Listen To This Story
Hello, friends. Here’s the seventh installment of my new Substack newsletter. I hope you like it. You can subscribe here.
As a subscriber, you’ll enjoy early access to my work before it’s posted at WhoWhatWhy. You’ll also enjoy exclusive Substack-only content.
My first few email newsletters elicited many different reactions from readers, mostly to my experience with Alex Jones.
I went on InfoWars in 2009 after Family of Secrets, my eventually bestselling book revealing previously unknown aspects of the Bush family’s deep grip on power along with their security-state connections, was de facto boycotted by the media establishment gatekeepers.
Several correspondents told me they had had experiences similar to mine: Shut out from “polite” society and ostracized professionally — the penalty for topics and conclusions deemed unacceptable. (Providing a dedicated home for fearless journalism is precisely why I founded the nonprofit WhoWhatWhy.)
Below is a small sample of these messages, most of which have been edited for clarity and brevity.
One kindred spirit is David Talbot. An author of several bestselling nonfiction books and a respected journalist who pioneered online news as a co-founder of Salon, David has a sterling reputation.
And he was still caught in the maw of the thought police when he went after the CIA and Allen Dulles.
As he wrote:
The New York Times wouldn’t even mention The Devil’s Chessboard [published by “Big Five” house HarperCollins, hardly the alternative press], widely acknowledged to be my most important book, even though the Times reviewed or wrote about my three previous books.
During my press tour, a book editor at The Washington Post told my publicist, “We won’t touch this one with a ten-foot pole.” The book included information about the ways that the NYT and WashPost (and other corporate media institutions) collaborated with Allen Dulles and the CIA during the Cold War. No major TV program or publication featured me or my book, despite my long track record in the media and publishing. I was clearly blacklisted.
Even Al Jazeera America canceled my appearance while I was on the way to their NYC studio. When my astonished publicist asked why, an Al Jazeera producer simply said, “Politics.”
Despite the media blackout, The Devil’s Chessboard became a NYT Bestseller.
I find the mainstream media’s ongoing complicity with the national security state — from the Warren Report to the WMD propaganda that got us into the disastrous Iraq War — to be one of the chief reasons the public has lost faith in the leading media brands.
From Ed, who reacted to my retelling of what he charitably called an “embarrassing trip to the Vineyard to attend a luncheon given by Rose Styron”:
Did Baker expect anything more than to be shunned by the literary snobs who were attending with him? After all, Rose’s husband, William Styron, wrote this little piece for Gerald Posner’s book, Case Closed:
I cannot believe that any rational reader will finish Gerald Posner’s book and still be persuaded that there was a conspiracy involved in the murder of John F. Kennedy or that the assassination was the result of any act other than that of Lee Harvey Oswald acting in solitary league with himself. This is a brilliant and meticulous analysis. With the skill of a good novelist possessed of the facts, Posner follows Oswald’s tormented movements. He fully convinces me that Oswald acted alone when he killed Kennedy. Case Closed has helped lay to rest one of the great cultural and political scandals of our time.
My own sense is that Bill Styron was like many cultural figures we revere: a victim of the same establishment groupthink as the rest of us.
There’s no reason he would doubt an author like Posner, upon whom the media bestowed massive flattering attention. But Posner put words in the mouths of witnesses, omitted critical information that contradicted his major assertions, and, in general, twisted the truth, a truth that could be found in various documents and books Styron probably never heard of.
Styron may have been clueless as to what he’d actually endorsed, almost certainly done as a favor Posner or his publisher solicited — an arrangement common in insular publishing.
I was — and am — grateful to his widow, Rose, for listening, and for trying to give others a chance to learn new things.
By the way, at the time, at least one gutsy major news outlet, The Baltimore Sun, actually ran an op-ed criticizing Posner’s pat conclusions.
From Sander Hicks, an entrepreneur who some years back ran a small independent publishing company:
Good piece. Yes, I was on [Alex Jones’s] show once too. We have so much in common, once again. I read your final 4 paragraphs aloud to my 17-year-old son Coleman, lyrical and conclusive! We support you.. I wish you a billion dollars like Pierre [Omidyar] the Interceptor…
I always appreciate how important it is that we appeal to young people rather than just assuming the “Tik Tok generation” will never care about anything beyond a video of a dancing dog.
But not everyone is a fan. From Dave, who was mad at me over my Alex Jones piece in an unspecified way that reminded me of those Amazon reviews that give a book one star because it arrived late:
“Your arguments in this piece are so weak, so hateful and so stupid as to make me unsubscribe and quit reading you.”
The “hateful” bit made no sense to me, but then neither did the following from Larry, who leaped from conclusion to conclusion:
Russ’s failure to do any published investigation into what happened on 9/11 makes him much less reliable as a journalist than Alex Jones. … I agree [with Jones] there were many reasons to believe that Sandy Hook was staged.
He is one of several people who periodically accuse me of being insufficiently investigative, and therefore a de facto member of the establishment, engaged in the coverup myself.
They complain that I am not willing to report the truth about 9/11 — a truth that they seem to believe they know, absolutely. They never manage to acknowledge the serious work we did at WhoWhatWhy on the Saudi–9/11 connection.
