I wasn’t sure whether to write about drugs or the media in this week’s column. So I’m writing about both.
As it happens, there’s a new film out which covers precisely these topics. It’s called Kill the Messenger and it stars Jeremy Renner as real-life journalist Gary Webb who broke an amazing story back in the 90s and who was destroyed because of it.
The story was about CIA complicity in the import of crack cocaine into the United States. The CIA weren’t directly involved: rather they turned a blind eye when one of their client groups, the Nicaraguan Contras, used cocaine smuggling as a means of funding their activities.
The CIA were later to admit that the story was largely true, but rather than support Gary Webb in his work, the mainstream media turned upon him. Several major newspapers ran large spreads impugning his work. In the end his own newspaper disowned him and Gary Webb was left out in the cold.
He committed suicide in 2004.
Obviously this story has all sorts of implications. Firstly, we have to ask how a government organisation like the CIA came to be involved in such nefarious activities? The Contras were not only drug smugglers, they were terrorists too.
Then we have to ask how it is that the media, instead of supporting one of their colleagues, could end up destroying him? Is this what we mean by “a free press”?
Finally we have to ask about the drugs laws and their purpose. If they are meant to remove drugs from our streets, they have failed. There are more drugs now than ever.
In other words, prohibition is an encouragement to gangsters, both in the Mafia and the CIA.
There will be a Parliamentary debate today (October 30). I would urge our MP to attend, to listen carefully to the arguments, and to vote for an independent review into the effectiveness of UK drugs policy.