ICIJ: How the Panama Papers rocked pop culture

Fun read – here’s the introduction

Band names, dozens of song titles, a racehorse and even cigarette rolling papers. Seven years on, the ICIJ-led reporting collaboration that sparked a global political earthquake continues to show up in surprising ways.

n early 2021, Eli Luchak, a bartender and singer in New Orleans, was trying to conjure up a name for the Southern sludge/metallic hardcore band he and five other twenty-something friends were putting together.

One early idea for the group’s name had been Poodle Moth, a reference to a mysterious and fluffy insect that’s been spotted just once, in the Gran Sabana region of Venezuela. But that didn’t capture the kind of loud and politically passionate music Luchak and his bandmates were gravitating toward.

So he started thinking about a global event that had caught his attention back in 2016, during his sophomore year of high school in Philadelphia: the Panama Papers investigation.

For Luchak, the collaborative journalism initiative had been a moment of political and economic illumination that helped him understand “how the world works.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation, which revealed names and other specifics of powerful figures who exploit offshore financial secrecy at the expense of the rest of the world’s population, offered Luchak a possible name that could speak to his awakening.

He suggested calling the band Mossack Fonseca, after the Panamanian law firm at the center of the Panama Papers. Or Panama Papers Shredders, playing off the idea of hidden documents being destroyed but also the “shredding” style of guitar work often used in heavy metal.

Neither of those quite clicked. He and the band decided that a straight-forward and alliterative name — Panama Papers — was the way to go. After an intense period of songwriting and practicing, they’ve been playing under that name at house parties and clubs around New Orleans for a year now.

The band’s name is a testament to the cultural impact that the Panama Papers investigation has achieved since it debuted on April 3, 2016 — seven years ago today.