15 October 2014

Written by Bob Fitrakis
Edited by Brian Lindamood
Published by: Columbus Alive/Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism 246 pages; $15.00

Buy this book at: Free Press Online Store

Great investigative journalists are few and far between these days, but Bob Fitrakis is definitely one of them.

For years in both the Columbus Free Press and Columbus Alive, Fitrakis has been digging up the dirt on a wide range of corporate criminals, death penalty abusers and right-wing fanatics.

This superb compilation of some of Bob's best stuff, written over the years for Columbus Alive, is a welcome addition to the annals of muckraking. In many ways, it serves as a primer on the art of exposing hidden truths, and could serve as a good basic text for high school and college students not yet brain deadened by television or George W. Bush.

The book comes in bite-sized pieces derived from Bob's hard-hitting columns. Starting with a murky global electronic surveillance system known as Echelon and ending with George W. Bush, with his "glazed 1984 stare," proclaiming "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," Bob covers the spectrum of the undercover nightmare that America has become.

Bob, my long-time co-conspirator on a wide range of issues and articles, is especially good at rooting out the dark, sinister tentacles of the corporate secret government. Through a series of hard-hitting and often funny investigative pieces he exposes the arrival, death and rebirth of Southern Air Transport, the CIA's own airline, whose crash in Nicaragua led directly to the Iran-Contra hearings.

Bob also exposes George W. Bush's deep roots in the fanatic, criminal authoritarian cesspool of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Very early on, he points to the corrupt shortcoming of the hugely over-funded US intelligence community that somehow missed clear signals that the 9/11 attacks were coming. And long before it was fashionable, he calls for the impeachment of the utterly failed George W. Bush.

Working with Columbus ALIVE's Jamie Pietras, Fitrakis documents the horrifying story of a Mansfield, Ohio, junk dealer who wound up with a huge chunk of radioactive waste in his yard. He and his young daughter were exposed for years without the slightest attempt by the government to protect their health.

Fitrakis and Pietras also went after military contamination of schoolyards in Marion County, north of Columbus, which were eventually forced to shut despite the usual official stonewalling, including an attack on a key EPA whistleblower.

An extremely effective spokesman against the death penalty, Fitrakis also includes in this anthology a good sampling of his pieces on extreme right-wingers---actual Nazis---in Ohio and elsewhere who seem to be able to flout the law with impunity.

What's remarkable about Fitrakis is not just his reporting ability, but his sense of writing things that will actually make a difference. In his five years of writing for ALIVE Fitrakis became a feared bulldog critic on issues that directly affected the lives of people in central Ohio and around the country. A good sense of the jugular---and a willingness to go for it when it matters---is the mark of a reporter worth reading. Fitrakis is one of the few left on the scene today. That's what makes this anthology so powerful, enjoyable, and essential.