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The S.H.A.M.E. Project
August 23, 2012 4:44 AM   Subscribe

The S.H.A.M.E. Project. Featuring Adam Davidson (picked up by the New York Observer and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), Malcolm Gladwell (previously on Metafilter), Jeffrey Goldberg, Arianna Huffington, and Steven S. Levitt (of Freakonomics fame).
posted by jhandey (69 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm having trouble seeing this as anything other than a smear job. The supposed conflicts of interest for Adam Davidson, an NPR economics/finance journalist, are all paid speaking gigs at financial conferences. The S.H.A.M.E. site more or less states that, because the conferences are sponsored by big banks, and Davidson takes money to speak at the conferences, he's in the pocket of the big banks. That seems like a huge stretch.
posted by maxim0512 at 4:54 AM on August 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah, when your number-one "smoking gun quote" on an economist is "I almost always believe in free markets as the solution to problems," then you're not exposing his shame, you're just disagreeing with him. There's a difference.
posted by Etrigan at 5:13 AM on August 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Agreed with maxim0512.

Not the best of the web.
posted by gen at 5:18 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The L.A.M.E. project, amirite?
posted by unSane at 5:20 AM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a bullshit smear job. I am totally on board with being uncomfortable about journalists and speaking engagements, something I have long believed the journalism industry needs to overhaul to require some transparency. But the "evidence" these clowns put forward is pretty thin gruel. Some examples:

* Adam Davidson used to work in underwriting! Therefore he's a shill!

* Adam Davidson once aired a piece in which he talked about a crazy website that seemed to keep correctly predicting major sociopolitical events, and one of the events they had predicted that hadn't yet been discounted was that Iraq had WMDs. Therefore Davidson supports the Iraq war!

* In the run up to the war, Davidson found some Iraqi merchants who were in favor of a US-led invasion. Therefore Davidson supports the Iraq war!

* Planet Money is at least partially underwritten by a bank. Therefore he's in the pocket of Wall Street! (yet this strangely doesn't apply to his co-host or the other producers on the show... ?)

* They accuse Davidson of arguing "that everyone should grovel before Wall Street," an argument he's never made.

* They accuse him of publishing "a flattering profile of Edward Conard, Mitt Romney's former business partner at Bain Capital, as a way of promoting more worship of the rich."!!! I can just imagine him floating above manhattan in his Wall Street funded misinformation pod, wringing his hands and smiling maniacally. "With access to the New York Times and NPR, I can make everyone WORSHIP THE RICH!!! AHAHAAHAHA!!!"

Look, I think that his interview with Warren sucked. But not because it was just one in a series of calculated attacks that Adam Davidson had made on the 99% (which, to be clear, is the claim being made here), rather because it was a crappy interview where he was being needlessly fighty. It was weird and out of character for the show and for Davidson. He didn't "apologize," per say, but he kind of ate crow about that interview not long after.

If your FPP requires the line "picked up by the New York Observer and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting" to legitimize it, it might be a good idea to reassess posting it in the first place. The fact that Davidson, NPR, Planet Money, and The New York Times have basically felt no need to respond to this speaks to how baseless and ridiculous the accusations are. If they had merit, these organizations would likely be more defensive.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:24 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm having the same problem with the Gladwell stuff (and I'm not a fan of his). They may have caught him weaseling about his income, but the fact that he reported on a study that Philip Morris manages to use in it's PR messaging and that he once spoke at one of their management conferences (probably on decision-making, the topic of Blink) does not make him evil.

They seem to believe that journalists should live on air & water alone and speak only the holy gospel of anti-corporatism.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:32 AM on August 23, 2012


So with Goldberg... they're parsing his MRI results?

For f*ck's sake.
posted by valkyryn at 5:35 AM on August 23, 2012


Yeah, as someone who finds Malcolm Gladwell insufferable, I was feeling a little schadenfreude when I heard there was this vicious take down of alleged journalistic improprieties on his part. But when I read it, I thought "Oh. That's all? That's not much of a takedown." Yet, considering the kind of passionate outrage Gladwell evokes 'round these parts, that FPP still generated 90+ comments and tons of people thirsty for blood. Benito.Strauss put it most succinctly in his comment "Well, this appeals to my prejudices."
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:35 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Glad to see that the Drudge School of Web Design and Sensationalism is still going strong.
posted by graphnerd at 5:42 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well now, let's not throw out the baby with all that bathwater. As noted in the previous thread, some of the accusations aren't baseless and ridiculous at all, and it is convenient to have a bunch of criticisms of these branded oh-so-contrarian personalities in one spot; I think they often reveal a pattern it's good to know about, particularly the paid gigs for entrenched corporate interests, which I apparently find more disturbing than some other folks here.

