Saturday, March 1, 2014

Greenwald's Apologetics

I've seen enough of Greenwald's -- and others' -- apologetics on behalf of Omidyar and his New Media Venture First Look and on behalf of those employed by it to be a little bit sickened to slog through one of them again. Greenwald is even more prolix than I am, and he is known for being less than forthcoming. Marcy Wheeler has also issued a statement. There are apparently several others out there, but I'll stick with Greenwald for now.


As a lot of people seem to know -- but many are blissfully oblivious, may they remain at peace! -- Mark Ames over at Pando, one of America's most inveterate Big (enough) Media journalists, a muck-raker of muck-rakers, and all around bon vivant terrible, posted a piece yesterday at Pando in which he pointed to documentary evidence that was apparently quite easy to find that Pierre Omidyar, through his Omidyar Network, has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Ukrainian opposition that recently succeeded in overthrowing the Yanukovych regime in Kiev.

Omidyar's efforts were aligned with those of a plethora of State Department agencies and activists, NGOs and foundations which together poured millions and millions of dollars into the Yanukovych opposition, providing abundant financial support at the very least. The CIA has also long been rumored to be a part of the funding and support mix keeping the protests going and eventually enabling the end of Yanukovych's rather inept rule.

The fact of direct American involvement in funding the Ukrainian opposition is hardly a surprise, as these things are going on all over the world all the time, and they have a long and brutal history. The surprise, if there is one, is Omidyar's direct funding of opposition groups to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. So far as I've seen, no other billionaire is directly funding the opposition in Ukraine.

Ames said he was clued to look into the matter of outside funding of Ukrainian opposition groups by a series of tweets by Marcy Wheeler which mentioned coups and dark or deep forces and American financial and other backing...

And shortly he found documentary evidence of Omidyar funding of Ukrainian opposition groups in the archives of one of those groups. You can find just about anything online if you look hard enough, eh?

Ames suggested that there might be a journalistic conflict of interest, hmmmm, if Omidyar is funding oppositions while his stable of journalists are... ignorant?

Hard to say.

At any rate, after stonewalling yesterday, both Greenwald and Wheeler have "responded" to the Ames piece with what can only be called Apologetics, and like the Catholic kind, one can believe them or not, but it is difficult or impossible to argue with them, for they ultimately rely on Faith Alone.


I shall now attempt to do a running commentary on Greenwald's response. (Italicised segments are my paraphrases of Greenwald's statement at the Intercept.)

