Journalism stands at a crossroads today. Just this week, a number of stories have broken, none of them good news, which question the very essence of journalistic responsibility, especially in the internet age. The Julian Assange story in particular, threatens to shake notions of First Amendment freedoms to the roots. But it’s not the only story worth reading and talking about. Read this excerpt from The New Yorker:
But journalism—unlike, say, medicine, law, or architecture—is a profession that any person can practice. There are no licensing or education requirements, and we journalists generally think that this is a good thing: the public can decide which journalists are worth reading or watching, and the law can intervene in those rare cases when journalism causes harm. The last thing we want the U.S. government, or any government, to do is to start deciding who is and who is not a journalist. “For the most part, the charges against him broadly address the solicitation, receipt, and publication of classified information,” DeCell tweeted. “These charges could be brought against national security and investigative journalists simply for doing their jobs, and doing them well.”
Two takeaways from that paragraph, which is from an article addressing the possible ramifications of the Assange case. To paint the conflict in overly simplistic terms, for the sake of expediency, if it’s decided Assange is indeed a journalist and a publisher, and he’s found guilty of espionage, the ramifications for legitimate journalists and publishers, could be staggering. Look no more for the Pentagon Papers or anything of that sort to show up on the front page, because the reporters and publishers will be in jail. Now, keep that thought in the back of your mind and then look to an article that Rolling Stone just published, “Avenatti, Wohl and the Krassensteins Prove Political Media Is A Huckster’s Paradise.”
The subtitle of the piece is “In the Trump era of cartoon politics, the world’s biggest jackasses have an easy highway to fame and fortune.” Now, you already know about Michael Avenatti’s newest grief, for which he was indicted, yet again, last week, for ripping off Stormy Daniels.
Already charged for attempting to extort Nike and for embezzling $12 million from a batch of clients, he’s been hit with a new indictment. He’s accused of blowing the proceeds of porn star Stormy Daniels’ book deal on things like his monthly $3,900 Ferrari payment, while stalling her with excuses that the publisher was late or “resisting… due to poor sales of [Daniels’s] book.”
The man stacks up indictments like you and I do pancakes. But take a look at how the author, Matt Taibbi, links together some other internet luminaries.
The fate of Avenatti-Icarus feels intertwined with Ed and Brian Krassenstein of #Resistance fame. The flying Krassensteins have just been removed from Twitter, allegedly for using fake accounts and “purchasing fake interactions.”
This comes three years after their home was raided by federal agents, and nearly two after a forfeiture complaint made public the Krassensteins’ 13-year history of owning and operating sites pushing Ponzi-like “High-Yield Investment Plans” or HYIPs. Authorities said the pair “generated tens of thousands of complaints by victims of fraudulent HYIPs.” (Emphasis mine) [“mine” meaning Matt Taibbi, author of the piece quoted]
After their Twitter ban this week, in one of the most perfect details you’ll ever find in a news story, the Krassensteins were contacted by Jacob Wohl, the infamous pro-Trump conspiracy peddler who is himself banned. Wohl reportedly proposed they all band together to “fight Twitter and internet censorship.”
Now, Jacob Wohl’s name should be familiar to you. He’s the one-trick pony who claims sexual misconduct on the part of anybody he wants to smear. His last target was Pete Buttigieg, who supposedly raped somebody and before that it was Robert Mueller, same charge. That’s all that dances in Wohl’s head, apparently, are phantasms of newsmakers raping people. In all events, both stories had their obligatory fifteen minutes of fame and then faded into infamy.
With respect to the Krassenstein brothers, they have a blog called “Hill Reporter” and they have a substantial following on Twitter, over half a million. Here’s their side of the story, via a business associate.
2/5 We have never once acquired anything for the purpose of increasing our Twitter presence. In fact, we avoided using any platforms residing outside of Twitter’s own technology to manage our accounts for fear we would be accused of using automated tools, which we have avoided
— James Kosur (@JamesKosur) May 24, 2019
4/5 our house to take pictures of our homes. All of those interactions were reported to local authorities and the FBI. We also operated several business accounts registered to our same email address. Those accounts were registered with each businesses name. None of those accounts
— James Kosur (@JamesKosur) May 24, 2019
Now, here’s a tweet that I posted at 11:59 Pacific time.
Is there any truth to the allegations in Rolling Stone that the Krassenstein's "home was raided by federal agents, and … the Krassensteins’ 13-year history of owning and operating sites pushing Ponzi-like “High-Yield Investment Plans?"https://t.co/BxrUTYcGv8
— Ursula Faw (@ursulafaw56) May 25, 2019
I have not received a reply, but the day is young. When/if I do receive a reply, I will share it.
My purpose here is not to judge anyone. My purpose is merely to share what facts I find, from credible sources, and see what is what. Like a cosmic flour sifter, truth has a way of flowing with ease, and lies are the lumps that stick and can’t make it through the tiny holes of discernment.
