Jul 2, 2016

Crisis: FBI, "Journalism" vs. Journalism * 3
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Secret Rules Make It Pretty Easy for the FBI to Spy on

Major Political News Outlets Offer Interviews for Sale
     at DNC and RNC Conventions

The Life of the Parties: The Influence of Influence in

4. Journalistic Standards at the Guardian


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, July 2, 2016.

This is a crisis log. It so happens (I didn't know until I surveyed my selections) that this item is all about journalism and "journalism", where the latter is its pretense and the former the real thing (that is rapidly getting rarer and rarer): Item 1 is about journalism: how the FBI controls journalists, in secret, on the basis of secret rules, and secret court orders that forbid mentioning anything whatsoever; item 2 is about "journalism": how the "journalists" now assure themselves rich payments by selling themselves to the rich CEOs (this is now "routine" and is correctly described as "an invitation to corruption"); item 3 is about a specific journal, "Influence", that has wholly new profit- oriented "neoliberal" standards, and shows "the constantly unfolding tale of power-for-hire, told always with a discreet sympathy for the man on top"; and item 4 is about the (massive) corruptions of The Guardian, that now requests money from its readers to support their branch of Blairite "journa- lism".

Secret Rules Make It Pretty Easy for the FBI to Spy on Journalists

The first item today is by Cora Currier on The Intercept:
  • Secret Rules Make It Pretty Easy for the FBI to Spy on Journalists

This starts as follows:

Secret FBI rules allow agents to obtain journalists’ phone records with approval from two internal officials — far less oversight than under normal judicial procedures.

The classified rules, obtained by The Intercept and dating from 2013, govern the FBI’s use of national security letters, which allow the bureau to obtain information about journalists’ calls without going to a judge or informing the news organization being targeted. They have previously been released only in heavily redacted form.

Media advocates said the documents show that the FBI imposes few constraints on itself when it bypasses the requirement to go to court and obtain subpoenas or search warrants before accessing journalists’ information.

In other words: A government's agency, the FBI, has the power to follow journalists in secret and to see whom they call, all without needing to have
permission of any judge, and without informing the news organization they
are targeting in secret.

Also, when the journalists do not please the government, they are extremely
easy to target for the FBI (in secret, on the basis of mostly secret consider- ations):

“These supposed rules are incredibly weak and almost nonexistent — as long as they have that second signoff they’re basically good to go,” said Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which has sued the Justice Department for the release of these rules. “The FBI is entirely able to go after journalists and with only one extra hoop they have to jump through.”
So in effect the government determines which journalists are targeted; the government decided the rules, mostly in secret; and the government also can silence any journalist from saying anything by serving him or her a national security letter (secret), that forbids him or her to say anything whatsoever.

This is completely the opposite of what "a free press" was supposed to be.

Here is where it stands on the moment (and "NSLs" = "National Security Letters", which forbid anyone publishing anything about them or about their

It’s unclear how often the FBI has used NSLs to get journalists’ records. Barton Gellman, of the Washington Post, has said that he was told his phone records had been obtained via an NSL.

The FBI could also potentially demand journalists’ information through an application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or FISA court), which, like NSLs, would also not be covered by the Justice Department policy. The rules for that process are still obscure. The emails about revisions to the FBI guidelines reference a “FISA portion,” but most of the discussion is redacted.

For the NSLs are secret and forbid anyone receiving them to say anything (much like it used to be in the Soviet Union: "Of course you can talk. Only if you do, our friends in the Lubyanka will want to talk with you."). The alternative to NSLs to get a journalist's materials is by way of the FISA court, which is also secret.

So in fact journalism has been reduced to its being allowed by a government agency, that works on the basis of secret court orders that ban the journalist from saying anything or on the basis of secret FISA rules, and both of these completely circumvert any involvement of the Justice Department.

In brief, journalism within the USA has been tamed by the government that it should have the freedom to inform about.

