Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 11, 2018

Newsweek: the death of a corpse

Filed under: journalism — louisproyect @ 7:48 pm

David Jang: the cult leader who owns Newsweek

This week Newsweek Magazine, a journal that usually doesn’t show up on my radar screen, caught my attention. The NY Times reported on February sixth that “Two top editors and a reporter at Newsweek were fired on Monday, and two other reporters left in limbo, in a purge that targeted employees involved in coverage of the company’s financial and legal troubles.”

This was fall-out from an editor’s decision to assign reporters to cover an incident that occurred on January 18th when investigators for the NY District Attorney raided Newsweek’s offices. The Newsweek article that led to the firings stated:

A grand jury investigation of Newsweek Media Group, formerly known as IBT Media, has been ongoing for at least 17 months, according to a source familiar with the matter. The probe was likely looking at loans the company took out to purchase the servers.

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan DA’s office declined to comment on the probe.

The company has a rocky financial history. Digital publisher IBT Media bought Newsweek from IAC, an internet and media company, in 2013, and it missed payroll and laid off large numbers of employees in 2016.

Both Etienne Uzac and Johnathan Davis, the IBT founders who bought Newsweek in 2013 and still own parts of Newsweek Media Group, also appear to have large debts, according to public records. The Internal Revenue Service filed a $1.2 million lien against Uzac in December 2017, while the IRS filed an $800,000 lien against Davis in October that year, public records show.

IBT Media has faced questions about its relationship with David Jang, a South Korean pastor who leads a Christian sect called “the Community” and founded a small Bible college called Olivet University, according to a 2014 Mother Jones report.

The Mother Jones report portrayed David Jang as being cut from the same cloth as fellow Korean Sun Myung Moon, the deceased cult leader of the Unification Church that launched the Washington Times in 1982 to promulgate his reactionary views. Like Moon, Jang, who was formerly a key figure in Moon’s cult, portrayed himself as a godlike figure–the Second Coming Christ. Jang’s cult is organized as the Community, a project that also includes the Olivet colleges in the USA. Newsweek’s top executives, including Uzac and Davis, are long-standing members of Jang’s cult.

Unlike Moon, Jang has describes his media goals as one of promoting business news objectively rather than propaganda. Notwithstanding the stated goal, he claims that everything he is involved with is designed to promote the Kingdom of God. Jang’s first foray into the media business was something called the International Business Tribune (IBT) that at first blush seems legitimate. Peter Goodman, a top editor at Huffington, was hired to be editor-in-chief. The main problem wasn’t content but shady business practices behind the scenes.

Like most Internet based publications, IBT was dedicated to traffic, just as is Newsweek now. The bosses demanded that every article generate 10,000 hits or else you’d get fired. And like other electronic publications, the articles tended to be virtual plagiarisms with IBT in Japan publishing 302 articles constructed of patches lifted from Japanese media that were combined in “collage-style”.

A Guardian article on IBT/Newsweek dated March 28, 2014 reported:

A former editor at 33 Universal said “full-time freelance” writers who did much of the writing were paid $8 per article for pieces aiming to ride the crest of that day’s wave of popular news search terms. “You wrote at eight articles a day minimum, sometimes more,” said one former writer for 33 Universal websites.

Even I couldn’t keep up with such a pace.

Like Jacobin that falsified the number of its Twitter followers to convince Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to write an article for them, Newsweek was not above juggling the books. A full report on their fraudulent traffic statistics can be read at Social Puncher, a website dedicated to exposing such manipulative practices.

While some of the staff has been fired, others have left in protest. One of them is David Sirota, a very capable reporter who I used to read in Huffington Post. He was a Bernie Sanders supporter and described himself as a “democratic socialist”.

But even more disconcertingly, I discovered a couple of days ago that Patrick Hilsman, a FB friend and occasional email correspondent on matters such as the LaRouche cult, had tweeted that he too had quit. However, it did not take the post-January 18th turmoil to convince him to leave. He quit the same day he started work:

Like me, Patrick Hilsman has been one of those stiff-necked people who refuse to hoist Bashar al-Assad on our “anti-imperialist” shoulders. To show you how much things have changed at Newsweek, an article written by one Ian Wilkie has been making the rounds in the Max Blumenthal/Consortium News/Global Research propaganda network. Titled “Now Mattis admits there was no evidence Assad used poison gas on his people”, it rehashes all of the “false flag” narratives promoted equally by “leftists” like Seymour Hersh and not so leftists like David Duke and Pamela Geller.

Saving me the trouble of wading through Wilkie’s manure, Eliot Higgins donned his hip boots and did his usual yeoman job on Bellingcat:

Wilkie also repeats one of the popular theories among chemical weapon conspiracy theorists that people filmed at the impact site of the Sarin bomb after the attack would have died from Sarin exposure, stating “these people would all be dead if they had come into contact with real military-grade Sarin.” This is based on the popular misconception among chemical weapon conspiracy theorists that Sarin is a persistent agent, in that it remains in the environment in lethal quantities long after an attack has occurred.

Naturally enough, Wilkie describes himself as a “terrorism expert”, which is ultimately the perspective of Consortium News, Global Research, LaRouche’s EIR, et al. It does not recognize the class origins of the Syrian civil war and has no other interest than in preventing another 9/11, as if bombing hospitals in Idlib will serve as a prophylactic. Wilkie is a contributor to Tracking Terrorism, a website based on a $500 subscription. I was considering taking out a trial subscription just to see what lurked beneath but was persuaded not to bother when I checked what its editors had written about the mass murder in Las Vegas last year:

My guess is that Wilkie’s article does not indicate that Newsweek is going to read anything like Consortium News that was started by the late Robert Parry, a former Newsweek reporter himself. Throughout 2017, there were articles at odds with Wilkie’s op-ed piece such as “Assad Regime is Still Making Chemical Weapons in Syria: Report”. Perhaps the only explanation is that the magazine saw Wilkie’s piece as prime clickbait since it is well-understood that there are many people attracted to such slop as might be obvious from Breitbart News offering up much of the same.

