Beheading America
an open letter to Alberto Giordano
on the deadly corporate media

December 15-30, 2004

this page is at

      First off, Al, I want you to know I love you. You probably know that already, but I want to make damn sure there’s no doubt in your imaginative mind. Not only do I love you, but I need you. I need your inspiration as well as your down-to-earth shrewdness.

      I was going to write this article before Gary Webb ended his struggle and was discovered dead on Dec 10. In my Dec 9 piece, “Man! Do we ever need grassroots authentic media in order to know the truth!”,1 I said, “The corporate media is burying the news about the possibly-stolen U.S. election.” and promised, “Subsequently I’ll detail how the hearing yesterday (Wed, Dec 8) of the Democratic members of the House Committee on the Judiciary (the Conyers Committee) on electoral fraud in Ohio has until now been unreported by so-called mainstream media. ... I believe it ought to be as newsworthy as events in the Ukraine.”

      As you know, I’m not the world’s fastest guy, and between my promise on the 9th and now, Gary Webb’s murder/suicide struck the NarcoNews community2 like a bombshell - an irretrievable loss. And I use the term murder advisedly because I’m sure the agents of capitalism, in his case the bosses of the so-called mainstream American media, maliciously tried to destroy the possibility of Gary making a living as an honest journalist. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Al Giordano’s NarcoNews , which is full of information about this tragedy, here’s a bit of background on Gary Webb. I need to say this because two close contacts, each of them quite radicalized, said to me just yesterday (i.e. on the 16th), “Who’s Gary Webb?” when I remarked to them about his death.

Who’s Gary Webb?

      I didn’t know Gary Webb personally. I learned of him in the summer of 1996 when Theo Emery,3 one of the collective members of the Lucy Parsons Center,4 made photo enlargements of Gary’s August 22 and 23, 1996 articles in the San Jose Mercury News and posted them in our storefront windows. They damn near filled the windows, and folks stood outside reading the blockbuster articles. That was how I first learned about Gary Webb. Some years later I read Dangerous Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion, which lays out more fully than his newspaper exposé the role of the CIA in working with drug smugglers to sell crack cocaine in inner city Los Angeles to get money to fund the Contras, a major part of the U.S. effort to overthrow the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

      Gary had it right, but his work was attacked by the major commercial media, which succeeded in coercing his editor at the Mercury News, who had initially been fully supportive, to back away from Gary’s work and refuse to allow him to continue investigating his major break, then assigning him to a poor location, forcing Gary to give up his job. It marked the end of his career as an investigative reporter, and finally, the end of his life.5

Corporate media, beheader of America

      Al, I know you were distraught when you pounded out your anguished piece,6 full of self-accusation, remorse, rage and the bitterest sorrow, flailing about at all the targets that came to mind, especially yourself, your failure, your lack of understanding, and so on, as though Gary’s final irrevocable act was a direct consequence of your personal failing. And the hatred you feel resonates with me.

      I know about hatred, first hand. There are bastards who deceived Freda (my wife) and me almost 40 years ago at the University of Massachusetts Boston Campus and who were, I’m quite certain, responsible for having contributed substantially, if not actually causing, her early death.7 I hate their guts to this day, viscerally, those slimy academics with their petty ambitions overriding any impulse they might once have had towards intellectual honesty and achievement. Fucking con-men, and the worst of it was that for a time we were conned, not understanding their conniving to get rid of us. So on that I’m with you, Al.

      But, as I used to say to students in my radical science courses,8 as much as I hate some people – e.g. Henry Kissinger,9 Joseph McCarthy,10 Augusto Pinochet,11 Oliver North,12 Francis Spellman13 – my deepest hatred is towards the institutions that create such psychologically misshapen monstrosities. Among them are the major institutions that shape ideology – the corporate media, the entire formal so-called educational establishment, all the oppressive machinery of the government – police, military, “justice” system, in short the entire apparatus of the nation-state operating to instill and enforce domination of, by and for the ideology of capitalism – power, private profit and money above all else. It’s that deep hatred of the dominant institutions that binds us together as revolutionary compañeros and compañeras. Control over our collective thinking by the corporate media – a major dominant institution – killed Gary Webb, probably killed Freda Salzman, and is now trying, along with the Republican Party, to kill the popular struggle against the rapid transformation of the U.S. into a full-blown fascist state.

