Harvey Weinstein’s not the only one spying on reporters

Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. – Benjamin Franklin

 

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Harvey Weinstein had no qualms about spying on journalists to protect himself, or even using journalists to acquire information he could use against his accusers.

He used Dylan Howard, the chief content officer of American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, who passed on information about Weinstein’s accusers gleaned by his reporters.

Then there was the freelance writer hired by Black Cube, a private intelligence agency, who passed on information about women with allegations against Weinstein.

Sounds creepy. But Weinstein’s not the only one spying on reporters and he’s not the only one trying to undermine and disparage journalists.

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Walmart just removed a t-shirt like the one above from its website, following a complaint from a journalist advocacy group.
The shirt was listed on Walmart’s website through a third-party seller, Teespring, which allows people to post their own designs for sale.

The Columbia Journalism Review just reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said criminal investigations into the sources of journalists are up 800 percent and he’s vowed to “revisit” the Justice Department’s media guidelines that restrict how the US government can conduct surveillance on reporters.

Then there’s Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon who sent two reporters to Alabama to dig up dirt on reporting done by the Washington Post about Alabama Republican Roy Moore. Breitbart’s goa, according to Axios, is to undermine the work of Post reporters Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard, and Alice Crites.

How about when the Koch brothers allegedly hired private investigators to dig into Jane Mayer’s past while she was working on her book, “Dark Money,” which accuses the Kochs and other wealthy plutocrats of hijacking American democracy.

At one point, Mayer heard that she was going to be accused of plagiarizing other writers. According to the New York Times, a dossier of her supposed plagiarism had been provided to The New York Post and The Daily Caller. The writers insisted there had been no plagiarism, causing the smear to collapse.

Three years later Mayer said she traced the plagiarism accusation to a firm involving several people who have worked closely with Koch business concerns. The firm was Vigilant Resources International, whose founder and chairman, Howard Safir, had been New York City’s police commissioner under former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

“Smearing Mayer is reflective of Safir’s contempt for reporters and the media in general when he was police commissioner,” said a Newsday reporter.

In June of this year the New York Post reported that the Trump administration was spying on journalists who have been handed leaked information.

The Post said the Justice Department has obtained a legal warrant from the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to conduct electronic surveillance on reporters who were known to have published articles based on leaked information.

The surveillance was reported to be part of the Trump administration’s attempts to clamp down on leaks from within the White House and government departments.

In some respects, there’s nothing new about all this.

In 2013, the Justice Department advised the Associated Press (AP) that Federal investigators had secretly seized two months of phone records for reporters and editors of the AP. The government had obtained the records for more than 20 telephone lines of its offices and journalists, including their home phones and cellphones.

Gary Pruitt, the president and chief executive of AP, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. calling the seizure, a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into its news gathering activities.

There’s so much concern within the journalism community about government spying that the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and Freedom of the Press Foundation are teaming up to find out what’s going on.

On Nov. 29, they filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department and several intelligence agencies, demanding records revealing how the government collects information on journalists and targets them with surveillance.

Grab them by the throat, Jeff, and don’t let go.

I’m standing with you, Jeff.

How could I not after getting your letters pleading for money and using every poll-tested word in the book to convince me to make my check payable to Jeff Merkley for Oregon.

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You tried to capture me with the first line, hitting me over the head by asking me if I’m “fed up with Koch-style special interests always getting their way in Washington.”

“Koch-style special interests.” Ah, yes. Always lead with a reference to the Koch brothers, the favorite bogeymen of the Democrats, denounced by MoveOn “for using your vast wealth — more than the combined wealth of the bottom 40 percent of Americans — to corrupt our democracy” and assailed by Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid for being “un-American” and leading the way to a dystopian America run by moneyed interests.

Forget about the fact the Democrats have their own moneyed interests. According to OpenSecrets.org, from 1989 to 2014 rich donors gave Democrats $1.15 billion — $416 million more than the $736 million given to the GOP. Among the top 10 donors to both parties, Democrat supporters outspent Republican supporters 2-to-1.

 Then you asked if I’ve “…had it with the Republicans shilling for the wealthy and powerful.”

“Shilling.” What a great word. A shill supports something with the pretense of sincerity, when in fact he’s being paid for his services. So I guess while the Republicans shill for their wealthy patrons, the Democrats shill for theirs. In your case, principal contributors to your campaign during 2009 -2014 have been:

 

Industry    Total raised       From Individuals From PACS
lawyers/law firms $337,313 $259,615 $77,698
Leadership PACs $166,500 0 $166,500
Real estate interests $146,868 $74,358 $72,510
Building trade unions $117,000 0 $117,000

Oh, and I just loved your appealing for my money “because the Republicans and their special interests cronies are hell bent on defeating me in 2014.”

“Cronies.” Another loaded word. The Republicans don’t have supporters, backers or enthusiasts. They have despicable, contemptible, loathsome “cronies”, part of a corrupt system of trading favors.

Then you said your race against Republican Monica Wehby is “going to be an uphill battle” because you “refuse to play ball with the Washington insiders…”

Ah yes, those dreaded “Washington insiders.” But wait a minute. You’ve been back there in D.C. for almost six years now. Aren’t you an “insider”, too. Or, with all the anti-Washington sentiment going on, are you trying to make voters forget that you’re an incumbent?

You also warned me that your record “…will be twisted into as many smears as special interest Super PACS can jam into a 30-second TV ad.”

So the TV ad you have up now asserting that Wehby will vote in favor of measures to “gut the middle class”, isn’t a smear? I mean, you know that the growth in Medicare costs, for example, jus unsustainable. And when a researcher hired by the Democratic Party of Oregon got ahold of a police report on Wehby’s alleged harassment of an ex-suitor and it somehow became public, wasn’t that a smear?

All candidates rely on catchphrases to define themselves and their opponents, as well as establish the framework of the campaign. Part of the reason is because, even though candidates sometimes talk about issues, “The unspoken reality…is that the vast majority of Americans don’t vote based on particular issues at all,” Dr. Frank Luntz wrote in Words that Work. “The fabled issue voter is a rare specimen indeed. ‘Agrees with me on the issues’ is inevitably one of the least important candidate attributes in determining public support.”

Instead, Americans decide who to vote for more on a candidate’s image or vibe, Luntz says.

You know that. You know most voters don’t really know that much about the substance behind issues and don’t deal well with complexity or intricacy. So you’re trying to poison the well with negative sounding buzzwords about the opposition. Smart.