And Davidson? Please. I think there's more than enough on that page to get folks here re-thinking his odd positions; the clearly anti-regulatory pieces about the financial industry are interesting to scroll through in one sitting.

In September 2008, Davidson falsely claimed that the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act played no role whatsoever in the financial collapse: "Every economist I've spoken with says, simply, that it was a bad law but that it and its repeal are not really to blame for what is happening now." Many key figures involved in Glass-Steagall's repeal, including former Citigroup chief Sandy Weill, have contradicted Davidson's false claim.

In early 2009, NPR announced that Planet Money secured Ally Bank as the show's exclusive sponsor. It was an unusual set up for NPR, as it meant that a financial institution was the sole funder of a news program about finance. At the time, Planet Money was the only NPR program underwritten by a single exclusive sponsor. Even Ad Age, the advertising industry's trade publication, was surprised by the sponsorship arrangement and the "close alignment of message and news program." (At the time of this writing, Ally is still Planet Money's exclusive sponsor.)...

In 2009, while Ally Financial (then still known as GMAC) was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying against the Financial Consumer Protection Agency Act of 2009, Davidson aired a number of segments critical of the legislation. He questioned the need to regulate consumer financial products like mortgages and credit cards in order to protect people against bank fraud. "Will it work at all?" he wondered on air, and asked: "is this just one more layer of regulation in a regulatory system that fundamentally broke down?"

In May 2009, Davidson launched a bizarre personal attack while interviewing Elizabeth Warren, the chief architect of the financial consumer protection bill. Davidson surprised Warren and his own listeners with uncharacteristic personal smears, trying to portray her as a clueless, power-hungry ideologue: "The view that the American family, that you hold very powerfully, is fully under assault . . . that is not accepted broad wisdom. . . . I literally don’t know who else I can talk to support that view. I literally don’t know anyone other than you who has that view, and you are the person [snicker] who went to Congress to oversee it and you are presenting a very, very narrow view to the American people." The Columbia Journalism Review described the interview as a "disaster" and "really cringeworthy stuff from Davidson," who was so rude and unprofessional that NPR's Ombudsman had to step in and apologize for his behavior. Davidson's excuse: he had been traveling for a NPR fundraiser and was "very, very tired."


I don't like all of the site's tactics, but damn am I glad someone's taking these paid shills who masquerade as scholarly journalists down a peg or two.
posted by mediareport at 5:45 AM on August 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


damn am I glad someone's taking these paid shills who masquerade as scholarly journalists down a peg or two.

That's a pretty bold assertion. And neither you, nor S.H.A.M.E. have really offered any compelling evidence to back up the charge that he's a "paid shill" other than you disagree with his economic opinions. Care to cite any real evidence?

You do know that journalistic outlets report on their sponsors all the time, right? Did you read the Observer article?
Planet Money has indeed covered Ally once before, in a segment derided by an Ally publicist as “false” and “inflammatory.” There is no empirical evidence that Davidson—who, in his words, has “nothing to do with the underwriting stuff”—has explicitly interacted with his sponsors in a way that would undoubtedly compromise his show’s integrity. Levine and Ames have no proof of Davidson’s pay for his speaking gigs (though there’s been no denial that he was paid).
So until you have any evidence that there is any impropriety going on, you might want to check that kind of language.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:51 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Worth mentioning that S.H.A.M.E. is a project of The Exile folks; you can watch Mark Ames and Yasha Levine talking about Davidson and NPR here.
posted by mediareport at 5:54 AM on August 23, 2012


have really offered any compelling evidence to back up the charge that he's a "paid shill" other than you disagree with his economic opinions. Care to cite any real evidence?

Well, I don't know what "really offering" would look like to you, but I think it's pretty simple: journalists shouldn't take paid speaking gigs from industries they cover.

