Friday, June 23, 2006

SG Interview with Greg Palast

I read the following interview with investigative reporter Greg Palast on Read it.

Greg Palast

By Daniel Robert Epstein

Jun 23, 2006

Greg Palast fights the good fight. He will find and report the truth at any cost to himself. His latest book is Armed Madhouse which details his investigations into everything our government has pulled on our country and the world in the past few years.

Buy Armed Madhouse

Daniel Robert Epstein: How is the book tour going so far?

Greg Palast: We’re number three on Amazon and The Blonde From Another Planet [Ann Coulter] was supposedly number two.

DRE: Yes, I just checked.

GP: On the other hand, she has the Fox hole covered. She has the Today Show. She’s all over and Greg Palast is just trying to report the news and I’m up against the electronic Berlin Wall. I don’t exist. I got on a local NPR show today where they attacked me for my message.

DRE: Which message would that be?

GP: Going undercover and not telling the truth. Mark Swedlund and I pretended that we were consultants for Enron corporation, set up a phony front and found out in Britain, how Enron is renting the government. I’m wearing a wire. I got the inside documents, the secret plans for the oil deals of Iraq that the Bush administration has drafted for them by oil company executives. I said, “I wore a wire.” They said it was improper, NPR said that I couldn’t do that. I said, “I know that on National Petroleum Radio you’re not allowed to keep secret recordings of oil company executives because you’re not allowed to record your landlord.” They didn’t like that. They asked me why I recorded them. I said, “Because they lie.” If you tell them “I’m a reporter for National Public Radio. I’m a very important person with these points.” I put in a Freedom of Information Act request saying give me your plans for the oil fields of Iraq. They said there is no such thing. Then I wore a wire and recorded oil company executives telling me how they put it together, suddenly they said, “Oh, that document.” This is really what happened.

DRE: It’s scary.

GP: It’s what happened, man. Then the James Baker Institute, for your readers/viewers/fornicators that are tuned in James Baker represents the Exxon Corporation, represents the Saudi Arabian kingdom and he represents the consiglieres of the Bush family. His little operative threatened to sue me and so did a big oil company executive. He said he never spoke to me. So then Harper’s magazine said to them, “Which part of this audio tape is not you?” So there you go. I do these nasty things. I go undercover. I’m not embedded. I get under the covers, not between the sheets with the fed department. That’s different. NPR, doesn’t mind undercover as long as it’s between the sheets/embedded.

DRE: Where does someone like you start your research?

GP: I watch the President’s lips move and I say, “Where did he get that lie?” I begin with the basic proposition that they are complete lying scumfucks at all moments and there’s never a break from it. I want to know when they come up with a figure or a concept. I say, “Okay. Hit the phone. It’s about the oil.” Immediately. No seriously. There is never a straight word. We don’t wait around for someone to call up and say, “Hey. The President’s lying.” We know he’s lying. Now we make a list and we start. Usually we can figure it out. If you’re going to find out about Iraq, the answers about Iraq are going to be down in Houston, Texas. That’s where the oil industry is.

DRE: I actually got to speak to George Clooney about Syriana last year. I asked him, “Is fighting like this futile?” He said, “Probably in the short term, but in the long term it makes a difference in people’s minds.” I was wondering what your feeling is on that.

GP: Do we make a difference in people’s minds? Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Because there’s a difference between thinking that they’re fucking with you and watching the film of it. Otherwise it’s very abstract. That’s detective work. That’s why you get the telephoto lens. I don’t like the ill feeling that they probably stole the election. It’s very important for me to show you exactly how they stole the election. We begin with the assumption that they’re lying and then we go out and prove it.

DRE: Do you assume that every politician is always lying?

GP: I used to investigate corporations, including Enron, when they were called Houston Natural Gas. People say, “How do you pick out your targets?” I said, “Name a corporation.” They’re set up to lie. The system is set up to reward mendacity. Some of these guys lie just for practice.

DRE: How long will it take for everything you’ve written about on this subject to become common knowledge?

GP: The general cycle is, two to four years after I report it. Fox and NPR called me a conspiracy theorist. A conspiracy nut theorist is someone who reports the news two years to four years before NPR and the New York Times. It’s true. I reported the story on how Bush shoplifted the 2000 election. Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush erased several thousand black people off the voter rolls before the election by tagging them as felons. Their crime was voting while black. I could not get that in the US press for anything. People have to understand I’m reporting for BBC television, not exactly some blogger in his underpants in his parents’ bedroom. Then it was reported by the New York Times in 2004 as a fact. They wouldn’t report it in 2000 when I was reporting it as fact.

DRE: Has it always been two to four years for you?

GP: Yes. It’s fascinating. Front page of the New York Times this year was a story that all over America, power companies had been collecting taxes from the public and not paying them, pocketing billions. Big story. Front page of the New York Times. Big investigation. I tried to convince the New York Times to run that story 21 years ago. That was the first time they called me a conspiracy nut.

