By Howie Hawkins
We lost a great investigative journalist and progressive advocate on Saturday at the age of 84. James Ridgeway spent six decades exposing corporate crime, proposing environmental solutions, and opposing solitary confinement, among many other progressive causes.
Ridgeway first came to national attention for a 1964 article in The New Republic exposing the carnage on American highways due to unsafe cars using a then unknown Ralph Nader as his source. His next big scoop was exposing that General Motors had hired detectives to dig up dirt to discredit the now famous Nader, which blew up into a national scandal for GM.
Ridgeway was one of the first authors to emphasize the corporate roots of the environmental crisis in his 1970 book, The Politics of Ecology. He repeatedly exposed global corporate resource imperialism in the The Last Play (1973), Who Owns the Earth? (1980), and It’s All for Sale (2004).
In New Energy (1975) and Energy-Efficient Community Planning (1979), he proposed a community-controlled national public energy system to deal with the energy crises of the 1970s from the viewpoint of replacing fossil and nuclear fuels with clean renewable energy. He always made himself available to activists as we advocated for this model of energy democracy, from the anti-nuclear/safe energy movement in the 1970s to our presidential campaign in 2020.
Ridgeway wrote for both mainstream and movement publications, something that is hard to imagine in today’s media environment. He contributed to The New York Times, The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, Wall Street Journal, The Observer, The Guardian, and The Economist. He also co-founded the New Left magazine Mayday (later Hard Times), edited the New Left magazine Ramparts, and wrote a column for the Village Voice for thirty years with Alexander Cockburn.
Along the way he wrote prescient books on the corporate takeover of universities (1968), on the resurgence of the racist far-right (1991), and on the sex industry (1996), among more than 20 books and several film documentaries. His last decade-long cause was to end the torture of solitary confinement in US prisons.
We will miss James Ridgeway.