A progressive journalist famous for taking on peak oil and voter suppression, Palast doesn't touch on funny topics. He injects caustic humor, he says, because "if I don't laugh, I cry."
While published in the U.S., including in Rolling Stone, Palast, 60, is perhaps better known in the U.K., where he often appears in The Guardian and on the BBC. Yet he's dug deep into problems with American politics. His breakout book, 2003's The Best Money Democracy Can Buy, exposed Florida's efforts to purge African-Americans from voting rolls.
Palast is now touring for his latest book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, which takes on the Koch brothers and Karl Rove. He talked to WW about protecting Americans' right to vote, what's wrong with the media, and why he wrote new endings for the Harry Potter series.
WW: You've written about voter suppression for years. Only now are the mainstream media writing about cases in Florida and Pennsylvania. It was an episode of Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom. How does that feel?
Greg Palast: Actually, Sorkin is a big fan of my work; that's where he gets it. I'd love to see actual newsrooms cover this goddamn subject. I'm talking about billionaires stealing our government.
Your book says Oregon is the only state that contacts voters about errors or questionable signatures. How would you rank the overall health of democracy in Oregon?
The health of democracy in Oregon is sick, damaged and terrible, which means it's the best in the country. Oregon is the least worrisome, but you still have to worry.
Your work has appeared in Project Censored, which features stories mainstream media ignore. Why do you think it's overlooked?
I'm a prophet outcast in my own land. In America, we don't have reporting—we have repeating. It's totally infotainment.
Does the rhetoric you use-—like calling U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, a "sick little monster"—just help you stand out to your fan base?
I must have been in a very polite mood that day.
You've said, "I'm a reporter. It's not my job to preserve Democrats." Yet almost all of your stories champion traditionally liberal causes.
I didn't say I wasn't progressive. That certainly wouldn't make me a Democrat. I'm completely driven by anger and resentment toward the rich. I fuckin' hate 'em. I hate these people with my heart and soul. I hate the fact they go after the defenseless and the voiceless. At this moment in history, the Republicans are more sophisticated; that's why they've been rented out by billionaires to do their work. If I thought my job was to elect schmucks like Al Gore, I would jump off a building. He should have been inaugurated, even though he didn't think so.
Some of your most pointed critics come from the left. For example, the Daily Kos said you were dangerous and failed to document charges about voter suppression.
Do I follow the catechism of the left? No. I say convince me. Give me the facts, ma'am, and convince me. The Daily Kos is a sponsor of [Billionaires & Ballot Bandits]. I've run big corrections to articles. I'm not talking papal infallibility here. Give me the facts, and if I'm wrong, I'll change my work.
You once published alternate endings for the Harry Potter books, which you claimed J.K. Rowling shared with you. Did you just make that up?
The Harry Potter thing was fun. Especially when it went into translation, it went nuts. The Portuguese lost the ironies. It would be nice to have magic wands to get rid of evil people. The reason I wrote that alternate ending to Harry Potter is, it's not how it works. The most you can do is make evil retreat until it resurges. Evil doesn't get wiped out with a magic wand.
GO: Greg Palast appears Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 7:30 pm at the Clinton Street Theater, 2522 SE Clinton St., clintonsttheater.com. Admission is $35 and includes a copy of the book.