News Junkie Disease - a monkey on our back

      On Tuesday night, November 2nd, many Americans went to sleep certain we would awaken to hear the confirmation that Bush had lost the election, as the corporate reports of media polls14 predicted. Instead we were shocked on the 3rd to “learn” from all the commercial media that Bush had won by a majority of the electoral votes, and even gained a surprisingly large plurality of some 3 to 3.5 million votes more than Kerry. Immediately on the internet numerous complaints began to appear that many people had been deprived of their votes, either by being denied ballots or by their ballots being miscounted. There were accounts of a variety of irregularities, essentially all of which were in favor of Bush. This burst of activity on the internet was absent from mainstream media coverage of the election.

      What I found surprising, but in retrospect might have expected, was that not only the mainstream media reported the shocking results without questioning their legitimacy, but practically everything I saw in the way of commentary or analysis took much the same position, with the notable exception of much furiously dissenting opinion on the internet. By the evening of the 3rd, less than 24 hours after the polls closed, a “Buzzflash News Alert” from the International Labor Communications Association announced, “The media has collapsed and Kerry has conceded, but we don't have to.” Forwarded to me before dawn on the 4th, that morning I distributed a call urging

Action! − Not moaning and groaning!

      Don't accept the 'official' result. The declared capture of Ohio by the Republicans can be reversed if a thorough recount shows that the Democrats actually won the vote. But we must force the 'authorities' to do the recount.

      Read the attachment, please [the Buzzflash News Alert], and ACT. Don't give up until and unless you are convinced that this supposed Republican victory was in fact a legitimate victory as registered at the polls.

      Fight for our rights!


      Those of us who were urging rejection of the alleged Republican victory found many of our comrades unwilling to make the challenge. Despite being strongly opposed to Bush’s “leadership” of the drive to fascism, they bought into the corporate media’s pronouncement of his electoral victory. Why did they allow themselves, on this occasion, to join the sheep of America? I believe it happened in part because they are infected with News Junkie Disease (as we all are to greater or lesser extent), that desire to “be on top of it, to know the latest.”

      Two days later I wrote Ben Melançon: “I believe we must try to reverse the announced result, and not allow ourselves to be influenced by the all-pervsasive corporate media. Even Al and other right-on fighters are living within the mileau generated by 'their' language and their maps – e.g. all the false assumptions that follow from accepting the picture of "red" and "blue" states. I've just read your article,15 "Republic Car-jacked . . ." and it seems to me you too are overinfluenced by what passes for 'the news'.”

      It was remarkable how many very bright and informed people had immediately assumed the truth of the officially announced results, among them Al Giordano,16 Ben Melançon (see 15), Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair,17 Juan Cole,18 to name but a few.William Blum’s comments,19 one month later, made the same assumption. Each of them tried to understand why, not if, Bush had won. For example, Cockburn and St. Clair saw the Democratic Party (which they and I despise equally) as the key to the assumed Republican victory.

      What impelled each of those who commented almost immediately to take for granted the media announcements of early November 3? I think it’s partly because we suffer from news junkie disease.

      Naturally we want to know what’s happening in the world. What is perhaps not so natural, but the result of cultivated competitiveness, is the strong urge some of us have to be not just up to date but up to the minute with “the latest news”, and to be among the first to analyze and interpret it and to predict the consequences. If you’re in this camp, you want your “news fix” immediately. So where do you turn? Only the institutions of the corporate media are currently wealthy enough to provide “immediate” coverage. So you turn to them. And what you get is what they wish to disseminate. By its predominance, what commercial media selects as “newsworthy” is what the news junkie first thinks about, and unfortunately, in far too many instances, one of which I believe is this election, its choices serve to determine the conceptual framework in which “the news” is defined, understood, discussed, and analyzed.