A. Intro. I just found out about this 30 minutes ago, sorry I haven't responded before now. I don't follow Twitter all the time, you know.
  1. This would be called a "dodge" in any rational situation, as the story was posted many hours before someone apparently alerted him to it, and Wheeler had been furiously Twittering with Paul Carr for hours already over it. To suggest that Greenwald hadn't been alerted earlier than "30 minutes ago" is disingenuous at best. 
B. I have not spoken to anyone, not Pierre or anyone else in the world about this matter...
  1. "Spoken" maybe not, but there is always Twitter and various other communications media that don't require one to "speak"  with whomever one is communicating. To say he hasn't "spoken" says nothing about other forms of communications.
C. I barely know what this is all about, but I'll try to address this and other issues I feel are important. 
  1.  "I had no prior knowledge..." (h/t Tanya Harding) A classic dodge. Lawyers and politicians use it all the time. "You've caught me unawares, I know so very little, but if you'll permit me, I'll attempt to respond to your questions one at a time, and if you'll allow me to, I'll make a statement about what I believe is really important here."
D. While I literally know nothing about this article, in five minutes on the Google Machine, I discovered that this supposed Bombshell about Omidyar's funding of a Ukrainian opposition group was already long since made public because the investment was announced on the Omidyar Network website years ago. So obviously there's no story here. Move along.
  1. Uh, "investment?" Ok then, so if this was an investment, one would assume earnings -- a return on investment, no? How, exactly, would that work? Oh, never mind.
  2. A grant is not an "investment," but in classic Greenwald style, he conflates the two, at one point referring to an "investment" and in the very next paragraph referring to a $3 million "grant" that covers the same thing as his previous "investment."  This is a form of trickery called "sleight of hand," in which terms get deliberately jumbled so that later he can say with a straight face, "I don't know what you are referring to."
E. I am as concerned as anyone else with the financial dealings of corporations and billionaires who fund journalistic enterprises, really, I am, but in this case, it doesn't look to me like the Omidyar Network is ashamed of funding this (single) Ukrainian opposition outfit. Look! They announced it years ago for all the world to see! Hardly hiding it at all.
  1. This is both disingenuous and nonresponsive as nobody claims they were ashamed of it or trying to hide it. The fact that a grant (or was it an "investment?" You decide) was announced in a 2011 press release and detailed on a website doesn't indicate anything about how well it was publicized. But that isn't the issue. 
F. I am so confused! What is the "scandal" here? I thought just 72 hours ago EVERYONE was on the side of the opposition. Now we're not supposed to be? When did this change come about? And why in Heaven's Name should First Look be expected to respond to this nothingburger? I didn't support the opposition. Really. In fact, I was called a "Putin Shill" for NOT supporting the rebellion. I'm on your side. Really.
  1. Nonresponsive, disingenuous, and distractive. The issue is not that this is a "scandal" but that it is potentially important that a billionaire who is funding a New Media venture is also backing opposition efforts in foreign lands. It has nothing to do with whether Greenwald supports the Ukrainian coup or not. It's not about him in that respect.
G. I am so hurt! My life is in danger! I've been accused of being a criminal by no less than a Congressman of the United States of America! I take these things very seriously! Now I am being accused of not being on the right side of the Ukrainian uprising! This is not fair! This is not right! This will not stand! I put my life on the line, and everyone I work with is a fierce critic of government and corporations, and I will not have you accuse me of being a CIA tool! Stop it!
  1.  Nonresponsive, disingenuous, distractive, irrelevant. This is what's known as "grandstanding." It has nothing -- at all -- to do with the article in question, it's merely Greenwald's plea for attention. In fact, Ames never mentions the CIA. We may have to come back to this erm... slip... later.
H. I had no prior knowledge of Omidyar funding of this previously unheard of Ukrainian opposition group, really, I didn't, even though any journalist worth the name should have been able to find it because it was all public and shit and they weren't trying to hide it or anything. I didn't know because I didn't care, I'm a perfessional. It has nothing to do with me. So why would I care? Huh?
  1. Typical dodge, but it points to something that, if true, should be worrisome. Basically, Greenwald is using "Lawyer Ethics" -- he'll work for anyone who pays him, and he won't ask questions. That's not journalism. Far from it. The question here is whether he's telling the truth, because if he has never looked into the backgrounds and ties of any of his current/former employers, then he isn't doing even rudimentary due diligence. Or did he, as Alexa O'Brien so elegantly put it, "He fucking lied."
I. No one can tell me what to do! No one! No one! No one! I am INDEPENDENT!!!!! I report what I want to report!!!! Leave me alone! 
  1. Irrelevant, nonresponsive, juvenile. 'Nough said.
J. I know you are but what am I? Neener, neener, neener. 
  1. Juvenile, puerile, strawman, horseshit. Here Greenwald is accusing Ames, who he refuses to name, of being just like him, unaffected by the "repugnant" views of the of the media outlets they work for. So there. The problem is, Ames hasn't accused Greenwald or anyone else of being "affected," by their employer's political views. That's not the point.
K. I'm not a stooge for the government!
  1.   Nobody said he was. But since he's so sensitive to the accusation that isn't made, maybe somebody should look into it...
L.  Everyone who's anyone works for the Oligarchs now, buster, even you, so don't you get on your high horse with me! Even the ACLU gets Soros money. Soros! Soros! Soros!
  1.  Irrelevant. Ames has always been very up front about the investors in Pando, and their roles with the organization; Greenwald has always feigned ignorance and/or been evasive when asked about Omidyar and his actual role in First Look. Basically, he won't answer about Omidyar, but he seems to know plenty about the funders of other organizations while claiming to know and care nothing about Omidyar.
M. I'm not responsible for Pierre!!!!
  1.   Nobody said you were!!!! Why are you yelling!!!!!
N. Money makes the world go around, the world go around, the world go around.
  1. We know. Thank you for sharing.
O. Ames [Whose name I shall not utter, no, no, no, you cannot make me!!!] is a LIAR. I don't have "exclusive access" to the Snowden Hoard. Others have lots of docs too, it's not just ME!!!! LIAR!!!!
  1.  Lie. Ames says that he and Poitras have the only "complete" sets of Snowden Docs, something Greenwald has on other occasions acknowledged, but here he implies that Ames claims that Greenwald and Poitras are the only journalists with any of them, but that's simply, obviously and grossly false. Greenwald has done this on other occasions as well when people say he and Poitras have the only "complete" sets of Snowden Docs. He lies and claims they are saying he and Poitras have the only  Snowden docs. Both Greenwald and Poitras are also employed by Omidyar. The issue in dispute is whether Omidyar has access to the documents. Greenwald denies it, but we have only his word to rely on. And that word is... decide for yourself...
P. My history speaks for itself! I don't approve of US Government interference in the business of other countries. I don't know anything about Ukrainia, I don't know anything about Pierre's funding of the Ukrainan opposition, and I DON'T CARE!!!!! 
  1.  Note the dodge here: he is opposed to government interference in the affairs of other nations, but he has nothing to say about private foundations or individuals interfering. Nope. Not a word. 
Q. Pierre lets me do and say whatever I want! You can't stop me! And you better not try!
  1.   Juvenile, nonresponsive. Tiresome. Has nothing to do with the topic of Omidyar funding of Ukrainian opposition.
This is typical of Greenwald's defenses and apologetics. It's mostly about something other than the issue at hand, and when the actual topic is addressed, the answer is basically, "I don't care about anything but ME."

