Mark Ames vs Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald on USAID

Last week the Associated Press reported that USAID — which provides billions in taxpayer cash for overseas “humanitarian” aid programs — created a Twitter-like platform in Cuba as a step toward fomenting a youth revolt against that country’s government. The way three ostensibly lefty journos, Mark Ames, Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald responded to this is quite interesting and revealing.

“Is USAID the New CIA?”, asked Democracy Now on Twitter to promote the Amy Goodman segment of the same name.

Good question“, tweeted Glenn Greenwald.

Actually, it’s an astonishingly stupid and misleading question, to the extent it implies that USAID has only now wandered into the dark realm of subversion and regime change, or has always been entirely separate from the CIA in the first place. The dark side of USAID, as well as its partnerships with the CIA have been public knowledge for years, but for those in need of a refresher, Mark Ames has helpfully provided one in “The murderous history of USAID, the US Government agency behind Cuba’s fake Twitter clone.”  After reminding his readers that USAID recently partnered with Greenwald’s boss Pierre Omidyar in stoking regime change in Ukraine, Ames laboriously documents some of the agency’s other projects over the years which include:

1. The Office of Public Safety.

Ames writes:

Under Kennedy’s reorganization, a police training program set up under President Eisenhower, the Office of Public Safety (OPS), was placed under USAID’s authority. The OPS had been set up in 1957 to train friendly overseas police forces how to be more professional, more democratic, less corrupt… — but in reality, the OPS was essentially a CIA proxy…its ranks covertly sprinkled with CIA spooks in hotspots across the globe.

Former New York Times correspondent A. J. Langguth wrote that the “the two primary functions” of the USAID police training program were to allow the CIA to “plant men with local police in sensitive places around the world,” and to bring to the United States “prime candidates for enrollment as CIA employees.”

The account Ames gives makes clear that there was a third function, which was the training of local police in ‘the dark arts of rule-by-terror’.  Ames describes the career of ghoulish Dan Mitrioni who, on the USAID payroll, ran terror schools for cops, training over 100,000 police in Brazil alone. After being stationed in Uruguay, Mitrione sound-proofed the basement of his house before holding classes in torture for local police, where he demonstrated the use of electric shock and vomit inducing drugs on kidnapped vagrants, whom he tortured to death.

Ames goes on to describe all the extremely vicious business OPS and its trainees got up to, such as assisting in the overthrow of Brazil’s democratically-elected president Joao Goulart, and installing a right-wing military dictatorship that would last two decades; repression through murder and torture of the left-wing Tupamoro rebels of Uruguay; in Laos during the Vietnam War, partnership with the CIA in opium-smuggling and the forced resettlement of Hmong families to force them to fight the North Vietnamese; in Guatemala, training of 30,000 police to repress local leftists and later material support for death squads committing genocide against the Maya; in El Salvador, partnering with The Green Berets, the CIA and the State Department to form two paramilitaries that would ‘form the backbone’ of  a death squad system that murdered 75,000 people between 1979 and 1992.

2. In Haiti, via a “democracy promotion” program, assistance to antigovernment, pro-business groups in opposition to populist, left-wing president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was overthrown in a coup in 1991, months after he had won Haiti’s first democratic election.

3. In Peru, funding for president Alberto Fujimori’s forced sterilization of 300,000 mostly indigenous women.

4. In Russia during the 1990s, funding for privatization schemes that led to the destruction of the country’s social welfare system and the handing over of public assets to a handful of oligarchs; funding for PR campaigns to promote neoliberal reforms and political candidates.

If it seems I’ve gone into quite a bit of detail summarizing Ames’ piece, it’s so you can fully appreciate the whitewashing banality and ignorance of Greenwald’s and Goodman’s responses to the same story. Goodman, in particular, who I have examined on this blog previously for her peerless ability to be usefully idiotic, outdoes herself in her repulsive opening for an otherwise typically banal treatment of the topic at hand.

Perhaps most shockingly, the Cuban Twitter program was not paid for and run by a spy agency such as the CIA. Instead, it was the brainchild of USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid.

Shocking, Amy? Really? How shocking, exactly? Shocking like the electroshocks that finally killed each of those beggars in Dan Mitrioni’s basement, after an eternity of suffering? As shocking as the car battery with which OPS-trained police caused the hemorrhaging of Dilma Rouseff’s uterus, when Rouseff was a Marxist student? As shocking as the shock therapy that drove Russians into poverty? Or do you just mean shocking like how any reasonably intelligent person is shocked by your unutterable banality and incorrigible stupidity and how admired you are by upper middle class ignoramuses who think of themselves as well-informed and radical because they allow you to bore them a few times per week? That kind of shocking?

After offering up the seemingly mandatory clip of White House spokesperson Jay Carney, Goodman trots out Peter Kornbluh, of the National Security Archive. Ames’ piece borrows from National Security Archive material, so it’s exceptionally odd and frustrating that Kornbluh happily plays along with Goodman’s ‘new CIA’ bullshit.

USAID, perhaps, is the new CIA here. And this all has a whiff of Iran-Contra kind of elements, in which, you may remember, Amy, you better than anybody, you know, back in the mid-1980s, when the CIA was banned from supporting the Contras in Central America by Congress and passed the operations to the National Security Council so that they could be conducted from there. And here we may have a situation where covert operations have simply been passed to USAID, where there isn’t very much scrutiny.

It makes no sense at all from a news standpoint to go as far back as Iran-Contra without mentioning what USAID was doing in Central America only a few years before, or the cozy relationship USAID has had with the CIA over the years. No matter how you look at it, this is a whitewash that goes beyond the usual veil of anomalousness professional lefts reflexively throw over routine state repression and imperialist meddling. Goodman’s program is a deliberate lie.