Impact of the corporate media

      In his extremely carefully-and-thoroughly-documented book, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II,20 William Blum provides numerous demonstrations of the effectiveness of dishonest propaganda (‘disinformation’ is the slightly sanitized term the CIA. uses) as a tool for shaping the future, i.e. for generating widespread misunderstanding of current reality for the express purpose of changing the course of history. In a dramatic rendering of the overthrow of the Jacobo Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954 (see footnote21 for some excerpts), Blum gives one of the many examples explored in this invaluable study. Although his primary focus is on the CIA, he also documents conclusively the dishonesty of U.S. corporate media in supporting the government by mis-shaping the American people’s understanding of reality.

      Since November 3, I have been in a state not of shock but of outrage at the commercial media’s effectively total dishonesty in distorting our understanding of the scope and significance of what actually happened in the election. In two of a series of postings dealing with the election,22 I included examples of the deliberate distortions offered as news in the few mainstream articles that even touched on the election and the controversy (see (e) and (h) in footnote 22 ). The greatest distortion has been the absence of coverage, as though the election is over and done with and is simply no longer newsworthy, although a few “sore losers” and “conspiracy theorists” are making a fuss. For the corporate media, there are no significant issues in the challenges raging against the legitimacy of the supposed Republican victory. For example, after what seems like weeks of silence, the Dec 24 New York Times ran a piece titled “Voting Problems in Ohio Spur Call for Overhaul.”23

      In this rather lengthy item, the NY Times frames the “news” about voting problems almost exclusively in terms of supposed calls for future improvements. A much shorter item a day or two earlier in the Chicago Tribune, distributed by the Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services,24 titled, “Kerry Conceded too Soon, Jackson Asserts”, reports that Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition group claims to have uncovered a wide range of voting irregularities in the Buckeye State and has filed “a 41-page petition contesting the election before the Ohio Supreme Court.”

      By way of contrast, the much longer Times article devotes but a single paragraph to the legal challenge, “In the two weeks since Mr. Bush was certified the winner [in Ohio] ... watchdog groups have filed lawsuits contesting the outcome ... Liberal Democrats have demanded investigations into whether there was voter fraud, tampering and intimidation in urban districts.” For sheer lack of information this paragraph in “the paper of record” is monumental. Who are these “Liberal Democrats”? Doesn’t say. There is not a single word in the entire article that mentions Representative John Conyers and his fellow Democrats on the House Committee on the Judiciary. Why has the Times avoided reporting in a meaningful way on their extremely significant work? Why is fraud in the Ukraine such privileged news compared to fraud in the United States in the judgment of the Times?

      The Chicago Tribune item, which advertises itself as an article about the Jesse Jackson-led challenge of the election, also does not mention the Conyers-led House Committee effort. But it makes no pretense of dealing broadly with conflict over the election. It is a local daily that inadequately informs its readers, but it doesn’t pretend to be, as the Times does, the paper of record with “All the news that’s fit to print.” Compared to the Tribune item of 331 words in 14 paragraphs, the Times account has 1,942 words in 50 paragraphs.

      A much more informative discussion of the challenges to the election is in the Dec 24 issue of “The Black Commentator”.25 The article, titled “No Holiday for Vote Thieves”, states, in speaking of Conyers, “Through his hearings in the Capitol and Ohio – unsanctioned and unattended by Republicans – and his engagement of the Government Accountability Office to study election “irregularities,” the 75-year-old Detroit lawmaker has thrown an institutional spotlight on GOP crimes and misdemeanors. How “high” these crimes can be connected is another story, but there is no doubt that massive violations of a variety of laws occurred on the ground.” That’s pretty straightforward. And later,

      “In every other arena of criminal justice it is standard procedure to entangle suspected perpetrators in their own lies, and in the lies of their co-conspirators. Yet somehow, this practice does not obtain when Black voting rights are criminally violated. It is as if no crime has been committed, at all, just mere voting “irregularities.” “Get over it,” say the corporate media. Concentrate your energies on “reforms” from the next Congress, or the one after that, say others, including some people who claim to be “progressive.”” Forthright articles like this are not to be found in the corporate media. “The Black Commentator” article, of 3,340 words in 58 paragraphs, is far more informative and provocative than either mainstream article.

