Category Archives: Omidyar Pierre

The Friends of Mr. Keith Ellison

Keith Ellison, the black Minnesota congressman and the only Muslim in Congress, wants to become the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee.  But he has a checkered record on Jews and, quite frankly, on anti-Semitism.  To evaluate the responses to his candidacy, it is useful first to look at roughly four contending viewpoints concerning Israel.   I color-code them  from white to black.

1) CW Code White

This is the majority group among American Jews, and probably among  all Americans.  They are people who find no problem in standing for Israel.  I count myself in this group.  I attend AIPAC meetings when I can, I attend Salute to Israel parades, I contribute to the Jewish National Fund.  Like all the other categories, this one is not homogeneous;  there are a number of ways in which one can be CW on this issue.

2) CLG Code Light Grey

These are the people organized in groups like JStreet and similar formations.  Much of this activity is financed by George Soros (see my writeup here.)  The ideas behind this (thin) slice of American Jewish opinion  are roughly  as follows:  Well, yes, of course we are for Israel.  One hundred percent.  But the government over there ?  Can you believe it, it is right wing.  Not liberal, not humanistic, not like us at all.  They are a bunch of right-wingers, reactionaries, McCarthyites.  They are at war with the Palestinians because, well, because they are right-wing chauvinists.  They carry on this Occupation.  They don’t realize what is good for Israel.  We American Jewish progressives, we do know what is good for Israel. If only those unenlightened voters of Israel were to listen to us and were to vote for a left-wing splinter party and end the Occupation, there would be peace in the Middle East, pronto.

3) CDG Code Dark Grey

As things get darker here, we have little grouplets of Social Justice warriors, often overlapping with Code Black, who may not directly call for the destruction of Israel but who are close to it.  An example is the New York group “Jews for Racial and Economic Justice,” which I have described here.

4) CB Code Black

Electronic Intifada, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace.  From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free. Intifada ! Intifada !

*************

So much for background.  How does it relate to Keith Ellison’s candidacy ?  Who wants him in, who wants him out ?  A Google search reveals a cacophony of opinion on the matter;  I will here only mention those reactions that I found particularly enlightening.

First, there is a strikingly revealing contribution by Sami Rahamim, an undergraduate student who describes himself as “a pro-Israel activist and Jewish student leader,” as well as a “friend,” constituent, and supporter of Ellison.  But he also lists all the hostile public positions that Ellison has taken, against Israel, and yes, against Jews. Any careful reader of this piece will most likely take it not as the endorsement that Rahamim apparently imagines it to be, but rather as a fairly clear piece of damning with faint praise.

Next, there is the strident op-ed by Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of the CLG “JStreet.”  “Stop smearing Keith Ellison” apoplexes the heading to this piece.  “Ellison is but the latest public figure with pro-Israel views that depart from the hawkish dogma of the traditional pro-Israel establishment to find his personal credibility and qualification for high office under fire …” and so forth.  To be sure, “Ellison has made mistakes…,” but never mind a spot of anti-Semitism in the past. The true villains,  to Mr. Ben-Ami,  are Israel and its supporters.  And note the style:  those fully committed to Israel are not merely mistaken, they “smear,” which is to say they are morally reprehensible.

As we get into deep CB territory, there is even stronger vilification of Ellison’s critics.  Mr. Glenn Greenwald does Ben-Ami one better:  “The smear campaign against Keith Ellison is repugnant …” Once again the tell-tale propagandistic “smear.”  Mr. Greenwald finds that  Ellison’s charges against Israel constitute “indisputable fact.”  Criticism of Ellison, according to Greenwald,  “is sheer insanity: malicious insanity at that.”  Mr. Greenwald’s online “Intercept,” totally financed by the Iranian-American billionaire Pierre Omidyar, has now published at least 85 anti-Israel attack articles in its two and a half years of existence.

Another Code Black source, the “Electronic Intifada,” saluted Ellison in 2014 as constituting “a tiny but important crack in [the] unwavering support for Israeli crimes among US elected officials.”  Now, in November 2016, the Intifada regrets Ellison’s apparent opposition to the BDS movement.  Nevertheless, Electric Intifada advises its readers that “activists … believe Ellison … is still likely to be the best candidate for the job.”

So here is the upshot.  Ellison’s public record, in this respect not unlike that of many other American politicians, shows some inconsistency.   But there is wisdom in the old adage:  show me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.  Those who hate Israel support Ellison.  Not a good recommendation for the job of chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The Sandbox Philosophers

 

The Sandbox Philosophers

Young children, in the view of scholars like Piaget,  do not engage in logical thinking while conducting their sandbox polemics.  And young children are also prone to employ crude expletives.  As any parent knows, this pre-logical behavior is part of every childhood.  But sometimes, alas, we encounter it among adults, at which point it becomes noteworthy.

The prodigiously-financed website Intercept, conducted by Glenn Greenwald but moneyed  by the billionaire Pierre Omidyar, has been a frequent topic on this blog and others, for its blatant anti-Americanism, its virulent anti-Semitism, and its multiple violations of journalistic ethics.  My purpose today is different:  I now wish to point to its astounding mental primitivism, truly rare, I believe, among adults.

In a posting dated June 21, 2014, Greenwald quotes Netanyahu out of context, then quotes Goebbels out of context, and suggests thereby that Israel is akin to Nazism.  I have already discussed this posting by Greenwald here.  What I have failed to do before, however, is cite Greenwald’s reasoning, if it can be called that, of the logic of making such comparisons:

To compare aspects of A and B is not to posit that A and B are identical (e.g., to observe that Bermuda and Bosnia are both countries beginning with the letter “B” is not to depict them as the same, just as observing that both the U.S. in 2003 and Germany in 1938 launched aggressive wars in direct violation of what were to become the Nuremberg Principles is not to equate the two countries).