Later in the interview, Kornbluh enthusiastically reports that Cuba –

is changing rapidly into a—from a communist society to a capitalist society. And we can help with that, but we can’t help with that by these silly, surreptitious and absolutely dangerous kind of covert operations.

Yes, of course, we can help with Cuba’s transition to capitalism!  What Democracy Now funder listener doesn’t want to? But quit with the wacky covert stuff, USAID, and bring on the shock therapy!

Not even distorted history intrudes when Glenn Greenwald offers his second worldly-wise shrug at USAID’s  regime-change meddling via The “Cuban Twitter” Scam Is a Drop in the Internet Propaganda Bucket. The first time he shrugged, it was to insist that his boss’s partnership with USAID in Ukraine had no impact on his journalistic independence, clearly the only thing about Omidyar Greenwald believes he or his readers should take any interest in. For Greenwald, the Twitter clone scheme is trivial because ever-so-many other government agencies are meddling online, not least of course, the NSA and GCHQ. What’s one more?

To make his point, Greenwald does his familiar trophy waving — this time previously published Intercept stories and new, predictably redundant documents that no one in their right mind gives a shit about by now. As ever, Greenwald can’t consider there is anything as, or more important, than what he writes about. So a Cuban Twitter clone under the complete control of U. S. government agents stoking regime change, and which attracted tens of thousands of young users, is, from his perspective, no different really from “a system to automatically monitor hotel bookings of at least 350 upscale hotels around the world. . . to detect diplomats and government officials.”

To quote GTI’s comments after I’d first posted:

[Greenwald] made a subtle pivot from “strategy to undermine anticapitalist country” to “damaging the internet.”

[He] might as well have complained that the CIA using exploding cigars to kill Castro undermined the quality of cigars.

Like much of what Greenwald does, it’s so stupid and short-sighted, it’s cringe-inducing, but no doubt USAID and its billionaire partners appreciate it.

Update (link to this update)

Regular readers likely know that I have been highly critical of alleged media watchdog groups for their uncritical, non-analytical approach toward both the Snowden Affair and the First Look media venture to which it is now strongly tied.  I have also written of the bizarre way in which opinion on these matters is vigorously policed and disciplined on the ostensible left.

These concerns came into play two days ago when a reader of Media Lens, a British site that does Chomsky/Herman-inspired media analysis, and which I’ve criticized previously, posted a link to the piece above on the site’s readers forum. In keeping with the forum’s increasingly low bar, a discussion ensued as to whether or not my writing is helpful to the CIA. Some sample comments from forum user emersberger:

The CIA shoud be quite pleased with Tarzie’s output.

I believe the CIA shoud be happy with his output. Why wouldn’t they be?

It is best not to [criticise FirstLook/Intercept] in a dumb, sneering and dishonest way because then it does do the work of groups like the CIA and that is what I’ve concluded about this bloggers’ outbursts.

[Tarzie defended] Owen Jones when challeneged (very politely) by the Eds (telling Jones to disregard the “idiots” in fact), [and engages] in dishonest attacks on Chomsky. Pretty obvious isn’t it? If I’m a CIA guy I’m loving this blogger.

This came with the usual accompaniment of tone-policing by people who think that American radicals aspire to being as dull and passive aggressive as many of the forum’s users, and who believe that imparting unsolicited tips on this is an indisputably friendly gesture. One thing that did not intrude on the conversation much, if at all, was discussion of my post’s merits. After several admittedly angry attempts to refocus the discussion onto Amy Goodman’s and Glenn Greenwald’s whitewashing of USAID, I was banned by the editors.

I won’t go into the back-and-forth, which is available for anyone’s perusal. I will simply quote the editors’ own explanation:

I think it’s not unreasonable to remove someone’s privilege to post on our board when that person has ludicrously described us as ‘models of dishonest and smeary subservience’ and ‘idiotic hypocrites’.

First of all, a clarification: I called them “idiotic hypocrites” on Twitter, not on their forum. Emersberger, in the midst of frothing over my alleged helpfulness to the CIA quoted that tweet, in typically bad faith. Also, the actual offending remark on the board was that  “in relation to Omidyar [the Media Lens editors] are models of dishonest and smeary subservience.”  Media Lens’ truncation of the quote is, I think, deliberately misleading, an attempt to make my accusation seem more sweeping and commensurately less accurate, and to deflect attention from the specific issue it raises.

Second, while I don’t share the popular fascination with hypocrisy, I think it’s relevant here in showing Media Lens editors are less concerned with adherence to posting guidelines than immunizing themselves, and others to whom they’re loyal, from criticism.  I am at pains to see how emersberger’s rhetoric is more compliant with ML’s posting guidelines than mine, putting aside how much more empirically supportable my claims are than his. (More on that later)

Third, I think it is unreasonable for the editors to ban someone for saying unkind things about them, not on any free speech grounds — it’s their forum, they can do what you want — but because it shields them from any but the most tepid criticism.  Do I really have to point out how incongruous that is with what they ostensibly stand for, especially in light of what they had tolerated from emersberger?

Fourth,  I stand  by my statement that the Media Lens editors are “models of dishonest and smeary subservience” in relation to First Look, Pierre Omidyar and Glenn Greenwald. I base this on the following:

1. A quarter billion dollar media play by a Silicon Valley billionaire implicated in the suppression of Wikileaks and other disquieting matters, raises obvious questions for media critics, especially considering the trove of secrets that came with it. You won’t see any of these questions raised by the Media Lens editors, however, who freely admit they will stand down at least until Omidyar’s  venture is more firmly established.

