• Greg Palast, "Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman"

    (Note to readers: This is a review; the previous blog entry was a preview.--Ed.)

    One aspect of Greg Palast's latest harrowing investigation, as executive producer Martin Sheen says, is horror. This is a horror movie, replete with unfathomable corruption and the ghosts of hideous violence.

    It is a dire tragedy--opening on the heels of Stacey Abrams' failed lawsuit to prove the lawless corruption of many electoral practices in Georgia, including the scrubbing of registration rolls that handed the 2018 gubernatorial race to Brian Kemp.

    Another aspect of Vigilante is heartbreak: of the senseless repression of hundreds of thousands of innocent voters caught attempting to vote while black. Individual victims are interviewed crying over the abuse of their rights, including a first cousin of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 96-year-old Christine Jordan, and Major Gamaliel Turner, this country's leading expert on warfare of the future. While he was stationed in California serving this country, he applied for an absentee ballot. When he didn't receive it, he contacted the registrar's office and was told that his vote had been challenged. He had to make the inquiry. No one told him. Once a Georgia vote is challenged, subjects must prove their qualifications, often residency, even if they've lived and voted in the same place for years. Turner was able to regain his rights. But the same thing is happening to countless others in Georgia who won't be told unless they ask about it. They must be warned. They stand to lose their votes--250,000 of them have already been challenged. To find out if you've been challenged, go to SaveMyVote2022.org.

    Georgia history is a leitmotif in Vigilante. In one example, an armed Georgian militia in Civil War regalia is showcased early in the film. They proudly wave Confederate flags and their new solid white "secession" flag with a large red star in the center--red the color of Republicans or blood or both?

    And red is the bright color of the dress sported by another corrupt interviewee, Pamela Reardon, her comfy home protected at the front door with an assault weapon. This ambitious GOP operative is convinced that election 2020 in her Peachtree state was stolen from Trump. Nonresident votes kept him from winning, she says. She alone has challenged more than thirty-three thousand voters, though she claims only to have sent out "letters" (caging postcards?) requesting proof of address. Challenged herself on this point, she loudly throws Palast out, swearing as he leaves, most unbecoming to a southern lady. He thanks her.

    But the star of the film, if not the oppressed victims of repression time and again, If not Palast, is the vigilante, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who campaigned initially on his humble background and professed wish to integrate school--both lies. Palast traces his lineage back to the first importers of African slaves into Georgia before the Revolution. Get this: slavery was against the law in Georgia even then. Farmers objected to this atrocity in vain.

    More recently, Kemp is the scion of a thriving construction corporation, owners of myriad acres of wooded land now a source of toilet paper pulp for Koch Industries among others.

    We are treated to a brief tour of one of the plantation manor homes of Kemp's forebears. They'd smile with pride, though challenging voters originated with Gene Talmadge, a Ku Klux Klanner elected as governor of Georgia in 1945. 

    Kemp revived this practice with the passage of SB202 in the immediate wake of the Georgia Miracle in January 2020 that swept a black minister and Jewish filmmaker into the Senate, giving the majority to Democrats.

    Kemp's SB202 not only allows any Georgian to challenge an unlimited number of voters--48,000 have been challenged in Cobb County alone, one of the few Democratic strongholds in this swing state. It also criminalizes the donation of water and/or food to voters stuck in long lines at the polls"a felony, an act of "civil disobedience."

    Palast delves into more Georgia history, including the lynchings whose ghosts cry out for justice. An interview with the Georgia Historical Society ends when the subject of the Hayes-Tilden 1876 electoral impasse comes up; the fear is that the board of directors, all moguls appointed by Kemp, would be offended.

    Parallels are drawn with D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, which defends the KKK's denial of voting rights to blacks"portrayed by white actors in blackface.

    The "KKK Act" of 1871 actually forbade the intimidation of voters.

    "The South Will Rise Again"? Yes, the film concludes, not with reactionary fantasies but MLK's dream: "This too [the corruption] will pass. We're stronger and better!" "Spirits crying out for justice will rise from their graves."

    Defending his own ghosts, Kemp is battling the ghosts of oppression--a horror story indeed. 

    Lasting an hour, Vigilante is narrated by Rosario Dawson, directed by David Ambrose, and produced by the Academy award winner Maria Florio. To find live presentations, go to Click Here. To order the dvd, go to Click Here

    Don't miss this warning of an already-metastatic cancer. It's about the future of democracy. It will anger you and provoke the activism and actions crucial to preserving it.

  • Palast's Latest Investigation, "Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman," Out October 4

    DVD cover of
    DVD cover of 'Vigilante'
    (Image by Greg Palast)
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    It's heartbreaking. Today on the weekly online edition of the Green Grassroots Election Protection Coalition, the well-known and hugely accomplished investigative reporter, author, and filmmaker Greg Palast discussed his forthcoming documentary Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman.