Davidson does that. I'm not sure when that standard seems to have been changed, but it was a mistake, and we need to keep pushing back. These branded shills all occupy a strange place in the media landscape, and identifying them so we can separate them from actual, you know, journalists, is important work.
posted by mediareport at 5:57 AM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Goldberg has thus far refused to answer questions over whether or not he is an Israeli citizen, or if he took an oath of loyalty to Israel while serving in the IDF (Goldberg claims he can’t remember); now that he is on record in 1991 identifying himself as an Israeli, it is up to Goldberg to disprove that he is a dual citizen of Israel."

Oh, that's charming.
posted by escabeche at 6:00 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yep. It is important work, separating journalists from shills. Which is why it's a shame that it's been left to these two hacks. Come back when you have some real evidence.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:02 AM on August 23, 2012


Again, to sir with millipedes, Davidson accepts paid gigs from industries he covers in his reporting. Are you disputing that?
posted by mediareport at 6:03 AM on August 23, 2012


What you're saying, essentially is "if someone does A, then they have to be B! Davidson does A so he simply must be B!"

I am not disputing that he takes paid speaking gigs from the industry he covers. I wrote upthread:

I am totally on board with being uncomfortable about journalists and speaking engagements, something I have long believed the journalism industry needs to overhaul to require some transparency.

But paid speaking engagements, even if they create the air of impropriety, and should be refused by journalists or at the very least they should be more transparent about it, doesn't make a person a "paid shill." that requires evidence. Actual evidence. Not just circumstantial evidence or disagreeing with someone's opinions about the economy. Something neither you nor S.H.A.M.E. have satisfactorily provided.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:15 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Again, I see a pattern there. The NPR ombudsman would call me "cynical," I suppose. But the pattern is clear: attack the regulations the people who hire him don't like.
posted by mediareport at 6:17 AM on August 23, 2012


This site mounts a fierce attack on certain individuals, true, but I think that there is more to it than some people here would have us believe.

As Mediareport says, I think it is important to point out potential conflicts of interest. Someone like Malcolm Gladwell presents himself as a morally neutral public intellectual who draws people's attention to interesting little facts and surprising stories - a sort of engaging gadfly.

So I for one found it curious to know that a confidential Phillip Morris document listed him as a tobacco industry asset and that he has a long history of writing pro-Tobacco articles.

As well as examples of failure to disclose quite a marked vested interest, the article also mentions several instances of Gladwell allegedly being incompetent in his analysis - whilst defending the rich and powerful.

If someone sets themselves up as a public intellectual, and it is then revealed that they have a vested interest in promoting a particular industry, as well as a tendency to write articles that are rejected by professionals and experts, then I would suggest that one might naturally start to wonder whether or not one should trust him.

Similarly, Steven Levitt cannot plausibly claim to be impartial if he still stands by the statement "I almost always believe in free markets as the solution to problems". That is a quite extreme statement; it indicates a particular, partisan ideological position that many people (including many economists) would not share.

Also, I note that you don't go on to mention that the other quotes from Steven Levitt on their website are:
"I would privatize prison industry" (!)
"Any religion . . . has its heretics, and global warming is no exception." (I'm glad an economist feels qualified to pronounce on climate science)
"Fertility declines [due to legalized abortion] for black women are three times greater than for whites (12 percent compared with 4 percent). Given that homicide rates of black youths are roughly nine times higher than those of white youths, racial differences in the fertility effects of abortion are likely to translate into greater homicide reductions." (a rather dry quote from a paper allegedly "arguing that an increase in abortions among black women in the 1970s was the reason for lower crime rates in the 1990s".)

These also represent definite vested interests. They certainly suggest that nobody should mistake him for an impartial or objective authority.

In my view, it is important to know where our public intellectuals are coming from, so that we can appropriately weigh their words.

I would urge people to read the site and make up their own minds: not every claim is equally strong, but some of the information is eye-opening and interesting.
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:19 AM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


I like how they feature that paragon of honest and objective reporting, Russia Today.
posted by empath at 6:22 AM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Similarly, Steven Levitt cannot plausibly claim to be impartial if he still stands by the statement "I almost always believe in free markets as the solution to problems".