2. They approvingly posted on their forum a pathologizing smear extracted from the grotesque tirade Glenn Greenwald left on my blog in September. Cats Not War blogger Patrick Higgins has discussed this tirade and the pathologizing smear here, using the kind of analysis you won’t find from the Media Lens editors.

3. They did not direct their followers to the Pando report about Omidyar’s partnership with USAID in Ukraine, until Glenn Greenwald’s evasive, fallacious response was published a day later.

4. On Twitter, they laughably RT’d this faux smear directed at me by the parody account @ggreenbacks,  which they later undid, obviously after realizing it was a spoof.

So to summarize the evidence for the ‘ludicrous’ claim that got me banned:

By repeatedly endorsing smears, and indulging smeary, derailing forum users like emersberger, it is entirely correct to say the Media Lens editors are ‘smeary’ too. That they use proxies instead of smearing me outright only makes them cowards.

That this smeariness has been wielded overwhelmingly to shield First Look owner Pierre Omidyar and Glenn Greenwald from criticism makes the charge of subservience equally accurate, particularly in light of their own candid admission of deference cited in item 1, and their timing on Pando’s Ukraine story cited in item 3. That they insist that there is nothing uniquely incongruous between their generosity toward First Look and their ostensible mission and theoretical bent makes them dishonest, as does invoking forum guidelines against a user who does not share their loyalty to First Look while giving a pass to an abusive user who does.

In light of the above, it merits repeating that I was banned from the Media Lens forum after making repeated attempts to refocus the discussion away from smears and tone-trolling and onto Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald’s whitewashing of USAID.

To paraphrase comrade Emersberger, if I’m a USAID guy or a billionaire, I’m loving Media Lens.

—–

Update to this update, Media Lens forum clowns Emersberger and  Rhisiart Gwilym are on day three of smearing me for the tone I took with them for smearing me. As with the clownish editors — y’know the guys that RT @ggreenbacks parody smears — it’s the self-awareness that makes them so lovable.

Actually I do have to credit emersberger with a certain savvy. It could not be more obvious to any objective observer that since this post went up over there, he has worked tirelessly at preventing any serious discussion of it. He has succeeded completely, as demonstrated by this post, from a thoroughly depressing facsimile of an adult human, promising to never “link to Tarzie’s work again, given the reaction”, after paraphrasing all of emersberger’s substance-free smears for him.

This is really the year of being told how awful I am by truly awful people. It may not have improved my character, but I am getting slightly better at keeping human garbage in perspective, and also extremely aware of how easily creeps can manipulate dull-witted conformists. A general aversion to lefts in groups has hardened into a principle.

PS – Welcome newbies from Media Lens. Enjoy the dipshit-free surroundings and modern technology. Be refreshed by analyses that start, rather than end, where Chomsky/Herman left off. Say hi! I only bite assholes. Honk if you hate middle class English dabblers in Eastern religion. (Weird ML-related pet peeve)

—-

Commenter MickStep alerts me to the latest on the joke that is Media Lens forum. God.

—-

The Stalinist fun continues at Media Lens. Greenwald loyalist bar-kin has questions for mickstep, who in addition to being a long-time Media Lens member, is a regular commenter here:

Hello ‘commenter mickstep’,

I would like to ask you the following honest question?

Are just here to stoke up controversies with posters as a sort of agent provocateur to give Tarzie writing material to attack ML with?

The reason I ask is twofold:

1) Tarzie highlighting in his blog the provoking post, which was coincidentally (?) posted by none other than ‘commenter mickstep’
2) Because unlike you, most visitors on this board see themselves as stakeholders and they care a great deal about the reputation and integrity of ML which inseparable from its objectives; so basically undermining the effectiveness one is undermining the success of the other. You seem intent on achieving something else altogether.

Thanks.

It doesn’t seem to occur to bar-kin, that what makes Media Lens look bad are users who put disclaimers on their posts so as not to give offense to bullies wielding smears and accusations, backed by ban-happy editors wielding smears of their own.

I don’t make the news, you clueless, authoritarian fuck, I just report it. If you don’t want Media Lens embarrassed, don’t be embarrassing.

Related

Rancid Discussion Thread: ‘Obsessed’ with Greenwald/Omidyar/First Look

Passing Noam on My Way Out: Part 1

The Toxically Useful Idiocy of Amy Goodman

Glenn Greenwald Still Covering for Omidyar on PayPal

A Harbinger of Journalism Saved

No Pierre Omidyar Doesn’t Want to Topple The Government

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61 Responses to Mark Ames vs Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald on USAID

  1. Phil Greaves says:

    See also how Scahill employs ahistorical tripe when covering supposedly “new” forms of aggressive American foreign policy – like acting as if he coined the term “Dirty War” for example: http://dissidentvoice.org/2013/06/dirty-wars-as-self-indulgence/

    • Tarzie says:

      Yeah, I’ve seen that. His interviews with Goodman are the same way. It’s remarkable how long they can talk and how shallow they remain.

      • Phil Greaves says:

        Its gotta be intentional, how can they be “in” that trade and remain so dumb? – $$$

      • Tarzie says:

        Yeah, I used to think the system just rewarded people with blind spots — and it does — but the level of ignorance here is just very suspect. Some of this shit seems deliberately disinformative.