Just how smart is that ?  The similarity between Bermuda and Bosnia, their common initial letter, is significant ?  Of course Goebbels and Greenwald also share a common initial letter … oh never mind.

Sandbox logic is also prominent in a posting of October 22, 2014, again signed by Greenwald, that blames Canadian foreign policy for an Islamist attack in Ottawa last fall.  Defending himself against criticism that he justifies terrorism, Greenwald writes:

One more time: the difference between “causation” and “justification” is so obvious that it should require no explanation. If one observes that someone who smokes four packs of cigarettes a day can expect to develop emphysema, that’s an observation about causation, not a celebration of the person’s illness. Only a willful desire to distort, or some deep confusion, can account for a failure to process this most basic point.

But how does one establish causation to begin with ?  Greenwald won’t say.  The “causation” that he alleges for the Ottawa attacks is established by his simple say-so, together with a sandbox-level (false) analogy.

Here is a very recent sandboxism in the Intercept of June 24, 2015, signed Greenwald and Josh Begley, which maintains that the number of victims of Islamist terror in the US is very low compared to other hazards.  The posting has an elaborate graphic which states that, among other things, there were 48 people killed by right-wing extremists in the United States since 9/11, but only 26 people killed by Muslim extremists since 9/11.  All that may very well be true, but nowhere on this posting are we told that on 9/11, 2,996 people were killed by Muslim extremists, including 19 perpetrators, right here in the US.  Who but a three-year old will be impressed by this sleight of hand ?

Sandboxisms abound in the Orwellian world of Omidyar-Greenwald, and my posting here can make no claim for a complete survey of the site.  But one additional topic must be mentioned because it is so common in the O/G publication:  name-calling, a form of ad hominem abuse.    Neocon,” which Greenwald uses mainly to describe Jews whom he does not like, occurs frequently as a derogatory epithet.  Or, when Greenwald discusses Christian groups favorable to Israel, these groups are described as “religious fanatics.”  (For comparison, those interested in the use of name-calling in the actual sandboxes may wish to consult the old article by David J. Winslow, “Children’s Derogatory Epithets,” Journal of American Folklore, vol. 82 (1969), pp. 255-63.)

The Omidyar-Greenwald style of personal vilification closely resembles that of Greenwald’s ally and co-conspirator,  Noam Chomsky.  Greenwald has falsely claimed that “far from being some sort of brutal, domineering, and angry ‘alpha-male’ savage, Chomsky – no matter your views of him – is one of the most soft-spoken and unfailingly civil and polite political advocates on the planet. ”  The fact is that Chomsky’s juvenile name-calling is legendary.  Here is his correspondence with me, in which he calls me a “liar,” a “coward,” a “liitle Fascist.”  No, not exactly “unfailingly civil and polite.”

One questions remains.  Both Omidyar and Greenwald are college educated, and since the kind of logic displayed on Intercept would cause one to flunk out of high school, let alone college, their sandboxism must be  a ruse rather than an authentic mental condition.  But why the ruse ?

As it happens, even the most primitive agitators of the Nazi era generally had perfectly conventional higher education, but yet, in their public agitational work, they relied on non-logical tropes, epithets, and hate speech.  The truth seems to be that the rules of logical thinking, useful for rational discourse, are not very useful in the emotional appeals of hate politics.

Omidyar and Greenwald may not have much influence in mainstream America, but it is obvious — from reading the comments on their site and other indicators — that they have a certain following on the hate-prone fringes of this country.  These fringes look for the flames of hate speech rather than the light of rational discussion.  I see this style as a mobilizing tool for the haters of this world.

So —  do Omidyar and Greenwald know what they are doing with their sand box philosophizing ?  I think they do.

 

Writing “As a Jew” ?

 

What to Think When Someone Writes “As a Jew….” 

“… joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance, “ St. Luke teaches us (15:7).  And so those who hate Israel and/or the Jews have always been joyful to present us with a Jew to give witness against his own.  “Why, even a Jew admits …”  Of course sometimes the “Jew” in question, upon closer inspection, may not really be as Jewish as he is claimed to be.  But never mind that for now.

As we have seen quite a bit on this blog, Mr. Pierre Omidyar of Hawaii runs an online publication, Intercept,  that regularly, about twice a month, rants against the state of Israel.  Just what moves Mr. O in this direction is a matter of conjecture.  It has been believed that the politics of Intercept are mostly determined by Glenn Greenwald, its reputed, well, brain, with Mr. O just writing the checks.  But then there was the case of an Omidyar grant (through the Roshan Institute) to attack alleged Israeli “pink washing,” quite independently, at least apparently, of any Greenwald involvement.

Now we have, and here we get back to St. Luke, an entirely separate Omidyar publication, the Civil Beat of Hawaii, joining in with Mr. O’s anti-Israel campaign.

This Civil Beat is generally a strictly Hawaiian affair, dealing with matters of that state, and publishing a Community Voice feature — a series of op-eds — also dealing with matters of Hawaii.  But this local focus was broken recently by the publication of a viciously anti-Israel comment by a Mr. Jon Letman of Kauai, Hawaii.  The gist:  Netanyahu is a war monger;  Iran is peaceful;  Israel is an apartheid state;  etc. etc.  If the Iranians have called for “death to America, death to Israel,” Mr. Letman ignores that or perhaps has never heard of it.

Of course Mr. Letman has a right to his opinions, as Mr. Omidyar has the right to publish them.  On the other hand, Mr. O, who repeatedly proclaims that all he does is strictly in the public interest, might be expected to allow his readers to read more than one point of view.  But that is not how Mr. O treats the subject of Israel and Jews.  But be that as it may, there is something curious about Mr. Letman’s little essay.  It begins with the assertion that he speaks “as a Jew,” an assertion made once again at the very end.  The argument of rational people should stand on its merits, not on the identity of the arguer.  But in this case Mr. Letman insists on the ad hominem;  his views, he indicates, gain weight because of his identity as a Jew.  This identity is presented to us as a qualification in the same way a physician might mention his medical expertise when speaking on medical subjects.

