Sunday, October 3, 2004

Greg Palast and his work

Greg Palast is an American Journalist whose research and writing is so hot that he is unable to get published in America. Instead he works for a British newspaper.

This makes it tough when, as he describes in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, that he has an important breaking story that needs to break in America. In that case it was November and December 2000, and as you may recall the election was in the process of being decided by the Supreme Court. The story he had, which needed to break, was that the 500 some odd votes in GW Bush's lead was only the tip of the iceberg. The truth was that the whole vote appeared to be rigged.

The story has been told in Fahrenheit 9/11, so I'll just repeat the essentials. Kathleen Harris, GW Bush's campaign chairman in Florida and also the Florida Secretary of State, was in an interesting position. As Secretary of State she oversaw the conduct of the election, an election in which she was the campaign charman of a major candidate. Florida denies the right to vote to any convicted felon living in the state, even after the person has served their time and probation. Therefore, as Secretary of State she was in charge of finding any felons on the voter roles, and purging them from the rolls. For the 2000 election the process was very broad and ended up mislabeling in the neighborhood of 50,000 African Americans as felons when they were not. Since African Americans tend to vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats, it's likely a large portion of those 50,000 voters would have, if allowed to vote, voted for Al Gore.

Clearly if this had broken in any significant way while the parties were arguing in Florida, the outcome might have been very different. Yet, Greg Palast was unable to get the story published in America, except for an early version of the story on the salon.com website.

Palast comes to Journalism with an interesting background. He had formerly been an Economist, and had been trained in Economics by Milton Friedman (the eminent free-market economist). As a Journalist his background in Economics enables him to grasp complex stories, digging into the details, and come out with a descriptive style suited to lay audiences. He is also very much a muckraker, and seems to enjoy that role. If he lived in Russia he'd be dead by now.


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