  2. From Lebanon, and USAID sponsorship of sectarian campaigns:
    Brand America: Of False Promises and Snake Oil
    http://electronicintifada.net/content/brand-america-false-promises-and-snake-oil/6725

    We love life whenever we can
    http://electronicintifada.net/content/we-love-life-whenever-we-can/6665

  3. Lorenzo says:

    That Kornbluh quote is a whopper. First, there’s the sickening, starry-eyed optimism about Cuba’s shift to capitalism. I bet Cuba, with its relatively high quality-of-life indices, can’t wait to be more like Russia after 1991. Just think how much the few dozen Cubans who will become extraordinarily wealthy will benefit from the Washington consensus! IMF loans, austerity measures–yes, Kornbluh, we certainly can *and will* help as much as we can!

    But we won’t do any good with these “silly, surreptitious” operations. It’s weird that someone who works for the National Security Archive would talk about a “dangerous covert operation” like this as though it’s some kind of aberration, rather than just one weapon in the vast arsenal deployed to subvert and destroy intransigent governments. It makes sense, though, to hear someone talk about chicanery like this as “dangerous” interference, while American money and influence is presumably benign interference.

    • Tarzie says:

      Great observations, especially about ‘silly, surreptitious’ operations. There was also a clip from Patrick Leahy and between the two of them, you would think that this kind of meddling was some kind of relic.

      • Lorenzo says:

        Yeah, I bet Goodman’s listener’s are exactly the sort who think this sort of thing is an archaic, Cold War-era throwback. Like bellbottoms, or Operation Phoenix.
        I was unaware of Leahy’s statement until now, but I like how he calls it “…a cockamamie idea in Cuba with Twitter accounts on something that the Cubans would be so easy to discover.” If this was a covert plan that wasn’t “so easy to discover,” on the other hand, he’d probably have no issue with it.

      • Tarzie says:

        Yeah, it’s very typical Congress-speak on imperialist meddling. Never questions the right to interfere like this. It’s always about what works.

  4. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    I found the Greenwald piece difficult to read, only because I couldn’t get the thought of his anti-Latin American hatemongering out of my mind. That, and being a supporter of Citizens United, I doubt he has problems with NGOs anyway.

    Greenwald wrapped up his article by pointing out how these programs are damaging and subverting the internet. Talk about forest for the trees. He made a subtle pivot from “strategy to undermine anticapitalist country” to “damaging the internet.”

    Could this guy be any more clueless. The internet is the tool. These groups use every tool at their disposal, that’s not news, it’s the way they’ve operated throughout history. During the Cold War it was bugging phone calls and intercepting Telexes and telegrams. If Twitter were around during the Cold War, they would have used it to take down the fSU.

    Greenwald might as well have complained that the CIA using exploding cigars to kill Castro undermined the quality of cigars.

    This is another reason reformism won’t work. Nobody expects the public to use land lines and Selectric typewriters to engage. Why would you expect regulations or slaps on the wrist to change how these large well-funded destabilization and counterrevolutionary projects operate? “Okay, we’ll stop using the internet – sorry!”

    Comandante Castro: “If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I’d win a gold medal.”

  5. parink says:

    I’m embarrassed that I actually defended Goodman once over at Jacob Bacharach’s old blog.

  6. bigLaborLobby says:

    This is a fantastic expose, Tarzie. It’s satisfying in that “easy target” way that reminds me of your article on Chris Hayes, which just goes to show how far Greenwald has fallen now that his shittiness and self absorption are as laughable as an MSNBC anchor. USAID funded NGOs were always suspect to the left, until Pierre, the billionaire with a heart of gold, came along to buy Glenn Greenwald. Now they’re the New CIA, something no one, even courageous Polk-Award-winning-journalists could have predicted.

    I’m torn about how much of what Greenwald says is him being purposely obtuse to avoid criticizing his boss and how much is ignorance. For someone who was politically naive until they were fucking forty, stupidity/ignorance would not surprise me. My guess is that Greenwald is genuinely ignorant about USAID, but is purposely dismissive and uncurious to not ruffle feathers. Just speculation. Amy, of course, has probably literally reported on the shit in Ames’ piece before. Anyway, this was an absolutely lovely read.

    • Tarzie says:

      It’s satisfying in that “easy target” way

      Ha ha. Yeah, Goodman is an especially easy target. Every time I take a hard look at her I don’t understand why people take her so seriously. Comparisons to Chris Hayes are apt.

      I’m torn about how much of what Greenwald says is him being purposely obtuse to avoid criticizing his boss and how much is ignorance.

      I’ve said before, with Greenwald it’s often hard to tell when he’s being usefully or genuinely dense, as it is with a lot of these people. I think he is incurious by nature, and only digs into the things that are useful to his immediate purposes, and then barely. Like you suggest, he has no reason to go digging on USAID.

  7. I would say that Greenwald is only revealing what I would call “cosmopolitan class” interest; meaning, he lives a “Facebook reality” that refuses to include as valid human beings those who are most affected by USAID and its policies.

    For those of us at the other end of the spectrum, in neo-liberal cesspools like Lebanon or elsewhere, the joke is that the extent of these humanitarian imperialistic organizations could easily be flattened into cash payments to citizens. Lebanon has some 7,000 NGOs here; that’s one for every 500 people within the borders.

    I cringe every time I see the logo of USAID, or a European “cultural” foundation, or the IMF on posters or organizational correspondence. That Greenwald might not see this as a valid candidate for resistance speaks long as to where his interests lie: Selfish individual so-called “liberties” and “rights”; his own luxury and privilege quantified.