I don't think you know what 'impartial' means.
posted by empath at 6:23 AM on August 23, 2012


Well I'm glad this got put up here. I know without reading there are at least two prior posts denouncing the project editors with accusations of conspiracism, extremism, or dishonesty.

Critics of Taibbi, Ames, Levine et al fall into two camps: forum shills which may or may not exist, and people who have no way of countering the sourced journalism so attack the style over substance.

These guys and their cohorts have been ahead of the curve on many of the truly important stories of the last decade. They're the true heirs of gonzo journalism. It's no coincidence Taibbi is also columnist for Rolling Stone.

When they speculate wildly the assertion is always absurdist. The disclaimer on those statements is built-in. They do journalism as performance art. They get their hands dirty. If you can't separate hyperbole from the hard reporting you might not be ready for grown-up literature.
posted by clarknova at 6:25 AM on August 23, 2012


They're the true heirs of gonzo journalism.

Yeah, folks who never saw The Exile when it was a scabrous, sarcastic tabloid run out of Moscow really missed out. It was a blast - some of the best gonzo journalism since whats-his-face.
posted by mediareport at 6:29 AM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Again, I see a pattern there. The NPR ombudsman would call me "cynical," I suppose. But the pattern is clear: attack the regulations the people who hire him don't like.

Fair enough, mediareport. I think you and I are not going to agree on this, because we're coming at it from two fundamentally different perspectives.

I think that hard claims like this require hard evidence. Patterns and circumstance aren't enough. But i do concede that to some degree people who take speaking fees bring this scrutiny on themselves and should absolutely be held to higher scrutiny. This isn't higher scrutiny. This is as ideologically inflected as they purport Davidson to be. I don't trust their evidence because I dot trust them as narrators of that evidence. Similarly, I require actual evidence of impropriety, not just insinuation.

I'm going to bow out in the interest of not monopolizing the thread, but real journalism, to me, is the accumulation of evidence of a actual events. Anything else is Breitbart.com style character assasination by insinuation and innuendo.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:31 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep, that would be The Exile's modus operandi. It helps that they're right, though. :)
posted by mediareport at 6:32 AM on August 23, 2012


On preview:

Critics of Taibbi, Ames, Levine et al fall into two camps: forum shills which may or may not exist, and people who have no way of countering the sourced journalism so attack the style over substance.

Way to reduce people who disagree with you to paid operatives. Pretty ficking weak.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:34 AM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's certainly a good thing nobody who agrees with them has ever taken paid speaking gig. Phew!
posted by unSane at 6:38 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Way to reduce people who disagree with you to paid operatives. Pretty ficking weak.

I was recently accused of that myself at a Ryan event, so I know how ridiculous it can be. But it's also well known that political PR firms do pay people to troll forums.

And you know, if someone is repeating the same boilerplate corporatist jingo that the the shits at conservative think tanks cook up, it's really a compliment. The worse insult would be to name them earnest rubes.
posted by clarknova at 6:40 AM on August 23, 2012


Interesting project. Not perfect, but not without value.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:52 AM on August 23, 2012


The tone of his writing makes me want to stab things.

The problem with sites like these is that they bombard you with factoids and links, and you have to validate each one separately. Because it is easy to come up with a few strong arguments and bunch of weak ones, and have it appear, overall, damning.

And, really, so much of this is tl;dr.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:54 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the risk of spamming up this thread, a lot of you guys are speaking as if you don't understand paid speaking gigs are a traditional payoff vehicle for political favors. It happens all the time with cabinet hawks of the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Perle variety; getting paid five figures by the likes of RandCorp to deliver 10 minutes of fluff. Bush Sr. pulled in several million that way.

Look at the facts: Gladwell writes an article favorable to P.M., citing a study they sponsored. He takes a day to show up at their gig and say whatever popped into his head, and they pay him over fifty grand for it. If shilling were a felony a prosecutor would call that a case.

I mean. Are YOU getting paid to poo poo that connection? If so I hope you're really a shill and not some rube.
posted by clarknova at 7:01 AM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Adam Davidson once aired a piece in which he talked about a crazy website that seemed to keep correctly predicting major sociopolitical events, and one of the events they had predicted that hadn't yet been discounted was that Iraq had WMDs. Therefore Davidson supports the Iraq war!

