Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Arianna and Andrew: A Love Story

The Breitbart:  "Bring It On, Punks!"
  This is from an email sent out today by James Rucker of ColorofChange, regarding the new and prominent main page presence of right-wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart on the "progressive and liberal" Huffington Post-- recently purchased for $315 million by conservative megacorporation AOL, but still ostensibly run by Huffington:
" Andrew Breitbart is a liar and a race-baiter. His method is to pose as a journalist, and then use deceptive tactics to gin up race-based fears, protect racists, and demonize Black political leaders and institutions. This is the man caught peddling deceptively edited video of Shirley Sherrod — the Black USDA official who was dismissed as a result of Breitbart's hateful propaganda. No credible news outlet has had Breitbart on since. ABC News rescinded its invitation for him to be a part of its election night coverage (after hearing from ColorOfChange members) and even Fox has turned its back on him since the Sherrod episode.
"So why is The Huffington Post giving him a platform? Just over a week ago, editors at The Huffington Post gave Breitbart a top spot on their home page, where he again spewed widely debunked lies. Then yesterday they did it again. We reached out to Arianna Huffington and other leaders at The Huffington Post to ask why they'd give him cover. Their response? Silence.
"Join us in condemning The Huffington Post's actions and demanding that Arianna Huffington and The Huffington Post agree to not elevate Breitbart again given his unfailing race-baiting attacks on our community. This is critical and it takes only a moment. And please invite your friends and family to do the same:

"The Huffington Post understands the power of featuring someone on its home page. It gives the author credibility and helps them spread their message. To give that placement to someone who has repeatedly shown complete disregard and hostility toward the truth, and who is a serial race-baiter, is irresponsible. It shows a lack of journalistic integrity, and it's frankly an insult to our communities.
"Andrew Breitbart targets key people and institutions within our community, in particular those who have dared talk about the reality of racism and race in this country — Shirley Sherrod, the NAACP, President Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus. And he targets those that seek to increase Black political participation, like ACORN, which until Breitbart's fraud-based take-down had the strongest record of registering low-income Black voters in the country. Breitbart's approach is consistent — posing as journalists, he and his team manufacture false stories that work by preying on his viewers' race-based fears to lead them to incorrect conclusions. It's cynical and destructive.
"The Huffington Post recently announced that it will be launching 'HuffPost Global Black',a site focused on Black issues. It's especially galling that The Huffington Post would seek to attract Black audiences with this new site at the same time that it provides a prominent platform for Breitbart to continue spreading lies that have a real impact on Black people.
"The Huffington Post's decision isn't about featuring conservative voices. Many conservative reporters and opinion-makers — like others across the political spectrum — attempt to be truthful and act with integrity. That doesn't mean they're perfect, but Breitbart is cut from a different cloth. He has no regard for honest debate, and conservatives with integrity see Breitbart as an embarrassment, a con-artist.
"If The Huffington Post wants to be treated like a trusted source for news and opinion, this behavior needs to stop and we need to be assured that Breitbart will never again be prominently featured on the site. If we don't receive that assurance, then Black America and our allies should abandon The Huffington Post and get our information elsewhere.
Arianna Huffington needs to know that for our communities, this is a slap in the face. Please join us in calling on her to stop allowing her news organization to be a vehicle for Breitbart's deceptions, and demand that Breitbart not be given prominent placement on the site again."

Rucker co-founded ColorofChange with fellow activist Van Jones in the wake of the Jena Six scandal in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.  He is a former leader at  Jones was an Obama Administration staffer working on environmental issues who Glenn Beck "exposed" for having signed a 9/11 "Truther" petition, resulting in his firing by the White House.
Bonfires of the Vanity Fair Afterparty
Breitbart actually helped Huffington launch her aggregate news site in 2006, and it has turned out to be an extremely lucrative enterprise for her.  Arianna has written best-selling tomes on income and class disparity, the most recent of which is "Third World America."  The Breitbart brouhaha is only the latest episode in a spate of bad publicity for her.  She's been widely criticized for using a stable of unpaid bloggers and "borrowed" links to mainstream news organizations to make her millions. She recently got into a petty public cat fight with New York Times managing editor Bill Keller about who  copied whom over a lame one-liner.  Her own blog is chock full of name-dropping.  She posted live reports from Davos, where she schmoozed with such banksters as Larry Summers and Jamie Dimon.  She bragged about being one of the perennial invitees to the Vanity Fair Academy Awards  after-party and then tweeting how boring the whole insiders-only affair was.  Boring, as in "I'm here and you're not, peasants!"  (she has gone to these parties for years despite the boredom factor).

The British "Guardian" newspaper has enjoined the HuffPo from linking to its articles, because of "the damage to standards of quality posed by the Huffington Post's failure to allow for the slightest  distinction between serious journalism or opinion and a press release."

Just a reminder - there is a precedent for unpaid bloggers and website moderators suing under federal labor laws -  and winning.  AOL, the new owner of HuffPo, has had to settle out of court with its "volunteer" moderators who sought damages for violations of wage and hour laws. Arianna is falling all over herself in claiming that all her worker bees are now paid and that her site is finally, at long last, fully staffed with paid editors and reporters.  But she has yet to offer retroactive remuneration to people like Mayhill Fowler, who broke the "they cling to their guns and religion" Barack Obama blockbuster of a blooper story during the 2008 campaign.

