Eileen Jones’ new screed on America’s cinematic flameout, Filmsuck, USA, is currently available on Amazon for the absurdly low price of $1.99. Buy it today!
Here’s an excerpt from the intro:
That loud sucking noise you hear is American cinema going down the drain. We’ve been listening to that slow slurping gurgle for a long time now, and are used to it. Still, sometimes you might wonder how American cinema, which was once the best in the world, wound up circling the drain with a mournful glugging sound for years and years and years. And you might also wonder how much longer it can go on like this, before the Final Suck occurs and we’re looking at nothing but empty drainpipe.
It’ll never happen, you might say. That’d be like saying America’s going to shut down its space program, and let other people take over, like the Russians and the Chinese and the Indians and any random jerk-off billionaire looking for an expensive hobby. Oh, wait…yeah. That already happened, didn’t it?
Anyway, I have a few ideas about how it all went to hell. They’re presented here in two forms: the longer, concentrated rant of this introduction, plus the short ranting bursts erupting out of a number of reviews of specific films from the years 2008 – 2012. The reviews are there to help you chart the American cinematic decline as it actually occurred, from the point of view of a reporter in the field, somebody risking her life by standing right next to the drain during The Big Suck of the 21st century.
“The strength of propaganda reveals one of the most dangerous flaws of democracy. . . . that propaganda renders the true exercise of it almost impossible.” *
Ever since our launch just a few months ago, the SHAME Project has been running like a buzz saw through the media establishment . . . it just needs support from readers and fans like you to keep up the pace. Can you help? Contribute using PayPal or WePay. (more…)
S.H.A.M.E. just published a brand new shill profile. Its latest subject: Megan McArdle, who was just hired on this September as Newsweek/The Daily Beast’s “special correspondent on economics, business and public policy.” In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s her in the image above, beaming with joy as Charles Koch’s party clown-for-hire at the 50th anniversary bash of Koch’s flagship libertarian think-tank, the Institute for Humane Studies. But more on that later. . .
McArdle should be very familiar to eXiled readers. Many of you probably first learned of McArdle’s existence more than three years ago, when she led a smear campaign from her perch at the Atlantic to discredit the first media investigative piece exposing the Tea Party as an Astroturf campaign funded by the Kochs and FreedomWorks, written by eXiled editors Mark Ames and Yasha Levine and published in Playboy in February, 2009. That’s when we first got to know the McArdle name too, and we were wondering then why someone who called herself a “journalist” would work so hard to discredit other journalists’ investigative work while defending powerful rightwing oligarchs, rather than the other way around. The S.H.A.M.E. profile on Megan McArdle clears up the air on McArdle’s long, deep undisclosed ties to the Koch brothers’ libertarian influence-peddling machine, and to the GOP activist community. Read the profile on the S.H.A.M.E. site or check it out below—we’re sure Mrs. McArdle will appreciate it if you do. (more…)
Check out Yasha Levine’s new Kindle book: The Corruption of Malcolm Gladwell. The book expands on S.H.A.M.E.’s initial investigation into the life and journalistic corruption of New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell, providing new information and plenty of examples of his covert, pay-to-play corporate advocacy that you won’t find anywhere else.
It may be hard to imagine that Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for the New Yorker and bestselling author beloved by millions of readers, could be a crooked propagandist for some of the most toxic and destructive industries on the planet. Investigative journalist Yasha Levine didn’t think it was possible, either—at least not until he happened to stumble across an old article by Gladwell defending the tobacco industry, and discovered a paper trail that led him to the shocking truth…
Levine presents well-sourced evidence showing that Gladwell spent his entire career systematically and unapologetically shilling for Big Tobacco, Pharma, health insurance companies and defending Wall Street financial fraud, all while earning seven figures as one of the most sought-after corporate speakers in America, frequently being paid by the same companies and industries that he covers as a journalist. Levine unravels years of Gladwell’s work as a covert propagandist, and analyzes the techniques Gladwell uses to confuse readers, redirect their attention and slyly rewrite history for the benefit of his sponsors—without anyone getting wise to his racket.
