Director: Mark Levin
Story by: Mark Levin
Cinematographer: James Adolphus
by Jon Cvack
It seems as though the CIA’s involvement in the 1980s Crack Epidemic is finally entering into mainstream liberal history. I recall initially hearing about Gary Webb’s revelation when coming across his book Dark Alliance (which I have yet to read).
Freeway follows ‘Freeway’ Rick Ross (not to be confused with the rapper) as he is recently released from prison, hoping to both sue the rapper Rick Ross for profiting off his name, and to raise awareness about the CIA’s involvement in the crack epidemic. He’s now giving lectures to underprivileged and incarcerated youth about the benefits of literacy, which helped to release him from prison twenty years into a life sentence.
I would pair this movie up with The House I Live In ('12) and have a fun three hours of complete rage. Long story short, the Nicaraguan tyrannical government was overthrown by the Left, which made the Reagan administration nervous given the heightened Cold War and continued Red Scare. This is where the Iran-Contra scandal came into play, in which the Reagan Admin sold arms to Iran (violating the Arms Embargo) in order to direct funds toward the right-wing Contras that were fighting to take back Nicaragua from the Leftists. While a lot of people assume that the CIA was directly introducing Crack to urban areas, it’s more appropriate to see them as turning a blind eye to trafficking in order to help fund the contras. However, given that Anton Blandon, the head of the drug operation, was arrested for trafficking hundreds of pounds of cocaine and released after only 48 months in prison, while Freeway Rick was arrested for a similar infraction and faced a life sentence, it’s easy to see that maybe there was more dirt than met the eye.
When considering that this was all to support a regime that wanted to overthrow a democratically elected government, it creates one more mark against the Reagan Admin’ history. I now hear about the Iran-Contra scandal, and the Crack epidemic, and we begin to see that history is not boding too favorably for the administration. Between that and trickle down economics and realizing that perhaps the gains were illusory, it’s clear that Reagan may still be championed by the Right, but I believe a lot more people are starting to see what actually occurred.
NOTE: This film was produced by Al-Jazeera America, which was shut down in late 2015 after facing financial difficulties. I remember the hope I had when hearing their announcement of an American division. With their fairly quick demise I can't help falling back to cynicism when looking at the news - especially when their stories were so great, and the current media coverage over all things politics is so abysmal. They were some of the first proponents of Facebook video, creating short <5 min news stories that were engaging and challenging. No one's filled their place. This documentary just goes to highlight how great they were.
BELOW: Gary Webb explaining how the CIA-Crack drug trade operated
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