This afternoon brought an amusing bit of muckraking by Rosie Gray at Buzzfeed:
A range of mainstream American publications printed paid propaganda for the government of Malaysia, much of it focused on the campaign against a pro-democracy figure there.
The payments to conservative American opinion writers — whose work appeared in outlets from the Huffington Post and San Francisco Examiner to the Washington Times to National Review and RedState — emerged in a filing this week to the Department of Justice. The filing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act outlines a campaign spanning May 2008 to April 2011 and led by Joshua Trevino, a conservative pundit, who received $389,724.70 under the contract and paid smaller sums to a series of conservative writers.
… Trevino’s subcontractors included conservative writer Ben Domenech, who made $36,000 from the arrangement, and Rachel Ehrenfeld, the director of the American Center for Democracy, who made $30,000. .. Overall, 10 writers were part of the arrangement.
There’s plenty of entertaining excuses from the culprits in the story, so go click the link and check it out.
I will, however, share a bonus Orwellian footnote:
The contract also involved a firm called FBC (short for Fact-Based Communications), whose involvement in covert propaganda prompted a related scandal and forced an executive at The Atlantic to resign from its board.
Awesome. I’m not sure, though, if this mini-scandal actually qualifies as an opportunity for schadenfreude over Trevino and his pals’ exposure. After all, in the journalistic universe these guys travel in, letting it be known that they’ll say anything you pay them to — and lie about it if challenged — isn’t really a career-ending embarrassment.
Hell, it almost qualifies as well-targeted advertising.