Jeff Leen, a Missouri Honor medal winner and the Washington Post’s assistant managing editor for investigations, weighed in Friday about “Kill the Messenger,” the film some of you saw over the weekend.
Webb isn’t around to debate Leen on what he has to say here, but Leen’s warning about overreaching is really important. For example, in the film, Webb’s assertion that the CIA created the crack epidemic in L.A. is presented as valid, and it struck me as pretty far-fetched. Leen cites a later CIA “internal affairs” investigation that showed that, at worst, the CIA may have looked the other way while some of the people the agency was working with in Central America engaged in drug trafficking.
Another problem with the film, Leen says, is the way it depicts Webb’s editors as craven cowards for not standing behind him and the mainstream media as being motivated by jealousy in discrediting his reporting.
Some of these claims and counter-claims are difficult to sort out. But this is true, as Leen writes in the piece: “An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.” The work must be airtight, with zero wiggle room for debate. Because the people whose reputations are at stake can discredit you, if you’re even just teeny weeny bit wrong as an investigative reporter.
It’s an entertaining film, if you didn’t have a ringside seat to the actual events. It hews very closely to Gary Webb’s version of events. And he, unfortunately, might be what called in literature “the unreliable narrator.”