    Apparently there is a new sitcom in Kenya called The Samaritans that pokes fun at this NGOization. Not sure that this is the way to go, but it speaks to the general and long historical presence of USAID et.al. in colonized lands.
    http://www.salon.com/2014/02/14/kenyas_version_of_the_office_hilariously_skewers_ngos_partner/

  8. Janice Golden says:

    dear tarzie, love this post and your thoughtful analysis + comments, too. I see better your (and Arthur’s) points against glenn now. I’m so glad to have a new post last week by Arthur at his site, too. he never sent his address to me, tho. guess he’s careful, or whatever. I couldn’t send much anyway, but always want to him that guy. I love his work so much. and via his blog, I found yours. http://www.voltairenet.org/article183191.html short enough and worthwhile, check this out, if you haven’t seen it. it has a video at the end – of some of the senate hearing about the zunzuneo campaign. see the boy in charge of USAID try to control all the questions. see what a good coverboy he is. leahy more concerned about alan gross than the gross propaganda ,tweety-terror program. best , jan golden rockland mass.

  9. Dirty says:

    Goodman, Greenwald, Scahill, et al are no better than a person they often ridicule, former USAID “analyst” who took up shop in REGISTAN(southern Kazakhstan–a delightful place ruled by a very friendly tyrant who kills striking Oil Workers for Western Oil Cartels), Joshua Foust. A few years back I responded(a bit of self promotion) to a piece the honorable Mr. Foust, graduate of USAID, wrote to absolve the enlightened West of any guilt for the Breivik Massacre in Norway in The Atlantic. In my response I discuss how US NGOs and USAID provide valuable groundwork to “prepare” people in a region, via sticks for many and carrots for some, for “necessary” intervention.

    http://benjaminspixellatedarcade.blogspot.com/2011/07/response-to-joshua-fousts-piece-why-we.html

    • Tarzie says:

      Goodman, Greenwald, Scahill, et al are no better than a person they often ridicule

      True. It’s all the same racket. Thanks for the link.

    • Dirty says:

      REGISTAN also included regions of Tajikistan and Afghanistan of immense importance to US Imperial ambitions in Central Asia.

      Your recent work on Greenwald, Chomsky, and others has been excellent. Its success is shown in the many toes it has stepped on.

  10. Michael Griffin says:

    Goodman works backward magic by elision and a kind of subliminal innuendo, and for us who can’t get much media (one radio, in the desert, low-bandwidth ‘net) that can be seductive, until the gaps start pulsing alarmingly.
    This blog helped me get through to the emptiness and hollow posturing of Democracy Now!
    Regret, and sentimentality, then building anger about the implicit deceit.
    Today was a real kick in that direction.
    Some Hollywood action docudrama coming about climate disasters. She was pimping it, and it was pimping the ever-ready Th.Friedman, the climate action-figure.
    A man who has nothing in him of respect for the silenced voices that came before his, nothing for the small contemporary voices whose truth he validates while ignoring them completely.
    Pathetic and bitter dregs of hope, a rich fool coining celebrity.
    It’s like watching a vampire walk down the halls of a hospital, smiling.

    Juan Gonzales hasn’t let me down yet, though he does work with Goodman.

  11. Jeff Nguyen says:

    National Puffpiece Radio and Democracy (not) Now…birds of a feather. Straight from the state department mimeo to our ears. I find that local public radio is far more in-depth and informative than the syndicated stuff. The problem is Goodman, Glennwald, et al., are taking up all the oxygen in the room while offering limited hangouts for the state to provide the illusion of dissent and a valve for the valiant, ineffectual left to blow off steam. Meanwhile, nothing and I mean nothing changes.

    • Tarzie says:

      Yep. You called it from the start.

      What’s weird is how much more cred Democracy (not) Now has than NPR. They’re exactly the same. I don’t get it.

      Good implied tip about local vs. celebrity.

  12. I think that the lack of breadth, depth, or historical acumen in the analysis and commentary of Greenwald et al is pretty well illustrated with the quote supplied for his debate partner Ohanian:

    Every other country in the world looked at us as a role model for privacy and freedom. And we dropped the ball.

    Truly an unsullied city on a hill until the perfidy of the NSA reared its ugly head. I’m not sure if Ohanian supplied the quote or if Munk Debates thought it was one of the cleverest things he’s said on the topic, but either way I don’t think the debate will be very edifying.

  13. chepasa says:

    Amy Goodman — and her family — are story-tellers. Her husband and her brother are part of the operation.

    She’s able to weave disparate threads into a seemingly coherent whole, and because she does it consistently and well, a lot of liberals see her as a goddess of sorts.

    After the uproar at Pacifica and getting her plug pulled during a broadcast as Juan Gonzalez resigned in protest, she and DN! reorganized and regenerated, polished off the rough edges and made themselves over into a far more corporate-foundation friendly operation — not that they were ever particularly antagonistic. BTW, does anybody know who funds them? They beat their chests over their “independence” but they get millions from somebody…

    These days she’s doing quite well financially, her DN! salary and her books and whatnot bringing in well over a million a year. Not bad for such an anti-capitalist rebel outfit, eh?

    Oh, wait. You mean they’re not? Who knew?

  14. ThisKneelingFool says:

    I don’t remember any of that discussion as I mostly read and respond to my own areas of interest. But as regards the Eds, I’m completely in agreement with your assessment of their duplicitious behaviour with regards to my participation on the board. I didn’t get banned but resigned publically through utter disgust and now complete lack of respect for them and a goodly number of the attack dogs (posters) who don’t like unorthodox views that challenge their own, RG being the chief culprit. And I would definitely have to concur to the sometimes over-protective behaviour of the Eds to certain things, one being criticism of journalist LOL. Upon requesting my registration details be removed, their “sorry to see you go” reply was so utterly disingenuous as to be caustic. The sad thing is there are some very decent posters who I greatly respect and a general reading of the board tends to work as my access to world events.
    I’m afraid that pretentious is the feeling I’m left with on all of this.