What on earth are you talking about? No, the site did not keep correctly predicting events. Goldberg just claimed it did. Debka.com is not a reliable source of information, nor does it provide sources for its unreliable information. Imagine citing WorldNetDaily (with which it has a relationship) as a reliable source of information.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:05 AM on August 23, 2012


At the risk of spamming up this thread, a lot of you guys are speaking as if you don't understand paid speaking gigs are a traditional payoff vehicle for political favors. It happens all the time with cabinet hawks of the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Perle variety; getting paid five figures by the likes of RandCorp to deliver 10 minutes of fluff.

Speaking gigs seem to be routinely used as enticements to grease the wheels on business deals (or to spread goodwill among potential clients). These aren't strictly prid quo pro arrangements but everyone knows how paid speaking gigs are used to "build relationships" in business settings. How is it not reasonable to expect this dynamic to play out similarly in the business of the media too?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:20 AM on August 23, 2012


I watched one of the videos and finally googled what the hell the RT Network is--for whatever reason it has always seemed like it was broadcasting from the planet Htrae: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RT_(TV_network)

The best part is that ANO TV-Novosti--the Russian government news agency that started it--stands for "Autonomous Nonprofit Organization" which is the most Russian/ironic/paradoxical name ever.
posted by mwachs at 7:42 AM on August 23, 2012


When they speculate wildly the assertion is always absurdist. The disclaimer on those statements is built-in. They do journalism as performance art. They get their hands dirty. If you can't separate hyperbole from the hard reporting you might not be ready for grown-up literature.

Ah. The "I was just kidding can't you take a joke" Rush Limbaugh defense. Classy.

These guys might be right, but the tone is all wrong. It is like reading a Fox News of the left. If the goal is to get on TV and make a lot of money and preach to the choir, then go for it. But if the goal is to change minds and hopefully clarify the discourse of a nation, acting like an insulted clown is not the way to do it.
posted by gjc at 7:46 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I watched one of the videos and finally googled what the hell the RT Network is--for whatever reason it has always seemed like it was broadcasting from the planet Htrae: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RT_(TV_network)


It is crazy-town, that's for sure. The shame is that we probably could use a lefty news channel, and many of those people that work there are probably decent journalists with something to say. But instead of lefty, we get some kind of weird propaganda machine that just uses lefty rhetoric to promote the state. It is not too many steps away from the phony North Korean TV network they portrayed on "30 Rock".
posted by gjc at 7:50 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


...which is the most Russian/ironic/paradoxical name ever.

Especially ironic as Mark Ames's paper was effectively shut down by pressure from the Kremlin.
posted by clarknova at 7:55 AM on August 23, 2012


Journalists - you're only allowed to report on things if you don't get paid to do it.

Listen, in a perfect world, journalists would be free to report on facts and be completely unbiased. Guess what, it's not a perfect world. I agree that they should do a better job reporting their potential biases and this site does a nice job of enumerating them, but demanding that they stop getting paid seems outrageous to me.
posted by Phreesh at 7:55 AM on August 23, 2012


[clarknova, you've said your piece here, please either engage with the conversation that is happening or take a break for a little bit?]
posted by jessamyn at 8:07 AM on August 23, 2012


Listen, in a perfect world, journalists would be free to report on facts and be completely unbiased. Guess what, it's not a perfect world. I agree that they should do a better job reporting their potential biases and this site does a nice job of enumerating them, but demanding that they stop getting paid seems outrageous to me.

I'm pretty sure no one at Planet Money has ever announced, in a podcast, that they were paid by group X, who has a vested interest in the topic of this podcast, to give a talk. Whether giving the talk then reporting on this related news is ethical, it probably depends, but not disclosing the conflicts of interest seems clearly not.

Which is a shame, because I rather enjoy Planet Money.
posted by jeather at 8:07 AM on August 23, 2012


I don't think people are saying that journalists shouldn't get paid, phreesh. I think they're saying that journalists need to disclose that they are getting paid to speak to organizations they report on. Same as they would if they were reporting on an organization for whom they used to work. On that count, I totally agree.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:12 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Malcolm Gladwell (previously on Metafilter),

And previously on Metafilter, I said this:
I'm not a big Gladwell fan, but this is a repulsive smear job.

