Mark Danner

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Mark Danner
Born (1958-11-10) November 10, 1958 (age 58)
Utica, New York, USA
Occupation Author, journalist, professor

Mark David Danner (born November 10, 1958) is an American writer, journalist, and educator. He is a former staff writer for The New Yorker and frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books. Danner specializes in U.S. foreign affairs, war and politics, and has written articles on Haiti, Central America, the former Yugoslavia, and the Middle East. In 1999, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.[1]

As of 2016, Danner is Chancellor's Professor of Journalism and English at UC Berkeley[2] and James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities at Bard College.

Danner is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Affairs Council of Northern California, the Pacific Council on International Policy, and the Century Association, and is a fellow of the Institute of the Humanities at New York University. In 2008 he was named the Marian and Andrew Heiskell Visiting Critic at the American Academy in Rome, a post he took up again in 2010. Danner has had a longtime association with the Telluride Film Festival, where he introduces films and conducts interviews; in 2013, he was named resident curator there.[3]

Background and education[edit]

Danner was born at Utica, New York. He attended Utica Free Academy, a public high school, and then Harvard, where he graduated, magna cum laude, with a degree in modern literature and aesthetics in 1981.[4]


Early years[edit]

After leaving Harvard, Danner joined the staff of The New York Review of Books, where he worked as an assistant to editor Robert B. Silvers from 1981 to 1984.[5] In 1984, he moved to Harper's Magazine as a senior editor. In 1986, he joined The New York Times Magazine, where he specialized in foreign affairs and politics, writing pieces about nuclear weapons and about the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti, among other stories.

The New Yorker and El Mozote[edit]

In 1990, Danner joined the staff of The New Yorker shortly after the magazine published his three-part series on Haiti, "A Reporter at Large: Beyond the Mountains".

On December 6, 1993, for only the second time in its history, The New Yorker devoted its entire issue to one article, Danner's piece, "The Truth of El Mozote", an investigation into the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador, thought to be one of the worst atrocities in modern Latin American history. The Mozote article became the basis for Danner's first book, The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War, which was published in 1994. The New York Times Book Review recognized The Massacre at El Mozote as one of its "Notable Books of the Year."[6]

The Balkans and The New York Review of Books[edit]

During the mid-1990s Danner began reporting on the wars in the Balkans, writing a series of eleven extended articles for The New York Review of Books, which began with Danner's cover piece, "The US and the Yugoslav Catastrophe" (November 20, 1997) and concluded with "Kosovo: The Meaning of Victory", (July 15, 1999).

His 16,000-word essay, "Marooned in the Cold War: America, the Alliance and the Quest for a Vanished World," which appeared in World Policy Journal (Fall 1997) provoked a prolonged exchange of letters and responses from Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Congressman Lee H. Hamilton, and Ambassador George F. Kennan.

Iraq and the War on Terror[edit]

Danner began writing about the war on terror soon after September 11, 2001, publishing ""The Battlefield in the American Mind" in the New York Times in October of that year. He began speaking out against invading Iraq, notably in a series of debates with Christopher Hitchens, Leon Wieseltier, Michael Ignatieff, David Frum, William Kristol and others.[7] He reported from Iraq for The New York Review of Books in a series of lengthy dispatches including "Iraq: How Not to Win a War" (September 25, 2003), "Delusions in Baghdad" (February 12, 2004), and ""The War of the Imagination" (December 21, 2006).

In May 2005 Danner wrote an essay for The New York Review accompanying the first American publication of the so-called "Downing Street Memo", the leaked minutes of a July 2002 meeting of high-level British officials that confirmed that when it came to the debate over whether to go to war in Iraq, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," and that the invasion of Iraq was in fact a foregone conclusion. The essay provoked a number of responses and led to two subsequent essays, all of which were collected, along with relevant documents and a preface by New York Times columnist Frank Rich, in 2006 in The Secret Way to War: the Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War's Buried History.

Torture and Abu Ghraib[edit]

Beginning in the spring of 2004, he wrote a series of essays for The New York Review on the emerging torture scandal that came to be known as Abu Ghraib. In October 2004, he collected these essays and gathered them, together with a series of government documents and reports, into his book, Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror.

In March 2009, Danner published an essay in The New York Review,' "US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites", which revealed the contents of a secret International Committee of the Red Cross report based on testimony from "high-value detainees" in the "War on Terror," who had been captured, held, and interrogated at secret US prisons—the so-called "black sites". Shortly thereafter, he published a second essay, "The Red Cross Report: What it Means' and released the full text of the report on The New York Review website. Weeks later, President Obama ordered released four Justice Department memos in which the Bush administration purported "to legalize torture." Senior Obama officials Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod claimed publicly that the memos' release was prompted by publication of the Red Cross Report.[8]

Other works[edit]


In addition to The Massacre at El Mozote (1994), Torture and Truth (2004), and The Secret Way to War (2006), Danner is the author of The Road to Illegitimacy: One Reporter's Travels through the 2000 Florida Recount (2003) and Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War (2009). His most recent book is Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War, published in June 2016.

Television and commentary[edit]

Danner co-wrote and helped produce two-hour-long television documentaries for ABC News' Peter Jennings Reporting series: "While America Watched: The Bosnian Tragedy" and "House on Fire: America's Haitian Crisis", which both aired in 1994. As commentator, Danner has appeared on The Charlie Rose Show, The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour and Bill Moyers Journal on PBS, CNN's Prime News, Situation Room, and Anderson Cooper 360, ABC's World News Now, C-Span's Morning Show, and The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, among others.

Academic career[edit]

Since 2000, Danner has been a Professor of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2002 he also accepted a Henry R. Luce professorship in Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College, where, in 2006, he was named the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities. At Berkeley, where he is now Chancellor's Professor of Journalism and English, he teaches on foreign affairs, politics, and literature, including seminars on war and revolution, crisis management, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky. At Bard he conducts seminars on politics and literature, including on torture, utopia, Faust, the picaresque, drone warfare, and the politics of the War on Terror.[9] In April 2010, Danner delivered the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Stanford, entitled "Torture and the Forever War: Living in the State of Exception."[10]

Honors and awards[edit]

Danner’s work has been honored with a National Magazine Award, three Overseas Press Awards, and an Emmy. In 1999, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. In 2006 he was awarded the Carey McWilliams Award to honor that year's "major journalistic contribution to our understanding of politics."[11] In 2008 and 2010 he was named the Marian and Andrew Heiskell Visiting Critic at the American Academy in Rome. In 2016, he was named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow.

Published works[edit]

Lectures and Interviews
Anthologies and Introductions


  1. ^ Macarthur Fellows 1999
  2. ^ UC Berkeley Journalism Faculty Bio
  3. ^ Danner, Mark. "Bio". Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  4. ^ "Into the Inferno, with Notebook". "Writer Mark Danner is at his best when the world is at its worst", Harvard magazine, January–February 2005
  5. ^ "The Amazing Human Launching Pads". "Who Runs New York", New York magazine, September 26, 2010
  6. ^ "Notable Books of the Year: 1994". "Notable Books of the Year: 1994", New York Times, December 4, 1994
  7. ^ "The Great Debate" by Gary Kamiya,, January 30, 2003
  8. ^ "Emanuel Addresses Torture Memos
  9. ^ ""
  10. ^ Journalist and Academic Mark Danner to Deliver 2010 Tanner Lectures, with focus on torture
  11. ^ American Political Science Association (APSA)

External links[edit]