Death of a Journalist

It's easy to be suspicious of the accident that killed Michael Hastings on June 18. The journalist who brought down General Stanley McChrystal was working the CIA beat when he was killed in a one-car accident on Highland Avenue — an accident that turned his Mercedes into a fiery inferno. Something didn't smell right.

As Gene Maddaus revealed in last week's cover story, Hastings' biggest enemy may not have been the CIA or the Pentagon. His own troubled mind was a far more likely murder weapon (“A Dangerous Man“).

Many readers weren't convinced. Writes Hiawatha, “If Hastings had written a piece that brought down a mob boss in the same manner he did McChrystal, the implicit shared cultural understanding would be that assassination was a reasonable consideration. Instead, an increasingly naive faith in the basic decency of our government leads writers to bend over backward, crafting silly stories like this one.

“Sure, it's totally conceivable this was an accident induced by emotional disease or exhaustion. But it's hardly an open-and-shut case. … Only one thing is clear: The CIA's old (and well-documented) program to popularize the 'conspiracy theorist' smear in the aftermath of the Warren Commission has become a successful American institution in its own right.”

Charles Fredricks agrees. “Gene Maddaus spends 6,000 words or so convincing us Michael Hastings was troubled, without mentioning why he was a dangerous man to various authority figures, or what basis there might be for conspiracy theories surrounding his death. Beyond the obvious payback from General Stanley McChrystal or his supporters, check out Hastings' report on Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who ordered those under his command to use their psy-ops propaganda machine to manipulate U.S. senators. That Hastings car could have been hacked receives not a mention by Maddaus, though no less than former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke voiced the possibility. The curious nature of the crash itself, which left the engine some 50 yards from the vehicle, goes unexamined amidst Maddaus' seemingly thorough examination of Hastings' background and drug use earlier in life.

Conspiracy theories may remain theories without further evidence, but to leave the playing field so unlevel by failing to report evidence and withholding their mention, or delving into the motives of those who might wish Hastings gone, leaves this reader wondering if Maddaus isn't just pushing a theory of his own.

Buffy Bufferton, for one, isn't convinced by Maddaus' reporting. “The crash was at precisely 4:20 a.m.? And he has a medical marijuana card? Doesn't that strike you as somebody's idea of a sick joke? Call me a crazy conspiracy theorist just like the rest, but when it smells like evil, it's evil. But thanks for trying to convince us he was a meth head with PTSD. Nice try.”

You Write, We Read

Please send letters to L.A. Weekly, 3861 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Or email us at Full name and contact information preferred.

LA Weekly