The S.H.A.M.E. Project just released a brand new profile. Its latest subject: Adam Davidson, host of NPR’s popular business news program Planet Money and a columnist for the New York Times Magazine. Cruise over to S.H.A.M.E. or read it below.
And remember, we can’t keep exposing corrupt media figures and outing covert propagandists without ongoing support from readers like you. Do your part, contribute using PayPal or WePay…
Host of NPR’s Planet Money & New York Times Magazine Columnist
Adam Davidson graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in religion, and began his public radio career selling airtime and doing sponsor outreach. He then became an on-air radio personality, filing pro-Iraq War dispatches as Marketplace’s Middle East correspondent, and recently transformed himself into an effective propagandist for the banking industry. Over the years, Davidson has whitewashed the occupation of Iraq, praised sweatshop labor, attacked the idea of regulating Wall Street and argued for “squeezing the middle class”–all while taking undisclosed money from banking interests. No wonder Davidson shamelessly credited Wall Street for providing “just about anything that makes you happy.”
The Recovered History of Adam Davidson
Davidson began working in public radio in 1992, doing “underwriting sales” for Chicago Public Radio, a position described by one public radio station as “equivalent to that of a sales manager at private stations. This person must go out into the community and establish rapport with local businesses in order to sell airtime to them. The underwriting representative is then responsible for developing a direct . . . and informational message to put on the air for the client.”
Adam Davidson spent the early 2000s as Middle East correspondent for Public Radio International’s Marketplace. In the lead up to the Iraq War, Davidson filed a number of pieces promoting the invasion of Iraq; after the invasion, Davidson moved to Baghdad and filed numerous radio items whitewashing the occupation catastrophe.
In December 2002, Davidson positively profiled an Israeli right-wing conspiracy theory site Debka.com in order to promote the invasion of Iraq. Despite the fact that Debka.com was long ago discredited in Israel, where “not a single Israeli official…sees the site as a reliable source”–and despite Debka.com’s ties to rightwing conspiracy theory site WorldNet Daily, nevertheless Davidson presented Debka’s claims that Saddam had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction–including chemical, biological and nuclear–as credible. Davidson staked his own credibility defending Debka, telling NPR listeners: “There’s really no way to confirm what they’re reporting right now, but I’ve been reading the site for years, and it’s common to think they’re nuts, then to wait a few weeks and see the same information in The New York Times.” As it turned out, Saddam did not possess weapons of mass destructions of any kind. In 2007, Davidson’s beloved Debka.com created a panic in New York City after publishing false rumors of an impending Al Qaeda dirty bomb attack.
In February 2003, just a few weeks before the U.S. invaded Iraq, Davidson found a couple of Iraqi merchants living in Jordan who were in favor of the coming invasion, telling Davidson’s listeners that the invasion would do wonders for Iraq’s economy. “Mohammed,” one of the merchants, told Davidson: “I’m very optimistic about the economy of Iraq.” The war decimated Iraq’s economy, destroyed its infrastructure and was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Davidson then moved to Baghdad and went to work whitewashing the brutality and violence of the war and occupation. In a 2004 Los Angeles Times op-ed, Adam Davison claimed that American military violence played no part in Iraqi anger at the occupation, and suggested that Americans hadn’t committed serious violence of any sort. Instead, Davidson arguedthat the reason the U.S. wasn’t winning the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi people was because America had not successfully rooted out Saddam-era corruption. “It’s common to hear Iraqis say the U.S. regime is just like Hussein’s. At first, I found this bizarre. The U.S. is not hacking the ears off of innocent people. The U.S. isn’t massacring entire villages. But I learned that when Iraqis make the Hussein comparison, they’re talking, in large part, about corruption.” By focusing on Saddam-era corruption, Davidson made it seem as though the problem in Iraq was that Iraq wasn’t Americanized enough, rather than the violence of the American invasion and occupation.
