Writer wears muckraker badge proudly

Monday, June 19, 2006
Bill Eichenberger
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Radio commentator Jim Hightower described author and investigative journalist Greg Palast as “a cross between Sam Spade and Sherlock Holmes.”

A name that Hightower might also have included: Lenny Bruce.

Palast, winner of the George Orwell Courage in Journalism Award, isn’t just a righteous crusader for truth and justice (in a previous life he investigated corporate fraud and racketeering); he’s a genuinely funny guy.

His most recent book, Armed Madhouse, opens with a nightmare scenario in the not-toodistant future, a time when Jeb Bush is president of the United States, Osama bin Laden is president of Eurasia and a cult has arisen to worship the recently deceased holy man Michael Moore.

Palast worked in the United States until the late 1990s; for the past several years, he’s worked for the BBC and the Guardian in England.

Q: Are you offended to be called a “muckraker”?

A: Most of the pinheads in America who consider themselves journalists aren’t reporters; they’re repeaters.

They go to press conferences and raise their hands politely, hoping to ask the president’s official prevaricators what they should say. They rewrite press releases and pen bootlicking profiles of corporate CEOs who poison kids, then take away health insurance.

These reporters are not scum. That would be unfair. It’s their editors who are scum — news murderers, every one of them, who beat their children and their dogs.

So they call me a “muckraker” — a person who digs through the mud and glop of government and corporate files.

Well, that’s exactly what I am. I shovel up the dirt and garbage of our American democracy and show it to you.

I didn’t create the muck, remember: I didn’t steal the election in 2004 nor steal a Mesopotamian oil nation.

So I report for the BBC in England and the Guardian. They love the smell of muck in the morning. All my editors and producers are going to heaven, where they will petition the Lord to forgive The New York Times its sins.

Q: What is your take on the blogosphere for political discourse in the United States?

A: Bless the blogs. . . . In the U.S., my reports — for example, exposing the secret Bush administration plans for the oil fields of Iraq, real creepy stuff — cannot break through the electronic Berlin Wall. So it gets picked up by the blogs, which the Powers That Be can’t block — not yet.

Q: In your futuristic introduction to Armed Madhouse,you paint a bleak picture of this country’s future. Will the truth be more grotesque than the fiction?

A: I don’t know. I’m a reporter, not a fortuneteller.

The intro was a joke. If you didn’t laugh, I’m a failure. Of course, the part about a future in which obese Texans wade across the Rio Grande to their jobs in Mexican maquiladoras is the absolute truth. It will happen. Count on it.

Q: Are you a pessimist, realist, cynic or optimist?

A: A, B, C and D. Why am I an optimist? Think about it: They had to steal the election.

Q: What did you think of Robert Kennedy Jr.’s piece in Rolling Stone, and why do you think your work on election fraud, and now Kennedy’s, was essentially ignored by the mainstream media?

A: Kennedy wasn’t ignored. A rich-celebrity white guy told the truth, and it got some airtime. Bravo for RFK. . . . Heisting the vote is class war by other means.

Working people don’t own newspapers. Black folk don’t own “mainstream” TV channels. One million provisional ballots were tossed out in the last election, and they weren’t cast by newspaper magnates. It’s not their vote at stake.

Believe me, if there were busted voting machines in Malibu, you’d hear about it big-time.