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Hastings' death in fiery car crash is just the latest in a growing list of dead investigative journos

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Michael Hastings, author of "The Operators," dead at 33.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Talk to any journalist, particularly
after they’ve had a few drinks at the bar, and ask them if they are ever
nervous or concerned when going up against great power. At first they will
probably say “nah, I’m a reporter. I’m just doing my job and they know that.”
But if you really press them on the topic – particularly after that third or
fourth drink – and they will begin to admit that, yeah, taking on the powerful
is a bit stressful and, perhaps, dangerous.

But most of news people know that, inevitably and
given the appropriate beat, that we will end up writing stories that call for
us to expose the powerful. That’s particularly true, of course, for
investigative reporters.

And then think of the investigative reporters that
you know who did cross the rich and powerful and ended up dead. Disappeared. Suicided.
Murdered. Medical examiners get paid off or told to keep quiet. It happens all
the time.

And of course the story is that they were depressed
because their work wasn’t being taken seriously or they had some medical issue
that was preventing them from doing their best work. Cover stories like that
are thrown out there repeatedly.

Best known for dying under suspicious circumstances is
former San Jose Mercury News reporter
Gary Webb, he of the explosive “Dark Alliance” series (and book) and a guy of
such superhuman strength that he was able to shoot himself TWICE in the head in
December 2004. Now that’s something.

Webb showed how CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras
smuggled cocaine into the U.S., funneling it into the inner city of Los Angeles
as crack cocaine. Webb said the Reagan administration allowed this to happen so
as to fund the Contras in their battle against the leftist Sandinistas.

Webb, we now know, will be the subject of an upcoming
Focus Features film titled Killing the
starring Jeremy Renner as Webb. We just hope they get it right.

And back in ’91 – again in a motel room – this time
in Martinsburg, West Virginia, investigative reporter Danny Casolaro
was found dead – of self-inflicted wounds, of course. Suicided. Casolaro was looking into a vast,
criminal conspiracy he called “The Octopus.” Seems as though Casolaro may have
gone too far.

We hear there will be a film made next year based on
the play Danny Casolaro Died For You.
Again, we hope they get it right.

Remember J.H. Hatfield dying alone in that motel
room in Springdale, Arkansas in 2001? Hatfield, as troubled as he was, exposed
George W. Bush’s drug-addled past in Fortunate
. As Hatfield says in the Horns
and Halos
documentary, “If anything happens to me, get it out to the press.”

And what of Hunter S. Thompson? The iconic Rolling Stone gonzo journalist who hated
Nixon? He reportedly committed suicide back in 2005. But two years earlier, on
the verge of the Iraq War, Thompson – a virulent critic of George W. Bush - made
cryptic statements about his head getting cut off for refusing to shut up about
various topics, particularly those related to his criticism of Bush.

Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart also was murdered, we are
convinced. As we wrote in March 2012, as soon as we learned of his passing, Breitbart
was on the verge of releasing “explosive tapes featuring Obama.”

And while Breitbart’s current team at doesn’t
talk about it, at a recent blog convention in Dallas RDR attended, there was
mention of Breitbart’s murder several times during the weekend. People know.

And now we have Michael Hastings, dead at 33. A “fiery
car crash” we are told. The car “jackknifed.” Not sure how that happens. (Oh
and it just so happens that Hastings’ car crash occurred the same day a story
is released saying that “cyber-terrorists and hackers” can break into your
vehicles’ electronics and take over, even while you are driving).

Yeah, it was Hastings’ terrific article on the real
Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Rolling Stone in 2010 called “The Runaway General” that got a lot of people’s attention. The Operators went even further, giving
readers an intimate look into how the military’s upper echelon really think. Ultimately,
a disgraced McChrystal opted for “early retirement” due to Hastings’ work reporting on McChrystal's activities in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Now, while we are awaiting the official “accident report,”
I should note that in my March 2012 review of The Operators last year, I noted a particularly sinister exchange
between Hastings and staffers of Gen. McChrystal.

From The
Hastings writes that as they drank and sang, several McChrystal
staff members make subtle threats, saying:

You’re not going to f*ck us, are you?
asks one staff member.

responds: “I’m going to write a story;
some of the stuff you’ll like, some of the stuff you probably won’t like.

staffer then says: “We’ll hunt you down
and kill you if we don’t like what you write

exactly subtle, in retrospect. Perhaps they followed through with their threat?

has to imagine that Hastings was looking over his shoulder in the wake of “The
Runaway General” piece and The Operators.
I saw him on a cable-news program not too many months ago and he comes across
as serious and professional.

now we hear that Hastings’ car “crossed the median, slammed into a tree and bust
into flames.” Hastings was found dead at the scene, a’la whistleblower Karen Silkwood
in 1974, here in Oklahoma. Will we get the truth of how Hastings’ car went out
of control? Granted, a lot of investigative journalists are known to love “living
on the edge.”

while journalism is viewed as one of the worst professions in America, journalists
are desperately needed to keep the powerful honest. They need to be the
watchdogs. We are so sorry to hear about the death of Michael Hastings. He was a brave and honest reporter. 

2013 Red Dirt Report

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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