Malaysians, and Other Foreigners I Might Be Able to Give a Damn About, If You Could Pay Me $389,724.70 to Care
Posted on | March 2, 2013 | 24 Comments
Bar Refaeli, a key element of Israel’s foreign-policy strategy
(CONTENT ADVISORY: This post contains strong language, generic xenophobia and brutal cynicism.)
After having briefly remarked — “Damn. Just . . . Damn.” — last night about this story, I’ve had a few conversations with friends, and taken time to reflect on the shocking news that Josh Trevino collected $389,724.70 over a three-year span from the government of Malaysia, “its ruling party, or interests closely aligned with either” to operate a sort of blogospheric pay-for-play P.R. racket.
The obvious response: King Abdul, call me.
We could do business, Your Highness.
Could I suggest TheOtherKingAbdul.com? For the right price . . .
These so-called “human rights groups” claiming that your constitutional monarchy is actually a corrupt and brutal authoritarian regime?
Lies, all lies.
For a modest sum, perhaps $389,724.70, complete and slavishly favorable coverage of the government of Malaysia, “its ruling party, or interests closely aligned with either” could be arranged. Just say the word — and, of course, sign the check — and I’ll be all over it like flies buzzing around the bloated corpse of an “opposition leader” who met with an unfortunate machete accident, sources say.
This is the real lesson for students in the emerging field of “Blogging Ethics”: If you’re going to sell out to shady foreign interests, don’t sell out cheap. Also, spend time improving your money-laundering techniques so that, instead of “Malaysian kickbacks,” your extra income is reported as “bowling tournament prize.”
Normally, as a New Media consultant/professional bowler, I charge clients top dollar for that kind of advice. But for you, King Abdul, this first “strategy memo” is free — or at least, I’ll put it on your tab for now. Until the check clears.
Basically, bloggers can be divided into two categories:
- Bloggers who would sell out to Malaysia for $389,724.70; and
- Bloggers who are never gonna get that kind of offer.
Say what you will about Josh Trevino and his Malaysian benefactors, they’ve solved the punchline shortage. And I’m sure the whole story will be told in Josh Trevino’s forthcoming tell-all memoir, How to Become Topic of the Day on MSNBC and Also the Subject of a Hilarious 10-Minute Parody Segment on The Colbert Report.
More seriously — but only slightly more seriously — the question must be asked: “Did this pay-for-play scheme actually do anything for the Malaysian regime?”
What percentage of Americans, or how many members of Congress, could find Kuala Lumpur on a map, assuming they even knew that Kuala Lumpur was the capital of Malaysia? (Which I didn’t, until I Googled it just now.) When was the last time you thought about Malaysia, if ever?
And if you, the political-news junkies who spend your weekends reading blogs, don’t know anything about Malaysia — much less care anything about Malaysia — exactly what harm was done by Josh Trevino hustling King Abdul’s buddies for $389,724.70 with the ridiculous promise that somebody might actually read any of that stuff? Such was the subject of an e-mail I sent to friends today:
This is just a fascinating multi-layered onion of a story.
Here’s my thing: Malaysia? Malaysia?
Was no one even the slightest bit suspicious when, out of a clear blue sky, a bunch of Republican pundits started offering themselves as experts on Malaysia?
The reason that this question strikes me so hard is that I’m someone who has spent the past five years of his life neck-deep in the conservative blogosphere and never once did I notice anybody of any consequence blogging about Malaysia. So the idea that the Malaysian regime would pay nearly $400,000 to Trevino in return for a PR operation that didn’t make a ripple in my consciousness . . . I dunno. The value-added of this particular pay-for-play deal might have made sense from the perspective of the client, but I just don’t see it.
Anyway, the sudden appearance of these Johnny-come-lately Malaysian experts in rightward blogworld should have triggered suspicions, and perhaps would have done so, except for the fact that NOBODY NOTICED THIS HIRED FLACK-WORK BECAUSE NOBODY IN AMERICA GIVES A DAMN ABOUT MALAYSIA.
If you told the average American that the president of Malaysia was a ruthless bloodthirsty Islamo-Marxist cannibal named Ceausescu Amin Mengistu, the typical American would respond: “Malaysia? Never heard of it. How ’bout that Lakers game last night, huh?”
Good luck trying to get Americans to care about foreign countries that we aren’t at war with. If it weren’t for Bar Refaeli, we’d probably ignore Israel, and Malaysia doesn’t have any international super-models.
Hell, nobody even cares about The Canadian Menace that has been looming on our northern border all these years.
But for $400,000, I’d certainly be willing to try to stir something up.
Therefore, insofar as I have any right to be indignant about Josh Trevino’s Excellent Scheme, it’s that I lacked the shameless greed and/or marketing genius necessary to keep a straight face while pretending to give a flying fuck about a Third World country whose capital city sounds like a comical character in a Willy Wonka movie.
And, in case any authoritarian regimes with P.R. problems are reading this, I remind you of the Five Most Important Words in the English Language: Hit the freaking tip jar!
UPDATE: This left-wing blog headline is grossly inaccurate:
Malaysia is obviously still Third World, or otherwise they’d have famous international super-models. And, in a market-based economy, $389,724.70 is a helluva lot more than “third-rate” pay in the blogosphere.
By the way, what’s the going rate for punditry at Firedoglake? King Abdul might have some cash to spare.
UPDATE II: James Joyner’s headline:
Dr. Joyner, how do you know they didn’t haggle? Are you privy to some inside knowledge of the bidding process? Those questions aside — and ignoring the silly “full disclosure,” as if every free beer is a credibility-destroying ethical compromise — Dr. Joyner’s bottom-line analysis parallels my own:
Why would the government of Malaysia pay out some half million dollars to Trevino and his band of merry contractors to crank out content about Malaysia and post them to readerships that couldn’t point out Malaysia on a map? Aren’t there actual Malaysia experts who would be able to write credibly on the matter who hold views sympathetic to the government?
However embarrassing these revelations may be, having the price become a matter of public record will help establish a market value for all future secretive pay-for-play operations. If you’re offered a dime less than $389,724.70 by an obscure authoritarian regime trying to buy some Internet publicity, you’re being insulted: Sub-Trevino wages.