Doing battle with the corporate media

      Clearly we’re not going to win by trying to convince people to give up being news junkies – to quit turning to the commercial media for a daily “news fix”. It would be about as effective as preaching against sin or gambling, two other activities that offer excitement to a great many people. I think another losing strategy is the interminable effort to try to influence the corporate (print) media to be more “representative” and “truthful”, usually by writing letters to the editor. Although a few such letters do get printed, most of the effort expended goes to composing letters that are unpublished. At best, it’s minimally rewarded, and of course absolute control over published content remains in the hands of the owners and their executive staff.

      It seems evident that there’s only one strategy that can win. We need to create a comprehensive grassroots media network whose appeal is so superior to that of commercial media that people will turn to our media – our radio, television, daily news sheets, internet, videos, cinema, magazines, books, bookstores, infoshops – as preferred sources of information. A huge task, no doubt, but one that is already well beyond the beginning stage. Up until now the efforts have been mostly decentralized and largely idiosyncratic, making for enormous variety and uneven quality, but with the strength of dispersed grassroots groups, a great number of which are non-hierarchically organized.

      A few examples of parts of the network come to mind.

      In the U.S. there are now 56 Independent Media Centers (IMCs) that maintain websites. From the initial one in Seattle, established in Nov 1999 the network has grown, in five years, to more than 165 autonomous Indymedia Centers worldwide. Those in the U.S. now include a “national” site.26 In addition to maintaining websites, some of them also disseminate information by print, radio, satellite tv, and video.

      The Pacifica Radio network, basically a grass-roots supported national network, with its most widely popular program, Democracy Now, is an outstanding part of our network. Just today (Dec 29) I received an e-mail that said,

Eight years ago, we began airing on Pacifica Radio. Since then, Democracy Now! has become the largest public media collaboration in the country broadcasting on more than 300 radio and TV stations -- on Pacifica and NPR radio stations, public access TV and PBS stations, as well as both satellite TV networks, DishNetwork (Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV and Ch. 9410 Link TV) and Direct TV (Ch. 375 Link TV). Every week, two to three new stations pick us up. Our broadcasts are closed captioned, bringing independent news to millions of deaf and hearing-impaired viewers around the country.

We are listener and viewer-sponsored. We need your help to support this phenomenal growth.

      These are “giant” parts of our grassroots information network. Equally vital are the myriad “smaller” efforts, a few – very few – examples being Alternative Radio,27 The Free Press,28 Common Courage Press,29 The Lucy Parsons Center,30 and many thousands more, all of which contribute to the growing numbers of Americans who are coming to understand the reality of the institutions that govern (rather, misgovern) our lives in the United States, and which have such enormous impact on the lives of peoples throughout the world.


1 On the NarcoSphere at A fully footnoted version is at

2 See and a series of articles and comments about Gary Webb on the NarcoSphere at

3 Theo Emery <> wrote me, on Dec 17, “I hadn't heard that Webb had committed suicide. What a loss. He was a fabulous reporter. It looks like you can find the Dark Alliance series, as well as follow-up stories from other news outlets at Theo, a long-time friend, is now a reporter with the Associated Press in Boston.