Of course it is questionable that the Jews of Hawaii are better equipped to opine on Israel than non-Jews.  But if we assume, arguendo, that Jewishness is indeed a qualification here, the question arises of how to verify a claim to Jewishness even as we have learned to verify medical credentials in this age of quackery.  We know that many who write “As a Jew I oppose Israel” turn out to be only questionably  Jewish.  Some belong to a Christian church or have otherwise abandoned their Jewish identity, some may have a Jewish relative but no more than that, some,like Mr. Gabriel Schivone,  have no claim to  Jewish credentials whatsoever, .

With these problems in mind, I wrote to Mr. Letman, explaining my concerns.  Yes, I did get a prompt reply, a very courteous one at that.  But no, Mr. Letman did not feel that he wants to explain just in what sense he is Jewish.  We both, he suggested, have more important things to worry about.

In the meantime, I consulted Mr. Letman’s website, and learned the following:

Jon Letman is an independent freelance journalist and photographer on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.  His articles on conservation, the environment, politics and the Asia-Pacific region have been published in Al Jazeera English, Truthout, Inter Press Service, Christian Science Monitor, CNN Traveller, as well as publications in Finland, Iceland, Russia, Japan, Canada, the UK and across the US.

Not much Jewish background in this description ?  But look at the connection to Al Jazeera — and, after all, aren’t the Arabs cousins to the Jews ?  Practically Jewish ?

My Writings on “Partial Jews”

Prolegomena to the Study of Jews Who Hate Israel

The Partial Jews in Nazi Germany

What About the Partial Jews ?

Rise of the Schivone Jews

What to Think When Someone Writes “Speaking as a Jew, I am against Israel”

 

 

Bartnicki v. Vopper, Intercept’s Whopper

 

I have had occasion, as have many others, to speak critically about the online publication Intercept that is  run by Glenn Greenwald and financed by the multi-billionaire Pierre Omidyar   I have pointed, for example,  to the many instances of anti-Semitic postings on that site.  Now I am putting these larger concerns aside to call attention to a very flagrant, deliberate and obvious misrepresentation that can in no way be described as a matter of opinion.

The posting in question is by Greenwald’s associate Micah Lee.  He writes about the legal issue of whether news organizations can freely reproduce materials that have been stolen or otherwise illegally obtained.  Greenwald has always vociferously maintained that he has the right to do this, without limitation.  The occasion in the Lee  article is the recent leak of Sony documents.

Lee writes as follows:

Sony should realize that journalists are completely within their legal rights to report on documents that are illegally obtained as long as the journalists themselves don’t break laws to obtain them.

The 2001 Supreme Court case Bartnicki v. Vopper found that: “A broadcaster cannot be held civilly liable for publishing documents or tapes illegally procured by a third-party.” Perhaps Sony’s lawyers should look it up.

Now in contrast to Lee, Bloomberg LAW describes the BvV case as follows:

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The anti-wiretapping laws make it illegal to disclose the content of a conversation which was itself illegally intercepted. However, if these provisions are made to apply to the disclosure of information which has been obtained in a legal way from the party which intercepted the conversation, and if the information relates to some matter of public concern, the said provisions violate the First Amendment.

In other words, according to Bloomberg, the court in BvV made its findings contingent on the particular circumstance of that case, i.e. a  “matter of public concern.” The opinion in BvV is not, pace Lee, a general permission to publish stolen documents but rather a finding that is limited to the circumstance of that case.

The question arises, for Sony or any other such case, whether and how the findings in BvV would apply.  (As we shall see, BvV most likely does not apply.)  By failing to mention the case-specific limitations  of BvV,  Lee fundamentally distorts court holdings concerning the legality of publishing secret materials.

If you were to ask an attorney to advise you on this (or any) case, how would he approach the problem ?

Much of first year law school is devoted to instructing students on  “Shepardizing”  cases,  i.e. on  studying how the courts have applied  or have failed to apply a given case to other cases.  Now quite a few legal scholars have done this “Shepardizing” for BvV.  As a result of these scholarly analyses  we know to a reasonable degree of certainty how and whether a court would apply  BvV  to  Sony.  As I read these studies, the courts would uphold the Sony claim for privacy.  Others may well disagree, but Lee is clearly misleading when he suggests that the case is one of slam dunk on the side of license to publish stolen documents.

Among the several studies on the topic, at least two are representative of the prevailing legal opinion.  One is by Shoop (available through law libraries), the other by Easton (on the open internet).  (See the references below.)  Easton in particular (p. 334) makes it quite clear that B v S would not apply to Sony. 

Unfortunately,  Lee’s article  is typical of the systematic distortions found all over Intercept.  Lee’s piece differs from the many others  only in that its falsity is so glaring and so obvious to anyone who cares to do the research.  The founder and current leading spirit of Intercept, Glenn Greenwald,  was a licensed attorney (he no longer is) before he became the ultra-Left publicist that he is today. It is obvious that Intercept and its staff  know very well how to interpret a court case.  The fact that they tell the public the opposite of what they must know to be true, IMHO, is indicative of  the whole sorry nature of the Intercept enterprise.

References:

I.

Eric Easton, Ten Years After: Bartnicki v. Vopper as a

Laboratory for First Amendment Advocacy and

Analysis, University of Baltimore, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-5

II.

