Posted on | March 5, 2013 | 12 Comments
Thor Halvorssen is, so far as I can tell, not one of the bad guys, although I don’t remember ever hearing of him until Monday night, when I was on the phone with a MalaysiaGate source who said, “It’s this Thor Halvorssen guy who’s really pushing it.”
OK, you got my attention there, Mr. Source.
What had happened was that I’d said to my source what any experienced reporter knows about this story. To borrow a favorite saying of James Carville, “When you see a turtle on top of a fence post, you know it didn’t crawl up there by itself.”
Reporters don’t spend their workdays randomly scrolling through the Federal Agent Registration Act database to see if any bloggers are getting paid by foreign dictators. That’s not how a story like this gets reported. Journalists are just too damned lazy.
No, someone had to have tipped off BuzzFeed about this Malaysian pay-for-play operation. Somebody found Josh Treviño’s FARA disclosure form (filed Jan. 24 of this year) and, as they say, “dropped a dime” on Treviño. And, my source told me, this Thor Halvorssen character might be the tipster, because he was jumping up and down on Twitter raising hell about the story.
“How do you spell ‘Halvorssen’?” I asked my source. Then I wrote down the name and looked up the guy on Google.
Journalism: It ain’t rocket science.
HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION
Thor Halvorssen – President and CEO
A human rights advocate and film producer, Thor Halvorssen founded the Human Rights Foundation in the spring of 2005. Thor began advocating for human rights in 1989 in London by organizing opposition to South African apartheid. After completing his secondary education in the United Kingdom, he attended the University of Pennsylvania; there he became a judicial advisor for students charged inside the college judicial system. Thor’s advocacy of individual rights earned him an Ivy Day Award from the university president for “protecting freedom of speech on campus.” Having witnessed countless violations of freedom of speech and due process on United States college campuses, Thor was instrumental in creating and developing the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, serving as its first executive director and then CEO from its founding in 1999 until 2004. Under his decisive leadership, FIRE became the nation’s pre-eminent student rights organization.
OK, then: A professional do-gooder.
And this was the guy who was all up in Josh Treviño’s face on Twitter, using words like “whore” and “shill” and “corrupt” and “crimes,” because the Malaysian dictatorship is, well, a dictatorship.
Dictatorship = BAD.
Fluffy kittens = GOOD.
Being anti-dictator is a pretty easy gig, if you’re living in an affluent democracy on the other side of the world from the brutal regime. Vicious dictators usually don’t send their thugs to kill do-gooders in their offices on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
What’s that kind of anti-dictator work pay, Thor? Because this “journalism” racket barely pays the bills and, while I had been considering signing up at the temp agency for some light industrial work – driving a forklift, maybe – there’s no reason why I couldn’t pursue a new career as an International Human Rights Advocate.
Update the resumé, get a haircut, put on my good suit — where do I apply for a job like that? And, most importantly, what’s it pay?
Does it include health insurance? A 401(k)? What about travel expenses, paid holidays, sick leave and vacation?
For about $100,000 a year or so, I wouldn’t mind spending 40 hours a week denouncing foreign dictators.
“Kim Jong Un is a big fat sissy-pants!”
“Alexander Lukashenko’s mother dresses him funny!”
“Eat my shorts, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad!”
“Down with — wait. Oh, sorry. It’s three o’clock on Friday. I’ve got a dentist appointment, and next Monday’s a holiday, so I’ll be back here Tuesday at 9 a.m. to denounce dictators, expose the abuses of authoritarian regimes, and support human rights everywhere.”
Let me tell you something I figured out a long time ago, Thor: Just because it’s “non-profit” doesn’t mean people aren’t getting paid. The entire environmentalist movement exists because, in the 1970s, a bunch of hippies figured out that protesting against pollution — everybody hates pollution, right? — could be a full-time job, if the hippies could convince a lot of big-money “philanthropic” foundations to cut them a check every year.
It worked out pretty good for those hippies, some of whom have long since retired in luxury after successful careers as professional (non-profit) environmental activists, having never done an honest day’s work in their entire worthless lives.
Damn, I hate hippies. There’s a reason why, whenever I see a “peace” protest, I get nostalgic memories of the Ohio National Guard.
Something those hippies figured out about the non-profit hustle was conferences. Years ago, I did a story about how the “AIDS prevention” racket had become an excuse for government officials to fly off to tropical resort destinations — ideally, on a Caribbean island, although Hawaii and Miami were also popular – to attend conferences about AIDS prevention. There were all kinds of non-profit AIDS prevention outfits at these conferences, with seminars and discussion panels and receptions sponsored by major pharmaceutical companies.
You might not think “How to Convince Horny Dudes to Wear Rubbers” would require an annual three-day conference at a swanky hotel, but then again, you’re not employed by the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Education or a tax-exempt AIDS prevention group. And a lot of those people attend several such conferences every year.
If cynicism were a charitable cause, I’d be rolling in the green. Maybe I should apply for a Ford Foundation grant and set up a Society for the Advancement of Enlightened Cynicism.
As non-profit rackets go, the “human rights” racket ain’t bad. And I don’t think Thor Halvorssen is a bad guy. But I’m not sure ”nagging people on Twitter” is a philanthropic endeavor.
Also, how about renaming your 501(c) something a bit more honest? Like, for example, “Belaboring the Bloody Obvious.”
Human rights, good. Dictatorship, bad.
Yours isn’t exactly a nuanced and complex message, is it, Thor? Is it truly a charitable activity to tell people stuff they already know, or to advocate opinions nearly everybody shares?
Don’t hate me for saying this, Thor. Hate is a bad thing, and I’m a victim — afflicted with Random Sarcasm Syndrome.
It’s genetic. I was born this way. Been a smartass my whole life.
“It’s for the children! Won’t somebody please think of the children?”
Here’s the deal, Thor: I’m determined to tell the whole truth of this MalaysiaGate scandal, and let the chips fall where they may. Brutal dictatorships are bad things, and so are Republican bloggers who score fat consulting contracts and don’t cut me in on the action.
What I’m trying to say, Thor Halvorssen, is that Josh Treviño and his pay-for-play pals are likely to catch a lot of grief from a lot of people by the time this thing is said and done. Your ranting at them on Twitter is really kind of redundant. Also, really annoying.
I got nothing against you, Thor. Never really heard of you until Monday night and don’t want to start a grudge now.
But the holier-than-thou Pious Pharisee act doesn’t usually lead to good results, because a Pious Pharisee is never happy just to tithe his mint and cumin. No, indeed. Sooner or later, he’s gonna find himself a scapegoat who ends up getting nailed to a cross.
“Whited sepulchres.” You could look it up. Just sayin’ . . .