by Greg Palast
London: Pluto Press, 2002; 211 pages
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy is a compilation of investigative reports by Greg Palast, a US reporter who has found economic support for his work from the British media, but not in his homeland.
Not that what he writes isn't true; to the contrary. But it's painful reading. Palast is known for stripping off polite veneer and showing what's underneath. It's gritty and ugly, because he doesn't choose to report on fluff stuff. And his work is not partisan; you might say he practices "equal opportunity" journalismwhoever has the opportunity to cheat the public, pollute the environment, or hide truths the public has a right to know is equally likely to be the subject of a Palast piece.
The riveting chapters in this book, subtitled "An Investigative Reporter Exposes the Truth about Globalization, Corporate Cons, and High Finance Fraudsters," are titled:
"Jim Crow in Cyberspace: The Unreported Story of How They Fixed the Vote in Florida" (quiz question: why did Texas provide Florida a list of 7,000 Texas felons, whose Texas voting rights had been restored, a couple of years before the 2000 election?);
"Sell the Lexus, Burn the Olive Tree: Globalization and its Discontents" (quiz question: what are the terms of the standard, draconian one-size-fits all contract needy nations have to sign to get IMF loans?);
"Small Towns, Small Minds" (quiz question: How do small business people shoot themselves in the foot?);
"Pat Robertson, General Pinochet, Pepsi-Cola and the Anti-Christ: Special Investigative Reports" (quiz questions: What does Pat Robertson have to do with the Bank of Scotland, and how is it that we in the U.S. haven't heard about it?).
"Inside Corporate America" (quiz questions: How do politics, prisons and Wackenhut Corp. converge, and why is this proving to be a really really bad idea? What company has nearly 2,500 stores in the USbut none is unionized? Who's trading 'emissions credits,' and how the Kyoto Protocol on global warming encourages this 'filth-trading'? Why is it justifiable to call the US "one of the most socialized nations left on this sad planet"?)
"The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" (quiz questions: What is 'sky dumping' and what's it doing to the air in Texas? What does the phrase "Ya dance with them what brung ya" mean? What recent US President got $13 million in stock from telecom start-up firm Global Crossingfor giving that company's board of directors a single talk? Who are the members of the "Billionaire Boys' Club"?)
"Cash for Access'Lobbygate': the Real Story of Blair and the Sale of Britain" (quiz questions: Are lobbyists as potentially damaging to the British government as they are to ours? How have the Brits' elected officials gone from being leaders to listeners, and with what result?)
"Kissing the Whip" (quiz questions: What country has some of the most crippling libel laws, and doesn't even have written constitutional guarantees of free speech and a free press? And then ask yourself how it's happened that Greg Palast is getting published in that country, and not ours?)
Too many questions? This is only the beginning. You'll come away from reading this hard-nosed book dizzy with new information and nauseated by confirmations of your worst fears.
Buy it to support Palast's work (proceeds will underwrite his research). Read it to inform yourself, since the establishment press seems determined not to let you in on who's doing what to whom (unless it's something like Monica and Billa comparatively trivial story Palast skips entirely). Share it. Talk about it. Ask for it at the public library to make sure they order it.