The Other McCain

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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 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:

  1. Bloggers who would sell out to Malaysia for $389,724.70; and
  2. 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:

Former Third-World Nation
Hires Third-Rate Pundits

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:

Malaysia Buys Bloggers,
Forgets to Haggle Over Price

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.

Linked (or more accurately, juxtaposed) by Ed Driscoll.



24 Responses to “Malaysians, and Other Foreigners I Might Be Able to Give a Damn About, If You Could Pay Me $389,724.70 to Care”

  1. Ed Driscoll » And a Little Bieber Shall Lead Them
    March 2nd, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

    […] From Stacy McCain: “Malaysians, and Other Foreigners I Might Be Able to Give a Damn About, If You Could Pay Me $3… OK, somehow, this has to be related. Create your own […]

  2. Conservative Former Blogger
    March 2nd, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

    The pile-on is justified, but let’s not pretend this was all conservative bloggers.

    Ben Smith’s original article also fingered Jerome Armstrong, the proprietor of and co-author of crashing the gates.

    Malaysia Matters was Armstrong, All, and Trevino. That site has been pulled from the internet archive, as have all of the MYDD posts about Malaysia.

    That’s left out of all the news stories, who focus on Josh, Ben, and David All. So a pox on their houses, but this is much more an inside the Beltway payoff from dumb foreign investors, and not a conservative problem.

    This is not the pay for play scandal on the right side, but let’s at least be honest. The Left is funded to do this kind of thing. They have tens of millions thrown into the funding of their authors, and quite a bit poured into their blog ads as well. We’re left asking for reader donations.

    So while these guys sold their credibility, let’s take a page from Andrew’s book and not give the Left any freedom to bash.

  3. JeffS
    March 2nd, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

    It’s like I said earlier — $20 street whores have more integrity than most “journolists”*.

    To which list we can now add a lot of pundits and bloggers, thanks to Josh Trevino.

    PS: clink, clink. Mayhaps you should look at Malaysia, and not Vanuatu……

    *: The spelling is intentional, as per an earlier suggestion……

  4. What's a Blogger to Do? - Lowering the Boom
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  5. “Mr. Lewis? How’s it going so far?” “Pretty well, I think. I think we need some major sucking up.” | The TrogloPundit
    March 2nd, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

    […] Robert Stacy McCain’s all wee-wee’d up about another blogger getting paid – and paid a lot – to blog nice things about Malaysia. That is to say, he’s wee-wee’d up that he’s never gotten any similar kind of offer. Which, I suppose…hey, Stacy, when I’m running my own little island kingdom, I’ll be sure to give you a call. […]

  6. Joshua Welch, age 7, suspended for eating his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun and Weekend Links!
    March 2nd, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

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    March 2nd, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

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  8. Steve Skubinna
    March 2nd, 2013 @ 8:37 pm

    When was the last time you thought about Malaysia, if ever?

    Well, whenever I’m in Singapore I look across the Johore Strait and think “Better here than over there.”

    And there’s your new client – not only do they have the cash to spread around but if they ever fly you out you’re going to be staying in an affluent, cosmopolitan First World city-state. They might even put you up at the Raffles, famed haunt of Kipling and Maugham and Conrad.

  9. Peter Ingemi
    March 2nd, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

    I disagree.

    I think Malaysia got exactly what they were paying for.

    It did not matter how many people were reading the bloggers in question, it mattered that the stories existed so that the government in debate and discussion could refer to them.

    that they were read was less important then the fact they existed.

  10. M. Thompson
    March 2nd, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

    After a prominent Nutjob stopped being the PM of that place, not much.

    They’re Muslim, but not terribly nutters over it.

  11. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    March 2nd, 2013 @ 9:48 pm

    Malaysia is a lot more fun than Singapore. It is cheaper, wilder, and more dangerous. But if I had to choose which country to be a citizen of, I would choose Singapore.

  12. Adjoran
    March 2nd, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

    Integrity? Among bloggers and journalists?

    It isn’t the question, really. Now, if you were a tout for Iran or North Korea, you’ve sold out your principles. Brunei, eh, not so much, maybe a little. Malaysia? Spell my name right on the freakin’ check and tell me what you want me to say.

    And the only people who would have turned it down are liars, because nobody would. Ezra Klein would let the Malay Parliament pound him in the bum for that kind of money.

  13. Good Stuff
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 12:47 am

    PR work is just that… PR

  14. Steve Skubinna
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 3:33 am

    Hell, he might let them do it for free.

  15. Steve Skubinna
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 3:35 am

    If you want some Wild West fun you can hop over the causeway for it and then be back where you could drink the water next day. The MRT and buses go right to Johore.

  16. Steve Skubinna
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 3:37 am

    Yeah, they banned the film Schindler’s List because it was “one sided.: Guess Spielberg should have shown all the provocations the Jews offered Germany to deserve the Holocaust.

  17. Adjoran
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 3:52 am

    So, Malaysia operates about like CPAC, then?

  18. Shawny Lee
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 8:42 am

    A whore is a whore is a whore. There are a nobel few who can’t be bought…….but the rich and famous throughout history made their money selling weapons to both sides. We had hoped for more integrity among the new class of blogger journalistas. But not enough to pay them for such a valuable service as delivering the truth…… everybody’s gotta eat my friend. Even the store bought mainstream media known as the new propaganda arm of the Obama administration are not all radical leftists. They’re just better paid whores.

  19. Shawny Lee
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 10:30 am

    And Trevino like a member of congress.

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  21. Bob Belvedere
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

    1) Thank you for writing about it, Stacy.

    2) Granted no one really gives a flying Fluke about Malaysia, but Tevino’s taking of these monies does raise the questions:

    Q1 – Who else has he taken money from?

    Q2 – Can you trust any opinion on any matter he has in light of Question #1?

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    […] March 2: Malaysians, and Other Foreigners I Might Be Able to Give a Damn About, If You Could Pay Me $389,724…. […]

  23. The big family : monoblogue
    March 6th, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

    […] a big payday. Such was apparently the case in a scandal that Robert Stacy McCain has written about frequently of late called MalaysiaGate, where a number of bloggers bagged nearly $400,000 from the Malaysian […]

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