"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 26 August 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Rolling Papers


[The logo for the FTA, in all it's splendor.]

Neither knowledge nor power is

what it used to be. As the

writer who broke My Lai for the

alternative Dispatch News

Service, Seymour Hersh was an

actual threat to the comfort of

the government (and the

industry) that sought to protect

the world from communism by

pretty much just killing

everything that moved. What

passes as opposition to

institutional power these days

isn't really much of a threat;

it's difficult to imagine terror

screaming through the halls of

the Pentagon, say, because a

rock band is up on a stage

somewhere doing that song about

not doin' what The Man fuckin'

tells ya. ("I'm afraid it's

true, General: they've got all

kinds of righteous tattoos - and

they're ragin' full on!")


Shitty rock bands have been

trying to pass off ideological

codpieces as actual hard-ons

since Country Joe and the Fish,

but they've never had far to

fall. But the alternative press

has sunk from breaking stories

to just circulating them. What's

more, the connection between the

alternative press of the Vietnam

era and the alternative press of

the Whatever era is not just

incidental: The

large-circulation urban weekly

was largely born out of the

opposition to that war and

carried actual reporting that

demonstrated the insanity of

fighting it. Next week's issue

of the (insert town here)

Weekly was born out of the

opportunity to distribute those

excellent Lucky Strike inserts

and will carry ... excellent

Lucky Strike inserts.


[Cartoon of two stick figures, playfully acting out the 'pull my finger' gag. Heh.]

Somehow, somewhere, alternative

journalism became an attitude

rather than something anyone

actually does. Pick up the LA

Weekly these days, say, and you

keep finding yourself wondering

when you're going to get to the

part where something comes out

of a notebook, rather than a

writer's deeply obvious set of

(generally High Orthodox Lefty)

assumptions - really, out of his

ass. Even when they manage to do

some actual reporting, weeklies

tend to package the facts in

extraordinarily inane waves of


posturing, whether or not the

story they're reporting could

conceivably mean anything to

anyone; it's celebrity scandal,

but, man, it's an

alternative celebrity scandal.


Attention-deficient spenders can

easily get through the latest

issue of a major urban weekly

without the danger or delay of

learning anything new between

the cover and the dirty ads:

Republicans suck, big bad

business wants to make money,

Justice for Janitors wants ...

justice for janitors. There are

no surprises in this

neighborhood, not anymore. (The

Weekly endorsed Tom Hayden?



[A man, a woman, and a dog, in full cartoon color glory. Not much more description because today'sw piece is especially late!]

Examples abound of the lameness

of the faux-antiauthoritarian

urban weekly (take Mike Davis -

please), but one old favorite

speaks volumes. It centers,

delightfully, on crack - you can

see why we thought of it. More

specifically, it had to do with

crack in LA, a combination as

natural as peanut butter and

those little chocolate cups.

Gary Webb found his putative

Johnny Appleseed last year -

remember? - and the fuse he lit

burned for 300 miles. The Los

Angeles Times (Parade Magazine -

every day!) sniffed like it knew

somebody had farted but refused

to acknowledge the fat guy

standing in the middle of the

room, covered in shit; they

buried a story that mentioned

the story, way down deep in

the lingerie ads.


[The unparalleled logo for 'Epilogue!']

If you couldn't scrounge up a

quarter to watch the blahomb go

off in the Times, however, there

was a little street-

theater-of-cruelty available

right there on most every

corner, free for the taking. The

LA Weekly and New Times LA

reprinted Webb's




crack-but-nudge-nudge story in

its entirety, silly overwrought

parts and awfully goddamn

interesting parts alike. And

both noted, often and at a

fevered pitch, that Webb, a

reporter for a newspaper in

frickin' San Jose, had picked up

the scent at the trial of a

serious LA drug dealer - a trial

that a Times reporter had only

attended for a single day. Where

was the Times? the weeklies

screamed, and how could they

miss this?


[Photo of the cover of the New Times, featuring some woman with a lot of make-up.]

Both had little to say, however,

about a couple of other

newspapers that had also missed

the story: The LA Weekly and New

Times LA. (Or, for that matter,

the New Times predecessor

papers, which the alt.news

corporation snatched up and



Neither appeared to notice its

own failure because both were

just doing what an alternative

weekly's job has become: carping

from the sidelines, dishing out

attitude, knowing it all.


And hey, that's our job.

courtesy of Ambrose Beers

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