It’s never simple, badly as we want it to be. Benjamin Wallace, in NYMag:
At the end of his life, Michael Hastings, like many of the progressive journalists he counted among his friends, felt besieged by an overreaching government. Hastings was living in Los Angeles, and at a Beverly Hills theater in April, he took part in a panel discussion about the documentary War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State. Interviewed in May on The Young Turks, a talk show on Current TV, Hastings railed against the Obama administration, which “has clearly declared war on the press”; the only recourse, he said, was for the press to respond: “We declare war on you.” On May 31, he dashed off an urgent tweet: “first they came for manning. Then Assange. Then fox. Then the ap.drake and the other whistle-blowers. Any nyt reporters too.” He attended screenings of his friend Jeremy Scahill’s film Dirty Wars, which seeks to expose “the hidden truth behind America’s expanding covert wars,” and when leaks about the NSA began appearing in The Guardian, and Edward Snowden was charged with espionage, Hastings was deeply troubled by the revelations and the Justice Department’s response. On June 7, his last post for BuzzFeed, where he was a staff writer, focused on “Why Democrats Love to Spy on Americans,” and at the time of his death, Hastings was working on a profile of CIA director John Brennan for Rolling Stone…
Sergeant Joe Biggs, who met Hastings in 2008, when the reporter, on assignment for GQ, was embedded with his unit in Afghanistan, hadn’t spoken to his friend in three months, but Hastings had BCC’d him on the June 17 e-mail to BuzzFeed colleagues. “I tried calling him when I got that e-mail,” Biggs says, “ ’cause I felt so fucking scared, because it didn’t seem like him.” Biggs e-mailed BuzzFeed, too. “They weren’t helpful at all. I kept e-mailing back, ‘What should we do? I’m not a journalist. I don’t know how to go about this stuff.’ They never responded to me.” Biggs tried contacting other media to let them know about the ominous e-mail; the only person who got back to him was a local L.A. reporter. “If that thing didn’t get released,” Biggs told me when I first called him, two weeks after Hastings’s death, “people would keep thinking it was an accident.”
Hastings lived as he died. On the small side, with blue eyes and scruffy good looks that suggested Jude Law’s little brother, he did everything fast: chain-smoking Parliament Lights, calling and e-mailing people late at night, speaking in a jittery torrent, churning out copy. (The first, long draft of his McChrystal article was a 48-hour production.) “The dude was exhausting,” Farwell says. “He just kind of vibrated energy. He had a deep well of moral outrage and sadness that I think goes back to a lot of the hypocrisy he saw and felt.”
After his death, there was an outpouring of grief. For all his abrasiveness, and sometimes because of it, he had endeared himself to a lot of people, and the posthumous adoration of Hastings’s colleagues was striking: Rachel Maddow attended his memorial service in Vermont; BuzzFeed established a national-security-reporting fellowship in his name; and last month, he was honored with the Norman Mailer Award for Emerging Journalist. His publisher, Blue Rider Press, recently announced that it will bring out a novel Hastings wrote some years ago, a roman-à-clef satire about his time working at Newsweek.
Most interesting was the viral fascination of strangers who, at a time when journalists rank lower than chiropractors in public opinion, saw Hastings as a valiant exception. What he stood for, to these people, was so important and rare that surely his death must hold more meaning than a senseless random event….