Richard D. Shoop, Bartnicki v. Vopper, 17 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 449 2002

 

The Odd Mr. Omidyar

 

omidyar

Pierre Omidyar,Publisher of First Look Media

The multi-billionaire Pierre Omidyar, in his First Look Media, has used his financial prowess to create something new in the world of American media.  In the guise of performing a public service he has, in fact, created its very opposite:  a very well-heeled, monolithic propaganda machine solely devoted to an anti-America ideology.  And by rigidly excluding any conceivable differing viewpoint, he has created in the world of ideas what our anti-trust laws seek to outlaw in the larger world of commerce, i.e. a vehicle in restraint of free trade.

But Omidyar’s self-description of his aims and motives  is just the opposite of what he is doing.  Therein lies the bizarre quality of his enterprise.  Here are some samples of how he presents himself:

Founded by Pierre Omidyar, First Look Media is based on the belief that democracy depends on a citizenry that is highly informed and deeply engaged in the issues that affect their lives. First Look seeks to improve society through journalism and technology, to help individuals hold the powerful accountable, build responsive institutions and, most important, shape their communities and what happens in their lives for the better….

…the promise I made:  “to experiment, innovate and overcome existing obstacles and to make it easier for journalists to deliver the transformative stories we all need.” …

I am committed to creating a journalistic organization that has a major and positive impact for the greater good.

We are unwavering in our desire to reach a mass audience …

About two years ago, the Omidyar-financed Roshan Institute presented the world with a startling finding:  the current government of Iran is actually, despite all appearances, in cahoots with the “Zionist entity.”

Here is the reasoning, according to Ms. Ana Ghoureishian, recipient of the Omidyar grant.  It seems that Israel engages in “pink washing,” i.e. practicing liberal policies on homosexuality for the hidden, i.;e. secret purpose of deceiving world public opinion. In other words, in this view, Israeli policies on homosexuality are in their essence the very opposite of what they seem.  How do the proponents of the “pink washing” thesis know about these Israeli secrets ?  Well, like other imperialist secrets, this one becomes revealed to the adherents of certain left-wing ideologies. In any case,  according to Ms. Ghoureishian, the idea of “pink washing”  is well known and accepted by all right-thinking people. With the exception, it seems, of the rulers of Iran.  Instead of exposing “pink washing” as a Zionist ploy,  the Iranian media actually attack Israel for an allegedly authentic liberalism toward homosexuality, thereby suggesting that these policies are in fact in accord with gay demands.  Thus, or so reasons the Omidyar-financed Ms. Ghoureishian, the Iranians aid the Zionist enemy.

This was an early indication of Mr. Pierre Omidyar’s construction of a parallel universe, one in which good is really bad and bad is really good.

I have already posted a number of articles on this blog describing the contents of the Omidyar-financed First Look Media/Intercept.  It is a website that publishes several articles a week with different ostensible subjects but with an underlying theme that never varies:  the US and Israel are the proximate cause of all the evil of our day.  Here are recent examples:

On September 28, FLM/I published an article “The Fake Terror Threat Used to Justify Bombing Syria,”  signed by Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain, which claimed, among other things, that the US has fabricated a terror threat in Syria out of pure cloth and with the sole purpose of justifying US bombings.  Five days earlier Glenn Greenwald published “Syria Becomes the 7th Predominantly Muslim Country Bombed By 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate.”  As Greenwald explained:  “Empires bomb who [sic] they want, when they want, for whatever reason.”  In other words, the United States doesn’t care a hoot about terror, or ISIS, or anything worth caring about.  All the US wants is to kill and maim and dominate for “imperialist” reasons.

image003

Murtaza Hussain (right)

In other words, Omidyar and his writers know the secret motivation of our government.  How do they know ?  Basically they know this the way all doctrinaires know the alleged truths of their doctrines,  and  the notion of America as the Great Evil lies at the heart of the Greenwald-Omidyar  doctrine   It is this doctrine that inspires all their writings, even as Marxism-Leninism inspired the writings of the Stalinist press.

Now, not only is the Omidyar doctrine divorced from all empirical pursuit of fact, but it also requires the monolithic exclusion of all opinions and facts that are not congruent with it.

When Lenin and Stalin created what they termed the “monolithic” party in the Soviet Union, the resulting single-viewpoint movement was something of a novelty on the left-wing scene.  By creating a well-heeled monolithic news organization now, Omidyar has created a similar novelty in American journalism. FLM/I has a single point of view on all issues.  A reader will look in vain for any diversity of opinion on this site.

Here is a thought experiment that illustrates the rigid monolithism of the Omidyar enterprise.  FLM/I, as I said, is very much preoccupied with the topic of Israel.  But let us imagine, for a minute, that FLM/I were to take up a realistic examination of the position of Arab Israelis in the Israeli educational system.  We know that roughly 20% of the student body in the elite Israeli universities are Arabs, which accords with the Arab proportion in the population. But when controlled for socio-economic status, it would seem that Israeli Arabs are over-represented in Israeli universities.  Moreover, when compared to educational opportunities in Arab countries, Israeli Arabs would probably be seen as unusually fortunate.  And then, if we consider the fact that Israeli Arabs, unlike Jews, are not required to serve in the army, their position, at least in this respect, would seem to be very good indeed.

Now let us imagine that FLM/I were to take up the matter of educational opportunities of Israeli Arabs.  But of course such a topic is simply unimaginable in the Omidyar universe.  It is simply a non-topic in this parallel world, much like the scientific study of biological inheritance was a non-topic in the Soviet Union.

In brief, quite aside from the specific malevolent  doctrines of the Omidyar-Greenwald orthodoxy, there is something more than a bit odd, not to say bizarre, about this billionaire’s zeal in promoting, smack in the middle of our highly diverse American culture, a single-doctrine, over-financed sectarian monolith.  Will he receive the “mass audience” that he seeks so “unwaveringly” ?   I am inclined to agree with Abraham Lincoln, who was skeptical about the likes of Omidyar and their ability to fool the American people.