That's long been his answer to everything. What about MEEEE?

Oh snap! Paul Carr, Pando editor, responds to Greenwald's apologetics.

Should Glenn Greenwald ever find himself curious as to what his boss is up to, he can rest assured the answers will always be found right here on Pando.
The whole thing is kind of precious. But I realize that Twit Wars and pissing contests bore a whole lot of people who have actual lives to lead... ;-)


  1. Dearest Che,

    Only slightly off topic...

    Yesterday, I was talking to my brother about the Omidyar/Ukraine/GG/Snowden extravaganza and said that I would never comment on the Intercept or First Look since I am fairly certain that Omidyar (who is a techie par excellence) may be setting up a "honeypot trap" to track "dissidents". Why not? We know that Amazon has partnered with the CIA, and even GG has said he'd be surprised if the NSA weren't somehow involved in tracking PayPal users. Certainly most of the GG followers and those interested in the NSA documents would be drawn to the site (First Look/Intercept) and would be considered "dissidents" by the PTB.

    This morning, I found an interesting exchange in the comment section of the Intercept. Turns out First Look, which includes the Intercept, of course, is using multiple data tracking technology on commenters.

    Sprockethawk (remember him?) says in one comment (and this is only a small portion of his comment):

    "[...] And Intercept uses the services of these malignant capitalizers. Indeed, according to my Ghostery listing, coming to Intercept means being tracked by Google, Amazon, and Mixpanel (“The most advanced analytics platform ever…”). And presumably eBay caches in at the back end, too. What it means, obviously enough, is that First Look tracks its viewers just as vigorously as any other player out there and provides Big Data with more marketing opportunities. One imagines that the kinds of people who read and respond favorably to your piece on infiltators above, for instance, would be of some interest to the authorities. (And we knows how the Googles an’Amzons likes to share they data wif Big Bro.) This would be ironical, Glenn, except that it’s too frightening to be merely glib about. I mean, after all, you built this city on rock and roll. [...]"

    Glenn tries lamely to explain away the use of the Google Analytics program ("It has good uses, too!") and calls the worry over it "absurd" and then is soundly bashed by the more alert of the readers. Sprockethawk in particular replies with cold, hard facts and calls bullshit.

