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James Ridgeway, Hard-Hitting Investigative Journalist, Dies at 84


In 1970, Mr. Ridgeway’s book “The Politics of Ecology” accused America’s principal polluters — the industries that burn coal, gas and oil — of undermining the environmental and consumer groups that sought to protect the ecology, in a scheme to control the nation’s natural resources and dominate world energy markets.

John Leonard, in a Times review, called it “a fine, tough and indispensable book,” adding with sarcasm: “There is also money to be made in pollution-control systems, a potential $25 billion market, but only so long as the polluters continue to pollute, passing along the cost of control systems to the taxpayer.”

After publishing “Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads and the Rise of a New White Culture” (1991), Mr. Ridgeway wrote, produced and directed a documentary, “Blood in the Face,” using archival footage and interviews to expose far-right hate groups. A revised and expanded edition of the book is to be published in June.

In 1992, he co-produced and co-directed “Feed,” filming presidential candidates looking foolish as they practiced smiles and upbeat gazes before the TV cameras went live: President George H.W. Bush looking vacant, Bill Clinton cursing himself for crying, Ross Perot telling a racy story.

“Red Light: Inside the Sex Industry” (1996) took Mr. Ridgeway and a photographer, Sylvia Plachy, into a realm of prostitutes, porn-video makers, strippers, topless dancers and other sex workers, including a dominatrix. Publishers Weekly said the book found a sex trade “laden with worn-out male fantasies of a prefeminist world” where “contact with another human body is increasingly replaced by electronically enhanced onanism.”

James Fowler Ridgeway was born in Auburn, N.Y., on Nov. 1, 1936, the older of two sons of George and Florence (Fowler) Ridgeway. His father was a historian on the faculty of Wells College, a private liberal arts school in Aurora, N.Y. During World War II, the family lived in Washington, where Professor Ridgeway was a State Department specialist on British affairs.


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