Like many, I was amazed that Liz Wahl expressed incredulity that the Russian state media outlet where she had worked for over two years was a Russian state media outlet. Her resignation seemed to be timed for maximum exposure as her former colleague Abby Martin had just made a public denunciation of Russian forces entering Crimea – which garnered Martin wide public attention. It seemed opportunistic, but on a personal level only.
Now, thanks a report in Truthdig, it has been revealed that Liz Wahl’s resignation was a highly orchestrated affair.
Behind the coverage of Wahl’s dramatic protest, a cadre of neoconservatives was celebrating a public relations coup. Desperate to revive the Cold War, head off further cuts to the defense budget and restore the legitimacy they lost in the ruins of Iraq, the tightknit group of neoconservative writers and stewards had opened up a new PR front through Wahl’s resignation. And they succeeded with no shortage of help from an ossified media establishment struggling to maintain credibility in an increasingly anarchic online news environment.
It turns out Daily Beast writer Jamie Kirchick had been coordinating with Liz Wahl the entire time working with the Foreign Policy Initiative to attack RT and by proxy Russia.
After Wahl resigned she gave an exclusive interview to Kirchick at the Daily Beast a publication with other neoconservative writers such as Eli Lake who have attacked RT’s coverage. Then came a Buzzfeed piece by Rosie Gray. It all seemed very coordinated.
The common link may have been Michael Goldfarb, a former lobbyist for the Republic of Georgia and adviser to the Foreign Policy Initiative. Goldfarb has worked at Orion Strategies, a DC-based lobbying firm.
According to Foreign Agents Registration Act documents filed by Orion with the Department of Justice, Goldfarb fed Georgian PR to Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent at The Daily Beast; Matthew Continetti, the Weekly Standard editor whom Goldfarb would hire to edit the Free Beacon; Jen Rubin, currently a Washington Post columnist who went on to take an ECI-sponsored trip to Israel; and Rosie Gray, the BuzzFeed reporter who produced the recent expose on RT. Ben Smith, who hired Gray to work at BuzzFeed, and who worked alongside Lake at the neoconservative New York Sun, was also named as a frequent Orion contact on Georgia. (BuzzFeed Foreign Editor Miriam Elder moderated a State Department-sponsored town hall featuring Secretary of State John Kerry on March 18.)
In hindsight the stagecraft is rather obvious as the Truthdig piece points out – Tweets by the Foreign Policy Initiative indicating prior knowledge of Wahl’s resignation and the interview coming right after the fact with Kirchick makes it even more clear. The question then is why did the mainstream media fall for it? Or did they just not care?
In any case, it is unlikely these minor media campaigns will have greater influence on a country unenthusiastic for more belligerence abroad.