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Buzzfeed Fires Former Breitbart/Glenn Beck Writer for Serial Plagiarism

Why was this a surprise to anyone?
Media • Views: 13,713

After being exposed as a serial plagiarist, Buzzfeed writer Benny Johnson has been fired; here’s the post by Ben Smith: Editor’s Note: An Apology to Our Readers.

Starting this Wednesday, Twitter users began pointing out instances in which a BuzzFeed writer, Benny Johnson, had lifted phrases and sentences from other websites.

After carefully reviewing more than 500 of Benny’s posts, we have found 41 instances of sentences or phrases copied word for word from other sites. Benny is a friend, colleague, and, at his best, a creative force, but we had no choice other than letting him go.

We owe you, our readers, an apology. This plagiarism is a breach of our fundamental responsibility to be honest with you — in this case, about who wrote the words on our site. Plagiarism, much less copying unchecked facts from Wikipedia or other sources, is an act of disrespect to the reader. We are deeply embarrassed and sorry to have misled you. Benny’s editors — I, Katherine Miller, John Stanton, Shani Hilton, and McKay Coppins — bear real responsibility.

While it’s nice that Ben Smith eventually did the right thing (after defending Johnson for several days, at one point calling him “one of the web’s deeply original writers”), it should be noted that Benny Johnson got his start writing for extreme right wing sites like Glenn Beck’s The Blaze and Breitbart “News,” so I’m not sure why it comes as such a surprise that he’s also an unethical plagiarist.

For example, have a look at this disgustingly bigoted rant about the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” written for Breitbart by Benny Johnson, which starts out by painting all Muslims as terrorists or terror supporters, and then morphs into a crazed attack on President Obama, accusing him of raising “a glass of non-alcoholic beverage in a toast to Islam:” Dear American Taxpayer, You Are Paying for the Ground Zero Mosque.

It’s a really awful post — hateful, shockingly bigoted against Muslims, completely deranged, and badly written to boot. It fits right in at Breitbart “News.” And the real question is, why was someone who writes this kind of evil garbage ever hired by Buzzfeed in the first place?

P.S. Oddly, in the apology for Johnson’s plagiarism, Smith posted links to the 41 posts that contained plagiarized material — but the links aren’t clickable, they’re plain text. So as a service to our readers, here are those links in clickable form:

Continue reading…

Greenwald Announces New “Grant” Program; First Beneficiary: Greenwald’s Partner

Libertarian altruism
Media • Views: 25,798

Today Glenn Greenwald and Pierre Omidyar’s media organization First Look is announcing a new grant program they’re hyping as: Promoting and Protecting Free Speech and Free Expression.

And if you’ve been paying attention to the way they do things at First Look, it probably won’t surprise you to learn the first beneficiary of their grant program will be — Glenn Greenwald. Or to be more precise, Greenwald’s partner David Miranda, who is suing the British government to recover the stolen NSA documents he tried to sneak through British customs for Glenn Greenwald.

The amazing gall of these people, promoting this as a purely altruistic endeavor when they’re actually awarding this “grant” to themselves.

Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda

Press freedom is enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as in international charters and conventions. A free press contributes to an informed citizenry and protects against corruption and government malfeasance. As Thomas Jefferson declared, “when the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.” Yet the cost of protecting these rights often imposes too heavy a burden on journalists and their employers. FLM’s Press Freedom Litigation Fund is designed to strengthen the ability of journalists to pursue legal fights where a substantial public interest is at stake. Grants under the program can be used to fund challenges to government policies or actions that restrict press freedoms or denials of freedom of information act requests; motions to quash subpoenas seeking source information or journalistic material; defamation cases where the underlying report concerns a matter of public interest; access cases to closed proceedings or sealed documents; and amicus efforts in support of press freedom. There must be a substantial public benefit to any litigation receiving a grant.

Our first grant will be to support the appeal in the case of Miranda v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, in the UK Court of Appeal.

Greenwald Wrong Again: The Real Reason NBC Correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin Was Pulled From Gaza

Crying wolf as a business model
Media • Views: 29,490

When NBC News correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin was recently called home from Gaza where he had been reporting on the conflict, our good friend Glenn Greenwald immediately took to The Intercept to post one of his over-heated propaganda pieces, very strongly insinuating that Mohyeldin was pulled out because his reporting was too pro-Palestinian: NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter From Gaza After Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children.

