Wednesday, March 5, 2014


It would be sad if it weren't so stupid, but apparently there is a full-on media war between factions of the ruling class, or that's apparently what we are supposed to think now that the floundering and relatively content-free "Intercept," backed by Pierre Omidyar (eBay, PayPal), is being tweaked by the Big Bullies at Pando, led by Mark Ames and Paul Carr, and backed by a plethora of Silicon Valley billionaires headed by Paul Thiel (PayPal) and Marc Andressen (too many SV software and venture capital endeavors to count). Soon after this supposed media war began, Eric Wemple of the Washington Post chimed in with a mild criticism of disingenuousness at First Look, which had the potential to add the WaPo's owner, Jeff Bezos (Amazon), to the mix, but it seems that for the moment, he has declined. Yesterday, though, Pando published another exposé of monumental Greenwaldian hypocrisy, posting a Bloggingheads video "debate" between Greenwald and Ben Smith of Politico, wherein Greenwald rakes Smith over the coals regarding who finances Politico and what their ("obvious") influence in the newsroom must be.

I saw the "debate" when it happened in 2007, and I read and commented on Greenwald's Salon posts leading up to it. The issue seemed clear enough at the time: big ticket financial backers of media enterprises are likely to influence the way the news is covered -- or if it is covered at all -- simply because they pay the bills and the salaries of their employees. Even if there is no direct contact between the finance side and the newsroom, the influence will be there. As I put it, "Money may not be speech, but it sure talks." (NOTE: Greenwald had only been at Salon for a few months at the time, and tweaking "establishment" media for click bait was part of his "beat" as it were. This was one of the first times at Salon that his goading resulted in a real donnybrook and "debate." Of course, Salon, being the Pioneer in the Online Magazine Field, could accurately be characterized as about as "establishment" as it could get among its internet compatriots. Then again, it was always in financial crisis and needed the clicks... but that's another story for another time.) :-P

The import of this "debate" now is the contrast between Greenwald's questions and certain knowledge then -- that the well known right wing management and funders of Politico must influence the news choices and skew of Politico because they pay the bills -- and the utter cluelessness and disinterest that Greenwald and Marcy have regarding Omidyar and his influence on the virtual "newsroom(s)" at First Look (they know nothing, they care nothing, they have complete "independence" so what their funder and chief does or believes is of no consequence to them.)

In retrospect, it's clear as crystal that not only was Greenwald's 2007 "debate" over Politico's management and funders primarily click-bait, but so were many, many other set-tos between Greenwald and various legal and media personalities. Positions were taken that were for the purpose of the "debate" -- but they did not necessarily have anything to do with personal beliefs or ideology. They were merely taken for the purpose of injecting ideas and getting people to pay attention. Clicks. Forget it, Jake. It's just business.

The pretense of disinterest and cluelessness about Pierre Omidyar's various political and financial operations around the world is extraordinarily -- monumentally -- disingenuous if it is true. To assert that another media outlet's coverage of the news is obviously influenced by the acts and politics of those who fund and operate it, but that First Look is somehow not influenced in any way by Pierre Omidyar's or Glenn Greenwald's positions, acts and interests borders on an absurdist comedy. Of course there is influence, both direct and subtle, and no amount of alleged "independence" can make it go away. As Greenwald rightly noted to Ben Smith all those years ago, journalists "know the work they do ought to be pleasing to the people who sign their paychecks." Of course, it's self-evident. If their work were not "pleasing" to the man or woman with the power of the purse, the journalists in question are not there. Duh.

It was ever thus, it is true everywhere, and it is as true for Greenwald and crew as it is for anyone else in the media business -- if someone else is paying the bills. If their work is not pleasing to the man who pays the bills, their work is not there.  This shouldn't be hard to understand. If one's work is not "pleasing," one is not hired in the first place; if one's work ceases to be "pleasing," one is dismissed. One does not have the option of "displeasing" the boss and staying in one's position, and one knows this -- or at least one should.

"Independence" has nothing to do with it. Or rather, what it has to do with it is that the "independence" being asserted is part of what is found "pleasing" by the boss. Assertion of "independence" is what the boss wants. Got it? What "independence" means in practice is intentionally unstated.

Apparently, for a recent example, cluelessness and disinterest in the boss's (Omidyar's) financial and political activities and interests is pleasing to the boss. When the matter is the financial and political activities and interests of some other media outlet, interfering government agency or targeted organization, however, be it Politico or what you will, cluelessness and disinterest are replaced by dogged investigation, accusation and exposure, which in that case is also pleasing to the boss. You see how this works?

Well of course. It's glaringly obvious.

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