Posted on | March 3, 2013 | 24 Comments
Cashing in and Crashing the Gate: Markos Moulitsas
and Jerome Armstrong sign their book, April 2006
“At 1:11 AM, Monday March 21st, Bush signed into law an order that vacates the state of Florida from having jurisdiction over the case involving Terri Schiavo. Of course, Mercury is retrograde, so at first indication, it’s unlikely that this will stand. . . . In the chart, we find Jupiter exactly conjunct the MC, in Libra, and opposite Mercury in [Aries] at the IC, with both planets retrograde. Meanwhile Pluto is conjunct the ASC. . . .
“What’s notable about the Jupiter-Mercury oppositions of retrogrades in the law passed by Bush, is that they exactly T-square the Sun of the Republican Party and the USA chart. . . . The Republican Party does well when it deals with Neptunian issues . . . but when it comes to issues surrounding Pluto, the sexual and the bodily emerge from shadows, and they go toward excess.”
— “Vis Numar” (Jerome Armstrong), March 2005
The lefties at Daily Kos made a front-page story out of the news, reported Friday by Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed, that consultant/blogger Josh Trevino got nearly $400,000 from Malaysian interests to orchestrate what Trevino defended as “a fairly standard PR operation.”
If taken at face-value, Trevino’s statement would mean that it’s “fairly standard” for shady foreigners to funnel $36,000 to Ben Domenech and $24,700 to Brad Jackson for favorable coverage. And so “Hunter” at DKos chortles with delight:
Every time we think we begin to understand what it is the conservative movement is going on about, yet another thing happens to remind us that no, there really aren’t any principles there at all — it really is just an astroturf operation from top to bottom. Lobbyists paying lobbyists paying lobbyists, all the way down. We’re terrified of majority-Muslim countries, unless their governments are paying us not to be.
Just think — all it would have taken during this whole period of time is just one rich guy willing to pay these conservative bloggers to change their minds, and they could have spent the last four years praising Barack Obama as the greatest president who ever lived. We could probably have gotten it for no more than $10,000 a pop.
Certainly, the punchline opportunities are irresistible. But before the progressive Kossacks pile on the schadenfreude, they ought to recognize their own involvement in this operation. A commenter yesterday called attention to a 2011 article by Ben Smith at Politico:
The financial arrangements that the Malaysian story alleges between Trevino, another blogger, and a Malaysian party aren’t possible to pin down, but after I posted the item, a source forwarded some 2008 correspondence between Trevino and a group of American political bloggers, from Ezra Klein to Mary Katharine Ham offering them a free “once-in-a-lifetime” Malaysian junket, paid for, he said in an email at the time, by business interests associated with Malaysian politics; the trip fell apart before he could fulfill a promise to specify the sponsors, but he mentioned in a May, 2008 email that he was “running” Malaysia Matters, which he described as educational and neutral. . . .
The Malaysia Matters site is now effectively down, but an archived “about” page says it was “sponsored by individuals who share an interest in Malaysia, and were willing to help bring Malaysia Matters to fruition.”
“Those working on this project include David All, Jerome Armstrong and Joshua Treviño,” the page says. “The three of us gave birth to this blog, but there are also others who have agreed to contribute along the way. While we might not always agree politically, we all have various interests in Malaysia that are reflected in this blog.”
Wait, did he say “Jerome Armstrong”? Founder of the progressive blog MyDD, who in 2003 co-founded the political consulting firm Armstrong Zuniga with Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga? The same Jerome Armstrong who co-authored with Markos the 2006 book, Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics?
Oh, yes, that Jerome Armstrong — the Internet hustler who once offered such various online services as financial advice and astrology readings as “Vis Numar” — was also part of of the “Malaysia Matters” dot-com triumvirate.
Are we to suppose that Jerome Armstrong participated in this pay-for-play project out of the goodness of his heart? Was Jerome Armstrong motivated by altruistic philanthropic concern for human rights on the Malay peninsula?
Give me a freaking break: Jerome cashed a check, too.
But while Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed has reported the sums paid to, and distributed by, Josh Trevino, down to the last penny — precisely $389,724.70 over three years — and made a big deal about Trevino’s belated compliance with the Foreign Agent Registration Act, what do we know about Jerome Armstrong’s piece of the Malaysian action?
Very damned little.
How much was Jerome Armstrong paid to pimp for the Malaysian regime? We don’t know. Why don’t we know how much Jerome Armstrong was paid? Because, unlike Josh Trevino, Jerome apparently hasn’t filed a report with the Justice Department about it.
Lefties who imagine that consultant/blogger types like Jerome Armstrong are motivated entirely by fervent devotion to the progressive cause should have been disabused of such naïveté long ago.
Back in 2006, a progressive blogger in Ohio reported how Markos Moulitsas had originally supported Paul Hackett in the Democrat primary for the Ohio Senate race. But the campaign of Sherrod Brown had hired Jerome Armstrong as a consultant, and within 48 hours, Markos changed his tune and suggested that Hackett “stand down” rather than have a contested Democratic primary.
Just a coincidence, right?
Jerome Armstrong pretty much pioneered pay-to-play progressive blogging, so his willingess to join forces with Republican consultants David All and Josh Trevino in promoting the interests of the Malaysian regime shouldn’t really surprise anyone. But we don’t know how much Armstrong was paid, nor do we know whether Armstrong subcontracted any of his pro-Malaysia flack-work to other bloggers, as Trevino did.
Perhaps reporter Rosie Gray can get some answers to those questions from noted astrology expert Vis Numar.
UPDATE: Linked by Bill Quick at Daily Pundit, who has been blogging long enough to remember the “Vis Numar”/”JeromeGate” kerfuffle of 2006. Bill praises my reporting, but this story was a piece of cake once two things happened:
- A commenter pointed out that Jerome Armstrong had been named as a “Malaysia Matters” participant; and
- I suddenly remembered “Vis Numar.”
Many conservative bloggers seem to have forgotten that era, when the progressive Netroots were insurgents fighting to overthrow the eeee-vil Bush/Cheney/Halliburton regime, but I remember it well, as it was my first opportunity to engage in blogging.
The most important lesson I learned early was, “No blog is an island.” Blogging is fundamentally a collaborative effort, and if you are not aggregating — linking your readers to other bloggers and news sources — you aren’t really part of the community.
The hat-tip courtesy and the ethos of CWCID (“Credit where credit is due”) are absolutely essential to making the blogosphere a more valuable resource than traditional media.
Too many of bloggers, I fear, have either forgotten what can now, in 2013, be called the Old School team spirit of blogging as collaboration, or in the case of newcomes to the ‘sphere, never realized that such a spirit once existed. This isn’t about some kind of gooey feel-good altruism. It’s really a matter of understanding the (perhaps counter-intuitive) insight that generosity is more successful than selfishness.
The customer-service attitude — “How can I help you, sir?” — is simply good business. In the news business (and bloggers are certainly now part of that business) anyone who tries to hog up all the credit will eventually come to grief.
Excuse the unsolicited lecture, but to be praised for “reporting” — when all I was really doing was aggregating, after a tip from a commenter — seemed to require it. And I promise to try to keep my “thank you” speech short if I’m honored with an “investigative blogging” award at CPAC Blog Bash March 14, although there are a lot of people due hat-tips for their contributions there, too.