To elaborate, the problem is that they clearly set out to make the case that Gladwell is horrendous. I don't know why they hate him so much, but I doubt it's because they disagree with him about the fiscal consequences of decreasing rates of smoking. So they make all their facts conform to their contemptuous thesis. Who knows if their research turned up facts that complicated the picture? Those were clearly not going to make it into the article.

I note that this article is part of something larger called "the S.H.A.M.E. Project," in which the "S" stands for ... "Shame"! To borrow from Jerry Seinfeld's old standup routine about waiting rooms (there's no chance of not waiting — that's the name of the room!): there's no chance that they're not going to shame him — that's the name of the project.
posted by John Cohen at 8:43 AM on August 23, 2012


I don't like all of the site's tactics, but damn am I glad someone's taking these paid shills who masquerade as scholarly journalists down a peg or two.

So, basically ... you don't like the people involved, and as a result you're okay with what is basically a hit piece aggregator / slam blog? At least you're honest about it.

Either smear tactics are legitimate or they're not. If it sucks when Rush Limbaugh does it, and Matt Drudge aggregates it, then it still sucks when SHAME does it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:44 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because there's an obvious equivalency between Taibbi and Limbaugh. It's not false at all.
posted by clarknova at 8:59 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


When you're arguing about a tactic, then the equivalency isn't between Taibbi and Limbaugh.
posted by Etrigan at 9:07 AM on August 23, 2012


The difference being that when Limbaugh impugns and mud-slings, nothing that comes out of his mouth is actually true.

Exiled staff writers get a free pass from me when they demean their targets. They have an excellent track record for being good judges of bad character. When they make mistakes their retractions are front-page crow feasts.

The first and last time Limbaugh took anything back was when he called a law student a whore and lost all his sponsors.
posted by clarknova at 9:15 AM on August 23, 2012


Because there's an obvious equivalency between Taibbi and Limbaugh. It's not false at all.

Sarcasm, I assume. They are equivalent in that they mix journalism with performance art. That's not just a style-over-substance ad hominem attack, but a legitimate beef with the idea that someone can ethically combine those two things. Serious, respectable journalists do not engage in wild speculation and hyperbole about the topics they are covering.
posted by gjc at 9:19 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Journalists - you're only allowed to report on things if you don't get paid to do it.

Paid by the industry and even the individual parties they're covering. Did you honestly miss that?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:33 AM on August 23, 2012


I just hate the fact that the first letter of their acronymn stands for the same word that's spelled out by the acronymn as a whole. Seems like bad form.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:39 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I GNU what you mean, Atom Eyes.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:41 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The tone of his writing makes me want to stab things.
[...]
And, really, so much of this is tl;dr.


The tone of really, his writing makes me want to stab things so much.
And, of this is tl;dr.


tl;dr The tone of writing makes me want to stab things.
And, f this.


tl;dr The writing want me to stab things And, f.


STABLE SOLUTION FOUND: writing 'tl;dr' makes me want to stab things.
posted by samofidelis at 9:47 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The S.H.A.M.E. Project. Featuring . . . Malcolm Gladwell.

Obvious nonsense. Everyone knows Malcolm Gladwell is shameless.
posted by The Bellman at 10:15 AM on August 23, 2012


I think that hard claims like this require hard evidence. Patterns and circumstance aren't enough. But i do concede that to some degree people who take speaking fees bring this scrutiny on themselves and should absolutely be held to higher scrutiny. This isn't higher scrutiny. This is as ideologically inflected as they purport Davidson to be. I don't trust their evidence because I dot trust them as narrators of that evidence. Similarly, I require actual evidence of impropriety, not just insinuation.

This is incoherent. The hard facts are right there in the piece. These guys take money (through speaking gigs) and also support in their journalism the groups who pay them money. Those are hard facts. The conclusions you choose to draw from them are up to you. Maybe you disagree with the conclusions that the writers drew (that there is a quid pro quo) but that question will not be answered absent an ability to telepathically read these journalists' mind. It is not smearing or insinuation to bring those hard facts to peoples' attention, the claim of a quid pro quo can be disagreed with but they have presented hard evidence behind their belief.

