Archive for the ‘Central America’ Category

Kill the Messenger

November 16, 2014

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Kill the Messenger, directed by Michael Cuesta from a screenplay by Peter Landesman, tells the story of Gary Webb, the journalist who reported on contra drug-dealing in the US, and who was blacklisted by the news media for his efforts. The film follows Webb (Jeremy Renner) as he gradually uncovers the story and then writes about it for the San Jose Mercury News. The article causes a sensation, but then it immediately comes under attack from major news outlets, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. Webb then struggles to defend the article, as well as his reputation.

An interesting question here is: why was Webb’s article so controversial? I remember during the 1980’s hearing rumors that the contras were running drugs. A Senate committee eventually confirmed this as true. So why did Webb’s revelations upset so many people? I can only guess it was because Webb drew an explicit connection between the contras and the crack cocaine epidemic that swept South-Central Los Angeles in the 1980’s. I remember at the time, some journalists expressed fear of “black anger” as a result of Webb’s article.

This film suggests another possible motive: reporters at major newspapers were incensed that they had been scooped by a mid-size paper. Webb was, in that respect, a victim of the news media pecking order. What this movie also makes clear is the extraordinary vindictiveness of these people: even after the CIA admitted that Webb’s story was basically true, he was unable to get work at any newspaper.

Kill the Messenger is a tribute to a courageous reporter.

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Immigration

January 30, 2013

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A bipartisan group of Senators has called for legislation that would grant legal status to most of this country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. President Obama has also put forward a proposal for immigration reform. I hope that I’m not being too optimistic in hoping that this signal the beginning of the end to all the fear-mongering on the topic of immigration that has been going on.

Unfortunately, both the Senators’plan and the President’s plan call for “securing” the border. There needs to be a national recognition that the U.S.-Mexican border is a purely artificial construct. It is the result of a war that was regarded even by some people who carred it out as illegal and immoral. This arbitrary boundary has acquired a supra-historical – even mystical – significance in the eyes of many people. Ambitious proposals for building an enormous fence all along the border – tall enough to prevent people from climbing over it, while extending deep into the ground to prevent people from digging under it – have periodically been touted by various people. The border has often been portrayed as the source of all our ills. Stories of people with infectious diseases streaming over the border have been often been spouted by the Right. The Democrats have not always been better in this regard. One of the many low points in John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign came when he suggested that members of Al Quaida were coming across the Mexican border.

The economies of the U.S. and Mexico are deeply intertwined. California’s agribusiness largely depends on undocumented workers from Mexico and from Central America. The drug cartels that have been terrorizing Mexico buy most of their arms from U.S. gun dealers. Yet there are people who talk about Mexico as if it were another planet. This has to change.