    You really must read the entire exchange. If you go to the following link, it will take you to about the place where the shitstorm starts; you need to scroll up a bit to catch the beginning of the discussion.

    I stand by my statement to my brother. Comment at First Look and be tracked if you want; I don't want. I have NO doubt that we will find, in due course, that Omidyar has ties to the NSA or the CIA or Booz-Allen or whatever. He is already linked to USAID through the Ukraine "donations" and USAID is CIA.

    Wheels within wheels. Wanna write a post?


    1. Hey Teri,

      Wellll, give me a minute or so. I'm up early and we're out of coffee, so I'm not exactly alert right now... heh. At any rate...

      There were complaints from some users from the outset about tracking bots used by "The Intercept," and it sounds like those complaints are getting more forceful and are coming from a wider variety of folks (not just from geeks who are deep into this shit.)

      Ordinarily, I wouldn't bother with the comment cess-pit over there, because there is usually nothing but repetitive bullshit contained therein. Some of the repetition is (I have little doubt) due to the same individual posting under a variety of names, but some of it is due to a cultish conformity of thought.

      But since you so kindly link to it, I will sally forth and see what's up.

      (As for those ties between Omidyar and the letter-agencies and Booz and whoever... count on it.)

      Back laterrrr....

    2. Ok. I did look at that those comments, skimmed them. They're pretty long and detailed so I'll have to go back and read them in depth in a bit. From a quick skim, it appears the complaints are valid and clear, Greenwald is bullshitting and waving his arms the way he does, and then --- whoosh! -- Mona comes to the rescue with a bright shiny object ("Censorship!!") -- or maybe not, I haven't checked the time stamps.

      I'd say right now that the honeypot aspects of that or any other site are a somewhat more complicated issue than the tracking aspects. You will be tracked on the internet, there's practically no escape from it without fairly elaborate masks and shields (as it were!) Who is doing the tracking and to what object is always an interesting study, for there can never be a complete answer.

      On the other hand, there are plenty of honeypot sites for all sorts of entrapment purposes. The question of dissenters and their consolidation under a particular banner at a particular website is a good one, but personally, I don't see it so much in connection with commenters at the Intercept as I do with the staff. Pierre has hired/bought some of the most activist dissenters previously working in the so-called free press and placed them all in one bell jar, where, interestingly, they have become remarkably reticent about certain topics or they have shut up altogether for months at a time. (ie: Taibbi, who we might not hear from again till... who knows? At least at RS, he was writing regularly...or take Poitras and some of the other women over there who have never uttered a peep in connection with or on behalf of Intercept; it's like they're decoration and nothing more)

      More than a few observers have said they had already curbed their enthusiasm for dissent when Pierre bought them -- or they were never dissenters at all, but rather, they were flatterers (Froomkin and Rosen come to mind) -- but that's as may be. The theory is that by consolidating them, but essentially making them very quiet, dissent in general is channeled and tamed.

      If that was the intent, I don't know that it's working too well, because what's happening is that others are stepping into the void left by Pierre's removal of those voices from the more general media. If anything, dissent is growing, not diminishing, starting with dissent against the Billionaire's Boy's Club.

      But I ramble. Later...

  2. You ARE up early, Che.

    Other funny stuff; Greenwald, in his response (and this is said again later by Pedinska) says that the Intercept 'has only been up for 15 days, so give us a break, we're working on it. We may find alternatives to Google Analytics.' Uh-huh. $250 mm and months of preparation, and this is what you got? Three systems tracking every commenter and comments randomly disappearing (another common complaint)? And your proposed solution is to find an alternative tracking system?

    Either GG is being taken for a ride, or he is part of the trap.

    Yet, even after the exchange I link to, the "regulars" continue to blithely sign in and blather on and on, as though completely unconcerned about the implications of the information Sprockethawk and a few others have provided. I guess because it would be impossible for GG and anyone ever associated with him, past, present, or future, to be less than saintly. Omidyar is now considered one of the Apostles, and off limits for critique, as to subject him to any questions about actions or motivations is somehow seen as bad-mouthing Greenwald.

    These people are in for a shock.


