Legendary investigative journalist Robert Parry has died.
Anyone who’s read this blog knows how much I valued Robert and his investigative website–Consortiumnews.com.
His death is a profound tragedy, and I’ve spent the week in a state of persistent melancholy.
Life does go on.
First order of business is addressing the outrageous attack launched by PropOrNot following Parry’s death.
Let me be blunt. The attackers are cowardly neocon propagandists, bent on fomenting war with Russia. These trolls attacked Parry because he challenged the Russia-Gate narrative they spent the last year and a half promulgating. Parry’s other crime was providing well researched documentation of the machinations of the neocons and their military/industrial/complex partners in their mad crusade to maintain the US corporate empire.
In fact, during the Obama administration, Parry provided the best account of the sheer hubris of the neocons, and especially their fury at Russian interference in Syria, where they hoped to overthrow Syrian ruler–Bashar Assad. “There is a “little-old-lady-who-swallowed-the-fly” quality to neocon thinking. When one of their schemes goes bad, they simply move to a bigger, more dangerous scheme.”
Parry had a run in with PropOrNot before he died. In late 2016, about 200 websites, including Consortiumnews.com, were identified as “Russian propaganda outlets” by the anonymous website PropOrNot. As an article at Consortiumnews explained at the time, the Washington Post, (which, we should always remember is owned by Jeff Bezos, who through his company Amazon, provides cloud computing services for the CIA), granted PropOrNot anonymity to smear journalists who don’t march in lockstep with the Washington Consensus.
Journalist George Ellison, researched the people and institutions behind PropOrNot: Unpacking the Shadowy Outfit, and came to some startling conclusions. Read the article and examine the evidence yourself.
Anyway, enough with the trolls.
Let’s remember Robert Parry and his legacy. This amazing speech he gave back in 1993 encapsulates how he became such an adversarial journalist, and why it became impossible for him to remain in the corporate media.
Even though Parry’s is talking about the Reagan administration and their secretive, unlawful Central America policies, the same dynamic has applied in every presidential administration since. And, yes liberals, that includes Clinton and Obama.
“No one told me what to work on. And it struck me one day, as I was sitting around, that this administration had a thing about Central America. At the time there had been a number of atrocities that were occurring, and the four American churchwomen had been killed. And the explanations coming from this transition team were quite remarkable. If you remember, Jean Kirkpatrick suggested in one interview that these weren’t really nuns, they were more political activists, which always struck me as an amazing suggestion that it’s okay to kill political activists. Anyway, it seemed like a very important area to them, one that might end up driving much of what they did, at least in terms of foreign policy and national security issues.
So I began working on it. And that experience, in a way, shaped what I did for the rest of my time at the AP. And it was also striking to me that that experience was beyond anything I could have imagine, as an American citizen, watching. It was a case of wide- spread killing – political killing – of dissidents, torture, in the case of women often rape was involved; and this government was not just supporting it, not just providing the weapons and the military support, but trying to excuse it, rationalize it and essentially hide it.
Which is where I sort of came in and I think many people in the American press corps in Washington came in, and the press corp in Central America. At the time the press corps was still the Watergate press corp, if you will. We were fairly aggressive, we were not inclined to believe what we heard from the government, and sometimes we were probably obnoxious. But we were doing our jobs as I think, more or less, as they were supposed to be done. That is – to act, when necessary, in an adversarial way.
There was a pattern of deception from the very beginning. Even when there was something horrible happening in those countries. Even when hundreds, thousands of human beings were being taken out and killed, the role of the US. government became to hide it, to rationalize it, to pretend it wasn’t that serious, and to try to discredit anyone who said otherwise.
But the reality became the greatest threat, even at that stage, to what the new administration wanted to accomplish. So what we saw, even at that early stage, was the combat that was developing and the combat in terms of the domestic situation in Washington was how do you stop the press from telling that story. And much of what the Reagan administration developed were techniques to keep those kinds of stories out of the news media.”
Parry makes an important point about the self-censorship that shapes the corporate media.
“So the message was quite clearly made apparent to those of us working on this topic that when you tried to tell the American people what was happening, you put your career at risk, which may not seem like a lot to some people, but you know, reporters are like everybody else I guess – they have mortgages and families and so forth and they don’t really want to lose their jobs – I mean it’s not something they aspire to. And the idea of success is to keep one of these jobs and there are a lot of interesting perks that go with it, a certain amount of esteem, you know, as well as you get paid pretty well. Those jobs in Washington – you can often be making six figures at some of the major publications, so it’s not something you readily or easily throw away, from that working level.”
Parry was not a partisan reporter but I believe that he exemplified what our founders intended when they articulated the concept of a forth estate that would hold the other branches of government accountable. It was also quite apparent that he understood the risks of what he was doing, yet he kept at it.
“But what we began to see was something that was unusual I think even for Washington – certainly it was unusual in my experience – a very nasty, often ad hominem attack on the journalists who were not playing along.”
Parry was never sentimental about the challenges facing investigative journalism, but he was an optimist and he never stopped trying his best to tell the truth.
“I guess the challenge of the moment becomes is how that gets changed. How do the American people really get back control of this – not just their government, but of their history – because it’s really their history that has been taken away from them. I think it will take a tremendous commitment by the American people to insist on both more honest journalism, more straightforward journalism, but also maybe even new journalism.”
We lost a real American hero.
God bless you Robert Parry.