Free Barrett Brown sends its condolences to the friends and family of Michael Hastings who died in a fiery car crash early Tuesday morning. Hastings was a fearless journalist who questioned power. He was a friend of Barrett’s and an active member of Project PM, a crowd-sourced research effort to expose government intelligence contractors. We deeply mourn his passing.
Barrett defended Hastings’ award winning journalism in his Vanity Fair piece, “Why The Hacks Hate Michael Hastings.” He was candid about their friendship—warning the reader:
- “I should note—not only in the interest of full disclosure, but also necessary context—that I am a friend and admirer of Michael Hastings, the author of the Rolling Stone piece in question. He was kind enough to blurb my upcoming book on the failures of the American punditry (and is planning on writing a novel on the same topic, incidentally); he shares my opinions on the state of journalism and opinion in this country; and he has joined up with Project PM, my perhaps quixotic attempt to do a small part in improving that media whose flawed reporting on matters of war and peace has recently had a hand in leaving hundreds of thousands dead and injured our republic’s ability to rationally operate both at home and abroad. I first spoke in support of Hastings before I’d ever made contact with him, which is to say that my opinion of him is not based on our association; my association with him is based on my opinion of him. That opinion is derived from the unassailable and unfortunately noteworthy competence and conduct he has displayed throughout his relatively short career.”
Barrett also blurbed Hastings’ second book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, calling it, “The most impact-laden story of the year . . . written by a perfect specimen of the new breed of journalist-commentator.”
In support of Barrett, Hastings wrote: “Barrett Brown is a journalist, plain and simple. He’s also a colleague and friend, and one of the brilliant, if highly unconventional, American writers of his generation. I offer my support to Barrett and his family, and respectfully ask for his immediate release from custody.” He believed Barrett’s work helped contribute to a free press.
Before his untimely death, Hastings was working on a story about Barrett, announcing mysteriously to his followers “Get ready for your mind to be blown.” Hastings had been in touch with Barrett’s lawyers, and intended to interview him in June for the story. Barrett has been in prison for 281 days pending trial, and faces over a hundred years imprisonment for what Hastings called “trumped up FBI charges regarding his legitimate reportorial inquiry into the political collective known sometimes as Anonymous.”
The loss of Michael Hastings is a tremendous blow to adversarial journalism, but the circumstances surrounding his death leave many questions unanswered. Michael believed he was under FBI investigation at the time of his death, and that his calls with Barrett were being recorded. May he rest in peace.