 Hat tips:  Richard Klagsbrun, Gabriel Schoenfeld

Addendum, 3/4/15:

Here are links to the twenty articles that Intercept has devoted to Israel, in whole or in part, during the thirteen months of its existence.

Addendum II, 3/4/15:

Mr. Omidyar routinely insists on being called a “technologist” by his subordinates:

 

On conference calls, staffers would “bet among ourselves how soon it would be until Pierre described himself as a ‘technologist,’ “ another First Look employee reports. “It was always less than three minutes.”

 

Actually, as he himself recounts, he flunked out of the engineering program at Tufts because he could not pass a course in Chemistry and had to transfer to the less rigorous Liberal Arts program in Computer Science.  I suppose being a “technologist,” at least in this case, is not so much a description of qualification as it is an indicator of vanity.

The Fairness Problem. Open Letter to Mr. Omidyar

 

My dear Mr. Pierre Omidyar,

I am writing to express my concern about the lack of fairness in  your news venture First Look Media. In the over seven months of its operation, FLS has been shrilly propagandistic rather than either informative, or thoughtful, or even, a good deal of the time, truthful.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “fairness” (sense 6) as “honesty;  impartiality, equitableness, justness; fair dealing.”  In journalism,  a number of authoritative statements on professional ethics all  stress the overriding necessity for fairness:

Society of Professional Journalists   Seek Truth and Report It Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

New York Times  The goal of The New York Times is to cover the news as impartially as possible — “without fear or favor,” in the words of Adolph Ochs, our patriarch — and to treat readers, news sources, advertisers and others fairly and openly, and to be seen to be doing so. 

Washington Post  Reporters and editors of The Post are committed to fairness. While arguments about objectivity are endless, the concept of fairness is something that editors and reporters can easily understand and pursue. …No story is fair if it omits facts of major importance or significance. Fairness includes completeness.

Up to now you have been known for your successful entrepreneurship, for your innovative computer programming, and for your philanthropy.  But with the establishment of First Look Media with its associated website Intercept, you have suddenly turned to the financing and organizing of something quite different, something, to tell the truth, that I find disreputable. I have previously shown, on this blog, how your site must be considered (why mince words ?) to be yellow-press,  radically anti-American, and anti-Semitic.  (Others, for example Gabriel Schoenfeld, have come to the same conclusion.) The problem is aggravated by the huge financial resources that you have deployed for this project.  You are clearly using your great wealth to tilt the public arena of discussion, preventing it from being the level playing field that the Founders intended.

Since I have discussed many of the details about your site before, I need not rehearse them here.  Let me just say that Intercept does not as much as pretend to balance or fairness, and most especially not when it  denounces and slanders  its perceived arch enemies, i.e.  the United States government and Israel.  You give loving latitude to any fact or factoid, proven or fabricated,  that will tend to show your chosen enemies in a bad light;  on the other hand, you radically exclude any factors that run counter your basic hatreds.

One example is typical of your methods.  According to your declared intentions, you were to reveal the contents of the Snowden materials to the public.  That would accord with your repeated calls for transparency in the public arena.  But what has happened so far, almost eight months after you began publication, is that only a very tiny proportion of the apparently thousands of Snowden  documents in your possession have been revealed by you.  For all the rest, the many thousands, there is opaqueness where you promised transparency.    Now every single document that you have so far released has tended to harm and embarrass your declared enemies, the United States and/or Israel.  Are there any documents among the tens of thousands that you have not found fit to release that put your enemies in a favorable light ?  Any that reveal humanitarian efforts, or any sort of good faith  on the part of these governments, either  at home or abroad ?    Is it really true, as your treatment of these materials suggests, that all available documentary evidence proves criminality, vile methods, and base motives at all levels of the US and Israeli governments ?  You pick and choose a dozen or so documents from among many thousands, without showing context, without any regard whatever for what traditional journalists would call fairness, or for what I would call truth.

When I was a young man, some sixty years ago now, I lived in the state of Wisconsin, whose junior US Senator at the time, Mr. Joseph McCarthy, also felt that fairness is something not needed in public life.  And I remember when he too tangled with the US Government, in this case the US Army, and had to be admonished by the Army’s attorney, Mr. Joseph Welch:

Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Yours truly,

Werner Cohn

 

*** Why does Pierre Omidyar Finance the New Stalinism ? ***

 

When one of the richest men in the world, Pierre Omidyar, recently committed a quarter of a billion dollars to finance Glenn Greenwald’s propaganda operation Intercept, he provided a tremendous boost to a heretofore shadowy and uncertain resurrection of the Stalinist tradition in American culture.  And the new Stalinism has an entirely new twist:   it has  embraced a currently fashionable anti-Semitism, or what its adherents term “anti-Zionism.”

But in all his public pronouncements, Omidyar says that he acts only for the public benefit.  He stands for freedom of the press and all the other freedoms.  He stands for a better world.  True, he’s got a few dollars.  But he wants to share his fortune with the rest of us.  He wants us all to be happy.   As it happens, of course, the old Stalinists also said that they wanted a better world.  More of that later.

The new Stalinism has been with us for some years.  Using the veneer of concern for human rights, as did the old Stalinism, it wages an assault on democracy worldwide, as did the old Stalinism, and it gives aid and comfort to repressive regimes abroad, as did the old Stalinism.  But never before has it been able to establish itself as a major player, at least not financially. That is what the Omidyar money has  now changed.

As I have suggested, the old and the new Stalinisms are not identical, and we will need to pay attention to the differences as well as the similarities.