4 The Lucy Parsons Center was then located at Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

5 To get a few more details, there’s a short article in the December 12, 2004 Sacramento (California) Bee by Sam Stanton and Sandy Louey, at A much more informative article is “America's Debt to Journalist Gary Webb” by Robert Parry, December 13, 2004, at

6 “Gary Webb: Do What He Did”, by Al Giordano, datelined Lacandon Jungle, Chiapas, Mexico, December 15, 2004. Available at Al begins, “I keep imagining the last moments of Gary’s life. He is looking down the barrel of a gun.”

7 A page in memory of Freda Friedman Salzman, with information about this difficult period of her life, with its tragic ending, is at

8 Science for Humane Survival, at

9 Henry Kissinger was Richard Nixon's National Security Advisor (1969-73) and later his Secretary of State (1973-74). He continued as President Gerald Ford's Secretary of State from 1974-77.

10 Joseph McCarthy was U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, 1947-1957. During his ten years in the Senate, McCarthy and his staff members became notorious for aggressive accusations and witch-hunts against suspected Communists.

11 Augusto Pinochet, Chilean General, head of the junta that overthrew President Salvador Allende in 1973. Notorious for massive torture and killings during his presidency, which ended in 1990.

12 Oliver North, Marine Colonel in the National Security Agency, managed the Reagan administration’s secret sale of arms to Iran for money then used to support the Nicaraguan Contras in violation of a Congressional prohibition. Lied to Congress, etc.

13 Francis Spellman, Catholic Cardinal of New York, an eager, active and influential supporter of the U.S. government's Vietnam War.

14 The polls are described in the legal brief filed on December 17, 2004 at the Ohio State Supreme Court, available at, as follows:

65.      A general election was held on Election Day November 2, 2004.

66.      During the course of the day, a consortium named the National Election Pool (NEP) sponsored an exit poll or exit polls. The members of the NEP are a wire service (AP) and five (5) news organizations (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and NBC) owned by five (5) conglomerates. An exit poll is conducted by interviewing voters immediately after they vote. Credit for inventing the exit poll is generally given to Warren Mitofsky a world recognized expert in exit polling in particular and public opinion polling in general. The NEP contracted with Mr. Mitofsky’s firm (Mitofsky International) and another well-respected firm, Edison Media Research, to actually conduct the exit poll or polls.

15 Republic Car-jacked While Nation Looks On, by Benjamin Melançon, posted on Wed Nov 3rd, 2004 at 12:46:34 pm EST, at Ben is loathe to accept the early announced result, but says “Whatever happens in the officially contested states, more people nationwide appear to have voted for George W. Bush than John F. Kerry, even accounting for a million or so disenfranchised minorities, the estimate for last time.” (emphasis added)

16 Al Giordano posted "Now What? First, We Kill the Media", on Wed Nov 3rd, 2004 at 11:15:00 pm EST at His article begins, "The second Bush term is going to make the first four years look like the good old days. Now that the American president really was elected, . . ." (emphasis added)

17 Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, in their analysis, “Democrats in End Time: As Republicans Gain Shattering Victory; Who to Blame This Time?”, in the Nov 3, 2004 Counterpunch article, begin “There are many reasons for what is an overwhelming Republican victory across the board.” (emphasis added) The article is available at

18 Juan Cole, History Professor at the Univ of Michigan, does not say explicitly that the Republicans won the election, but in his Nov 4 blog entry he implicitly accepts Bush’s electoral victory. He begins, “Readers argued with me about this during the Democratic primary, but I maintained then that I thought it would be very difficult for a non-Southern Democratic candidate to get any southern state, and that without any of the South it would be difficult to win the election. Since Jack Kennedy was shot in 1963, all successful Democratic presidential candidates have been southerners: Johnson, Carter, Clinton.” Available at

19 William Blum, whose commentary in the Online Journal on Dec 4, a month after the election, wrote, “I’ve tried to console myself by thinking that it’s good that Kerry lost for at least two reasons.” (emphasis added) Available at

20 Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II, updated edition, 2004, Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine.