I think it can also be useful to go through the work of journalists or public intellectuals and present evidence of a particular ideology that runs through their work. Public intellectuals often present themselves as coming to a situation or a problem fresh and unbiased, if they have a strong ideological committment it's useful for readers to know that.
posted by zipadee at 10:24 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


the claim of a quid pro quo can be disagreed.

And I'm disagreeing with it. The only hard fact these clowns have is that these people speak at these things. There's not even proof that Davidson accepts money or in what amount (though I have no doubt he does). Still, if you are making a case for impropriety, that case needs to be airtight. This is lazy and sloppy, and doesn't even count as journalism. It just appeals to your biases. So you believe it.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 10:35 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't explain that too well in my last comment. What I meant was - when a real journalist says "So and so is making exorbinant speaking fees" they cite those amounts, and provide supporting information. When they say "so and so is shilling for such and such an industry," they cite specific deals that these people have made and documentation to support that. Without that information, they have nothing.

That's how journalism works.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 10:50 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


What the Russians will tell you is that the most remarkable feature of American journalism is how virtually all of the journalists will do exactly as they are told... without needing to be told. This is the real magic of the system that foreigners can never quite reproduce. And so we have plenty of so-called journalists like Gladwell and Levitt who proudly propagandize and can always be counted upon to rush off and defend corporations and the entire neoliberal project. Calling out such propagandists is a good first step but it doesn't really address the larger issue that the entire project of journalism, the entire profession, has been completely and irreversibly corrupted by corporate and government power. The danger of the SHAME project is that by calling out bad journalists it perpetuates the myth that there are still good journalists out there.
posted by nixerman at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2012


Still, if you are making a case for impropriety, that case needs to be airtight.

Actually it doesn't. There are written and pretty ironclad journalistic standards for conflict of interest, and if you take money from the subject of your investigations, the burden of proof is on you, not on the accuser. Professional ethics are a separate matter from law; you can be dismissed for conflict of interest without "proof" that the money influenced you. This standard is necessary since is proof is impossible: the journalist can say "I didn't write anything I wouldn't have written anyway", and this is non disprovable.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:06 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Oh, I see. You're not disputing that if the industry pays him it's conflict of interest, you're saying you haven't seen evidence of payment. Fair enough.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:11 AM on August 23, 2012


But it's also well known that political PR firms do pay people to troll forums.
an even more awful thing is when they infiltrate the staff
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:18 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


From NPR's Ethics page:

"...we don’t accept compensation, including property or benefits of any kind, from people or institutions we cover or put on the air, except gifts of token value (hats, mugs, t-shirts, etc.). If we receive unsolicited gifts of significant value, we thank the sender, explain our policy and return the item..."
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:20 AM on August 23, 2012



The only hard fact these clowns have is that these people speak at these things. There's not even proof that Davidson accepts money or in what amount [...] if you are making a case for impropriety, that case needs to be airtight. This is lazy and sloppy, and doesn't even count as journalism. It just appeals to your biases. So you believe it.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 12:35 on 8/23
[+] [!]


On the contrary. A journalist must go to great lengths to avoid even the possible appearance of impropriety, in order to enjoy the continued privilege of the public's trust.
posted by samofidelis at 11:21 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, I'm curious what you would have (for instance) Adam Davidson do. For instance, on April 2011, he spoke at a conference regarding microfinance and women in banking. First off, that seems like a reasonable place for him to speak. I think he would add value to the discussion. Second, the conference was sponsored by JP Morgan, BP, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, Visa, Barkelys, "Just to name a few".

Okay. So, is he (as a responsible journalist) supposed to recuse himself from all future stories about those named companies, plus the rest that SHAME is worried about? Is he supposed to tell listeners for the rest of his career that he spoke at a conference about women in banking in 2011 that was sponsored by Visa whenever he does a story that talks about consumer credit? And every other company who might have tossed some money in?

Or is he not permitted to take payment to deliver a speech on a subject which he is knowledgeable and has interesting things to say? That feels like restraint on trade. Some may feel that Adam has some sort of social license to be a journalist and every paid gig takes some of the shine off that license, but I feel that they guy should be able to take paying gigs so long as he discloses any significant amounts he receives from subjects of stories. As far as I know, he has done so.