Despite this powerful first-hand reporting - or perhaps because of it - Mohyeldin was nowhere to be seen on last night’s NBC Nightly News broadcast with Brian Williams. Instead, as Media Bistro’s Jordan Chariton noted, NBC curiously had Richard Engel - who was in Tel Aviv, and had just arrived there an hour or so earlier - “report” on the attack. Charlton wrote that “the decision to have Engel report the story for ‘Nightly’ instead of Mohyeldin angered some NBC News staffers.”

Indeed, numerous NBC employees, including some of the network’s highest-profile stars, were at first confused and then indignant over the use of Engel rather than Mohyeldin to report the story. But what they did not know, and what has not been reported until now, is that Mohyeldin was removed completely from reporting on Gaza by a top NBC executive, David Verdi, who ordered Mohyeldin to leave Gaza immediately.

Over the last two weeks, Mohyeldin’s reporting has been far more balanced and even-handed than the standard pro-Israel coverage that dominates establishment American press coverage; his reports have provided context to the conflict that is missing from most American reports and he avoids adopting Israeli government talking points as truth. As a result, neocon and “pro-Israel” websites have repeatedly attacked him as a “Hamas spokesman” and spouting “pro-Hamas rants.”

It doesn’t take an expert at reading between the lines to see what Greenwald is getting at with these incendiary accusations, and sure enough his followers immediately launched a Twitter campaign to pressure NBC into returning Mohyeldin to Gaza, all of them completely convinced that he’d been pulled out because of pro-Israel bias at NBC.

At the time, I posted these tweets about the situation:

This Friday, NBC reversed their decision, and announced that Mohyeldin would be returning to Gaza — leading Greenwald to take credit and tweet triumphantly:

But now, thanks to Brian Stelter (who actually committed some journalism to get at the truth of the story), we learn that Mohyeldin’s withdrawal from Gaza had nothing to do with his empathy for Palestinians, but everything to do with internal NBC politics around the most important thing to a cable news network: ratings.

What Really Happened With NBC and Ayman Mohyeldin.

Did this decision demonstrate unfairness on the part of NBC, or more mundane internal politicking? Engel is one of NBC’s most recognizable correspondents, after all, and “Nightly News” is locked in a battle with ABC’s “World News” for No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings.

“The producers are so paranoid about the ratings, they’ll do anything to stick with the faces viewers know and trust — so that would be Richard over Ayman,” said one of the employees. “Plus, there is no tolerance if a story is fed in and doesn’t live up to expectations.”

At this point, one has to wonder how many times Glenn Greenwald will cry “WOLF!” and still be considered a reputable journalist, instead of what he really is: a propagandist who regularly twists and distorts facts to suit his agenda.

Russia Today’s Sara Firth Resigns Over MH17 Coverage

Another of RT’s propaganda babes bails out
Media • Views: 29,359

Another one of Russia Today’s “correspondents” resigned today: Russia Today Correspondent Sara Firth Resigns Over Coverage of Ukrainian Plane Crash.

Firth, who joined the channel in 2009, told BuzzFeed that she decided to resign from the Kremlin-funded news channel because she felt it was “disrespectfully” attempting to pin the blame for Thursday’s Malaysia Airlines disaster on the Ukrainian government.

“When this story broke I ran back into the newsroom and saw how we were covering it already and I just knew I had to go,” she said.

“It was the total disregard to the facts. We threw up eyewitness accounts from someone on the ground openly accusing the Ukrainian government [of involvement in the disaster], and a correspondent in the studio pulled up a plane crash before that the Ukrainian government had been involved in and said it was ‘worth mentioning’.

“It’s not worth mentioning. It’s Russia Today all over, it’s flirting with that border of overtly lying. You’re not telling a lie, you’re just bringing something up. I didn’t want to watch a story like that, where people have lost loved ones and we’re handling it like that.

“I couldn’t do it any more. Every single day we’re lying and finding sexier ways to do it.”

Uh, well, yeah. Good on Sara Firth for finally doing the right thing, but let’s face the facts: anyone who willingly goes to work for Russia Today knows what they’re getting into — the agenda is not exactly hidden — and they do it to advance their careers, truth be damned. These sudden attacks of conscience look more like belated concern for their own reputations.

Dana Milbank Responds to Dylan Byers: Politico’s Reporting Disaster

Media • Views: 19,913

Politico’s Reporting Disaster
by Dana Milbank
June 18, 2014

Politico’s media blogger, Dylan Byers, regularly supplies his readers with tidbits on comings and goings in the news business, but this week he provided an additional service: a lesson in the limitations of armchair journalism.