2. Major Political News Outlets Offer Interviews for Sale at DNC and RNC Conventions

The second item is by Lee Fang on The Intercept:
  • Major Political News Outlets Offer Interviews for Sale at DNC and RNC Conventions
This starts as follows, and shows how "journalism" these days (as contrasted with journalism) takes care of getting rich themselves, by "reporting" (as contrasted with reporting) for enormous payments, while flattering the rich

For high-rolling special interests looking to make an impression at the presidential conventions next month, one option is to pay a lot of money to a media outlet. Lobbyists for the oil industry, for instance, are picking up the tab for leading Beltway publications to host energy policy discussions at the convention, including The Atlantic and Politico.

And for the right price, some political media outlets are even offering special interviews with editorial staffers and promotional coverage at the convention.

Here is how "The Hill" "newspaper" (as contrasted with newspapers) takes care itself and its "journalists" get rich by propaganda:

The Hill newspaper, which is sponsoring events at both the RNC and DNC, offers sponsors “a turnkey and custom experience,” including a “Thought-Leader Luncheon” moderated by The Hill’s editorial staff and the luncheon sponsor, who also gets to “curate a list of participants from politics, government, media and industry.”

Sponsors who pay $200,000 are promised convention interviews with The Hill’s editorial staff for “up to three named executives or organization representatives of your choice,” according to a brochure obtained by The Intercept.

Those who paid a mere $200,000 (to sit at the same table as "participants from politics, government, media and industry") got six events, each of which
they could have gotten to separately for a mere $50,000.

Then there is The Economist, these days also a "newspaper" with "journalists" rather than a newspaper with journalists:

The Economist, along with its subsidiary CQ Roll Call, similarly offers convention sponsorship packages. Sponsors can share lunches or dinners “with top policy experts from CQ Roll Call and The Economist” that are livestreamed “so your reach extends beyond the room.” According to the website advertising the packages, sponsoring a meal is also good for “getting your CEO publicity — we’ll film an interview segment after event concludes.” The Economist/CQ Roll Call did not respond to our inquiries.

The last link is well worth viewing: It looks like an extended advertisement campaign by expensive whores who once were journalists, but now get rich
by catering to the powerful.

Now I am neither a journalist nor a professor of journalism, but that is how it strikes me. Here is a professor of journalism describing the practice of these "journalists" (as contrasted with journalists, which seems these days a rare species driven to rapid extinction):

“My impression is that paying for journalistically greased access to bigwigs is now routine,” says Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University. “Journalists should be covering conventions. Selling access to their leadership strikes me as an invitation to corruption.”

Yes indeed, though that is the polite form. Clearly it is an invitation to corruption, that is also meant to be understood as an invitation to corruption,
except that it doesn't like to see this being said in public.

Is there more? Yes, there is:

Many media outlets have embraced native advertising, an industry term for advertisements that looks like editorial content, except for a small disclosure to identify the content as sponsored. In 2013, The Atlantic briefly hosted an “advertorial” from the Church of Scientology that promoted controversial leader David Miscavige.

In fact, I kicked out the Dutch paper NRC-Handelsblad in 2010, after having read it for 40 years, precisely because they printed far too many of these "advertorial" pieces, although I do not know they did it then for payment: They also may have been showing of what they would do for payment (for they were in financial difficulties then).

In any case, this is the new "journalism" (which is the opposite of journalism):

Eager to be the intermediates between rich CEOs and powerful politicians, for a mere payment of $50,000 to $200,000; replete with unidentified adversorial articles (many of which seem to have the double falsification of also being introduced as amusements for the readers); and utterly lacking in truth, in honesty, in decency, or in accuracy, they still make a lot of money, by acting
as eagerly willing expensive whores to whoever pays them enough.