And, as an avid listener of Planet Money, am I really stupid enough to think that a (hypothetical) glowing report on Ally might be influenced by their sponsorship, which is clearly announced at the beginning of every show? You are aware that CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, etc rely on advertisers - who might be the focus of some of their stories- to pay the bills?

Yeah, potential conflicts of interest should be disclosed, but only if there are clear lines such as stock holdings, direct payment, familial ties or other similar direct potential influences. I don't think we need to know about where every penny of Mr. Davidson's non-journalism income comes from.
posted by Phreesh at 1:00 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it would be a good idea, for the sake of transparency, for journalism to disclose significant not journalism sources of income on their about page or personal page. Any journalist significant enough for this information to be useful should have a website already.
posted by empath at 2:10 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fair point, Empath
posted by Phreesh at 2:15 PM on August 23, 2012


You are aware that CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, etc rely on advertisers - who might be the focus of some of their stories- to pay the bills?

There is a pretty significant firewall between the advertising arm and the editorial arms of the major networks. There is no such firewall for the quasi-journalist, bloggers / experts for hire.
posted by gjc at 3:27 PM on August 23, 2012


Look at the facts: Gladwell writes an article favorable to P.M., citing a study they sponsored.

See, that's the thing. SHAME wants you to walk away with that message, but those are not actually facts, nor does SHAME literally say they are facts.

The article Gladwell wrote says that tobacco is so addictive and so lethal that its victims don't stick around long enough to require a lot of expensive end-of-life care. That's not exactly coming from the Philip Morris PR playbook.

The study was carried out by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which SHAME calls the "notorious" National Bureau of Economic Research. It is not notorious. And Philip Morris does not "sponsor" their studies, or at least SHAME makes no suggestion that they do. A recent NBER working paper has this abstract:

"Public-place smoking restrictions are the most important non-price tobacco control measures worldwide, yet surprisingly little is known about their effects on exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). We study these laws in Canada using data with questions about respondents’ ETS exposure in public and private places. In fixed-effects models we find these laws had no effects on smoking but induced large and statistically significant reductions in public-place ETS exposure, especially in bars and restaurants. We do not find significant evidence of ETS displacement to private homes. Our results indicate wide latitude for health improvements from banning smoking in public places."

Boy, these guys are real tobacco industry shills!

So I for one found it curious to know that a confidential Phillip Morris document listed him as a tobacco industry asset

Here's the list. It's basically a list of everyone they can think of to blast PR to. Penn Jilette is on it (his name is spelled wrong.) Dave Barry is on it. Steve Sax, the baseball player, is on it. Every influential libertarian you can name is on it. I don't think this is a list of folks who secretly plan to pocket tobacco bucks and spread the Philip Morris message.
posted by escabeche at 3:34 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


let me get this straight: the shills are outing a shill?
posted by liza at 5:13 PM on August 23, 2012


Or is he not permitted to take payment to deliver a speech on a subject which he is knowledgeable and has interesting things to say?

Yes. Again, he is taking money from companies he covers. He should stop doing that. Failing that, his boss should stop him from doing that, or fire him.
posted by mediareport at 11:51 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


let me get this straight: the shills are outing a shill?
Yasha Levine is the former editor of The eXile and founding editor of The eXiled. His articles have appeared in Wired, The Nation, Slate, Penthouse, Time magazine, The New York Observer and many others. He has made several guest appearances on MSNBC. Levine went undercover to report on America's housing meltdown, and has been arrested and detained covering political protests on two continents. Levine and eXiled co-editor Mark Ames first broke the connection between the Tea Party and the billionaire Koch brothers in February 2009, and was the first to uncover the origins of the Koch family’s wealth and its connection to Stalin and the Soviet Union.

Mark Ames is the founding editor of the eXile, a Moscow-based, English-language satirical newspaper forcibly relocated to the USA, where it survives as The eXiled. He is a frequent contributor to The Nation, frequent guest on MSNBC's The Dylan Ratigan Show, and the author of Going Postal: Rage. Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (Soft Skull Press), which has been made into a BBC documentary. He is also the co-author, with Matt Taibbi, of the The eXile: Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia (Grove Press).
Who are these two people shilling for, exactly?
posted by clarknova at 2:24 PM on August 26, 2012


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