Four hundred guests celebrated the tenth anniversary of the annual Ridenhour Prizes in Washington, DC on April 24. This year, the prize recipients were Dr. James Hansen, a climatologist and the former head of NASA's Goddard Institute, who received the Courage Prize; journalist, filmmaker, and founder of Define American Jose Antonio Vargas, who accepted the Prize for Truth-Telling via prerecorded video as he could not attend in person; Seth Rosenfeld, who won the Book Prize for his masterful history of FBI surveillance, Subversives; and The Invisible War, about the epidemic of rape in the US military, which was awarded the Documentary Film Prize.
It's hard to imagine anyone who has done more to further our understanding of the impacts of climate change than Dr. James Hansen. After 46 years working a scientist and climatogolist for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Hansen wasn't content to simply catalog the dangers facing humanity and our planet — he has been ringing the alarm bell.
In it, Hansen discusses being the first to warn about the dangers of global warming, and how the scientific community has grown ever more public in its pronouncements on climate change. In the late 1980s, when Hansen first sounded the alarm, he was virtually alone in his declaration that the greenhouse effect was here, despite the fact that many of his fellow scientists agreed with him — in private. "I am disappointed that there aren’t more of my colleagues out there," he told AlterNet. But the scientific community does "actually say that they’re glad I’m making noises because they think it’s appropriate," he added.
For the Washington Monthly, Michael Clifford Longman wondered what My Lai whistleblower and lifetime investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour — in whose memory these prizes were created — would have made of contemporary issues such as the drone wars and the hunger strikes at Guantanamo. Former Ridenhour prize winner Nick Turse, the author of a book on the "real" Vietnam War, thinks the drone strikes are "just the kind of thing that [Ron] would want to expose." Seth Rosenfeld, the 2013 Book Prize winner, who fought five FOIA lawsuits against the FBI in a 27-year battle to get the FBI to release several hundred thousand pages of secret documents to write his book, Subversives, agrees that Ridenhour would have had plenty to dig into today. “We live in a time of increasing government surveillance,” Rosenfeld said, “and increasing secrecy which poses inherent problems for democracy and I think if Ron were alive today he would be focusing on these subjects.”
On the Huffington Post, Joe Newman wrote about the continued need for whistleblowers like Ridenhour.
This week, it's a good time to remember Ron Ridenhour. He refused to let the horrors of My Lai get covered-up by a military brass that just wanted the story buried and forgotten.
My Lai matters, [Ridenhour Prizes co-founder Randy] Fertel said, because we keep finding ways to repeat it.
AlterNet also published a blow-by-blow account of the awards luncheon, recounting the moment when a member of the audience — featured in The Invisible War — rose to a standing ovation from the crowd. And the Washingtonian published this homage to the annual truth-telling awards luncheon.
And finally, last week Katrina vanden Heuvel penned an online commentary for the Washington Post that explored the need for whistleblowers in Ron Ridenhour's time and in ours, and the dangerous persecution of truth-tellers by the Obama administration.