Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

The Best Democracy Money can Buy. Greg Palast in interview.

Outside of the US his reports are broadcast by the BBC, and published by the Observer/Guardian, just occasionally making it through the &ldquoelectronic Berlin Wall” into the US. His profile has risen steadily though within the US, to the point where he's no longer simply dismissed. &ldquoSometimes I'm allowed on to be a punching bag. Last night I was on Fox television, for five minutes, to be pummeled as partisan and un-patriotic, by Sean Hannity. At least I'm a big enough problem nowadays that I've become a target. In the old days they'd just ignore my reports. Now they have to deal with me, which means that, of course, they smear and attack.”

I ask Palast why he would subject himself to that kind of attack, knowing, as he must surely do, that it's unlikely that he'll get a chance to get his point of view across. The answer is illuminating: ”Even if you're being set up with the electronic orange suit, or the media Guantanamo treatment where I'm sequestered and maligned and held incommunicado, as long as people can see the image and hear a few words jumping out it has an effect. The public understand what I'm saying”. And, he's quick to point out to smug Europeans who are tut-tutting the media situation in the US, &ldquoyou have to take a look at this. I've never seen in my life such media control of messages and yet as we speak there's at least some chance that John Kerry may win. That's not a huge shift or anything, but given the media pounding in America it's astounding. You can remain cynical, but don't forget, as I remind friends in Britain, Britain voted for Tony Blair, Americans did not elect George Bush”.

Indeed, there's a certain amount of smugness inherent in European circles when America is mentioned. A country at war, with a media cowering in the shadow of the administration. A closer look to Italy and Britain doesn't necessarily show a different picture. What does Palast think of the state of the British media post Hutton Report? Is the BBC still a paragon of media freedom? &ldquoI don't know that it was ever a paragon of free media, but for me it's a journalistic and political asylum, for all its problems, and there are many many problems. Of course there are some BBC top honchos who see me as the problem[laughs], it does create a platform for real news. It's a long way from the Garden of Eden in terms of journalism, but compared to the American or Italian media it's a miracle”.

And what of his position within the BBC? He's made plenty of enemies in New Labour as well as in the White House. &ldquoNew Labour would be thrilled to see me go from the BBC. My position with the BBC has always been under threat, it was under threat from before I joined up with them, and that's one of the reasons I respect the BBC so much. The day after Tony Blair called me a liar in the House of Commons, the BBC asked me if I would report for them, and I thought that that was pretty courageous. Are they nervous about my stuff? Sure. The good thing about it is that it keeps me careful and accurate, because I know that if I make one mistake I'm out the door”. What about the BBC in general though, post-Hutton? Will it have to reel in its political coverage? &ldquoA chill descends, you know”, he says sombrely. &ldquoOn the other hand the public support for the BBC was huge. Most Britons believe, or rather know, that the Hutton Report was a political whitewash, and most people support the news and truth tellers, not the news suppresers, however of course the top guys in the BBC are going to have to watch that they don't step too far away from the comintern line”.

While he's possibly more in the media limelight for his reports on the Election scandal of 2000, and for stories leading up to 2004, both his site and his best selling The Best Democracy Money can Buy focus in on a myriad of topics ranging from investigations into the &ldquostealing of Argentina” by the IMF, through to the infamous 'Lobbygate' scandal where Palast crossed paths with New Labour in Britain uncovering the links between Blair and big business. The motivation for his switch from racketeering investigation to journalism came to him seven years ago. &ldquoI just couldn't stand the fact that I kept doing these investigations of these creepy corporate fucks and the stories in the papers were nothing like the reality that I was seeing. The story wouldn't get out. For example, I did an investigation into the Exxon Valdez breakup, where in the papers there was this story of the drunk captain of a boat who ran it up against a reef and that's how it was, good old human error. In fact Exxon had turned off the radar on the ship. BP which was responsible for oil spills had said that there was oil spill equipment all along the coast of Alaska, and quite simply they lied about it. They reckoned that this was millions of dollars of equipment, and that nobody would ever check up on it. So a thousand miles of Alaskan coastline got destroyed. Or power companies like Enron. When everyone was licking Ken Lay[Editor’s note: CEO of Enron]'s loafers like he was Jesus and Elvis combined, I was saying look – these guys are crooks”.

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