— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) June 29, 2013
In a response to statements by some TV personalities that Glenn Greenwald should be imprisoned for doing journalism Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor of the New York Times, wrote a post discussing the virtue of Greenwald’s work and offered a definition of what a journalist is. In Sullivan’s view a real journalist is “one who understands, at a cellular level, and doesn’t shy away from, the adversarial relationship between government and press – the very tension that America’s founders had in mind with the First Amendment.”
As Ben Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Buzzfeed, notes,that definition disqualifies a lot of people from being journalists – notably a few of his staff writers.
Buzzfeed is known to most for cat pictures, gifs, and listicles but the site also does some political reporting, badly. Nearly all of it comes across as laundered talking points and opposition research dumps by interested parties in and around government. And if you were a government official or worked for one why not go to Buzzfeed? Buzzfeed staff don’t seem to mind granting government officials anonymity to put out government talking points, even if they are wrong. Talk about a non-adversarial relationship.
So now that Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden are irritating the Washington establishment, should anyone be surprised to learn that Buzzfeed has gotten the state-sponsored hatchet out once again?
It began with a smear piece on Greenwald that echoed the content of another smear piece from the New York Daily News that came out around the same time. What a coincidence, you would almost suspect that government hacks were promoting the same information to multiple sources. At least the NYDN and it’s hack reporter Dareh Gregorian, are not pretending to be serious journalists – they are scum and they know it. Buzzfeed, on the other hand, wants to be thought of as serious journalists. Ben Smith even threw a hissy fit when his peeps weren’t invited to the White House Correspondents Dinner. I can haz gravitas?
Then comes trial by social media expert Rosie Gray. Gray seems to be building a resume for a government communications job in the event people get sick of cat pictures and Buzzfeed returns to the ether of bong smoke and yuppie ambition from whence it came. Gray has become one of the go to people on Capitol Hill for rewriting soon to be press releases because Jurassic politicians and their soon to be lobbyist aides also want to be on “the internets.” Rosie is happy to oblige, no questions asked.
At first reading Gray’s piece on Ecuador’s spying practices seems like an opposition research dump. Then on second reading it seems even more likely. Now we know it in fact was. Edward Snowden had been petitioning for asylum in Ecuador with the help of Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Assange is in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London trying to avoid extradition to America. From Max Blumenthal:
A day before the Greenwald attacks appeared, Buzzfeed published an anonymously sourced story about the government of Ecuador, which had reportedly offered asylum to Snowden (Ecuador has just revoked a temporary travel document issued to Snowden). Written by Rosie Gray and Adrian Carasquillo, the article relied on documents marked as “secret” that were passed to Buzzfeed by sources described as “activists who wished to call attention to the [Ecuadorian] government’s spying practices in the context of its new international role” as the possible future sanctuary of Snowden.
Activists you say?
At first glance, Buzzfeed‘s Ecuador expose might have seemed like riveting material. Upon closer examination, however, the story turned out to be anything but the exclusive the website promoted it as. In fact, the news of Ecuador’s possible deal with Israeli surveillance firms was reported hours before Buzzfeed’s piece appeared by Aleksander Boyd, a blogger and activist with close ties to right-wing elements in South America. “Rafael Correa’s Ecuadorian regime spies on its citizens in a way strikingly similar to what Snowden accuses the U.S. of doing,” claimed Boyd.
— Alek Boyd (@alekboyd) June 26, 2013
Like the Greenwald smear the timing was suspicious, reeking of coordination, and in this case proven to be the result of a oppo dump. Likely from sources friendly to the NSA and hostile to Snowden and Greenwald. In other words another demonstration of Buzzfeed’s writing being the opposite of “real journalism” as defined by Sullivan.
Buzzfeed can do whatever it likes, it’s (kind of) a free country. But let’s be clear, they are not journalists. They seek to flatter power and be adversarial with power’s adversaries.