The Old Stalinism

Centered secretly around the Communist Party of the US [CPUSA], this movement exerted its influence primarily through its vast network of “front organizations,” most of which had no ostensible connection with the CP but were secretly controlled by it.  Here is a small sampling, as of 1949, taken from the list of sponsor organizations of the notorious “Waldorf Peace Conference:”

American Committee on Democracy and Intellectual Freedom

American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born

Civil Rights Congress

Equality

Greater New York Emergency Conference on Inalienable Rights

New York Conference for Inalienable Rights

In Defense of the Bill of Rights

National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners

National Federation for Constitutional Liberties

School for Democracy

Southern Conference for Human Welfare

Voice of Freedom Committee

This particular group of fronts carried professions of democratic commitment in their titles;  not all front groups did.  But the claim that they were “fighters” for peace and democracy and civil rights constituted the main public theme of the old Stalinist world.

During the very worst time of Stalinist repression in Russia, Stalin’s devoted follower in America, the  CP leader Earl Browder, assured his listeners that Communism is no more than “20th century Americanism.”  His followers, party members as well as fellow travelers in the front organizations, developed an unctuous self-righteousness.  The CP-organized “folk singers” specialized in the affectation and grimaces of song-as-struggle in which the staging of Communist propaganda songs was accompanied by facial mannerisms (comical to an outsider) to suggest heroic personal struggle.   Here is an example of the style, as presented by Pete Seeger and comrades. The book by Aileen Kraditor, Jimmy Higgins, is perhaps the best insider’s account of what it meant to be an American Communist in mid-twentieth century.

Actually the American Stalinism of the 20th century was more than the kumbaya of self-righteous “democratic struggle.”  Hidden far away from its public face in the Party and front organizations, there was the secret Stalinist work on behalf of the Soviet Union, most particularly espionage.  The literature on this aspect of the old Stalinism is now vast, as a quick Google search will confirm.

The central hypocrisy of this old Stalinism, then,  lay in its bountiful verbal affirmations of democracy on the one hand, and its total, uncritical support of the Stalinist dictatorship on the other.  As we shall see, a similar bifurcation underlies the neo-Stalinism of our day.

Stalinism Recidivus

The old CP — except as a ghost of a ghost on 23rd Street in Manhattan — is dead.  It had a slow, painful death, complete with various schisms and recriminations (we are talking Marxism here)  during the last decades of the twentieth century, and then all but gave up.  But there is a bit of an afterlife:   The Nation magazine, which exists to our day.  Financed in part by wealthy old-time Stalinists (so-called Nation Builders), this magazine has succeeded in creating a newer generation of bitter and resentful radical writers and readers.  Like the Stalinists of old, these newer “progressives”  are unhappy with American democracy. Unlike their forebears, they are also very unhappy about the existence of Israel, and happy, or happy enough, with contemporary Islamism.  The bulk of Omidyar’s team on Intercept have served in some capacity at The Nation.  There is also, overlapping with The Nation in personnel and  political orientation, the radio organization Democracy Now !, with Amy Goodman as its leading personality.

Outside of The Nation and Goodman’s group,  there are a number of key individuals who have shaped the new Stalinism.  Perhaps first and foremost is Noam Chomsky about whom I have already said just about all I can in previous postings.  There are others in academia who have played supporting roles, like Judith Butler, winner of an incomprehensibility prize, and other academics like her.  Many of these latter-day Stalinists, but by no means all,  are also active in gay rights movements.  Some of the most prominent come from Jewish backgrounds and use this circumstance — no matter how tenuous — for propagandistic purposes.

Finally there is Glenn Greenwald, sometime lawyer and gay pornographer, prolific polemicist against the American government and the state of Israel, regular speaker for the Trotskyist International Socialist Organization,  now famous as possessor of the Snowden stolen government documents.   Greenwald, of course,  is the one chosen by Omidyar to run his Intercept.

The Crusade of Intercept 

Nominally, Intercept is part of Omidyar’s First Look Media.  But since there are (so far) no other such parts, these two entities are in fact one and the same. Now FLM, according to its website, is organized as a nonprofit 501c3 organization.  Why pay taxes, especially to a government that Omidyar and Greenwald despise ?  Of course the law requires that  501c3 organizations  restrict themselves to  IRS-approved nonprofit activities, viz. those that are  “charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.”  The IRS does not include anti-Semitic agitation as one of these.   As we shall see, Omidyar and Greenwald (who is a lawyer) would seem to be in violation of IRS regulations.  But that is only one of their problems.

Intercept first appeared online on February 10 of this year.  Since then it has published just over seventy items.

As I have shown elsewhere, whatever can be verified in these Intercept postings turns out to be false.  For instance, Greenwald cites Goebbels and Netanyahu (7/21/14), claiming the two are congruent, when, once the contexts of these citations are examined, the two turn out to be diametrically opposed.

In this same posting Greenwald pontificates on a point of law.  Citing no statute, no law case, no legal authority,  he states baldly that “in Anglo-American law” recklessness on the part of an accused in a murder case is the equivalent of proven intent to kill.  Since Greenwald had gone to law school, this is obviously a piece of intentional misrepresentation. Get a treatise on criminal law, any such treatise, and look up mens rea in murder cases.

The bulk of these Intercept postings contain claims and accusations that cannot be verified:  what it says are exposures of US government secrets.  Intercept claims that it has obtained these secrets largely from Edward Snowden, who, it says, turned them over to Greenwald.  Apparently there are many thousands of these alleged secret US documents in this Snowden trove, but so far Greenwald has published only a very small proportion — maybe one or two percent — of what he says he has.   He has repeatedly claimed that, as a member of the press, he has the unlimited right to publish any or all such documents, at his own sole discretion, at times and places of his choosing. And yes, he is a lawyer.

Of course the public has no independent access to these alleged secret documents, so the reader is asked, on Greenwald’s sole say-so, to believe that the documents that he “reveals” are indeed genuine US secrets;  that the texts have not been tampered with and/or misrepresented by him;  and finally that there is nothing in the trove as a whole that limits or vitiates the particular document that he publishes.  Even if his personal record for veracity were spotless, which it not exactly is, that would be a tall order.

