In Person Reporting in Exile
In These Times, By Aaron Sarver | 6.20.03
Greg Palast wants you to turn off your TV and find out what’s really going on.
Greg Palast is a reporter for BBC Television’s Newsnight and Britain’s Guardian and Observer newspapers. His recent book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 15 weeks (visit www.gregpalast.com for more of his reporting). Palast spoke with In These Times during a recent visit to Chicago.
You refer to print publications as “dinosaurs.” How do you think the Internet is changing how information is distributed? The advantage of the Internet is that it is harder to shut you down. Bush’s buddies sued the Observer for an article of mine that exposed their bloody machinations in Tanzania and their gains in Nevada. They were able to crush the print version, but then literally 400 Web sites put up my writing. That’s very important. They can’t stamp it out, and that’s why the “dependent” media is so intent on you knowing how scary and awful and evil the Internet is. In the United States, people are increasingly reading the Guardian, Le Monde, and other foreign papers online. When do the New York Times and Washington Post become irrelevant, especially for foreign reporting? We just celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, so that marks 30 years since the Washington Post has broken a major investigative story. They are irrelevant right now. Almost nothing original comes out of these big papers. You’re just not getting the information. Your book talks a lot about business connections between the Bush family and the bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia. I don’t want to overstate the connection between the Bushes and the bin Ladens, because that underplays the connection between the Bush clique and Adnan Khashoggi, the Saudi arms dealer, and the connection between George W. Bush and Sheik Abdullah Taha Bakhsh, the guy who saved Harken Energy (which is George W. Bush’s former oil company) from extinction. Bakhsh is also, according to French intelligence, a guy who through indirect routes funded al-Qaeda. How come we aren’t investigating this guy? Does it have to do with it being hard to investigate the president’s business partner? How do you think people are reacting to Republicans, who in 1994 were screaming for a balanced budget amendment, and who are now endorsing huge budget deficits? People are picking up that they are being skinned alive. The war in Iraq has become the weapon of mass distraction. Progressives have to make sure we don’t let the jewels be stolen while we’re looking at Iraq. That’s why I won’t give up reporting on places like Venezuela and the attempt to overthrow the elected government there. I keep reporting on what the World Bank is up to and the inside documents there because it is thievery with both hands. The Bush family is making a whole new game out of this, on a different level than anyone has ever imagined. You never know where Bush family bank accounts end and American foreign policy begins. It’s really serious stuff, and it doesn’t matter your political spectrum, the average person is starting to pick this up. What do you think about the prospect of a liberal radio network, which there has been so much buzz about? It is not only a buzz. I have actually signed a letter of intent with the liberal radio media consortium. We don’t need to compete with Rush Limbaugh. We don’t need another fat windbag on the left. What we need is real information so we can make people’s brains wake up. There is this bullshit TV hypnosis going on in America. America’s real drug problem is called television. How far are we from criminalizing dissent when Sy Hersh is called a terrorist by a State Department official? Things are going to get worse before they get better. But we’ve been here before. This is not as bad as the McCarthy era, yet. Americans really do stand up to the horseshit. That’s the point of the last chapter of my book. In America, because we have been brought up to believe everyone has a say in our democracy, once in a while when Americans are told “have a nice day” and they’re given that cheesy shit-eating grin from the presidential spokesman, they say, “Screw you, we’re not eating it anymore.” It happened in Vietnam, it happened in the civil rights movement, and going back to the populist movement, abolitionist movement. We have had a lot of successful movements. We’ll do it again. I’m not worried about America. One of the problems, even on the left, is that we have become accustomed to thinking, if I read it in the New York Times it must be true. And we have to begin trusting our own sources. How does the average individual know what is a good news source? Please tell us you wouldn’t lie to us—that In These Times wouldn’t lie to us.
Aaron Sarver is an associate publisher at In These Times.
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COMMENT ON THIS STORY
palast is awesome! the real drug is tv, and the real cancer is in the white house.