But, to get to the larger point here, and there is one: We live in a world where truth and lies are intermingled, and this comment has nothing to do with the individuals named in the articles cited herein. It is much much bigger than them. According to Axios, “most internet traffic comes from bots.”
Take a look at these figures. You and I, the flesh-and-blood breathing types, are in the minority, at 49%. Here are some more links from Axios:
Dozens of content farms and internet hacks make money selling or amplifying fake video views or follower accounts to politicians and influencers.
Distorted images can make any crowd size look bigger or smaller than reality.
Around the world, fake polls are being set up to distort elections.
The hottest political tactic this cycle is forcing a candidate or politician to defend themselves against a hoax.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg was falsely accused of sexual assault by right-wing trolls.
Sen. Kamala Harris has found herself caught up in a storm of fake memes questioning her identity and race.
As I’ve said time and again, and will say yet once more, we live in a world of two Americas, co-existing side by side, and each one tuned in to a different version of reality. Fox News has had a pernicious and corrosive effect on what is perceived as truth in this world. The average person on the street honestly believes that there are two sides to every story. The only way I’ll agree with that, is to say, “Yes, the true one and the false one, what’s your evidence, before we decide which is which?” Frequently there are no facts to be relied upon, only ideas that conform to a person’s bias, and bias confirmation has taken the place of any search for truth.
That’s why we have the Wizard of Oz, or in his case, B.S., Donald Trump, in the Oval Office. He knows the Great Rule of Communication, “People believe what you tell them, they just do,” and that’s what his political “career” is based upon — telling people what they want to hear, pushing irrational buttons and pulling emotional triggers and then, in the end, having no substance to give the people who erroneously believed him, just more b.s. on top of a mountain of b.s.
The watchword here is caveat emptor, “buyer beware.” Make sure that you know who you’re reading on the internet. Any credible blog or tweeter will be somebody you can contact and get real-world data on. At the end of each one of these communications, there is a real person, inputting what you read as illuminated pixels — or there’s a bot, or a grifter. Any legitimate source will be happy, if not eager, to reveal who and where they are and what they do. Let me just shade that comment with a little bit of caution: many of us write under pen names for our own safety. I personally had a death threat, here on this very blog, and I’ve received harassing emails, so I have to cloak myself a bit — but not so mysteriously that I won’t answer a legitimate inquiry.
Just for the record, the gang here at PolitiZoom is quite boring. We don’t even get parking tickets here. (Murfster can’t even see well enough to drive, anymore, so that rules him out of even that class of misdemeanor.) Which is not meant as a diss to Avenatti, the Krassensteins, or Jacob Wohl. What they do is their business, and their issues will be adjudicated by the parties in charge of such things. I’m not taking a holier than thou stance. My point is this: The internet is one giant merry-go-round and if you jump on it, and say or do something that sells, you can achieve some measure of success and that will translate into dollars. Some people have mined this resource for quite a bit. It’s the mother lode to them. The rest of us are showing up diligently and dipping our pans in the water and if we get a little dust here and there, okay. At least it’s done honestly. We go and buy a few more groceries. There’s no beemer in my driveway. Truth be known, if I sent you a picture of what’s parked out there, you’d die laughing.
One last comment about journalism:
Working in the field of journalism has never been easy, nor particularly lucrative. One gets into it as a labor of love, generally speaking. With the advent of the internet, came a new breed of journalist, the blogger. If you know anything about me personally, I was a member of the working press, a radio newscaster, back in the late seventies. I loved the field, hated the paycheck, so went on to better paying ventures while I was still young enough to make career changes easily.
Henceforth, my political opinions were only shared by writing an occasional Letter to the Editor of TIME Magazine and the like — until Donald Trump. His appearance on the political scene roused something dormant and primal in me and I had to speak out about it. Speak, I had to scream. I mean I had to, or I was going to bust. So I started blogging, and the rest is history. The people named in the articles cited to in this piece also got rolling with Donald Trump and his cartoon era of politics. We have never been in a more fever-pitched emotional state in this country, and I say that as someone who has lived through Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-contra, and all the mania pre-Roe v. Wade, which we are now revisiting, and with a vengeance.
There was a lot of lying and political corruption in those days around those issues, but nothing, and I mean nothing, like what we see today. Today’s political scene is surreal. And the advent of the citizen, self-styled journalist and populist politician, is both a blessing and a total curse. It’s good when normal, everyday people hear the call to speak out and serve, it’s quite another thing when that momentum is turned into self-serving and a quest to get the other guy to part with a buck, by somebody with the instincts of a grifter. And the political media pot, in particular, is a heady blend and somebody is always stirring the pot and threatening to turn it completely noxious.
Take a look at the Axios stats once again and be sure who you’re talking to, or sending money to, in this cybernetic world we’ve created; because it has already shown us — it can be Paradise, or it can be Hell.