Friday, March 1, 2013

The Massive Malay Melee

The kids over at WIN THE MORNING, JR. do some actual journalism for once, and have caught conservative bloggers and columnists behaving rather badly, taking a buck or three (or hundreds of thousands) writing stories about Malaysia...stories which are actually propaganda press releases from the country's government.  At the center: former Guardian columnist Josh Trevino.

The payments to conservative American opinion writers — whose work appeared in outlets from the Huffington Post and San Francisco Examiner to the Washington Times to National Review and RedState — emerged in a filing this week to the Department of Justice. The filing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act outlines a campaign spanning May 2008 to April 2011 and led by Joshua Trevino, a conservative pundit, who received $389,724.70 under the contract and paid smaller sums to a series of conservative writers.

Trevino lost his column at the Guardian last year after allegations that his relationship with Malaysian business interests wasn't being disclosed in columns dealing with Malaysia. Trevino told Politico in 2011 that "I was never on any 'Malaysian entity's payroll,' and I resent your assumption that I was."
According to Trevino's belated federal filing, the interests paying Trevino were in fact the government of Malaysia, "its ruling party, or interests closely aligned with either." The Malaysian government has been accused of multiple human rights abuses and restricting the press and personal freedoms. Anwar, the opposition leader, has faced prosecution for sodomy, a prosecution widely denounced in the West which Trevino defended as more "nuanced" than American observers realized. The government for which Trevino worked also attacked Anwar for saying positive things about Israel; Trevino has argued that Anwar is not the pro-democracy figure he appears.

The federal filing specified that Trevino was engaged through the lobbying firm APCO Worldwide and the David All Group, an American online consulting firm. The contract also involved a firm called FBC (short for Fact-Based Communications), whose involvement in covert propaganda prompted a related scandal and forced an executive at The Atlantic to resign from its board.

The problem is that Trevino has run afoul of many sites for failure to disclose taking money from a foreign government along this lines...and he contracted these columns out to his wingnut welfare buddies.

Trevino's subcontractors included conservative writer Ben Domenech, who made $36,000 from the arrangement, and Rachel Ehrenfeld, the director of the American Center for Democracy, who made $30,000. Seth Mandel, an editor at Commentary, made $5,500 (his byline is attached to the National Review item linked to above). Brad Jackson, writing at the time for RedState, made $24,700. Overall, 10 writers were part of the arrangement. 

So yeah, HuffPo has already pulled all Trevino's pieces, and I'm expecting more will follow.

Oh, and didn't conservative columnists and bloggers make a huge stink about how unethical it was that Chuck Hagel reportedly took money from "Friends of Hamas" (which never existed) to speak their "propaganda"?

Funny how that works.


Casey said...

I read stories like this and think, The truth will out. And she is pissed.

RepubAnon said...

This reminds me of the way in which so many virulently homophobic public figures get outed as closeted homosexuals. I suppose that if you're being paid under the table to advocate certain ideas, you think that everyone else does as well.

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