After living in Baghdad for a year, Davidson had to suddenly flee the country in 2004, fearing for his life after being accused of working for the CIA. Later, Davidson admitted that he had a tight and undisclosed relationship with occupation officials, who regularly visited his Baghdad home and revealed to Davidson that the situation was much worse than was being reported. Rather than telling his listeners as a journalist should, Davidson protected the occupation authorities: “The ones I liked I’d invite over to the house. I mean, I genuinely liked them, but also we’d get them a little drunk on wine. We’d tell them, hey, tonight everything’s off the record. And we’d get real information...we’d get these people over to our house, they’d have some wine, and they’d be like, ‘oh, it’s so much worse than you know.'”
In 2006, now working at NPR as a business reporter, Davidson criticized the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, legislation passed in the wake of Enron to tighten corporate financial accountability and make top executives criminally liable for fraud happening under their watch. “The U.S. has a bunch of crazy rules that came out of a time of hysteria in the U.S. They don’t make any sense,” Davidson told listeners. This was part of a larger push by Wall Street and corporate interests to gut Sarbanes-Oxley. Among those pushing the same PR line against Sarbanes-Oxley as Davidson were Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation and even Charles Koch himself. [ 1 ]
In 2007, Davidson boosted for the Honduran sweatshop industry, and promoted sweatshop labor in general, which he said was a great opportunity offering women upward mobility. Making socks in a sweatshop is “the only way she can improve her life,” Davidson said of one Honduran young woman he profiled for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He did not mention that Honduran sweatshop workers routinely develop incapacitating back and spinal injuries working 12-hour shifts with little or no breaks, face workplace abuse and intimidation, and earn about 65 cents per hour. Meanwhile the CEO of Gildan, a Canadian garment company doing business in Honduras that Davidson praised in his program, took home $11 million in compensation in 2009.
In 2012, Davidson promoted an even more extreme version of the Honduran sweatshop: special extra-judicial sweatshop zones legally beyond Honduran constitutional and labor laws, where multinationals could tap cheap labor, and use their own police force and judicial systems. The extra-judicial business zones, the brainchild of University of Chicago-trained economist Paul Romer, have been denounced as “neo-colonial” and have attracted the interest of Milton Friedman’s libertarian grandson, Patri Friedman, along with other libertarians hostile to labor rights. Davidson dismissed critics of the Honduras extra-judicial sweatshop zones: “It’s easy to criticize experimenting with the livelihoods of the poor,” Davidson wrote. “We have to try some new things, probably many new things. And we have to accept that some of them won’t work.”
In 2008, Davidson helped produce an episode of This American Life about the implosion of subprime lending that let Wall Street off the hook for its role in rampant mortgage fraud and predatory lending. “This was a crisis that was caused by willing participation of every single person. Nobody was coerced,” said Davidson’s co-producer Alex Blumberg. “And there was fraud. But that was not what caused the crisis. What caused the crisis was something bigger and more systemic that required the involvement of everybody at every step.” This evasion-by-exaggerating-the-complexity strategy is one that Davidson and Planet Money have deployed often to whitewash and deflect the role of criminality in the housing crisis. Among the show’s fans was Treasury Secretary and former New York Federal Reserve Bank chief Timothy Geithner: “Yeah, they did a good job.”
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.)
Ally Bank is a subsidiary of Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC. The bank is one of the biggest mortgage servicers in the country, and has been one of the very worst offenders in foreclosure fraud and subprime fraud. It received more than $17 billion taxpayer bailout funds and has been investigated across the country for foreclosure fraud, robo-signing and student loan fraud. As of August 1, 2012, 74% of Ally Financial was still owned by the U.S. Government. [ 2 ]
Planet Money’s relationship with Ally is a textbook example of “conflict of interest.” The bank had a clear and demonstrable interest in Planet Money’s coverage of the financial industry, especially issues that affected the bank’s bottom line. As Planet Money’s sole sponsor at a time when NPR funds were falling, Ally obviously wielded considerable power. Following months of complaints from readers pointing to the conflict-of-interest and the way Planet Money’s segments dovetailed with the banking lobby’s own propaganda, NPR’s Ombudsman was forced to look into the Ally-Planet Money relationship. The NPR Ombudsman ultimately dismissed listeners’ concerns as “cynical” and implied they did not know what they were talking about. Despite Davidson’s experience in public radio underwriting, he claimed ignorance about the nature of Planet Money’s arrangement with its sole sponsor, Ally Bank: “I have nothing to do with the underwriting stuff. We don’t pay any attention to the fact that they are a sponsor. We wouldn’t for a second give them any special treatment — positive or negative.”
