Greg Palast is one of the best American investigative reporters, which is perhaps why his reports are rarely aired in the United States. While Palast has broken a host of stories ranging from the purging of Florida’s voter rolls in 2000 to similar efforts in Ohio in 2004, Palast has gained little recognition in the United States. Despite two bestselling books–The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and the original version of Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans–Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild–the majority of Palast’s reports air on the BBC and are ignored by the corporate media in the United States. Even Karl Rove, advisor to President George W. Bush, has noted with glee that “no national press has picked up Palast’s investigations.”
This edition of Armed Madhouse–subtitled “From Baghdad to New Orleans–Sordid Secrets & Strange Tales of a White House GONE WILD”–is a reissue of the original 2006 book, expanded and updated to include two new chapters exploring how the Republican Party is planning to steal the 2008 election and the politics of Katrina. These new chapters join chapters exploring Osama bin Laden, the “War on Terror,” corporate power, election fraud, and wealth and poverty in the United States. Palast links the United States’ foreign policy to its economic policy, showing how the policies of economic warfare employed in occupied Iraq are similar to the class war waged in the United States by the wealthy on the poor. Palast makes compelling arguments that the ruling class in the United States–and yes, he pulls no punches and uses the terms of “class war”–is making billions off the backs of workers in the United States. Taking this argument further, Palast argues that the concern over “election reform” and stolen elections in the United States is a component of this class war. Palast’s reporting is fresh and he packs an incredible amount of original insight into this nearly 400-page book.
While Armed Madhouse is full of important and useful information, Palast’s writing style is at best irritating and at worst downright distracting. The book tends to meander and rapidly move from topic to topic, and while Palast says in his introduction that each chapter is meant to stand on its own, his writing within each of the chapters is occasionally muddled and difficult to follow. Thankfully for readers who are put off by Palast’s style, the book is well-indexed and the information can be easily retrieved using the index.
In his introduction, Palast asserts that he is “not a nice guy” and that argues that his book will present the facts as he finds them, regardless of whom they implicate. This is precisely what the role of a journalist should be and precisely what is missing in the corporate media’s deference to government and corporate power. Despite Palast’s somewhat irritating writing style, his reports irritate the right people–those in power–and provide important information for those working to transform society.
Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans–Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild, (Plume, 2007).