    1. OK. A little bit better now. I found some coffee...;-) It wasn't Mona who came to the rescue but Pedinska as you say, with her disingenuous "Listen to Glenn! They're working on it! I've Tweeted Micah! Desist!"

      I'm sure they are "working on it." Overtime. I'm sure she did Twit: "Clean up in ailse 3! Sprockethawk is on the loose!"

      Let's not forget, Pierre's business venture is essentially his own proprietary platform of trackers and bots that are supposed to keep their users "safe" from other ones. Beauty!

      I like this Sprockethawk, and I recall the name from other venues, but right now, I can't remember where or when.

      The efforts to dismiss or diminish Sprockethawk's (and others') complaints are interesting. It's all good because it's only corporate not gov't tracking? OMG. This is such a tired trope. As Sprockethawk points out, Google provides the gov't spooks with the platform, the tools, and the data; there's no difference; it's all one pile of info. It's bullshit to claim some sort of wall between gov't spooks and Google. They are the same thing. Jeebus.

      Are these people really that ignorant, or do they want you to be?

      What this Omidyar fellow is really up to needs some hot shot investigative journalist to look into, because it seems more and more like his "vision" as Jeremy puts it, is not at all what the rubes are being told it is. He's using his wealth, his position in the shadows, and his power to get something he really, really wants. This goes well beyond what some of the other billionaires are doing, it seems to me, but they're no slouches when it comes to getting what they want, either.

      We, the Rabble, are not even pawns in this game. I sometimes doubt that we, the Rabble, even exist in their minds except as resources to be exploited or trash to be disposed of.

      Greenwald claims to be oblivious to and uninterested in Omidyar's "politics". I don't happen to believe it. The Intercept is nothing but a simple Wordpress blog that he could have set up on his own for free. It isn't at all what it was touted as, this Grand New Media venture and outlet for sharp and snappy investigative/adversarial journalism. It's a blog that recapitulates and recycles stories that have been well-covered elsewhere.

      If it is anything at all, it is a cover for whatever is going on in the background. Tracking the users of the site is probably integral to that operation, whatever it is, and the blank stares that greet those who raise the issue of tracking indicate to me just how important user tracking is to whatever Pierre's "vision" is leading to.

  3. Eh, may be just as dirt-simple as a quest for more money. Billionaires are very singleminded about that issue.

    Oblahblah is suggesting one solution to the "NSA problem" would be to put all the data harvesting into the hands of private firms. Google, Amazon, etc. come to mind, as well as Verizon and the other telecoms. Perhaps Omidyar is just showing his stuff so as to be a contendah in the contest. Or maybe, like Bezos, he would like a $500 mm/year contract with the CIA or one of the other spook agencies.

    In any case, whether the tracking is done for advertising purposes or a darker reason is irrelevant to me - First Look is tracking heavily for some reason, but they don't have pop-up ads, so I wouldn't assume it is for ad-clicks - I see no reason to jump in where I have been warned there are *multiple* trackers in place. One of which is Google and one of which is Amazon, both selling info to the government. On a site 'devoted to transparency and exposing the evils of the PTB'.

    I concede to you that there is way more to the Omidyar story than what we know so far, and that tracking the commenters is not as big a deal as I make it out to be. It may be part of the vision, but not the entire point, as you say.

    The reaction, or absence of it, to Sprockethawk and the one or two others, really *is* astonishing. But then look at how many people know that Facebook will sell them out to the cops, but continue to use that site and publish photos and personal information with abandon. Sprockethawk used to post at UT, BTW. His posts gradually dwindled down to nothing in the last two years of GG's reign at Salon; that's where I remember him from.

    Got to get some work done, so I will leave you alone now.


    1. Ah, thanks for the reminder of where I had seen the Sprockethawk name before. Seems so long ago now!

      It's worth keeping in mind that eBay and PayPal both have very close ties with the (Inter)national Security/Surveillance State, and they're not about to give those ties up. If, as seems to be the case, Omidyar is also funding targeted opposition, revolts and uprisings abroad in concert with Washington, then I think we can start to see the outline of his "vision" start to come into focus.