21 The C.I.A. had assembled an army of dissidents outside Guatemala. These excerpts are from pp.78-80.

    “... the Agency’s army ... crossed into Guatemala from Honduras and captured a few towns, but its progress in the face of resistance by the Guatemalan army was unspectacular. On the broadcasts of the CIA’s ‘Voice of Liberation’ the picture was different: The rebels were everywhere and advancing; they were of large numbers and picking up volunteers as they marched; war and upheaval in all corners; fearsome battles and major defeats for the Guatemalan army. Some of these broadcasts were transmitted over regular public and even military channels, serving to convince some of Arbenz’s officers that the reports were genuine. In the same way, the CIA was able to answer real military messages with fake responses. All manner of disinformation was spread and rumors fomented; dummy parachute drops were made in scattered areas to heighten the belief that a major invasion was taking place.

. . .
    “The primary purpose of ... the many forms of disinformation was to make it appear that military defenses were crumbling, that resistance was futile, thus provoking confusion and division in the Guatemalan armed forces ...
. . .
    “The Voice of Liberation meanwhile was proclaiming that two large and heavily armed columns of invaders were moving towards Guatemala City. As the hours passed, the further advance of the mythical forces was announced, while Castillo Armas and his small band had actually not progressed very far from the Honduran border. The American disinformation ... offensive continued ... and Arbenz, with no one he could trust to give him accurate information, could no longer be certain that there wasn’t at least some truth to the radio bulletins.
. . .
    “The Castillo Armas forces could not have defeated the much larger Guatemalan army, but the air attacks [by CIA planes - G.S.], combined with the belief in the invincibility of the enemy, persuaded Guatemalan military officers to force Arbenz to resign.”

22 (a) Nov 18, 2004-Was the 2004 presidential election stolen???
(b) Nov 15-22, 2004-Blessed be the killers, Part II
(c) Nov 24, 2004-Election Fraud for Dummies
(d) Dec 1, 2004-Elections and Protests
(e) Nov 29-Dec 6, 2004-Blessed be the killers, Part III: A strategy for removing
      the Bush administration
(f) Dec 9, 2004-Man! Do we ever need grassroots authentic media in order to
      know the truth!
(g) Dec 14, 2004-Participation and Democracy: Why aren’t the people the
      government?, Elections and Protests, Part II
(h) Dec 23, 2004-The election is being strongly contested. Join in! Don't give up!




26 The US (national) IMC at was established in August 2004. On its site is the following mission statement, dated Oct 25, 2004:

"Indymedia is a grassroots network committed to using media production and distribution as tools for promoting social and economic justice. It is dedicated to addressing issues that profit-driven media often neglect and hopes to empower people to "become the media" by providing democratic access to available technologies and information.

"The first Independent Media Center (IMC) was created in Nov. 1999 to cover the WTO protests in Seattle. There are more than 165 autonomous IMCs around the world.

"Culling content from over 50 IMCs in the United States, is a critical tool for making local issues relevant to both a national and global audience and vice versa. While participating IMCs are US based, remains firmly committed to the ideas of international solidarity and mutual aid integral to the Indymedia network.

"The US IMC website features original content from local Independent Media Centers as well as content exclusive to the U.S. site. Features in the center column are taken either directly from local US-based IMCs or the open publishing newswire. Features may also be 'compilations' which typically cover an event or issue occurring in different locations simultaneously and are covered by several local IMCs. Articles in the righthand column are syndicated directly from local IMC's feature pages."

27 Created by David Barsamian in 1986, Alternative Radio offers a weekly one-hour public affairs program of outstanding value. Information about it is at

28 Begun in 1970 as a print paper of the anti-war movement, it published for about 25 years, had a lapse of a year and then returned on-line at

29 This small but vital press, started in 1991 by Gregg Bates and Flick Shooter, publishes important books for social justice. Information is available at

30 This non-sectarian radical bookstore and center for informational events and organizing meetings in Boston began in 1969 as The Red Book Store. Information about it is available at

― G.S., December 30, 2004

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