While the reader, as I say, cannot independently check the content of Greenwald’s trove, there are reasons to be suspicious.   In all its alleged revelations of government secrets, Intercept claims to have learned  that the US invariably acts in a deeply malevolent manner.  To believe Intercept, these ostensible secret documents never show that the US government acts benevolently or that it is any way even able to act in good faith.  Never ever does the US government act to help the poor, or to alleviate distress, or to promote education, or to promote democracy.  To believe Greenwald here, you have to be like the Stalinist of old, who could believe only the worst about the US and only the best of the Soviet Union.  As Greenwald has explained in numerous publications and Youtube talks, he sees the US government as a vast conspiracy for evil, while, at the same time, he sees no reason to complain about Islamist behavior anywhere in the world.

And now we come to what may indeed be the darkest aspect of the Omidyar-Greenwald enterprise:  its anti-Semitism.  As Robert Wistrich (e.g. in From Ambivalence to Betrayal) and other scholars have explained, the current version of anti-Semitism takes the following form:  carefully collect all real or imagined shortcomings of the Israeli government, carefully ignore all human rights abuses in the Islamic world, and then loudly denounce Israel as a war criminal.

In the period from July 14 to August 11 of this year, Intercept published five separate strident pieces against Israel.  To summarize its position:  Israel is deeply and criminally at fault in Gaza;  Hamas is completely, innocently victimized.  In the same period some of the worst human rights abuses in history took place: in Syria, to which Intercept turned a blind eye;  in Nigeria, a country which does not exist in the world of Intercept;  in Iraq, involving the Yaziti, which Intercept apparently has heard of, because it denounced the American aid there.  So Israel (and, incidentally  America) is criminal, nobody else’s actions deserve even the slightest criticism.  Which is what defines the modern anti-Semitism.

Those of us who have followed Mr. Greenwald’s public agitation before he became Snowden-famous, particularly his work with the Trotskyist Independent Socialist Organization over the years,  cannot be surprised by his deep animus against the Jewish people.  But what has moved Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire overprivileged of the overprivileged, to finance this disreputable war against decency ?

Mr. Greenwald Promises Transparency But Delivers Opaqueness

 

Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.  Wikipedia

Some four years ago I had the occasion to visit the northern German city of Lübeck, home to Thomas Mann and setting of his Buddenbrooks, where  I joined a sightseeing groups of German-speaking tourists.  Our guide explained various periods of the city’s history.  For WWII, he found only one event worth mentioning:  what he described as the barbarity of bombings by the RAF.  Indeed, it occurred to me while listening, the people of Lübeck had suffered.  But I also recalled something the guide did not mention, i.e. the Holocaust that had occurred  some kilometers further east.

Fast forward four years.  Within the last three weeks Mr. Glenn Greenwald and his Omidyar-financed website Intercept have thundered against Israel and Israel’s various putative barbarities in Gaza.  I found not one word, not a single one, that could be construed as criticism or even reservation concerning the actions of Hamas.  (I have blogged about one of these recent Greenwald anti-Israel broadsides.)

So one of Glenn Greenwald’s offenses against intellectual integrity — and there are a number of these  is cherry picking, as defined in my quotation above.  But the problem with the Omidyar-Greenwald website is actually much more extreme because it is not just some ordinary  propagandistic one-sidedness  that  can be detected by the observant reader.  I would call it a higher cherry picking, consisting of the total suppression of any information  that does not fit into the author’s ideology.

It is no secret that Greenwald has obtained the vast trove of US government secrets that were stoled by Edward Snowden.  Now, more than a year later, Greenwald and his collaborators dip into this trove and other stolen government documents from time to time, pick from them whatever they want to pick,  and present the result as a truthful representation of what the world is all about.  Since nobody outside of the Greenwald organization has access to these materials there is no way for Greenwald’s readers to know whether a) the particular document now “revealed” actually comes from US government sources;  whether b) if indeed it does, it is presented in its entirety;  and finally whether c) if it is, there are other documents in the collection that limit or contradict it.  In other words, a reader must accept, on faith alone, that the document exists and that it means what Greenwald says it means.

A typical example of the Greenwald method is his posting, just three days ago, of an article “Cash, Weapons and Surveillance:  the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack.”  The piece purports to tell a story, using Snowden documents, of secret US military, financial, and intelligence support of “Israel’s military assaults — such as the one in Gaza.”

First of all, there are publicly available materials that US assistance of this kind is routinely given to Arab countries as well, something Greenwald does not mention.  We know, for instance, that the US has provided Qatar, the ally of Hamas, with such cooperation. Moreover, as Cliff Kincaid has reported,  ” [Greenwald’s] own reporting [inadvertently] discloses that the NSA and the Israeli signals intelligence unit (ISNU) have shared information with the Palestinian Authority Security Forces.”

So much for Greenwald’s cherry picking, which, indeed, can be detected by diligent googling.  But there is the more insidious “higher cherry picking,” which consists of citing wholly opaque sources (the Snowden papers), not accessible to anyone but Greenwald himself, and which Greenwald expects his readers to accept on his sole say-so.

So here is my question to all those who see some value in Greenwald’s journalism:  since there is no way of verifying his assertions, and since, moreover, his record for veracity has never been established, what possible grounds can there be for defending his work ? Mr. Greenwald says that he favors “transparency” of government, but what he practices is total opaqueness.

 

Greenwald’s War Against Israel

 

Mr. Glenn Greenwald, author, columnist, and self-described journalist, has become well-known for his collaborations with Edward Snowden.  Several months ago Mr. Greenwald obtained substantial funding from the billionaire Pierre Obidyar to establish an online publication Intercept, part of Obidyar’s First Look Media.