    • Tarzie says:

      Upon requesting my registration details be removed, their “sorry to see you go” reply was so utterly disingenuous as to be caustic.

      The Media Lens editors are so disingenuously passive-aggressive, it’s sickening. It’s this, more than anything, that sets the tone for that dismal forum, where people argue endlessly about arguing — or like RG, pretend to be helpful via insults — instead of having interesting chats. Seems there’s a thread now where they’re busily compiling all the acronym boxes they shove the unfaithful into, like RG’s DADE bin. God. What a bunch. The worst thing is how boring they are. Emersberger seemed like some dismal, malfunctioning robot when he went off on me and the CIA. Today he laughably posted an article on the need for genuinely independent media criticism. Presumably he means the kind that doesn’t please the CIA. He’s actually comical.

      I used to at least enjoy the Alerts, but it’s all the same shit, same obsessions. George Monbiot is the antichrist. Still stuck in the Chomsky/Herman past, where the line between mainstream and alternative was much clearer. Anyone who is giving Omidyar a pass on the grounds of being an ‘independent alternative’ is just a complete fucking idiot at best. They could at least be less slimy about it.

      • ThisKneelingFool says:

        I’ve seen continuing although minor rumblings following my withdrawal from MLMB, the feeble minded just can’t help themselves but to name call. What comes to mind from reading more of your words here is the hippocracy that is never condemned by the Eds. And of course who is the worst hippocrite, but RG, whilst the Eds linger in the background, the slimy cowards as you describe. Here you can see how they gang up on me
        http://members5.boardhost.com/medialens/thread/1397134062.html
        and then again, just to make sure of my exit
        http://members5.boardhost.com/medialens/thread/1397199778.html
        although there are a couple of sympathetic voices too.
        not that I’m thin skinned or anything, but who wants to waste time with such pathetic nobs.
        More on your interchange with the Risible Gollum (hope that makes you laugh) that cleary shows the hippocracy. He retorts to you with his usual DRDADE, which is effectively calling you a troll, breaking the posting guidelines, yet the Eds do nothing. Then he pisses on your shoes with his usual “cheers bro”, “gollum gollum” final comment.

        Then there was this thread “The editors banning of Tarzie was partisan and heavy handed” Agree/Disagree? NM”
        http://members5.boardhost.com/medialens/thread/1397315055.html
        and yet no mention of the fact your supposed ‘slur’ against the Eds was not on their MB, but on twitter.
        It makes it sound like a thought crime.
        so here’s a new acronym for MLMB

        mentally lite, morally bankrupt. 🙂

      • Tarzie says:

        RG is truly disgusting. Emersberger is worse in that he works so much harder a shutting down discussion, but RG is so much more a self-adoring, deluded twit about it. I truly believe he think he’s being nice with is cheers bro bullshit no matter how much sadistic pleasure he takes in stigmatizing me and my social ineptitude.

        The Editors set the tone for this bullshit. They’re dishonest authoritarian creeps, and that’s what flourishes on the forum.

  15. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    It beggars belief that people continue to believe The Intercept is in the crosshairs of the CIA. For a whole host of reasons, most of which you’ve outlined in posts here and elsewhere, not the least of which is that its owner has revolving door access to the White House. And it won’t help Intercept’s “cause” that their lead “journalist” is accepting awards in a swanky hotel and being applauded by gatekeepers like Wapo and NYT members including the likes of Christiane Amanpour.

    There’s so much fucking delusion in the liberal wing of capital that they’re adversarial and threatening to power. Like you posted at Floyd’s, why can’t these people just accept that they’re reformist capitalists and be done with it. There’s a place for these people, it’s just not in revolutionary change or radical organizing. Their goal is to defuse movement to the left beyond reformism. When shit starts happening, they’ll be running to the ruling class begging them to crush any actual liberation movement.

  16. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Put stars by it: Next five “fearless and adversarial” pieces at The Intercept will be about the “radical” blogger collecting his Reward for Subservience. Photos with other “radicals” included, like Bill Keller, Christiane Amanpour, WaPo editors.

  17. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    LOL. Cook’s taking a beating in the comments at TI. Even by the water carriers. They really are a pathetic bunch.

  18. parink says:

    Is there anyway to get updates to show in the RSS feed?

  19. parink says:

    Bingo,MickStep; Thank You for your effort Tarzie. I’ve missed updates because I didn’t know they were there.

  20. Pingback: Rancid Discussion Thread: ‘Obsessed’ with Greenwald/Omidyar/First Look | The Rancid Honeytrap

  21. MickStep says:

    Oh FFS, now articles critical of Greenwald and First Look are being posted at the message board with disclaimers…

    disclaimer: posted in the interests of media criticism and not intended to be an attack on the integrity of Greenwald or anyone else.

    http://members5.boardhost.com/medialens/thread/1397544007.html

  22. Hieroglyph says:

    “Is USAID the New CIA?”, asked Democracy Now on Twitter to promote the Amy Goodman segment of the same name.

    “Good question“, tweeted Glenn Greenwald.

    [Tarzie:] Actually, it’s an astonishingly stupid and misleading question.