3. The Life of the Parties: The Influence of Influence in Washington

The third item is by Thomas Frank on Truthdig and originally on TomDispatch:
  • The Life of the Parties: The Influence of Influence in Washington
This starts as follows, and is about a specific journal, or at least: a daily e-mail newsletter, that is published by Politico:

Although it’s difficult to remember those days eight years ago when Democrats seemed to represent something idealistic and hopeful and brave, let’s take a moment and try to recall the stand Barack Obama once took against lobbyists. Those were the days when the nation was learning that George W. Bush’s Washington was, essentially, just a big playground for those lobbyists and that every government operation had been opened to the power of money. Righteous disgust filled the air. “Special interests” were much denounced. And a certain inspiring senator from Illinois promised that, should he be elected president, his administration would contain no lobbyists at all. The revolving door between government and K Street, he assured us, would turn no more.

Instead, the nation got a lesson in all the other ways that “special interests” can get what they want—like simple class solidarity between the Ivy Leaguers who advise the president and the Ivy Leaguers who sell derivative securities to unsuspecting foreigners. As that inspiring young president filled his administration with Wall Street personnel, we learned that the revolving door still works, even if the people passing through it aren’t registered lobbyists.

In fact, this is about the dishonesties of Obama, who has at least three levels of fundamental dishonesties and deceptions: (1) he projected himself as an honest, progressive liberal democrat, who (2) made many progressive liberal promises, which (3) all were completely forgotten as soon as he got power.

But this is about Influence (that also named itself well):

But whatever became of lobbying itself, which once seemed to exemplify everything wrong with Washington, D.C.? Perhaps it won’t surprise you to learn that lobbying remains one of the nation’s persistently prosperous industries, and that, since 2011, it has been the focus of Influence, one of the daily email newsletters published by Politico, that great chronicler of the Obama years. Influence was to be, as its very first edition declared, “the must-read crib sheet for Washington’s influence class,” with news of developments on K Street done up in tones of sycophantic smugness. For my money, it is one of the quintessential journalistic artifacts of our time: the constantly unfolding tale of power-for-hire, told always with a discreet sympathy for the man on top.

Yes indeed, except that I would call this an evident case of "journalism", which is related to journalism much like being en expensive whore is related to romantic love: As a complete inversion, falsification and corruption.

But that is not - of course - how it seems to the "journalists" of Influence. On the contrary, for they make a lot of money (it seems):

But what most impresses the regular reader of Influence is the brazenness of it all. To say that the people described here appear to feel no shame in the contracting-out of the democratic process is to miss the point. Their doings are a matter of pride, with all the important names gathering at some overpriced eatery to toast one another and get their picture taken and advance some initiative that will always, of course, turn out to be good for money and terrible for everyone else.

This is not an industry, Influence’s upbeat and name-dropping style suggests. It is a community—a community of corruption, perhaps, but a community nevertheless: happy, prosperous, and joyously oblivious to the plight of the country once known as the land of the middle class
Yes, indeed. And they participate - proudly, happily, well-fed, well paid - as the eagerly willing expensive whores they have transformed themselves into, so that they as well can eat very well from bits thrown to them by the rich, whose contacts they massage, for profit.

And this is the new "journalism".

4. Journalistic Standards at the Guardian

The fourth and last item today is by Craig Murray (<- Wikipedia) on Washington's Blog:
  • Journalistic Standards at the Guardian

This starts as follows (and has a similar reaction I had when I read a similar message):
Yesterday I received a begging letter from Katharine Viner of the Guardian
This is followed by a letter in pdf-format that is very difficult to copy, so I quote some from it by typing it:

The last few days have been seismic and historic for Britain, the greatest political crisis since the second world war with reverberations felt around the world. We've been working non-stop to try to make sure that the journalism
you find in the Guardian and the Observer properly reflects these extraordinary and complicated times.

Whichever side of the Brexit debate you were on, we are entering a period of great political and economic uncertainty, and the Guardian's role in producing fast, well-sourced, calm, accessible, and intelligent journalism is more important than ever.

Which is why I want to ask you, our readers, to help fund that journalism so we can continue interrogating exactly what has happened, and why, and what needs to happen next.

Support us with a monthly contribution

Support us with a one-off payment: UK, United States or Australia.
First, I did not delete anything here. This is an exact copy of the letter Mrs. Viner sent to "Guardian Members" (which I am not), except that what I printed bold seem to be links.