Now, several months forward, Intercept, as it promised it would, devotes space to Snowden’s cause.  But that is not the only cause  which it supports.  Another one, to which it has given substantial space as well, is that of Israel-bashing.

About a week ago, Greenwald ran a particularly untruthful, hateful, shameful attack on Israel:  Netanyahu’s ‘Telegenically Dead’ Comment Is Grotesque but Not Original .  Greenwald’s assertion is that Israel behaves like Nazis in Gaza.

Greenwald begins by what he says is a quotation from Netanyahu, which he presents as follows:

“They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.”

Next, he gives what he says is a quotation from Joseph Goebbels, as follows:

“The Jews gradually are having to depend more and more on themselves, and have recently found a new trick. They knew the good-natured German Michael in us, always ready to shed sentimental tears for the injustice done to them. One suddenly has the impression that the Berlin Jewish population consists only of little babies whose childish helplessness might move us, or else fragile old ladies. The Jews send out the pitiable. They may confuse some harmless souls for a while, but not us. We know exactly what the situation is.”

The emphasis, in both cases, is of course supplied by Mr. Greenwald.

I have taken the trouble to look at the context of both of these quotations.  That by Netanyahu is also reported by the Forward, but together with a clarifying statement by Netanyahu:

“Israel regrets every injury to civilians,” the prime minister said. “I call on the residents of Gaza: Don’t stay there. Hamas wants you to die, we want you to be safe.”

If Mr. Greenwald’s reporting on Netanyahu is grossly misleading, the same must be said of his reporting on Goebbels.

The passage from Goebbels in question (dated November 16, 1941)  can be seen here in the original German and here in an English translation.    The article is quite long,  approximately 1600 words, and is entitled “Die Juden sind schuld !,”  (“The Jews are at  fault !).    It makes the following points:  Every Jew is our enemy.  There is no such thing as a good Jew and a bad Jew.  Every Jew is evil.  Judaism must be destroyed. 

Has Mr. Greenwald even read this German-language article, either in the original or in translation, or does he depend on some tendentious report by a third party ?  In either case, the paragraph translated and presented by Mr. Greenwald is in no way representative of the gist of Goebbels’s piece, and, in fact, grossly distorts it.

 Whether he cites Goebbels or Netanyahu, Mr. Greenwald  misleads his readers.  Read in relevant context, Netanyahu asserts, as does his government, that Israel is deeply concerned over loss of life, whether Jew or Arab.  And when read its entirety, Goebbels is seen to advocate the destruction of all Jews.  When Greenwald tells us that these two positions are the same,  he tells us more about his own integrity — or rather lack thereof — than he tells us about the ostensible subject of his rantings.

Obviously, Mr. Greenwald’s publisher, Pierre Obidyar, must share in   the moral responsibility for what is published under his imprint,  First Look Media.

As it happens, there is indeed a Nazi connection to be found in this topic of Israel vs. Hamas.  And pace Mr. Greenwald, the Nazi connection is on the side of Hamas.   The Hamas Charter, available freely on the Internet and elsewhere, calls for the destruction of Israel and the  killing  of all Jews and cites, with great approval, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a veritable bible of the Nazi movement.  But on this topic, the Hamas Charter, Mr. Greenwald is strangely quiet.

READ ALSO:  my earlier posting on Comrade Greenwald and Mr. Pierre Obidyar

Who Loves Edward Snowden ?

“Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.”  Like all proverbs, this one has its limits, and is not, in any case, an infallible guide.  Who does not have, in his circle of friendly acquaintances, someone whose wisdom and/or probity is open to question ?

But with all that, the collection of Edward Snowden admirers is striking.  Snowden, it will be remembered, is a former employee of the US National Scurity Agency who stole US secret documents and took them to his current residence in Moscow, where he is a fugitive from US law enforcement.

I have previously reported on the politics of Glenn Greenwald, the London Guardian columnist who is largely responsible for much of  Snowden’s publicity in the West.  (And in the same place I reported on the mutual admiration between Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky.)  Today I wish to point primarily to the extraordinary approbation of Snowden by the neo-Nazis in Germany.

The most conspicuous German supporter of Snowden is not a neo-Nazi but the Green Party Bundestag deputy Christian Ströbele.  Ströbele travelled to Moscow to interview Snowden and praises him as one of his heroes.  Ströbele, in the far left wing of his party, is also known as the lawyer for the terrorist RAF Baader-Meinhof gang,  Visiting Israel in 1991, Ströbele declared in an interview that the Iraqi Scuds that were employed against Israel at the time were thoroughly justified in view of Israel’s repressive policies. And last year, Herr Ströbele demanded that the German prohibition against brother-sister marriage be revoked for the sake of much needed sexual freedom.

Snowden no doubt appreciates friends like Ströbele.  But does he also appreciate the admiration and friendship of Chairman Holger Apfel of the neo-Nazi National Democrat Party (NPD) ?

Last month Apfel created a disturbance in the legislature of Saxony in which he represents his party.  He interrupted proceedings by demanding that Germany give asylum to his hero, Edward Snowden, in line with the NPD position that the US, together with Israel, represents an absolute evil, and that, ergo, anything that hurts the US deserves his, Apfel’s, enthusiastic support.  When the chairman of the chamber pointed out that asylum is a federal and not a provincial matter, and that Apfel’s motion is therefore out of order in the provincial legislature, Apfel refused to yield the floor and had to be banned from the legislature for the session.  (He had previously been banned from the legislature on a number of occasions for making anti-Semitic statements on the house floor.) For those who understand German, here is a report with video of Apfel’s tantrum in the Saxon legislature.

As far as I know, neither Snowden nor Greenwald has commented on these efforts by their German supporters.  Nor has Mr. Pierre Omidyar, Greenwald’s billionaire sponsor.