Today New York Magazine published “The Pierre Omidyar Insurgency.” The takeaway? Rich white guys are fighting the power! Highlights with comments below:
Omidyar’s foundation had just unveiled a $200 million Global Innovation Fund, established in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
For those not paying attention, that’s USAID, the government agency that created a fake Twitter in Cuba to incite social unrest (“a drop in the internet propaganda bucket” wrote Glenn Greenwald at the time, relishing his journalisty indy poodle-ence) and with whom Omidyar partnered to force-multiply neo-nazis in Ukraine. (“and I should care about this, because???” asked fiercey Greenwald adverseriously )
“To this day,” Greenwald says, “I’ve never met Pierre in person.”
Omidyar’s organization operates a little like WikiLeaks, except it is staffed by well-salaried journalists and backed by Silicon Valley money.
Only “a little like Wikileaks?” Apart from the well-salaried journalists and backing by a billionaire actually implicated in the government blockade against Wikileaks, it’s just like Wikileaks!
Greenwald says [The Intercept] also plans to share [the leaks] with outside reporters and is building a secure “reading room” in its Fifth Avenue headquarters building, where it is currently renovating three floors.
That’s great news! But wait a minute. Didn’t Glenn, when asked to share the leaks with other journalists, write on this here blog that he couldn’t do that because it would make him a source and thereby prosecutable? I must be confused because Glenn Greenwald never lies.
“He’s a very serious and public-spirited person,” says General Wesley Clark, who has been friendly with Omidyar since he raised money for his 2004 presidential campaign.
Is there a better judge of character and public-spiritedness than General Wesley Clark? I think not.
“He’s not this hard-core, radical maverick,” Greenwald says. “Back before this all happened, he just seemed like the normal, average, amicable billionaire.”
So relieved he’s a typically “amicable” billionaire and not one of those radical billionaires, or worse, a #ChickenPseudoRadical billionaire. Also cool that Greenwald has such acute judgment about someone he didn’t know “before this all happened”, still hasn’t met, and by his own account, knows almost nothing about!
His thick black hair, once worn in a luxuriant ponytail…
His [various web] accounts offer granules of self-disclosure…enthusiasms (the Segway), and philosophical musings (on “Star Trek ethics”).
He is fascinated by diseases like Ebola and thinks the public-health system could be helpless in a crisis…Originally, the domain eBay.com had nothing to do with auctions… Its earliest incarnation hosted a web page about Ebola…Later, eBay would offer a variety of origin stories for its odd name, none having to do with Ebola in the Bay Area…
Yes, you inferred correctly. The e in eBay is for Ebola, something which, along with influenza and stockpiling against cataclysm, interests Pierre a lot.
The online-auction idea wasn’t original—a founder of a preexisting site, OnSale, recalls talking to Omidyar about a job before he started his competitor.
That puts Omidyar alongside Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg in the pantheon of visionaries with the foresight to steal the right idea at the right time. Here’s OnSale.com now.
He built himself a 48,000-square-foot mansion overlooking the desert, which he told Esquire he liked because it gave him “the sense of what the planet was like before humans showed up.”
Can you think of a better location for experiencing the pre-human past than this, especially if you’re on the side that doesn’t face the six-lane highway and wearing earplugs?
[After moving to Hawaii] Omidyar was still fretful about his security and cognizant of the state’s isolation. He had heard that Hawaii had food supplies for only about a week in case of a catastrophe. In 2009, the Honolulu Advertiser reported he kept emergency stockpiles near his home and had purchased a solar-powered ranch in Montana to serve as a “safe house.”
Of course everyone in Hawaii has a second house on the mainland in case of catastrophic food shortages, but did Omidyar forget he had a 48,000 square foot mansion in Nevada?
Omidyar immersed himself in the Second Life community, adopting a secret identity: a tattooed black man named Kitto Mandala. Even after Omidyar became a Linden Lab investor, [Linden Lab founder, Philip] Rosedale primarily interacted with his animated avatar. Mandala rode a Segway and wore a T-shirt that said KISS ME I’M LAWFUL EVIL.
Omidyar seems to take such setbacks in stride; he sees traditional philanthropy as overly risk-averse.
The “setback” referenced above was one of Omidyar’s “philanthropic” ventures in microfinance called SKS, an Indian “nonprofit” that set out to reap millions from a stock sale, but crashed in a scandal over harsh debt collection tactics tied to a wave of suicides. Poor Pierre! But —
“In Silicon Valley,” he said at a 2011 nonprofit conference, “we say if you haven’t tried something and failed, and actually learned something from that failure, then why would I want to work with you?”
You know what they say: “To make chana masala you gotta boil a few chickpeas.”
[In 2012], he responded to campaign-season viciousness by tweeting out a list hashtagged #RepublicansIRespect, citing figures like Robert Gates (a former CIA director) and Condoleezza Rice.
Thank God someone with influence is relieving the viciousness of our politics with hashtag support for the overseer of the CIA’s torture program and an engineer of the War in Iraq.
“It was really kind of amazing, because we were actually in the process of doing almost exactly the same things,” Greenwald told me. “The obvious difference between what we were doing and what he was doing is that he has $8 billion.”
I am so glad our leading investigatish journaler isn’t afflicted with the slightest trace of class consciousness or any reluctance to look like an avaricious vulgarian. That can really get in the way of funding important work.
Omidyar ran into immediate criticism from the conspiratorial extremes of the left. Julian Assange attacked the “big power” of First Look, calling Omidyar an “extreme liberal centrist” and questioning his suspicious visits to the White House. The tech-news site PandoDaily published a series of scathing articles.
Who cares what those left-wing conspiracy kooks at Wikileaks and tech mags think about things that actually happened?
Greenwald hinted of further scoops. “Stay tuned, is all I can say,” he told me.
Glenn, you incorrigible tease! Lemme guess: the NSA is bulk collecting phone or internet data somewhere. No, don’ t tell me!
Greenwald says that he and Omidyar plan to finally meet later this month, when they will appear at a very different sort of gathering: an invite-only event called Newsgeist, co-sponsored by Google and the Knight Foundation. Billed as an “unconference,” it has no agenda other than “reimagining the future of the news.” Greenwald told me “top editors, executives, moguls, and founders” are expected to attend, including Dean Baquet of the New York Times.
Now that’s insurgency, baby! The invite-only kind. Viva the reimagined journalism.