    Tarzie is perhaps slightly wrong. It’s arguably far worse than astonishingly stupid and misleading … it’s … hm … If Evel Knievel was the question, and the question – ie Evel Knievel – was loaded with Ketamine, Hubris, and Keat’s quantity of Morphia, and the answer was ‘jump over that fucking massive cliff you fucking heroic poetic dope fiend’ that would still be a better question\answer than the weird exchange between Amy and Glen.

    I exaggerate for slight-comedic effect, of course. Just like Amy and Glen, it might seem. The Democracy Now thing has, I’m being honest, bothered me for a while now, prior to stumbling upon this blog. To take an example, DN was NOT against the Libya invasion. Worth checking out – it actually wasn’t. My comment is factually accurate, btw, though Tarzie probably can’t ask Media Lens anymore. Once the debacle began, so did the journalism. But, of course, the journalism should begin beforehand, no?

    And, as to banning Tarzie from Media Lens, this is beyond curious. It strikes me as a lack of seriousness. Yes, a lack. Because if one is interested in the subject at hand, one can reasonably that accept some response – even sometimes mild abuse – may come your way. Otherwise, you aren’t serious. To take an example. Tarzie is – evidently – a holocaust denier, who wears a Stalin moustache every day, and who almost certainly is one of Dick Cheney’s Latin-American mercenaries. If I am serious about this – perfectly demonstrable and unarguable – assertion, I should probably accept that others may disagree and – lordy! – that Tarzie may well seek to defend himself. If I don’t accept this – I aint all that serious am I?

    As it goes, I personally think Tarzie has often been too harsh on Chomsky, though I agree with what he said about Chomsky’s idiocy on Swartz. And I’ve still not read a remotely reasonable argument against Hernan’s work on ‘The Politics of Genocide’, though this is perhaps more Moonbat than Tarzie. But I still think media lens has to be above banning someone who happens to be defending their position. Does that make me weird?

  23. Stephen says:

    I was also surprised to see this on DN, and assumed there would be some history of the role of USAID in the piece despite the headline. I find it pretty troubling that there wasn’t. I don’t agree with a lot of your points against Chomsky, for reasons which are too lengthy to go into fully, but for instance I think his response to utilisation of the Propaganda Model to understand non-corporate media was probably contrarian rather than dismissive of any institutional strictures (for example he noted how its only partly applicable to state media, which is often worse) Of course the standard argument for reducing the significance of the corporate nature of corporate media is to argue that all media are interchangeably biased, but that this an inevitable consequence of human fallibility. I don’t think you were saying that of course, but I can understand that he’d be cautiously precise (for instance I have definitely heard him say that he doesn’t see the world view expressed in the media as much different to that seen in academia) The point is that while there is certainly much shared ground, there are differences in the structure of Democracy Now to Corporate media.
    DN was never perfect. Since the early days there was an inordinate attention to catchy rhetoric, terrible poems etc. However there was a much higher quality generally. I would like to know your thoughts on what has marked the decline, and whether there is more we can do to improve it than we can corporate or state media because of the subtle differences in the organisation to those models.
    A few things spring to mind for me
    1 A narrowing range of the type of people they have for guests, increasingly journalists. When they have academics on they tend to be there because they’ve recently had a foray into journalism in the NYT or WP or published a book with Random House. They used to regularly get interesting academics who had, for instance, published a statistical or historical paper to come on. People who could realistically condense something of substance into 30 minutes, rather than run through a long list of ‘talking points’, whose place on the agenda is, with increasing regularity, set by the mainstream media they see themselves as an alternative to.
    2 Unwillingness to run with a story independently. Sometimes Juan Gonzalez will get hold of something, like the shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain but they seem to do less and less actual investigative journalism. They only follow a story if it’s been played out in the mainstream, usually by one of their regular journalist guests.
    3 Increasingly talk show-like familiarity with guests. People like Arundhati Roy I can’t help feel ambilvant towards when i read her. She has a lot of substantial things to say but undermines them by overwriting and making everything sound like a subversive Greeting Card message. Still on balance she’s good. But when she’s a guest on DN, AG gets her to read out unconnected passages because she thinks them inspirational.
    4 A lack of overseas reporting. Even by speaking to veteran journalists. I think they got a bad reaction to their reporting in Libya, mostly towards the ‘on the ground’ reporting In the studio, there was more analysis, and indeed after a report finished, I remember a guest criticising the reporter for having no context or analysis, and telling us nothing. I don’t think that particular reporter still works with them, although the weakness of her reporting was likely journalism-school naivete in a complex situation. They report on Egypt because Abdel-Kadous is part of their ‘crew’ though.
    And in general I think they are confused about whether the shift to the right is validating their reporting, or making it less important. I think a lot of the regular journalist guest are pretty deluded charlatans who think journalism is the new Rock and Roll -Tiabbi, Scahill Chris Hedges etc. I think that these people are seen positively because they’re reporting on areas covered by better reporters twenty years ago. But that’s ignoring the rightward shift of those areas of life Chomsky was recently talking about being very unhappy with the suit he was a signatory to (brought by Chris Hedges), as it only questions the right of Unilateral assasination without process for American Citizens. This is typical, most of the journalistic attacks on Banks stretch back to developments of the past decade or two, and are much less radical than even someone like Stiglitz.

    • Tarzie says:

      for instance I think his response to utilisation of the Propaganda Model to understand non-corporate media was probably contrarian rather than dismissive…that while there is certainly much shared ground, there are differences in the structure of Democracy Now to Corporate media.

