Another Rat Leaves The Bad Ship Omidyar

Veteran alternative media reporter Ken Silverstein has joined the exodus of staffers from Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, resigning after just fourteen months.

“[I guess you could say I was a complete moron with dollar signs in his eyes]”,  he wrote in one of a series of recent Facebook posts republished by Jim Romenesko, “but [I truly believed a fanatical neoliberal billionaire with ties to USAID and to neo-fascism in two countries would give me and other anodyne liberal journalists] all the financial and other support we needed to do independent, important journalism. [While it’s true that Omidyar was deeply implicated in the PayPal funding blockade of Wikileaks, I was nonetheless surprised that] we found ourselves blocked at every step of the way by management’s incompetence and bad faith.” Silverstein said that the “tentative title” for an account of working at the Intercept would be “Welcome to the Slaughterhouse.”

Silverstein complained at length about First Look’s handling of Racket, which was to be Matt Taibbi’s satirical newsmagazine but folded shortly after Taibbi’s departure from First Look. “The fact that that it hired so many talented people to create Racket and spent millions of dollars on it and in the end fired everyone and Racket never published a single story is probably the greatest squandering of money and example of criminal ineptitude in the history of modern journalism.”

Silverstein is outraged that “when the company pulled the plug [on Racket] some months back, it fired the remaining staff and told them to clear out of the office immediately. . .and FL would. . .give them one month severance [like common workers, for God’s sake]. I am pretty sure the Koch Brothers treat fired workers with greater respect.” In an update, Silverstein said he’d erred and that Racket staff received three months severance, but his assessment of the deplorable working conditions remains unchanged. “[Though three months severance after less than a year’s work may be substantially more than most laid off workers get,] it was a pitiful amount given that, [unlike bosses whose employees expect to be treated like crap] Omidyar (estimated wealth: $8.2 billion) personally promised that he would treat everyone with dignity.”

In one particularly scathing post, Silverstein wrote that his “favorite part of working for First Look was…last year’s holiday party when two of our fiercely independent staffers ‘interviewed’ Pierre Omidyar and asked him what he did in the morning. [Because I enjoy the perks of leasing oneself to a billionaire while maintaining moral superiority through meaningless, adolescent gestures],  I boycotted this embarrassing affair and sat in a conference room with two other people, one who no longer works there and one who may or may not. It’s hard to keep track. What a joke.”

Silverstein’s posts are full of juicy insider details, including the astonishing revelation that “Matt [Taibbi] is definitely more likable than Glenn [Greenwald].” He described Greenwald’s role in First Look as “troubling.”  “[It’s natural to overlook Omidyar’s lethal adventures abroad in predatory micro-lending and such when’s he’s offering you what looks like the opportunity of a lifetime, but even at work] Glenn stands by silently…tolerating the terrible actions of corporate management.”

Though Silverstein seems overwhelmingly concerned with managerial incompetence, inefficiency and disagreeable colleagues, it’s clear from his final remarks that the real issue is journalistic integrity, of which he clearly has far more than First Look can handle. “[I suppose all of us at First Look are guilty of hard-selling a toxic billionaire, and by extension, gross inequality to an infantile, deeply ignorant faction of the Left, while sneering at detractors with a great deal of self-superiority. But the most important lesson is that] you will never produce fearless, independent journalism if you live in fear of angering your media boss and pull your punches to please him/her.”

From The Department Of I Told You So

I Read The New York Magazine Omidyar Article So You Don’t Have To

A Harbinger of Journalism Saved

Glenn Greenwald Still Covering for Omidyar on the Wikileaks Blockade

No, Pierre Omidyar Does Not Want to Topple The Government

Omidyar’s First Look Introduces The Intercept

In Conclusion

For Laughs

Greenwald on “The Oligarchic Model” of journalism gets funnier all the time.

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36 Responses to Another Rat Leaves The Bad Ship Omidyar

  1. talkingwarrior says:

    I followed your first link.