Second, logically speaking, this makes the following point:

If "our readers" do not contribute extra money to the Guardian to produce what Mrs Viner feels is "
fast, well-sourced, calm, accessible, and intelligent journalism", then the Guardian will stop doing "fast, well-sourced, calm, accessible, and intelligent journalism" (in "these extraordinary and complicated times"). Perhaps they are ready to follow The Hill, The Economist, or the Influence (see above) to go into really well-paying "journalism"?  [1]

Third, one of the things Craig Murray does not mention is that the previous chief editor, Alan Rusbridger (<-Wikipedia) seems to have stopped all contacts with The Guardian, after stepping down as the next chair of the Scott Trust (which is the financial security of The Guardian), in part because Mrs. Viner doesn't want him there. (He will be - instead? - the next principal of Lady Margaret Hall, which belongs to the Oxford University.)

Here is more Craig Murray:

Perhaps they will be able to induce individuals to give £10 a month, £120 will buy Polly Toynbee one lunch at the Ivy. But apart from the ethics of asking ordinary people to fund some of the most overpaid people in the country, there are questions about the claims which Viner makes. She talks of Guardian journalism as “well-sourced”, “calm”, “intelligent”, “in-depth”, “thoughtful” and “well-resourced.”

Now I put each of those in inverted commas, to indicate they are words which Ms Viner actually used in the full email. (The image is an extract).

I dislike Polly Toynbee, who seems to be the English equivalent of similar rich frauds in the Dutch "social democrat" party (that's really liberal and "Third Way" and caters to the rich).

Also, since seeing their completely Blairite responses to Jeremy Corbyn; since they include at least half of their present "journalism" with incredible amounts of Javascript to find out everything about their readers; and since they made even copying from the Guardian's website quite impossible, I know what they are and want to be: "journalists" for Tony Blair, much rather than journalists for the truth. (All I want to know is when the Guardian must be paid to be accessed. Perhaps after this campaign to get extra support from the readers failed?)

Here is Murray on the qualities of the present Guardian - and Hinshliff is a journalist of the Guardian who either is extremely lazy or else lied:

What is beyond any possible dispute is that Hinshliff has demonstrated that Viner’s claim that the Guardian produces responsible, properly researched and ethical journalism is another plain lie.

The difficulty is that the Guardian has columnists who are so blinded by their own prejudices and hatreds as to be incapable of rational analysis.
Yes, which I found out mostly when they wrote about Jeremy Corbyn, whom nearly all seem to hate passionately because he is not a Blairite like them- selves.

And while I don't much mind what one's political attitudes are as long as one
writes about politics in an honest way and respects the facts, I do mind what
one's political attitudes are when these get strongly reflected both in the positions one takes and the facts one acknowledges, and this was the case with the Guardian.

In fact, I stopped reading all columnists other than Owen Jones: I do not want to be systematically deceived by conmen and conwomen.

Here is Craig Murray's conclusion:

But the notion you can completely ignore or dismiss an argument by an insulting ad hominem again reflects the very opposite to the standards Viner claims that the Guardian espouses.

I do hope none of you gave them any money.

I agree. It is a corrupt shame that the present editor of the Guardian tries to get extra money from ordinary readers to do their ordinary work, also with the explicit implication they will stop doing their ordinary work if they do not get extra money.


[1] I do insist on the "logically speaking":

I gave the whole argument, precisely as it appears; the argument is in the form of three paragraphs, A, B and C, with A and B being the premisses ("Which is why I want to ask you, dear readers" and C the conclusion ("to help fund that journalism"). I know natural language is not quite the same as formal logic, but this is how it gets presented, which therefore also is the reason why I think I am totally justified in asserting that the equivalent form is "if not C, then not A or not B", that is, if the "dear readers" do not give enough extra money to help the Guardian do journalism, the Guardian will stop doing it.

I am not saying they said so. I am saying they said the logical equivalent.

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