The War on Rebel Journalists


The pogram against independent journalists who refuse to conform to corporate media definitions of what a reporter should be continues full throttle. The murder of Indymedia correspondent Brad Will this past October 27th on the barricades in Oaxaca by death squads in the employ of that southern Mexican state’s bloodthirsty governor, segues into the denial of the courts to release 23 year-old Josh Wolf from prison during the life of the present grand jury. Wolf is charged with refusing to turn over video clips of an anarchist anti-capitalist march on Mission Street during which San Francisco’s Finest beat the living shit out of protestors–one cop claims to have been maimed.

The Ninth Circuit is now insisting that it will entertain no further motions in the case which insures Wolf of a place in the Guinness Record Book as the longest-serving imprisoned reporter in U.S. history. Wolf, who has now been locked up in the ill-named Pleasanton federal facility for nearly 100 days, will not be released until July.

As grievous as the crackdown by the courts and the death squads on independent journalists has been the callous and cynical response of corporate media (with some notable exceptions) to these outrages. Brad Will, insinuates the New York Times and its accomplices–including the New Times version of the Village Voice–was less than a journalist. Brad, the corporados cluck, was a tree sitter and a squatter, a troublemaker rather than a young man who reported on trouble.

Similarly, Josh Wolf is often treated as a post-adolescent "blogger"- as if blogging was not reportage–and an anarcho-symp unworthy of the concern of serious journalists who matriculated from famous j-schools.

Indeed, both Will and Wolf are dissed for flunking the j-school litmus test for an "objectivity" that mandates a reporter give equal weight to the words of Nazi concentration camp victims and those responsible for the genocide. Moreover, Brad and Josh stand accused of being "activists" as if protesting class and race oppression was not compatible with telling the true story. If the corporate flunkies are to be believed, by being activists in addition to reporters, both Will and Wolf are responsible for their own misfortunes.

Compare how the plights of these two brave young journalists are being spun with that of the notorious Judith Miller. Miller, whose 11 mendacious front-page New York Times stories on Saddam’s fictitious weapons of mass destruction helped justified the Bush invasion that has now taken 650,000 Iraqi lives, was not jailed for war crimes but rather for refusing to give up the name of a friendly neo-con who outed a CIA operative the White House did not cotton to. I submit that Miller is as much of an activist as Brad Will and Josh Wolf–she’s just on the wrong side of the barricades.

When I was a younger fool just getting started in the word trade, I was sent off to federal prison much like Josh, the first U.S. citizen to be jailed for refusing induction in the Vietnam War military. I wrote my first articles while imprisoned at Terminal Island Federal Penitentiary down in San Pedro California and helped formulate a convicts committee against U.S. intervention (everywhere) for which I was regularly tossed in the Hole, the prison within a prison. Jail was fertile turf in which to learn how to write.

When finally I was kicked out of the Joint, the parole officer who had made my life hell for a year, walked me out to the big iron gate at TI and snarled "Ross, you never learned how to be prisoner."

Brad Will never learned how to be a prisoner either and neither will, I trust, Josh Wolf. All of us, both inside this business and out, owe these two valiant reporters a great debt for their mutual sacrifices in defense of freedom of the press.

Brad Will and Josh Wolf! Live, act–and report back–like them!

JOHN ROSS’s ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible–Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006 is just out from Nation Books. Ross will travel the left coast this fall with the new volume and a hot-off-the-press chapbook of poetry Bomba!–all suggestions of venues will be cheerfully entertained–write johnross@igc.org


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