    Looks like Romenesko spells his name with the second vowel an ‘e’ not an ‘a’.

    As for still another departure from the staff of the Future of Journalistic Media, quelle surprise. I have suspected ever since the Intercept never took off that it was never intended to.

  2. Dirty says:

    Here I sit all brokenhearted, waiting for fireworks as Glenn inhales, Pierre just farted.

    • Tarzie says:

      What? The story about how the GCHQ hacked phones five years ago isn’t enough for you?

      • I don’t know, as someone who finds pyrotechnics shows kind of boring I think maybe fireworks is the perfect metaphor: bombastic and ephemeral, they are carefully choreographed spectacles that entertain for a few moments before disappearing completely, leaving nothing of substance behind.

  3. availablealias says:

    Unfortunately it looks like The Intercept will gradually peter out and Glenn will stick it out a awhile longer before transitioning to another job as no one notices or cares. There is to be no Fall of Berlin style cataclysm, which are the best spectacles.

  4. nicercore says:

    lol, hilarious. It’s early in the morning here so I actually went to the link looking for the stuff in square brackets. Stop predicting all of this shit so accurately, it’s creeping me out.

  5. james says:

    This is very well writen and very amusing but I just don’t know.

    So muc trolling of Greenwald and Omidyar. They deserve it but, I mean, it’s not like there’s a media out there is that is better or more honest than they are. The Guardian put out a piece on black sites used by Chicago PD. Such a story is beyond the output of the intercept up to now and yet it’s not like the Guardian doesn’t spend most of its effort running cover for Scotland Yard. Not to mention, where are all the American papers on this story?

    The media is so horrible all around that pointing out the dishonesty of a single faddish outlet just seems to miss the point on a massive scale.

    • Tarzie says:

      I’m glad you found this well-written and amusing. Thanks for saying so.

      The media is so horrible all around that pointing out the dishonesty of a single faddish outlet just seems to miss the point on a massive scale.

      You would be correct if the point of this blog’s posts about The Intercept and related is that Greenwald and The Intercept are uniquely bad in relation to everything else. But I am simply saying they are implicated in the same way, something which may be obvious to you, but it’s not so obvious to a whole lot of others. Greenwald and Omidyar are interesting to me because they have a bigger influence on the left than those other outlets. People who think they’re too savvy to be taken in by more traditional outlets like The Guardian, are still being taken in by Greenwald and his sugar daddy.

      As the already artificial line between mainstream media and left media gets blurrier, I see a trend toward the erasure of leftness from the left. I think Greenwald and the The Snowden Affair and their appropriation by a particularly imperialist, fanatically neoliberal billionaire are all a big part of that. They’re an innovation in the management of dissent and, for me, a uniquely pernicious one. Even at this point, very few people are criticizing them from the left. Media Lens, for instance, an outfit that never shuts up about The Guardian, has yet to say a single critical thing about First Look. To the contrary, they smear, belittle and censor detractors. Their analog in The States, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, doesn’t say anything at all.There isn’t a single outlet in so-called alternative media that enjoys anything close to this kind of immunity from criticism, even as one journalist after another quits amidst controversy. Get back to me when that changes.

      By the way, the target in this particular post was less The Intercept than Silverstein’s disgustingly self-serving posts about his departure. Silverstein’s childish belief that commercial left journalism without compromise is possible, let alone a proper vocation for someone who lent his lefty brand to a toxic billionaire and wrote crap articles, is entirely worthy of scorn. Silverstein can go fuck himself. I make no apologies.

  6. Peter says:

    “As the already artificial line between mainstream media and left media gets blurrier, I see a trend toward the erasure of leftness from the left.” — Tarzie

    Propose and implement every shitty policy of the right, but ‘in the name of’ the left. These guys are good at what they do and they know what we’re having for breakfast before we even get to bed. Maybe in this age of narcissism it doesn’t occur to people that there are those who spend a lot more time thinking about our lives than we do.

