Reporting in Exile

Aaron Sarver

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 independent audio producer and writer based in Chicago. His work has appeared in In These Times, The Chicago Reader, Alter​net​.org, and on Free Speech Radio News. For nearly three years he produced and co-hosted the radio program, Fire on the Prairie, which featured interviews with progressive writers and activists, and is archived at fire​on​thep​rairie​.com.
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