I have quite a few unanswered questions and have seen many tantalizing assertions that would require careful corroboration by a rigorous and truly agnostic investigator with a huge commitment of time and effort. Right now, WhoWhatWhy is engaged in many other worthwhile projects on a tiny budget. So if anyone offers me or our team up as the ones to do all this, I ask that they also go to our donation page.
For what it’s worth: I was at the World Trade Center, reporting, when the towers collapsed. I watched as WTC 7, the tower not hit by a plane, collapsed straight down into its footprint. I described it on the phone to an editor at The Los Angeles Times — this is how it was done back in 2001 — who replied that what I was describing sounded exactly like a “controlled demolition.”
Some emergency personnel on hand said the same thing. One fire department official right behind me said to a colleague something about, “We’re (or maybe he said “they’re”) pulling the building.” And at least one early television news broadcast indicated the same.
I later learned there is technical disagreement about whether fires from flying debris could or cause such a neat “pancaking” collapse. So I understand why there is so much confusion and angst, but I also resist reaching for an easy conclusion of any sort without adequate evidence. All rational skeptics should do the same — about this issue, and every issue.
Excellent. As always. I met you at the Frontline Club in London after reading your book. Couldn’t really believe nothing more came of it. But nepotism and the insulation of lies are pervasive.
Saw this on a social media platform just prior to reading your post. … CONSPIRACY THEORIST, THE TERM USED TO DISCREDIT SOMEONE WHO SPEAKS ABOUT THINGS YOU CAN’T BEAR TO LOOK AT. BECAUSE IF IT WERE TRUE, IT WOULD REVEAL A DARKNESS IN THE WORLD THAT YOU’RE SIMPLY NOT READY TO ACCEPT. At first I thought it a justification for the whackjobs but then realized it also applied to what you wrote about.
This long note came in from a different Larry:
I’ve lived in Austin since ‘80. I listened [to] and watched Jones thoroughly, though not religiously, from his beginnings. His TV show was on a local free cable access channel, and his radio show was at some point on a suspect unlicensed pirate station basis. At least that was the prominent scuttlebutt. That alone made me suspect he could possibly be a government agent provocateur (like [Lee Harvey Oswald] was supposedly pro-Castro, LOL), since that station was allowed to keep broadcasting indefinitely.
He was a bit innocent like [paranormal Coast to Coast AM radio host] Art Bell at first, if Art Bell had had an obsessive political bent and had been overly aggressive and operated on complete hubris. Jones, though, had always been fully paranoid, utterly deceptive, a malevolent chameleon, and a conscience-free manipulator. He just kept those traits on a leash until opportunity knocked louder.
Moving on from that subjective damning characterization, one radio station where he later performed (licensed or not), at the lower end of the dial, was a Dominionist Christianist-owned or -managed entity, with always strong misogynist content on other programs. Jones himself has always ridden undercurrents of misogyny and bigotries of all kinds, despite occasional forays into guests of color, so to speak. Jones has always been a white male power obsessive. It’s who he is.
I clearly remember Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck beginning to take notice of Jones at some point after 9/11. They condemned him brutally on-air, dissecting his modus operandi and castigating everything about him. So they got that right! But soon, or seemingly soon in my memory, they underwent an apparently mysterious conversion and actually began to ignore Jones and instead imitate Jones, like Jones-lite at first. After a while their filters were thrown by the wayside as well, still barely appropriate enough for mainstream media propaganda, though much viler and [more] paranoid than previously.
Though it’s hard to say any of the fascism we see today, in media or in government, or in the streets, would be happening if there hadn’t first been decades of Rush Limbaugh the deadly toxin. It’s easy to say by comparison that Jones is Mr. Hyde compared to Limbaugh’s Dr. Jekyll. And [Richard] Linklater [who put Jones into his film Waking Life] was sort of a reverse Little Dutch Boy who took his finger out of the dike that had contained Jones the Contagion, whose demented destructiveness eventually swamped the country.
For all of his investigative reportage, Russ shouldn’t be at all perplexed at being suppressed by corporate overlords for peeling the plutocratic artichoke. In fact, Baker is lucky he was snubbed here and eventually triumphed — and not, say, in Mexico where its 18th journalist this year was killed, or in Iran, where a fatwa caught up with Salman Rushdie more than thirty years later by an assailant not even born when the barbaric “death sentence” was issued. In the absence of official “royalty” in this country, morons dote on celebrity, which includes wealthy political powerbrokers who are shameless about retaining their influence.
Mike Ferner, of Veterans for Peace, wrote:
I found this to be a very decent (as in, humane), balanced description of Jones. I was offered a chance to go on his show after you were on in ‘09, to talk about Veterans for Peace, and almost accepted but by then my “kook radar” was going off too loudly when I tuned in to check him out. I find myself agreeing with your notion that the msm helped make him popular because it has shut out nearly every voice daring to question the powers behind the curtain. Unfortunately it seems that Jones’ followers and their fellow travelers have moved beyond serious questioning to swallowing all sorts of nonsense.
And last but not least, from Martin Gottlieb. For those who don’t know the name, Marty has had a storied and impressive career as an editor and investigative reporter spanning top publications, with many years at The New York Times.
Though it’s only a decade or so late — and anyway, Marty is now retired — finally some reaction to Family of Secrets from the Times milieu:
Thanks for the update Russ! Just snapped up a copy at Amazon. 600 pages? No problem!
I like hearing from you and am glad to learn new things, so please keep on posting comments and writing to me.