Sign the petition, boycott the site, or continue to read celebrity blogs and cute kitten stories - it's a free Internet.  Just think of the ad revenue you're generating for Arianna and AOL with every visit.

** Update --  Jeff Bercovici, a blogger on Forbes, reports that 200 employees of AOL sites have been terminated in the past two weeks and that most -- if not all -- AOL sites are folding, having been subsumed through the merger and the creation of the Huffington Post Media Group.  "Politics Daily" is among the doomed. Freelancers at AOL have been "invited to apply" for paid positions at the new group, but in the meantime are living in a state of limbo.... and unemployment. Meanwhile, new hires at HuffPo are being lured from major corporate media sites, including the NYT.  One of the perks is a "nap room" for staff.  If you ask me. the MSM are already asleep at the switch, if not semi-comatose.  

*** Update II -- Readers at Daily Kos are reporting all comments critical of Breitbart's posts are being censored by HuffPo moderators.   (Rucker has written an extended article supplementing his mass email on DK).

**** Update III (3/24) -- The Huffington Post not only will not censor Breitbart, they're fighting back against Rucker and Jones.  Senior HuffPo Vice President Mario Ruiz said Breitbart will continue to be featured on the site, adding that his first post garnered more than 1600 "civil comments."
Judge for yourself whether Breitbart's response (via a phone interview with The Daily Caller) to ColorofChange was "civil":

"Bring it on, punks!... Van Jones is a commie punk!... This is what the left does, they don't believe in free speech.  They want to shut up Fox News, they want to shut up people who disagree with them. They want to shut up the Tea Party."

The rant continued: "I believe that Van Jones, and ColorofChange, and ACORN poison the black community with propaganda that divides this country. Van Jones is a human toxin, ACORN was a human toxin.  These are poisonous, venomous forces within the American experience.  I will expose them like the cockroaches that they are."

Breitbart added, ostensibly to prove that he is not a racist, that he defended Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas against attacks at an anti-Koch rally recently.  And to make us feel even better, he brags that he has spent lots of time in Arianna's house, around her children.  He is convinced Huffington is on his side.  

Methinks Arianna is performing one giant U-turn back to her original conservative roots.  We'll know for sure if and when her former buddy Newt Gingrich gets his own column on her e-rag.  Personally, I am not going to check.  Every hit on that site generates more money for the ownership.

*****  Update IV -- Ruiz has gotten wind of Breitbart's rant and made the wise decision to remove Breitbart from the main page. Here is Ruiz's statement: 

"Andrew Brietbart’s ad hominem attack on Van Jones in The Daily Caller -- right down to calling him a “commie punk” and “a cop killer-supporting, racist, demagogic freak” -- violates the tenets of debate and civil discourse we have strived for since the day we launched. As a result, we will no longer feature his posts on the front page. He is welcome to continue publishing his work on HuffPost provided it adheres to our editorial guidelines, as the two posts he published on HuffPost did -- guidelines that include a strict prohibition on ad hominem attacks." (via Dave Weigel at Slate).

Notice he is off the front page, but not off the site itself.  And Weigel calls himself disappointed that HuffPo "wimped out." I am disappointed they didn't wimp out sooner, and completely. They're giving this boor another chance and merely banishing him to below the e-fold, as if that will make them seem righteous.  I'm still boycotting that rag.


Draft Spitzer said...

Thanks for the heads-up, that's really disgusting. Glad The Guardian took such a decisive stand - maybe that's a paper to buy a subscription to.

I'll refrain from reading HuffPo from now on. What are the chances Arianna will morph back into a conservative? What's going ON with her?

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Hi, Karen:

I had no idea! I'm so very disappointed with all I'm hearing: the unpaid bloggers, lifted stories, ideological compromises and newly fattened bank account. I'm going to take it off my Bookmarks for sure!

Draft Spitzer said...

Between the paywall at the Times and this Breitbart-HuffPo nonsense, your readers may have some empty reading space. I'd like to recommend Jason Lutes' remarkable "Berlin" trilogy about the Weimar years.
I'm afraid to try to describe what an amazing feat he's pulled off with this project. I had no idea one could create such finely etched characters in graphic novel format. This makes "Maus" look like child's play (no disrespect to Spiegelman.) I won't even start with the interesting parallels to our current political climate.
Many booksellers had rec'd it to me, but when I finally started the series, I couldn't put it down.

Anonymous said...

It's good you reached your own conclusion about Ms. huffington, that said those of us that knew her in her prior life do agree that she is a "piece of work" and fervently pray that she remains a Liberal.


turnipseed said...

I've always thought that HuffPo was nothing but a rag (a rag that rips off legitimate news sources at that). I've never thought that AH was anything but a name-dropping, social-climbing, money-grubbing, allegiance-shifting, airhead.

I do read the Guardian regularly, however.

Janet Camp

cek said...

Agreed, Karen -- and thanks, D.S., for the reading recommendation.