Dylan Byers

After my column appeared Tuesday on a Heritage Foundation event on Benghazi that devolved into anti-Muslim ugliness, Byers tweeted that I had “totally misrepresented the panel.” It linked to a nine-minute video clip from the session. Byers followed that up shortly with a blog post titled “Dana Milbank’s Heritage Disaster,” based on the same excerpt.

I read Byers’s post, and there was indeed a disaster: the sort of disaster that occurs when a journalist, from the comfort of his office, levels accusations based on a nine-minute clip of a 65-minute panel he hadn’t attended. (Heritage didn’t post the full video until well after the Byers report, and Byers didn’t take me up on my offer to provide him earlier with my audio recording.)

Byers wrote that the Heritage Foundation “feels that the event was ‘mischaracterized’ by Milbank. It also notes that while the event took place at Heritage, it was hosted by the Benghazi Accountability Coalition.”

Continue reading at the Washington Post.

Related: VIDEO: Heritage Foundation’s Benghazi Panelists Mock Muslim Student

UPDATE at 6/18/14 11:36:09 am


One of the leaders of the Benghazi Accountability Coalition speaks out.

UPDATE at 6/18/14 11:26:10 am by Charles Johnson

I read Dana Milbank’s original article and then watched the video, and I’d agree in a very limited way that it seems Milbank slightly overstated the vehemence of the panel’s responses — but he certainly did not exaggerate their nature. The issue of whether Dana Milbank exaggerated the tone of a panel at a top conservative think tank pales in comparison to the ugly fact of the panel itself.

Right wingers are now demonizing Dana Milbank to take the focus off the sickening hate speech at Heritage Institute, and argue there was nothing wrong with the panel.

But everything about that panel discussion was a disgrace. And it’s another marker of the extreme bigotry that has come to define not just the far right, but now the Republican mainstream.

Trouble in Greenwaldia: The Intercept’s “Senior Policy Analyst” Abruptly Quits

Ruh roh
Media • Views: 25,802

Marcy Wheeler (who runs the blog “Emptywheel”) was one of the first hires at Glenn Greenwald’s billionaire-funded media outlet, and today she’s announcing that she’s the first one to bail out: Announcement | Emptywheel.

This is just a quick announcement that I have ended my affiliation with First Look/The Intercept. My departure was voluntary and amicable.

To anticipate questions some may ask, my departure from The Intercept doesn’t relate to anything I wrote or didn’t write about Ukraine. It did not relate to the downtime The Intercept just took (and seems to be coming out of). The reasons for my departure predate both of those things, to January.

I’ll have more to say-not about The Intercept, per se, but about things I’ve learned about my own journalism over the last 7 months, as the Edward Snowden story played out and the Intercept discussed hiring me-at some later point, after some reflection.

Things here will remain the same.

We will, however, be doing a fundraising campaign next week (or you can beat the rush by donating today!). Until such time as a billionaire wants to support the work we do here, we will rely on readers to pay the bills.

Uh oh. Things are not serene in Glenn Greenwald’s kingdom.

UPDATE at 5/16/14 11:19:33 am

Wheeler is still listed on The Intercept’s About page.

Stephen Colbert to Replace David Letterman on “Late Show”

And he says he won’t be in character
Media • Views: 10,653

The replacement for David Letterman has been announced, and it’s a big blow to hashtag activists all over the Internets: Stephen Colbert to Replace David Letterman on “Late Show”.

CBS didn’t waste too much time finding a new host for the “Late Show.” Exactly a week after David Letterman announced his plans to retire, his successor has been named.

Stephen Colbert, the host, writer and executive producer of “The Colbert Report,” will replace Letterman in 2015.

“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves said in a statement Thursday. “David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”

The 49-year-old Colbert, who signed a five-year deal, said in a statement: “Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career. I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead. I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”

Right wingers on Twitter are also experiencing paroxysms of rage, but then, that’s a pretty common thing.

Suddenly, wingnuts all over America are concerned about racist humor. Strange, they never seemed to care before.

After His First Article, FiveThirtyEight Apologizes for Controversial Climate Science Writer

Who could have seen this coming?
Media • Views: 11,446

Well, that didn’t take long. Recently, Nate Silver’s new media venture FiveThirtyEight hired one of the most notorious “climate skeptics,” Roger Pielke Jr., as their science writer. Today, Silver is apologizing for Pielke, after Pielke’s very first article was severely criticized by climate scientists and he responded by sending them emails threatening possible legal action: FiveThirtyEight Apologizes on Behalf of Controversial Climate Science Writer.