Centrist political opinion is quite upset with developments at Newsweek. Jonathan Alter, a former Newsweek pundit, wrote “The Death of Newsweek” for Atlantic, a prime dispenser of centrist politics.

Newsweek was always the scrappy, risk-taking underdog, Avis to Time’s Hertz. As Don Graham, his mother’s successor, liked to say, “We’re the pirate ship and they’re the stately ocean liner sailing off.” Pirates had fun—not raffish newsroom amusement (our offices looked more like an insurance company) but a spirit of adventure every week. “Scramble the jets!” our late editor, Maynard Parker, would shout, and all over the world dozens of correspondents and editors swooped and dove on a Friday afternoon to cover the big, late-breaking story of the week. Within 24 hours, we could produce a polished 7,000-word cover package with arresting, often-exclusive reporting from far-flung locales, fresh columns and sidebars, classy photos and spreads, and—especially if someone like Peter Goldman, Evan Thomas, or Jerry Adler was writing—exquisite narrative “tick tock.” The features and criticism in the “back of the book” were also as good or better than those in more intellectual publications, even if it wasn’t cool in New York to admit that about a middlebrow magazine.

My own experience with Newsweek was ambivalent to say the least. Back in the stone ages when there wasn’t an Internet, households such as ours relied on Time and Newsweek much more than the N.Y. Times. The magazine was tabloid sized and the articles were written for someone with a high school education or presently in high school, as I was. It was in Newsweek where I discovered the beat generation, foreign films and contemporary classical music.

Between 1965 and 1967, Newsweek published ten articles about the US war in Vietnam that focused almost exclusively on the advances produced by firepower. Typically, such magazines only devoted 3 percent of its coverage on the toll B-52s and other killing machines were taking on civilians.

By 1967, the malfeasance of Newsweek and much of television reporting was enough for me to break with the system and become a revolutionary socialist. I stopped reading Newsweek or any other capitalist print publication and relied strictly on the radical press, especially the SWP’s, and the NY Times that can be very useful if you read it critically.

Eleven years later, when Reagan was trying to make the Nicaraguans cry uncle at the same time I was recruiting engineers, programmers, skilled tradespeople, and medical professionals to volunteer to help keep the revolution alive, Newsweek was writing the kinds of articles that are now being written about Venezuela. The government was repressive, the economy sucked, etc. But none of the articles really explored the American role in creating such a dire situation. This article was typical:

In the battle over contra aid, the administration was set to open a new offensive. Congress has become increasingly skeptical about the Nicaraguan rebels’ military capabilities, and the peace plan signed by five Central American leaders last August isolates the contras politically. But U.S. officials had a new weapon: Maj. Roger Miranda, a high-ranking Sandinista defector with stories of secret Cuban and Soviet pacts and of links to other leftist guerrillas. Last week Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams allowed several news organizations to interview the defector. Then, learning that reporters planned to publish Miranda’s revelations, Nicaraguan Defense Minister Humberto Ortega launched a pre-emptive strike. Speaking at a gathering in Managua, he confirmed some of Miranda’s most damaging disclosures.

Among the revelations:

* Manauga [sic] has made secret agreements with the Soviet Union, Cuba and East-bloc nations. Ortega said the pacts, which Managua has never before acknowledged, call for assistance in helping the Sandinistas arm and train 600,000 Army troops and civilian militia by the mid-1990s. According to one U.S. official, the goal is to make any U.S. invasion prohibitively costly. With that kind of troop strength and arsenal, it would take four divisions and massive air strikes to oust the Sandinistas.

* Nicaragua has “several hundred, a few thousand” officers taking courses in Cuba and the Soviet Union in the use of sophisticated weapons, Ortega admitted for the first time last week.

* The Sandinistas are training Salvadoran rebels to use ground-to-air missiles; the shoulder-launched weapons could sharply escalate the eight-year-old war.

Oh, did I mentioned that Robert Parry was one of the three Newsweek staffers who co-wrote the piece?

 

4 Comments »

  1. yes, you did “mentioned” Robert Parry. last sentence!

    Comment by uh...clem — February 12, 2018 @ 1:37 am

  2. “Like Jacobin that falsified the number of its Twitter followers to convince Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to write an article for them . . . ”

    What??? I never heard of this, and it sounds like a rather peculiar objective.

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 12, 2018 @ 2:51 am

  3. Few were franker about this fact than Micah Uetricht, associate editor for the leftist magazine Jacobin—one of the few publications identified as a Devumi customer. Uetricht explained that Jacobin’s staff had falsely inflated its reach in the hopes of impressing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when they were attempting to convince the athlete and commentator to write for them.

    https://slate.com/technology/2018/01/the-new-york-times-report-on-fake-twitter-followers-reveals-the-mechanics-of-shame-on-social-media.html

    Comment by louisproyect — February 12, 2018 @ 3:12 am

  4. You ought to do a review of “Good Girls Revolt” now showing on Amazon Prime – Newsweek 1969. Tangentially related.

    Comment by Anthony Boynton — February 12, 2018 @ 11:27 pm


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