    Produced by Martin Sheen and Maria Florio, Vigilante exposes the new voter law In Georgia (the "Election Integrity Act of 2021," Senate Bill 202) that allows any Georgia voter to challenge any other Georgia voter. So far, one GOP operative has challenged 4,000, another 32,000, and altogether hundreds of thousands have come under this lethal fire. The voting year is crucial of course: there are both gubernatorial and Senate races pitting Democrat Stacey Abrams against Republican Brian Kemp [again*] and Democrat Raphael Warnock against Republican Herschel Walker and Libertarian Chase Oliver.

    In this context, Palast's not-for-profit Investigative Fund is nonpartisan; the bottom line is to make sure that the candidate that voters choose takes office. In 2018, among other investigations, he targeted the 2018 match between Abrams and Kemp, which awarded Kemp the victory by 50,000 votes, by exposing and litigating over the hundreds of thousands of other voters purged from the registration rolls who would have put Abrams over the top (see Click Here ).

    In Vigilante, says Palast, "I concentrate on Georgia because that is where the vigilante hitmen are most desperate" and where the ultra-right takes its ballot box trickery for a test drive."

    "If you can't win elections, arrest the people who are going to vote against you," is how Harvey Wasserman, co-convener of Green Grassroots Election Protection Coalition (a coalition of activists, journalists, and others concerned with free and fair elections), summed up the GOP strategy in Georgia.

    There has been absolutely no national press about Georgia's SB 202, which also makes absentee and dropbox voting highly problematic; it is also a felony now to hand drinks or food to people standing in line to vote, even for hours under the hot Georgia sun.

    Contrast the silence about SB 202 with the wide circulation of the film 2,000 Mules, produced by True the Vote, a GOP-empowered organization that militates against true election integrity even as it has coopted this term for its own purposes. 2,000 Mules has been viewed by millions all over the country. The focus is mainly on black male voters supposedly committing voter fraud by stuffing ballot boxes and being paid $10 per ballot. Palast compared this film to D. W. Griffiths's Birth of a Nation, which Palast called the "Elders of Zion of Black voting." Vigilante is meant to be an antidote to 2,000 Mules.

    Vigilante also exposes lineage Kemp has labored to hide. A "scion of dynasties," he is descended from the families who first brought African slaves to Georgia and earned prodigious wealth descendants continue to enjoy. The text of SB 202 that Kemp signed contained a picture of a plantation. Kemp's family, owners of massive forests in Georgia, does business with Georgia Pacific, a Koch brothers company. Others are stepping into GOP activism as the Kochs withdraw: Paul "the Vulture" Singer, who has been a featured billionaire predator in Palast's previous publications,** and the Bradley Foundation, which has contributed $2 billion to fight against voting rights in Georgia and Florida, among other states. The idea of challenging voters originated with a KKK governor of Georgia, Gene Talmadge, who escaped the FBI by dying before they could indict him.

    Kemp also signed a bill outlawing the teaching of critical race theory--against teaching history, as Palast specified. He has lots to hide. A cousin in Virginia openly acknowledges the family's past and is working on reparations.

    How does the process of voter challenge work? Voters are supposed to receive a postcard, designed to look like junk mail (remember voter caging?), but they often don't receive one or mistakenly discard it, and hence don't find out until too late that they've been challenged--too late means that they simply cannot vote. And consider this: a voter may be challenged on Election Day. But if you know you've been challenged, you go to a county office, in person only, to prove at a hearing that you are you and reside where you claim to.

    What is being done to fight back against this blatant discrimination? Are the Democrats challenging Republicans? Palast dismissed this possibility as worse than ridiculous. Activist organizations will litigate, and educate and otherwise reach out to targeted groups. In 2020, Palast credits attorney and activist Barbara Arnwine with having worked with colleagues to drive challenged voters to county office hearings, enough to have handed over Georgia's hugely contested presidential vote total to Joe Biden. Register and reregister, said Palast, who himself had to reregister when he found himself dropped from the rolls in Los Angeles.

    Vigilante offers far more to a public that must be informed accurately about the machinations that so threaten democracy. What else can be done? Activism and support of organizations fighting back: Black Voters Matter, NAACP, SCLC, and others, including of course the Palast Investigative Fund. The film will be shown first in New York City on October 4 and subsequently in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Order your copy and donate at Click Here.


    *Kemp was, by the way, secretary of state, that is, in charge of state elections, in 2018.

    **And speaking of Palast's "horror role," another prominent figure from his previous investigations, Kris Kobach, of crosscheck infamy, is back in circulation running for attorney general of Kansas, after having lost gubernatorial and Senate races in his state. Less power to him!


    (originally published 8/22/22 at OpEdNews.com, https://www.opednews.com/articles/Palast-s-Latest-Investigat-Georgia-Election_Georgia-Governor-Race_Georgia-Politics_Investigation-220822-850.html)