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Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb Paperback – September 29, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Schou personally knew Gary Webb, the reporter with the San Jose Mercury News whose 1996 series of articles linked the CIA to the nation's crack-cocaine plague. Schou, who had spent eight years following a similar story, worried that Webb's suicide in 2004 would cause reporters to shy away from uncovering government involvement in drug trafficking. Schou offers a portrait of a dogged reporter, a motorcycle-driving rebel who was occasionally arrogant and had a history of depression. But Webb, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, also had a reputation for meticulous research. Schou retraces Webb's exhaustive research, which connected crack cocaine sold on the streets of L.A and CIA operations in Nicaragua. Schou also recalls other reporters who faced attacks by the government, lack of support by editors, drug-possession setups, and death threats for investigating CIA involvement in drug trafficking. He also details the personal ruin Webb suffered when his series was greeted first with silence by the journalistic community and later attacked, a series that Schou maintains was on target. An impressive look at the intersection of clandestine government operations and a free press. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“Gary Webb was the epitome of journalistic guts, but instead of winning a Pulitzer he was betrayed by his employers and slandered by his profession. Here is the true story, brilliantly if sadly told, of the reporter who unmasked one of the most evil conspiracies in American history.”
Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums

“Gary Webb took on a historic task, to investigate a subject that is forbidden and secret. He glimpsed an essential truth, and two years later the CIA admitted even more. By then, Webb was discredited, disrespected, and destroyed by his own journalism community. His epic story, faithfully examined by Nick Schou, will never die until all the secrets he tried to probe are revealed.”
Tom Hayden

Kill the Messenger is a great book -- smart and eminently fair -- about the pitfalls tough, aggressive journalists like Gary Webb face when breaking stories that question the myths that the mainstream media feeds us. If America's major newspapers had spent ten percent of the time they did going after the CIA as they did in destroying Gary Webb's career, journalism could once again be a profession to be proud of.”
Joe Domanick, author of To Protect to Serve: The LAPD's Century of War in the City of Dreams

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; 1 edition (September 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560259302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560259305
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #685,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Diana L. Barahona on December 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb

by Nick Schou

Since it was the country's major newspapers who did in Gary Webb, it is not surprising that Nick Schou's book about Webb's life and "Dark Alliance," his controversial story about the CIA and crack cocaine, has yet to be reviewed by any of them.

Unlike most of his critics, Gary Webb was a real investigative reporter with a Pulitzer to his name. He dug relentlessly into corporate and government corruption and by all accounts had I.F. Stone's gift for researching documentary evidence. He was also not afraid to seek out sources and question them until he got answers: "One of the ways people would harass each other in Columbus was by saying that Gary Webb of the Plain Dealer wants to interview you. It was a way of giving people heartburn," said a former co-worker.

Webb's instinct for the big story led him to investigate a scandal which had been all but ignored by the media for a decade: the CIA's knowledge of drug trafficking by people linked to its counterrevolutionary war against Nicaragua in the 1980s, and its protection of those traffickers even as they peddled crack in the inner cities of the United States. The story, "Dark Alliance," was published in three parts by the San Jose Mercury News in 1996. It sparked outrage in African American communities, which had been devastated by cheap crack cocaine in the 1980s, and where many suspected the government was behind the epidemic.

Then the backlash began: The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times all assigned teams of reporters to investigate Webb and find fault with the series.
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Format: Paperback
"The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media." - William Colby, former CIA Director

Kill the Messenger does a tremendous service by providing the reader with a detailed account that touches on all the issues that led to Gary Webb's downfall and ultimately his suicide. Also the book delves into the CIA/Contra cocaine smuggling that went on under the radar during the counterinsurgency war that raged in Nicaragua. Of course Webb unearthed much of the story.

One thing the mainstream press liked to do was treat the Contras as if they were a mutually exclusive entity separate from the CIA. Thus when the establishment media reported that the Contras dabbled in drug smuggling they could simultaneously report that at worst the CIA just turned a blind eye. Unfortunately for the CIA and the powers that be, the Contras were wholly trained and funded by the CIA. The CIA and the Contras were essentially one and the same. If the CIA never existed the Contras never would have even been conjured up and never would have been able to wage a bloody war against civilian targets, raping and pillaging throughout the Nicaraguan countryside and sending massive quantities of cocaine into the United States; much of which landed at the doorstep of Los Angeles and other major cities that had just started to feel the sting of Reaganite socio-economic policies.

Webb was basically the first journalist who truly blew the lid off the CIA's Contra cocaine smuggling operations that went on during the early and mid 1980s. Kid glove treatment does not one receive when exposing one of the most powerful and violent institutions in world affairs.
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The previous reviewer caused me to check out Pulitzer Prizes. I have followed many stories by the author and have found him to be an excellent reporter and I couldn't believe he would make such a mistake. The reviewer is wrong, Schou is right. Webb was indeed awarded a Pulitzer. It was as part of a team, but he had one none the less. Do ball players have any less stake in a championship win because they are on a team?

(1990) Pulitzer Prize, in General News Reporting, awarded to the Staff of the San Jose Mercury News for its detailed coverage of the October 17, 1989, Bay Area earthquake and its aftermath. Webb worked with a team of 6 reporters including himself, on the Loma Prieta earthquake.

The take away here is that the government forced corporate media to kill this true story. They then went on to destroy Webb. There is no liberal media. Everything you see on your television or in print from corporate media has been approved by the Ministry of Truth.
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This is a book which I read after I finished reading the "Dark Alliance". I touted the "Dark Alliance" as a good book to read for those who think our government is being run by god-fearing people as it will serve as an excellent reality check. I say the same about "Kill the Messenger". I do not agree with all the things Nick Schou has to say, but because this book talks about the truth about our government's deep....and I mean DEEP.....involvement in running the drug industry, this should wake everyone up to the fact that there has never been a war on drugs. "Just say no" ( to drugs) was a laughable slogan. One of the doctors I work with says about 911, "You really think our own government will kill thousands of its own citizens?!" My reply was a resounding "Yes"!!! I provided him with articles to read, and it looks like this book, "Kill the Messenger" together with "Dark Alliance" will make good Christmas presents for my very naive friend. And from reading another book I realized Gary Webb could not have killed himself by shooting himself twice! This is akin to running over someone accidentally ....three times. When will the world wake up to the fact that the reality that we take for granted IS NOT? I read three to four hours a day, averaging 65 to 70 books a year, the astounding information I come across is enough to keep me awake most nights.....really.
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