November 14th, 2009 10:06 EST
Palast Shows Us What Good Journalism Might Look Like
Greg Palast is one of those indispensable troublemakers a democracy can`t do without. His journalistic style is way too tabloidesque to suit me, but it probably has to be that way because he`s in perennial need of financial support for his investigative reports, and so he must clamor for attention from those of us who still give a damn about forensic journalism.
And he is a forensic journalist. He`s one of a very few who actually can read a budget and perform his own audit on fiscal data without relying on secondhand and often corrupt interpretation. But what I most admire about Palast is that he does in journalism what I try to do in poetry, he points out the elephant in the room. He says the one thing society has agreed to say nothing about.
And he`s doing it again on Zeek.net. The article is entitled Afghanistan By Hypnosis, and he writes about the press and the pols once more trance-dancing us into war "and bankruptcy.
Palast is always asking what is wrong with the generalized picture painted by the popular media. He challenges the premises of the daily report. For example, in Zeek he says that on September 11th, 2001, we were attacked by Al Qaeda murderers who were largely Saudi Arabians and whose money for the attack came from Saudi Arabia, so what did we do? We invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq.
Sure, there was a rationale. Weapons of mass destruction (never found) in Iraq and Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. But Al Qaeda can train almost anywhere in the world, and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was hostile to both Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia. So what was our response really about? This question is even more inconvenient than Al Gore`s inconvenient truths about global warming, but it hasn`t gotten anywhere near as much attention because Palast and others like him are gadflies outside the journalistic establishment, an establishment that increasingly is the handmaiden of American neocolonialism.
We have inherited many fine ideas and traditions from the British, but colonialism tops the list of things we should not have inherited, and yet here it is, a contagion that is bankrupting us in the name of patriotism and security. It raises a fundamental question about our revolution: was it mainly a tax revolt, reverberating today amid tea-party cries of socialism and too much government, or was it a high-minded dissent from tyranny and inequality? Gnats like Greg Palast keep raising the question and Big Media keep swatting at his ilk because the question is too close to their private parts.
Ironies abound. Why, for example, don`t all those Americans who are so het up, like CNN`s erstwhile Lou Dobbs, about who belongs here and who doesn`t ask themselves whether we belong in Iraq or Afghanistan? Do we belong there more than immigrants from south of our border belong here? And if those immigrants from south of the border were as well armed and funded as we are in Afghanistan and Iraq who would be asking the question then? All the immigrants want is a better life, but what do we want in Afghanistan? The poppy trade, an eye on Caspian oil, or merely the care and feeding of our gigantic military-industrial combine?
And speaking of the world`s largest monopoly, how long will it be effective when it relies on corruption-prone contractors? And what do the chicken hawks have to say about a colonial army that can`t fight its own battles without mercenaries and profiteering contractors? Did we learn anything from the fall of Rome? Or the fall of the Arab caliphates of which we`re so ignorantly contemptuous? They fell because they came to rely on mercenaries who eventually had them for dinner.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.