There are muckrakers out there, journalists who prod and poke and grope their way to the truth. And then there are a rare few who just break stuff. Sander Hicks, publisher of Vox Pop Books, is one of the most dynamic political troublemakers on the scene. Once he starts gnawing on a case — whether it has to do with George Bush’s sordid past or the relationships between the US government and foreign terrorist groups leading to 9-11 — you know he’s going to keep biting until something snaps, and something is revealed.
Hicks’ willingness to take chances has led him into tough territory before. As the publisher of Soft Skull, a downtown New York outfit specializing in street poetry and punk/political comix in the 90’s, he acquired the rights to Fortunate Son, a substantial unauthorized biography of George Bush Jr. by James Hatfield. This was a bold move for the downtown kid, and the Bush campaign quickly got the better of Hicks and Hatfield in the public relations poker game that ensued. This story is best told in a documentary movie, Horns and Halos, which reveals that Bush advisor Karl Rove had been puppeting Hatfield for longer than anyone else realized. The evidence seems strong that Rove hand-picked Hatfield to break the stories of Bush’s past cocaine arrests and absences from government service, because Hatfield, a second-rate celebrity biographer with his own criminal record, was easy to ridicule and dismiss. Score one for the Bush team: Horns and Halos ends with the depressing news of James Hatfield’s suicide.
Unlike Hatfield, though, Hicks is still in the game. As defiant as ever, he created Vox Pop as both a book publisher and a funky Brooklyn cafe, and he’s trying to get the mass media to pay attention to his new book about international terrorism, The Big Wedding: 9/11, The Whistle Blowers and the Cover Up. Hicks lays out the numerous connections between known terrorists and American and European financial and governmental organizations, and asks us to add up the evidence.
Hicks would be a good lawyer; he doesn’t push too far, and is clearly aware that when conspiracy theorists overstate their case they lose credibility. The introduction to the book revisits the Hatfield/Rove story, and while at first this seemed an unnecessary diversion, I gradually came to realize that the lessons Hicks learned during the Hatfield affair are completely informing his approach now. Trust no sources, and always look out for the bluff. The Big Wedding is Hicks smartened-up, and back on the case.
Reading this careful summary of various hypotheses involving international terrorism and international finance, I am disturbed and perplexed. I have my own strong intuitions about the origins of terrorism, but my private investigations in this area have led me towards Nietzsche and Plato rather than the Wall Street Journal or Al Jazeera. I don’t know what to think or who to believe. But I respect this book, mainly because I respect the author’s tenacity and conviction.
Hicks is also a talented and passionate writer. See for yourself — Chapter 9 is up on his website, and it’s worth your time.