Portland lefties may have had a creeping sense of déjà vu last night at the First Unitarian Church as Greg Palast began his presentation with the same opening line he used nine months ago, when he launched his Armed Madhouse
book tour here in Stumptown. “These are CNN's balls,” he said, holding up two circle graphs showing that slightly more than 50 percent of both men and women voted for John Kerry in 2004.
Palast, 54, is an American investigative reporter, though most of his work appears in British media. He returned to the podium at First Unitarian to kick off his tour with the new edition of Armed Madhouse
(now in paperback) before a packed and enthusiastic crowd. Palast moved over 150 signed copies of the book, which details many nefarious activities of George W. Bush and company with a sense of humor and the attention to detail Palast honed as an economist and corporate fraud investigator.
Hot Action caught up with Palast in the lobby of the Heathman Hotel to talk about reporting abroad, American comic books and the power of information.
WW: Why is it easier for you to do investigative reporting in England than it is here in America?
Greg Palast: Because I have investigative producers and investigative editors. That's what's missing here. It's not the lack of investigative reporters. There's a lot of really good, terrific guys, but they don't have any editors. NPR's idea of covering Washington is going to press conferences and Nina Totenberg saying, “The President said today…” and then having some bullshitter from the Center for Strategic and International Studies give the official line of the elite. But where's the reporting?
WW: What's your image like in Britain?
It's somewhat the same, except that it's mainstream. I'm on the big nightly news program, so that I'm appreciated by progressives because I'm always outing the bad guys, whether it's Bush or Blair or anyone else. I'm just much more mainstream. As the Village Voice
says, here I'm a “cult figure.” So it's a totally different thing…. Journalism is respected in Britain. I get attacked, but also one thing that's very nice in Britain, I get attacked by the powerful as opposed to ignored.
WW: Is it true that you have a graphic novel in the works?
Yes. Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys has also produced a spoken-word CD of mine: Live from the Armed Madhouse
. That will also include several dance tracks, where stuff is sampled. The graphic novel is important because there's many ways to reach people. Understand that comic books, that Superman and Captain America were inventions of political, left-wing journalists who were trying to create characters to encourage Americans to take on the Nazis. So, I'm just going back to the original purpose of Marvel Comics, which is to communicate and to empower people with information.
WW: What's new in the new edition of Armed Madhouse?
The crap, the total evil, sinister shit rolls on and so I had to add and create a new edition and also put it in paperback so I could make it cheaper. That's why I have this new section on the 2008 election—The Theft of 2008—plus the story of New Orleans, and then I updated some of the other stories as well.
WW: Were there any errors that you found and then fixed?
There's always a couple of errors. I'm not the Pope. I'm not infallible. And if someone shows that I have something wrong, I will change it very rapidly. Though, this time, as far as I could tell, I don't think I had anything other than minor typos. But I do change things as new information comes in.
WW: Do you see yourself as an activist?
No. I absolutely and unquestionably see myself as giving information to activists. That's all I can do, is give information. And yeah, I want my work to make a difference. Basically, I want to kill the rich. I'm a very resentful, working class kid, who grew up and hated the privileged and powerful for their privileges and power. I want to take them out and if I can give people information to do that, I'm thrilled.
WW: What do you say to people who see you as a champion of the left?
I'm a champion of the people who get screwed, sometimes by the left. The left loves me, but I'm not a leftist. That's very important to understand. They like the information I can use against the people that they hate, but it goes back and forth. Hell, I did a story ripping apart Hillary Clinton a few years ago and I was attacked by CodePink. This year, they reprinted the article and sent it around to all their members. When I first did it, Hillary was their gal. Now, they hate her. My information hasn't changed.
WW: What is your advice for someone who wants to go into investigative journalism?
Leave the country.
Check out Hot Action, WWire's semi-regular post about activists, demonstrations and other hot political action in and around Portland.
UPCOMING HOT ACTION EVENTS:
Wednesday, April 25
Reading: Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream
Sam Quinones's second collection of nonfiction tales about the migration of Mexicans to the United States has been called “fearless” and “stunning.” 7:30 pm at Powell's City of Books on Burnside. Free.
Friday, April 27
Screening: Last Refuge for the Senses or Noise Hippies Against All War
Part of the 2007 PDX Film Fest, this collection of nine psychedelic shorts seems to defy description. Curator Ben Russell says “This is the cinema of deliverance, the theater of psychic hearts and radical love— bleeding your eyes and ears clean of the sorrow of the everyday, swelling your body full with hope for the possibilities of today.” Are you really going to say “no” to that? 10 pm at the Hollywood Theater 4122 SE Sandy Blvd. $7.
Saturday, April 28
Rally for Impeachment
CodePink Portland and the Surge Protection Brigade invite you to join together with groups across the nation to call for the impeachment of—you guessed it—George W. Bush. Come armed with loud, pink clothing, a clever sign and maybe an umbrella. 11 am-1 pm in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Free.