Posted by: geoffrey on 6.20.03 | 5:30 pm from ohio
Greg Palast is an absolute treasur. The "media" (and I use the term very losely) here should have just one reporter half as good.
Posted by: chris on 6.20.03 | 6:29 pm from Fl.
What does everyone think about the liberal tv network? NPR is already a liberal radio station, but what is interesting is most of its listeners (by a small margin) are republican. Would the liberal tv work? Republicans drive talk radio and tv is pretty balanced. If the liberal tv network affiliates itself with liberals than it is doomed. Who would trust a tv network that openly admits its political affiliation?
Posted by: Brad on 6.20.03 | 11:11 pm from NY
Palast is right about TV feeding us nothing but shit. Sports and reality shows are a great way to keep people's minds off of what is really happening in the world. America is not a democracy; The U$A is a plutocracy.
Posted by: michael` on 6.21.03 | 12:22 am from Buffalo, NY
I agree. Do not watch TV or the read the daily newspapers.
Posted by: Wesley Rothermel on 6.21.03 | 5:00 am from Belfast, Maine
Great Story, I know the Bush administration is lying to the American people Most of Bush's Administration is in the Council on Foreign Relations, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld. Dick Cheney are all CFR members, they are very diligently working us towars the New World Order, They answer to Huge Corporations that want to destroy America like the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Cheney's Company Haliburton we have some very ruthless, criminalistic Basterds in Washington Right Now And The Americans need to know the Truth. In addition I am totally aware of what is going on with the Media the Government has sencored our media and actually the owners of FOX, MSN. ABC are all in the council On Foreign Relations as well. One thing is I am not a liberal I am a true conservative but the Bush Administration are not conservatives at all they are Neo-Cons which in short means socialist or Fascist. There is a Great book out that you may be interested in reading it is a real eye opener we have a huge fight ahead of us. The Shadows of Power The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline the Author is James Perloff you can purchase the book from www.jbs.org or www.aobs-store.com excellent book it is a real eye opener. The war on terrorism you will discover in the book that this same scenario that is going on in America with our terrorism war has been played out in several othe countries to destabalize their countries in fact Hitler did the same thing we he had his own S.S. burn the Reichstag down and blemed it on terrorist A must read!!
Posted by: John Gilbert on 6.21.03 | 10:44 am from Arizona
The srticle was great. Now I know another author to look for. About the war, David Habersham, the author of " The Best abd the Brightest" has a great eye opening book published in 2000 that concerns us today. The book " War in the time of Peace" is excellent. He tells you about the current players in today's game and where they came from
Posted by: jeff mond on 6.21.03 | 6:45 pm from chicago
Brad, I doubt that you listen to the National NPR, particularly the news. They seem 'liberal' (whatever the hell that is) to you because no other media presents both sides of an issue. Just needed to say that, although I see your righty mind is always made up. I did see your post about Bush's record on the environment...so there is hope for you, my friend.
Anyone working for a salary in this country should be beating the bushes ('scuse the pun) to call attention to this miserable economy and the practices of this administration to derail it and the right of workers nationally. (i.e. forcing people to take "comp. time" instead of paying them the overtime they earn.)
Posted by: amolibri on 6.22.03 | 10:08 am from NY
What's at the ROOT of the problem with the Bushites? It's that they are abuseing govt. to aid corporate intrests in screwing PEOPLE worldwide (including the US). The Dems are little diferent in thie regard. Go Greens. www.gp.org
Posted by: John Howes on 6.22.03 | 10:09 am from Saint Petersburg, Florida
Is it good that there is a reporter that is so left-wing that it may affect is reporting? Palast is a British Peter Arnette
Posted by: Brad on 6.23.03 | 3:17 pm from NY
Aaron Sarver = Genius
Posted by: Dan on 6.24.03 | 10:39 am from Chicago
I apologize for making a personal request that's way off the topic but...amolibri what part of NY are you in? I'm just now starting to fight against where I work for only giving comp time and paying overtime. Do you have any info about it, or can you offer some advice...anything really? If could email me I would really appreciate it.