NEW YORK — Two prominent climate scientists say Roger Pielke Jr., a controversial writer at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site, sent emails threatening possible legal action in response to their criticism of his findings for the data-driven news site.

Pielke says it’s “ridiculous” to characterize the emails as threats against Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. FiveThirtyEight, however, apologized to both men.

“Roger is a freelance contributor and his private communications do not represent FiveThirtyEight,” Silver said in a statement to HuffPost. “We had candid conversations with Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth. We made clear that Roger’s conversations with them did not reflect FiveThirtyEight’s editorial values.”

Revelations of the private correspondence are particularly poorly timed for FiveThirtyEight, which has been dogged online throughout most of its 11-day existence by the climate change dispute. The controversy was given increased exposure Thursday night on “The Daily Show.”

Also see:
First Climate Article on Nate Silver’s Data Website Uses ‘Deeply Misleading’ Data, Top Climatologists Say

An Interesting Discrepancy in First Look’s Public Statements, Presented for Your Perusal

Ethics, how do they work?
Media • Views: 18,911

An interesting discrepancy, presented for your perusal. First, we have Glenn Greenwald, who is a journalist, professing his “full journalistic independence” from sole owner Pierre Omidyar in his new First Look media venture:

Greenwald goes into (much) greater depth in his written argument before the jury, but the point is the same: how dare you question his full journalistic independence?

On the other hand, we have Jeremy Scahill, one of the first First Look employees, who said this to the Daily Beast:

The whole venture will have a lower wall between owner and journalist than traditional media. Omidyar, he says, wanted to do the project because he was interested in Fourth Amendment issues, and they are hiring teams of lawyers, not just to keep the staff from getting sued, but to actively push courts on the First Amendment, to “force confrontation with the state on these issues.”

“[Omidyar] strikes me as always sort of political, but I think that the NSA story and the expanding wars put politics for him into a much more prominent place in his existence. This is not a side project that he is doing. Pierre writes more on our internal messaging than anyone else. And he is not micromanaging. This guy has a vision. And his vision is to confront what he sees as an assault on the privacy of Americans.”

That sure doesn’t sound like full journalistic independence to me.

An interesting discrepancy, presented for your perusal.

Related:
In Which Glenn Greenwald Is Invited to the Alex Jones Show (At Last)
The Mysterious “Deep Force” Behind the “Coup” in Ukraine? First Look Money Guy Pierre Omidyar

Buzzfeed: Al Jazeera Offered Julian Assange $1.3M for Diplomatic Cables

Corruption among the anarchists
Media • Views: 13,956

Today we learn (via Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray) that Qatari news network Al Jazeera offered Julian Assange more than a million dollars for access to the diplomatic cables Wikileaks acquired in 2010.

And that’s not all; they also offered sexual favors.

In “Ghosted,” a story by Andrew O’Hagan in the London Review of Books about his experience ghostwriting an autobiography of Assange that was never published, he alleges that Al Jazeera offered Assange $1.3 million in exchange for WikiLeaks data.

“That night, a guy from al-Jazeera was talking to the group,” O’Hagan wrote of a night in January 2011. “The group was usually just Sarah, who lived there, and Joseph Farrell, a pleasant twenty-something whizz kid who came and went. Another guy, an activist and academic from Canberra University, was drinking wine and talking about how to mobilise the world. It turned out that the guy from al-Jazeera was hoping to strike a deal with WikiLeaks - that’s to say, with Julian. He was offering $1.3 million to get access (via encryption keys) to the data. He also wanted to organise a conference in Qatar on press freedom.”

According to James Ball, a former WikiLeaks employee, another meeting with Al Jazeera executives took place in December 2010 in the office of Mark Stephens, then Assange’s lawyer. Ball and WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson represented Assange’s side, while two high-level Al Jazeera employees, one described as the “third-in-charge” and one introduced as the head of investigations, represented Al Jazeera, according to Ball.

[…]

According to Ball, the Al Jazeera executives offered to fly the pair to Doha and “make us comfortable.” They offered other things too: “I remember a remark along the lines of noting the women there were very lovely, and very friendly,” Ball said.

At the end, one of the executives asked the men, “What would it take to make you happy?” Ball said.

Just another example of how this libertarian/anarchist ideology corrupts everything it touches.

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 Frank says:

My best advice to anyone who wants to raise a happy, mentally healthy child is: Keep him or her as far away from a church as you can.