On Sept. 12, 2021, the world lost Russ Kick. A self-proclaimed “rogue transparency activist,” Kick was known for his deft use of the Freedom of Information act in order to obtain public records and hold the government accountable for its actions.
For two decades Kick would post his findings on his website, which at first was known as the Memory Hole (a reference to George Orwell’s 1984). Kick had a knack for researching full versions of reports which were otherwise distributed with redactions. Among his more famous findings were an internal Justice Department report from 2002 criticizing efforts toward diversity hiring, and all 16,000 pages of the F.B.I.’s file on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In an interview with the New York Times, David Cullier, a University of Arizona professor who researches government transparency and public-records access, stated that Kick’s work was phenomenal. “He showed that anybody in this country could get public records out of the government, even when the government didn’t want to give them out.”
Unsurprisingly, much of Kick’s other work took a similar vein. His published works included titles such as 100 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know, a fascinating reference volume filled with hidden history and little known truths, and You Are Still Being Lied To, a myth-busting anthology of essays from writers such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Bloom.
Kick also published other anthologies, including his Graphic Canon series, which paired classic works with works from graphic artists and illustrators. In 2013 he published an anthology of poetry called Death Poems: Classic, Contemporary, Witty, Serious, Tear-Jerking, Wise, Profound, Angry, Funny, Spiritual, Atheistic, Uncertain, Personal, Political, Mythic, Earthy, and Only Occasionally Morbid.
In the introduction to Death Poems, Kick wrote, “Time is always running out, and the poets know that this casts life in an entirely different light than if we were immortal.”
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