DRE: Why do they ignore you at first?

GP: If it isn’t one of their reporters doing it, they don’t want it to hear it. But even more, it’s not from an official source. Bob Woodward wrote All the President's Men and has now become one of the president’s men. As managing editor of the Washington Post he would never in a million years run the Watergate story today. You’ve got an unnamed source and official denial. That’s the end of the goddamned story.

DRE: Was it Jayson Blair that changed things?

GP: Nah. It’s not Jayson Blair. By the way, NPR did ask me to comment on Jayson Blair’s fabricated stories. I said, “Okay. But let’s talk about NPR’s fabricated stories.” I was yanked off the air 30-seconds before airtime. They said that it creates a problem for them. I said, “Why is it a problem? How about it creates a discussion?” They don’t like me pulling down their pants because the problem is when you’re exposing these stories, you’re exposing the media not covering those stories. You’re not going to get these stories by going to press conferences and repeating press releases. If I were to use the New York Times/NPR method, rewriting the press release, their idea of investigation is they go to Bush and then they get a response from Al Gore or whatever democrat. That’s the limit of investigation. The Pulitzer Prizes only face stuff as long as government is approved. Lowell Bergman of the New York Times got a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on unsafe conditions in working places, which was a good story. I’m glad they did it. They exposed companies that received fines from OSHA. How about exposing the guys that got away without receiving the fines? The government says you’re correct because it’s already blessed. The Washington Post did cover my story of the theft of the 2000 election the week after the US Civil Rights Commission said my evidence was correct. The only reason the US Civil Rights Commission said my evidence was correct was because Bush hadn’t fired them yet. Then he fired them.

DRE: I read in your book about when you encountered John Perkins and you wrote that he is quite brilliant. When I interviewed him I told him that I thought the job he had seemed like an evil job.

GP: I was on the other side when he was trying to convince government to basically throw away their money and mark themselves with the debt to corporations and banks. I was like a hippie guerrilla economist. I was trying to be all the seven samurais, but there was only one of me. “Don’t do it. Don’t listen to this man. He’s a fraud.” But he had a great smile. He’s a good friend.

DRE: Really!

GP: Real close friend. Actually today Perkins sent out a message to all his readers to please get Armed Madhouse.

DRE: Do you ever feel like you’re in danger?

GP: I’ve done some stupid stuff. In Venezuela I was very concerned because there’s all these arms maniacs and I’m on a hit list there, which you can download. So I had to keep my head down literally in Venezuela. I stop in at the president’s weekly broadcast. Hugo Chavez has like a variety show with singers, dancers and oil ministers. So Chavez recognizes me in the audience. He says “Hey. Greg Palast. Come on up.” It was like Let’s Make a Deal or something. So here I am, I’m trying to hide and I’m suddenly on national TV. My staff totally flipped. They said “You really just want to end up in deep trouble. On one of these grainy videos on the Internet, right?” So that was a dumb one. But mainly I’m worried about my sources. I’ve had sources arrested, busted, lives threatened, beaten up. I will do whatever I can to protect them. I don’t want to scare people now from giving me information because some sources decide they have to go public and that’s just trouble. The big problem is that I don’t feel endangered because they don’t give a shit. They can call me a conspiracy nut and ignore me. Ann Coulter was on The Today Show yesterday, Greg Palast is on SuicideGirls but they’re not going to let me on your TV.

DRE: What’s the best way for a regular person to get educated, besides reading all of your stuff?

GP: That’s no joke though. Until Patriot Act Three, you can read books. I think that we’ve gotten so used to the idea that you can get this easy news injection but you might actually have to read a book. One trick is go to my website and you can get to these investigative BBC reports I do. I keep them streaming on the BBC computers. Frankly people are still watching my reports on the 2000 and 2004 election and reports on Venezuela secret oil wars, all that stuff because if you haven’t seen it, it’s news to you. It doesn’t matter if it was a news report from three years ago. It was blocked on US TV and you watch it now, it’s news.

DRE: How do we stop them from taking the 2008 election?

GP: You’ve got to turn the lights on so the cockroaches will scatter. That is when you expose the story. I really believe it’s important to make them feel it. I know it’s corny, but you better go out and vote. You better go out and get your slacker brother to register and vote because they’re going to steal five million votes this time. They stole 3.5 in the last election. Since they’re going to steal five you better get six million out there. But the other thing is that people better stop saying “Oh well. That’s how it is.” That doesn’t have to be how it is. The other thing is people can take the shit that they’re reading right now and post it other places. Send it around. Create a truth virus. We have the Internet. I’m working with musicians, Eminem did a video based on my stuff, Anti-Flag has turned my stuff and John Perkins’ stuff into song lyrics. I got a techno track, dance track you can download off my website. I want people to take the audio version of my book, which has people like Randi Rhodes and Larry David and all these people reading my book and remix it to some music. Send it to me at my site.

by Daniel Robert Epstein

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