Brad, tv is not balanced, it's right wing. NPR is sometimes almost a little bit closer to being sort of balanced, but it's not left. Is it ok to have a reporter that's so right no sense can be included in the reports only propaganda? Extremists aren't the best reporters no matter which side they are for.
Posted by: Toby Fraser on 6.24.03 | 12:34 pm from Rochester NY
GW has no chance against the hard hitting journalism from the likes of Aaron Sarver. Keep standing tall before the Man.
Posted by: Doug Shaw on 6.24.03 | 12:40 pm from Wilmington, NC
I am currently reading Mr. Palast's book "The best democracy money can buy" and I congragulate him for having the guts to say what needs to be said, when our own American "free press" does not.
Keep up the good work, you've got my unending support!
Posted by: B! on 6.24.03 | 1:16 pm from Detroit, MI
Toby, saying that tv is right-wing is garbage. What about Barbara Walters (and others) not challenging Hillary on the numerous lies in her book? What about Peter Jennings being very critical of Bush? What about Walter Cronkite who just admitted to being a lifelong liberal? There is no way that you could tell me that tv was right-wing during the Clinton impeachment as they completely bought into Carville's crap about being "only about sex". What about Jesse Jackson not getting nailed about cheating on his taxes? If you want to say that fox news is the most "rah-rah" for America, I can't deny that, but don't tell me that tv is right-wing. I'm not saying that tv is left-wing I think its pretty balanced.
And NPR is left-wing. They fired one of their dj's because he spoke in favor of the war on air.
Oh and Palast made mention of the ny times, which was called to task by fairness and accuracy in reporting for skewing their war coverage to make it seem we weren't doing as well in Iraq as we actually were.
Oh, and one last thing, In these times is not a news source either. They are a great news analysis source but not a hard news source. Meaning that these guys give us great opinion on the news but the news they give is very, very left-wing
Posted by: Brad on 6.24.03 | 1:46 pm from NY
All I can ask is if tv is so balanced why was there nothing but war cheering going on? There wasn't then, and still hasn't been, a decent debate about pros and cons of the issue. Name me a tv "journalist" that has called this administration on anything at all. There have been so many lies coming from the white house that have not been challenged, or even mildly questioned, all of it is taken as absolute truth. The same goes for NPR. If either were left-wing there would have been some serious questions and there have been none. If either were balanced they would have at least mentioned that maybe what we are being told about everything isn't always 100% true, that didn't happen either. Even now that the lies are coming out more and more there's barely a hint of it in the media. Until you get to media such as this that has been reporting it for a long time.
Posted by: Toby Fraser on 6.25.03 | 8:04 am from Rochester NY
I can't find my pants.
Posted by: Brian Potter on 6.25.03 | 10:50 am from Raleigh NC
alan colmes on fox news has called Bush on the wmd. Chris Matthews on cnbc has done it it too (so has his replacement). You don't watch much tv news do you, people challenge Bush all the time.
In these times is not balanced, when have they ever praised Bush on anything? The guy gives 15 billion to aids and he's criticized by Bleifuss.
Posted by: Brad on 6.25.03 | 1:53 pm from NY
The point of the Bleifuss article was he felt it a touch hypocritical for W to be doing humanitarian PR while at the same time keeping Africa under the cosh of a colossal debt.
Posted by: O on 6.25.03 | 2:24 pm from
O, but you're missing the point. Name one time that this magazine has said anything positive about George W Bush, 1 time. That's all I ask for. They've slammed democrats but they'll never compliment a republican. If you can give me one time, then I'll admit that this is more balanced than I thought. But you can't call this a balanced news source until they compliment Bush on something. (Note: them not praising Bush doesn't make it a bad mag/site, it just doesn't make them balanced)
Oh, and giving 15 billion dollars is more than PR.
Posted by: Brad on 6.25.03 | 4:17 pm from NY
That's because there's so many things Bush does that are worth of praise, right Brad? It must be his considerate environmental policy. Or his Enron-like financial management. Or his father's heavy involvement in one of the groups being investigated by the FBI over 911 (Carlyle). Or the fact that in 1942 his grandfather had some of his properties seized for being a Nazi front. Things like these make a family just so durned likeable, don't they?