  7. Har. The interpolations are hilarious.

  8. Reilly says:

    I just read Silverstein’s long form rendering of his time at First Look — my God what an atrocious writer. Journalists in general aren’t necessarily good writers but this guy is screamingly untalented and just a shitty storyteller. I’ve had inebriated friends recount marital woes with more structure and precision.
    His piss-poor writing isn’t his biggest sin — that would be his fearless, independent, journalistic gullibility — but it sure is hard to get past.

    • Tarzie says:

      I’ve had inebriated friends recount marital woes with more structure and precision.

      Ha ha. Excellent. Yeah, I was surprised how bad it was. It’s a real slog. I’ve read things by him in the past and enjoyed them. It’s been clear for a while that editors do a lot of the heavy lifting. That’s why journalists seem like different, usually dumber, people in less filtered media like Twitter.

  9. Jay23 says:

    Not sure if you are familiar with the Serial story, but Silverstein and NVC’s “reporting” on the subject was absolutely pitiful… Scahill earns points in my book for being so disgusted.

    • Tarzie says:

      Yeah, I agree. Silverstein managed the deft trick of putting me on Greenwalds and Scahill’s side. Even if it were a better series, it had no place in The Intercept. Scahill was right to complain regardless.

      • babaganusz says:

        It’s been clear for a while that editors do a lot of the heavy lifting.

        except for Tom Friedman, of course.
        (perhaps you were only referring to Silverstein’s editors, but I couldn’t resist.)

  10. RUKidding says:

    A bit late to the party, but thanks for the update, Tarzie. Interesting news about yet another rat leaving the sinking ship built by billionaire Omidyar.

    I see very little about “The Intercept,” so I guess it’s just a nice sinecure for GG and the others? Or something? Do people really read the articles there? I am displaying my ignorance, I realize, but clearly I’ve never bothered to go there. Not that it means much, but I seriously doubt that almost anyone I know has even heard about “The Intercept,” despite nearly everyone knowing about Edward Snowden, for example, as well as many having some passing familiarity with GG.

    Nice veal pen, I guess.

    • Tarzie says:

      If their discussion threads are any indication, it’s a bomb. Hard to tell what its influence is overall. I think the whole thing it’s part of was important, but producing diminishing returns for all concerned. Surprised anyone is still interested in Snowden and his stupid five year old documents.

      • RUKidding says:

        I don’t think anyone is interested in Snowden anymore, but many know (more or less) who he is. Seems the lack of interest is intentional, despite Citizen Four getting the Oscar (why? Who knows, who cares).

        The rather swift demise of GG’s “celebrity” is somewhat worth noting, however. Whether you agreed with him or not, liked or disliked him, when he wrote for the Guardian, he got noticed and quoted. That’s more what I’m getting at. I used to see GG quoted much more when he was employed by the Guardian. Now? Not so much. And fwiw, GG was/is perceived as being “leftwing.”

        So was Omidyar “elected” by his peer gazillionaires to take GG out of the limelight by throwing bags of cash at him? One may quibble about GG and what he represented, etc, but seems to me that *possibly* the PTB wanted to shut him up and shut him down. I could be wrong of course, but that’s something I’ve pondered.

      • Tarzie says:

        With all due respect, the idea that GG was so disruptive Omidyar had to take him out of the limelight is pretty baseless. Regardless of how GG was “perceived” he is not, nor has he ever been, anything more radical than a Constitutionalist libertarian seasoned with liberalism. He is extremely useful for binding disaffected lefts and libertarians to the mainstream. If his power in that regard is waning, it’s the ruling class that loses, not the left.

        But I think you are greatly overstating the “demise of GG’s ‘celebrity'” anyway. GG is much better known now than he ever was at The Guardian and if he feels he’s not getting what he wants from The Intercept, he can go pretty much anywhere he wants. If there’s one talent GG has, it’s good instincts about advancing his interests. He obviously loves fame and clearly thinks for now, TI merits his commitment.