      My analysis does not dispute that there are differences between corporate media and so-called alternatives like Democracy Now. I am simply saying that the constraints operating on the mainstream media and those operating on Democracy Now are not in discrete boxes and I explained why. I don’t care to second-guess why Chomsky dismisses that if he is not going to go beyond a blanket assertion. Since you haven’t disputed anything concrete I said about the constraints operating on Chomsky and DN, I feel no obligation to assert them again. I think the case for DN’s complicity in everything rotten has been made stronger since I wrote the piece you’re referring to.

      I would like to know your thoughts on what has marked the decline, and whether there is more we can do to improve it than we can corporate or state media because of the subtle differences in the organisation to those models.

      I would find it odd, I guess, were I not so accustomed by now to lefty point-missing, and it’s complement, blind optimism, that after recognizing that Amy Goodman deliberately whitewashed USAID to mislead her listeners, you wonder if I think it can be improved. The only way to improve Democracy Now is to destroy it. In the meantime, ignore it. Having said that, I am not terribly fascinated by the finer points of its decline. More and more I don’t believe rich people can be trusted with anything, and certainly not with dissident media. The only way to fix this shit is through different structures. Democracy Now and every other outfit like it takes money from billionaires. I really don’t think one needs any more details than that. The idea that billionaires can be promoters of a dissident free press is ridiculous on its face. It’s a sign of how dumbed down and delusional middle class left culture is that this is even subject to debate.

      • Stephen says:

        I was not being an apologist for DN, or suggesting that we be positive and try to change it(I don’t see myself as having any ‘stake’ in it). Nor was I missing the point you were making. Whatever the (arguably very constrictive) limits of DN, what you are writing about here IS a decline. I was never a big fan of it, although it occasionally had good people on it. My point was that it might be interesting if you had any particular theory on the institutional structure, either the constrictions which describe its limits or reasons for its shift within those limits. If you don’t think it’s important then your comparison between the Mark Ames piece and this is similiarly meaningless, as it’s fairly typical of DN style reporting of say 10 years ago.

      • Tarzie says:

        If you don’t think it’s important then your comparison between the Mark Ames piece and this is similiarly meaningless, as it’s fairly typical of DN style reporting of say 10 years ago.

        Yes there has been decline, but it’s decline that likely could have been predicted. Probable contributing factors: Greater dependence on large grants; disciplinary campaigns from Pacifica; host and listeners getting older and richer.

        That Mark Ames wrote a decent piece does not at all refute what I’m saying. I happen to think small commercial outfits like Pando are actually better because 1. at least their funding isn’t a black box and 2. people regard them with more skepticism. There is no cultish obligation to take a hands-off policy because Ames is ‘one of us.’ Were he caught lying to cover for Peter Thiel in the way Goodman clearly lied for her imperialist benefactors, there would be consequences. Goodman, however, will go on, spreading her bullshit with the uncritical endorsement of Saint Noam. Like she didn’t just fucking sit there and tell a bold-faced lie to whitewash past and future crimes against humanity.

        For the record, I don’t think Pando is all that liberating either, and if you’ve been reading me closely, you know I question the priority lefts place on media generally. I want to do better all the way around than Democracy Now in the 90s.

    • Stephen says:

      Chomsky also pointed out recently that no one had cited the part of the original report which said this program had already been used in the Phillippines and Ukraine. Pretty big thing to leave out (I don’t think Chomsky is infallibile incidentally, just the point is relevant here)

  24. Stephen says:

    Fine, again I wasn’t recruiting you for a campaign for a new better DN, or alternative, I thought I made that clear. I just thought it was relevant as regards the content of your piece here, as regards flak for instance. What we can do tells us what we can’t, and looking at fluctation should presumably say something about who or what can influence the direction, and therefore what agenda it will express automatically. If it’s not important but is just an expression of other underlying problems you can see that reflected in the media, and can find it useful. But I don’t give it great importance. Just that was what you were writing about. I don’t need to be lectured to about middle class values or priorities (not middle-class), I expressed no priorites, I was just contributing to what you wrote.

    • Tarzie says:

      Perhaps I read too much into your opening, which stressed your disagreement with me over how large/meaningful are the distinctions between corporate media and Democracy Now, and the words ‘surprised’ and ‘troubled’ to describe your reaction to Goodman’s blatant lying for imperialist subversion. It was suggestive of more optimism and less disgust than I feel for DN and that’s the framework in which I regarded everything else. My reference to the middle class wasn’t to you specifically. It was to the people who dominate our discourse and keep it so dumb and delusional.

      While structurally this post compared how three journalists approached the same topic, the main point was to expose Greenwald and Goodman’s whitewash of USAID. My comparison to Ames is only meaningless to the extent that the history he recounted is meaningless. If there are lessons to be gleaned about journalism — and I suppose there are — then great, but that wasn’t my main purpose. I don’t take that aspect further than that Ames is more useful to me right now than Goodman and Greenwald, both of whom I regard as hostile to my interests.

      I am promoting skepticism here, more than I am offering remedies, though my first Chomsky piece implied what I think the problem is: journalists and icons dependent on capitalists tend to produce work that promotes capitalism. I also have made it clear that I think being genuinely, meaningfully dissident, in journalism or in anything else, is extremely dangerous, despite Saint Noam’s disclaimers.

      Overall, I think what’s ailing media is what’s ailing everything else, and I think it’s very blatantly obvious. I grow frustrated when people suggest that it’s not with talk of decline and the like.

  25. Pingback: What a Fucking Asshole @ggreenwald | The Rancid Honeytrap

  26. Pingback: I Read the New York Magazine Omidyar Article So You Don’t Have To | The Rancid Honeytrap

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