And compared to the amount of money Bush and G8 lean on the Third World for every year by way of debt, $15 billion is the equivalent of trying to combat world hunger with a can of sweetcorn.
Posted by: O on 6.26.03 | 3:56 am from
While it's true I try not to watch much tv, it's not like I haven't seen it (I also don't waste money on cable so some of the shows I'm thankfully spared of seeing). Were the questions raised by those, or any other person on tv, equivalent to lies they were questioning? As in, when asking about the lies of WMD and plagiarized reports, did they ask the question once, get the government answer and say "ok, good enough for me"? I highly doubt there was any critical analyzing of the facts, or even questioning the answers given.
Posted by: Toby Fraser on 6.26.03 | 3:36 pm from Rochester NY
Curious how some people hush up when you bring up the Bush family's Nazi past...
Posted by: O on 6.27.03 | 11:15 am from
Jesus Christ! Can't even the "left" (aka lazy-effete-fickel-thinkers) get past the phoney glamorization that characterizes the capitalists class?
Greg Palast is bald...bald, bald, bald.
However, he is a kickass investigative journalist that makes David Corn and Eric Alterman...and Molly Ivins look pretty silly for all the important issues that these denziens of the "left" consistantly fail to see, or at least comment on.
Please, have th guts to show Greg's full head in your photos. People who would be turned off enough not to read the article--well, the progressives shouldn't be wooing them anyway.
I stopped reading the Nation and Mother Jones years ago because they were fickel sell-outs and hypocrites.
Surely ITT can do better than to copy the worst aspects of these "progressives" perfidy.
But alas, if Greg himself prefers to leave the top of his head chopped off in photos--well such banality functions as a metaphor as to how far we have yet to travel before we start building an alternative, progressive conciousness.
Fellow Progressive Baldy
Posted by: Steven Hunt on 6.28.03 | 5:37 pm from Orlando
The fact that Palast pretty much has either chosen or been forced to leave this country in order to not only conduct his research, but also to even be Considered for publication for a book like his most recent points to something not only dire and serious within the media in this country, but something SO serious, I feel that those of us who Are reading Palast need to be encouraging American media to pick up on Palast's Very Serious investigative journalism.
Palast has connected the dots so nicely...things begin to make sense after one sees how the Bush family has conducted "business as usual" all over the globe, but most especially in regions llike the Congo where regular bloodbaths are the normal day-to-day reality due to the co-operation in the area of local onmterets with these large business interests that have eveything to gain from the cover provided by continual turmoil in the region, AND their role in the genocide as well...
Palast's book, in my opinion, may well be the most important book we have to date on the motives and driving forces behind the seemingly insane actions of Bush and his "advisors".
I fear that most of the public has the mistaken idea that Palast's book is Commentary, and have NO Clue that this may well be one of the most important sources we have to date of Hard News.
I think it is up to US to alert one another to this important piece of investigative journalism, and MOST OF ALL to INSIST our local media look into (at the Very least) running some of this material.
We are in grave danger of losing what little "democracy" we actually Had prior to November of 2000, but then again, I can Only beleive that things having swung SO far from plumb, that what is TRULY incumbent upon us in the US is to push for sweeping changes to correct the Sinsiter nature of the lies and twisting of the truth that mass media would have us simply digest, and, of course, (probably Most Importantly) than act accordingly, having had a nice bellyfull of Total Bullshit.
After all, natural physical itself would neccesiatate such a correction.
I beleive this and a Very Few other sources of hard news are giving us an opportunity to do JUST THAT..
to effect sweeping changes to environmental laws, to effect just as sweeping changes in the areas of antitrust, and many other areas this obscene abuse of power has skewed so dangerously, putting us in a very precarious place indeed in many many areas.
Posted by: Leigh (bird) Williams on 6.29.03 | 3:09 pm from North Carolina