‘Kill The Messenger’ tells a true story that had to be told as a cautionary tale – that of dedicated investigative journalist Gary Webb (1955–2004). In the course of his work, he discovers a dark truth that is ‘just too true to tell’, of how the CIA was associated with members of the Contra movement engaged in drug trafficking. He starts a ‘Dark Alliance’ series in Mercury News in 1996, reporting on the issue. As with deep probing on matters that really matter, investigative journalism necessarily ruffles feathers. If not, it is probably not deeply investigative enough.
Ironically, the CIA was tasked to investigate itself on the matter. But how do you trust a potentially imperfect watchman to watch himself perfectly? This reminds us of the importance of having independent checks and balances in various aspects of life. Naturally, there is cover and conceal at first. Eventually, in 1998, CIA released a 400-page report that acknowledged its link with the Contra movement. It was kind of late though, as Webb had to suffer unfair and discouraging pressure to withhold the truth, to not whistleblow or question the authorities. We tend to forget that earthshaking worldly and spiritual truths are usually counterintuitive, realised by only a few at first.
As Webb laments in the movie, ‘I thought my job was to tell the public the truth, the facts, pretty or not, and let publishing of those facts make a difference in how people look at things, at themselves, at what they stand for.’ Just as there is bright power in shedding light on truths, there is dark power in hiding dark truths. ‘You get attracted to the power, then you get addicted to the power.’ When any free and independent media self-censors to be politically correct, instead of be skilfully and morally correct by standing up for justice, the power of truth(fulness) as if weakens. Living in delusion eventually harms us all. The head buried ostrich banishes no true enemy at all. So please don’t kill any messenger, and look harder into the message, be it palatable or not. It could be true, and its consequences truly consequential.