.

Nell Lancaster

This is an outstanding post, Marc; writing, information, tone, feeling. Thank you.


Today's San Jose Mercury News has an article about Webb, as well: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/10429643.htm

For some reason, they neglected to mention his Pulitzer, which he got while working there.


"Well, I guess the obituary was less about Webb's life than an expose of the malicious dishonestry of the LA Times; but, I guess that's a matter of choice and we might approach things differently."

Yes. That it was, I see what Steve was complaining about now.

jim hitchcock

There are a couple of good companion pieces to Marc's article on Counterpunch. The one that most helped me appreciate what what we have all lost is by Richard Thiem, titled `My Last Talk With Gary Webb'. It had this to say...

Webb knew what he was up against. He said of the CIA, "Richard, these are the worst people on earth that you're dealing with - they lie, plant stories, discredit and worse for a living and have the resources and the experience.

But somebody's got to do it [tell the truth]. Otherwise they win.


As a journalist, I had one creepy, crawly, horrifyingly elaborate, disinformation-related experience with the CIA at the Thai/Cambodian border. It scared the sh*t out of me.


Thanks for pointing out the Richard Thiem essay, Jim. It's indeed a good companion piece for Marks excellent obit.

I particularly liked this 'graph in relation to Webb's work:

"The passion for truth and justice is not a sprint. It's a long-distance run that requires a different kind of training, a different degree of commitment. Our eye must be on a goal that we know we will never reach in our lifetimes. Faith is the name of believing in the transcendent, often despite all evidence to the contrary.

"But what are the options?"


It's possible that Webb's mental illness had little to do with 'tolerance' of 'diversity' so much as a greatly heightened and distorted sense of power that many journalists believe themselves to possess, which is invariably based on an illusion that exposure of bad actors will somehow make it possible to challenge the most harmful aspects of , if I may speak the word, capitalism, or less generally, the war making industry.
The failure of journalists to make significant change based on their investigative works alone *combined with* the frequent rejection of that work by the MSM, given its role as propagandists for the war industry, is something that has been occurring for ages now.
That itself could lead one to greater hopelessness or a more realistic assessment of the significance of the MSM's role in the war industry and, thereby, to battle it from outside where possible. Plainly compromise with the war industry's rhetoric doesn't move matters forward, something that Webb seems to have realized. It's a shame his talents couldn't have been put toward the boondoggles that underlie the "War" on "Terror".

Michael Crosby

Today I contacted the LA Times to register an "official complaint" with the ombudsman of the newspaper and learned that the Times DOES NOT HAVE AN OMBUDSMAN. Which explains a lot, n'est-ce pas? So I left a message on some line that no doubt is referred to the "crank-line" or "nut-phone" or some such....

Today I also got a response from a friend who is news director of the Indianapolis CBS outlet. He reports that "[i]n my field there has been a considerable buzz about the LA Times latest trashing" of Gary Webb. He added that the "LA Weekly printed a strong piece and it is being forwarded around the web." So maybe there will be a long-delayed revision of the revisionist history created by Doyle McManus et al. Or at least some public shaming of the Times, if no one else, for contributing to the shunning, the silencing and ultimately the death of Gary Webb.

Marc Cooper

Hi Michael: The LATimes has no obudsman, indeed. It does have two media columnists however: Tim Rutten and David Shaw. I doubt if they will be taking on the Times itself any time soon.

The comments to this entry are closed.