        CitizenFour is in heavy rotation on HBO. Oliver Stone has a movie coming out later this year. The adaptation of GG’s book — translated into 24 languages btw — is under development at Sony. Pretty good for someone whose star went down when he left the Guardian.

      • Reilly says:

        If their discussion threads are any indication, it’s a bomb.

        I’ve visited that depressing cul-de sac of a comment section on only a couple of occasions when pointed there from elsewhere. It’s sad and depressing. The problem is that the vast majority of Greenwald’s commenters are dedicated choir members whose purpose is to yell Hallelujah! Great work Glenn! Glenn, I think this your best ever! and to do battle with anyone who offers anything less than praise. Since far fewer people traffic TI than did Salon and The Guardian there are fewer critics for the devotees to do battle with, leaving the place without much energy, loyal but hollow, It’s like some shitty bar always frequented by the same people; lost in the illusion that they’re part of something simply by being there, but looking as if they’re just sitting around waiting for something to happen.

      • Tarzie says:

        there are fewer critics for the devotees to do battle with

        There’s more to it than that. They moderate critics out, including perfectly polite ones. They cherry-pick criticism. Pretty stupid from a traffic standpoint.

      • babaganusz says:

        Pretty stupid from a traffic standpoint.

        i was late to the Salon party, but it seemed like the transition to the graun provided an influx of critics ‘more worth arguing with’ in a sense. i guess they ramped up their fervor during that stint, and instead of dissipation as the FL commentariat fails to reach that volume, the wurst of them keep their knives sharpened.
        the only entertaining (and not much else) kerfuffle i saw within the first season or so being when John Cook signed on, since when i have finally found the time to not bother checking in. wondered whether Taibbi would improve the climate but that sure didn’t take long to play out; appreciated your taking the time to analyze that as well.

    • Tarzie says:

      Valentine is a good guy, but that could use an editor.

      • lost your source, empty voice says:

        pandoboy has no room to talk
        gossip surrogate for substance
        fashion surrogate for insight
        cis/trans/? surrogate for essence
        snark surrogate for solid rhetoric
        mouthpiece puppetry surrogate for originality
        copycatting surrogate for research
        authority-appeal surrogate for reasoning
        heart-string-pulling surrogate for relevant facts

        go get ’em pandoboy! millions ain’t enough somewhere up there in Gay Journalist Heaven, lesser gods are debating whether Greenwald or Carr or deBoer or Bacharach is the real catch for horny progressive trustafarian twinks, and you need to improve your stats, like, totes, yesters!

      • Tarzie says:

        I like your love poems best of all, Oxy.

        “” Class. Your Mom would be so proud of having raised such a clever son.

      • babaganusz says:

        lol. think ‘faux gauche’ will catch on?

  11. parink says:

    Looks like Jon Schwarz ‘@tinyrevolution’ has joined TI.

  12. wendyedavis says:

    You might enjoy this piece by Bill Blunden: ‘The Intercept, Mass Surveillance and the State’

    But I gotta say that I loved the Valentine piece so much I never noticed its warts. (smile)

  13. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Bay Area peeps: Event tonight in S.F. on those good-for-nothing dirty hippie anti-Bush Chavistas.

    On March 9, President Obama issued an Executive Order declaring Venezuela to be an “extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security! But it is the U.S. that has tried to overthrow the Venezuelan government, not the other way around, and Venezuela has no military force that could possibly threaten the U.S. So what is really going on?

    12 years after the invasion—Why Is the U.S. again bombing Iraq

    On the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. is bombing Iraq and Syria. Afghanistan is still occupied, U.S. drone attacks continue across the region and hostility towards Iran is threatening another war. The same interests that bring endless war to the Middle East, prompt the U.S. government and media to escalate hostilities toward Venezuela.

    Join us for a discussion of what is going on in Venezuela and the Middle East, and why people in the U.S. must say “no” to war and intervention.

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