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?” [ 3 ]
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 Reviewdescribed 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.” [ 4 ] [ 5 ]
Listen to Davidson’s full interview with Warren here:
Adam Davidson does not disclose that he does paid speaking gigs at events funded by banks and financial companies, including J.P. Morgan, Well Fargo, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs–the same companies he covers as a journalist. Davidson is frequently the only journalist/reporter booked to speak at these events; other speakers are usually work in finance. (See top of left sidebar for detailed info on Davidson’s recent speaking engagements.)
In 2011, Davidson expanded his media presence with a weekly financial column in the New York Times Magazine. His first column argued that government can’t create jobs, and so politicians shouldn’t try to come up with “job plans”–a demonstrably false position that also happens to be shared by Koch-funded libertarian Cato Institute. In his second column, Davidson pushed for harsh austerity measures against the majority of Americans in order to benefit the financial sector: “It really stinks, but the only way to fix the economy is to squeeze the middle class.“
In 2012, Davidson argued that everyone should grovel before Wall Street, without which, he argued, America would be much poorer. Davidson’s pro-Wall Street propaganda was so crude that even fellow neoliberal Matthew Yglesias stepped in to criticize Davidson: “I’m generally an Adam Davidson fan, but his recent New York Times Magazine article in defense of Wall Street is pretty unconvincing. The big problem is right up there in the lede where he says ‘Perhaps the best way to really appreciate what Wall Street does is to imagine life without it.'”
On May 1 2012, Davidson published 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: “Conard . . . has laid out tightly argued case for just how much consumers actually benefit from the wealthy,” Davidson wrote, as he uncritically reported Conard’s claim that inequality “is a sign that our economy is working. And if we had a little more of it, then everyone, particularly the 99 percent, would be better off.” Yves Smith, of Naked Capitalism, described the article as “chock full of blatant falsehoods” among which were Davidson’s claim that penicillin was made possible by investment capital from hedge fund managers like Conard. In fact penicillin research was funded by the British and U.S. governments.
Two weeks later, on May 16, Davidson spoke at the 27th Annual Conference for the Treasury & Finance Professional. Bank of America, BlackRock, BNY Mellon, Bloomberg, Citibank, Fidelity Investments, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Well Fargo and about a dozen of the most powerful financial companies in the world sponsored the event.
Adam Davidson’s career is currently being funded by bailed out banks. On top of Ally Bank’s exclusive sponsorship of Planet Money, Davidson receives lucrative speaking fees for appearing at events funded by the same banks and financial companies he covers as a journalist. Davidson has yet to disclose his corporate clients and how much they pay him, but here is a partial list of Davidson’s gigs from the last two years compiled from various publicly available sources:
In April 2011, Davidson was the headlining speaker at the 9th Annual “Women’s World Banking” Microfinance and the Capital Markets Conference. The conference was hosted by J.P. Morgan, but the organization itself is funded by the world’s biggest banks and corporations, including BP, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, Barclays Capital, VISA, ExxonMobil–just to name a few.
In 2011, Davidson spoke at another microfinance conference, this once was also funded by Morgan Stanley, Citi, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and CapitalOne.
In 2012, Davidson spoke at the 27th Annual Conference for the Treasury & Finance Professional. Sponsors of the event included Bank of America, BlackRock, BNY Mellon, Bloomberg, Citibank, Findelity Investments, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Well Fargo and about a dozen of the most powerful financial the largest financial companies in the world.
Chicago Public Media, which co-owns “Planet Money” through its ownership of “This American Life”, explicitly bars conflicts-of-interest: “WBEZ journalists must uphold the trust of the public by not overlapping individual interests with professional responsibilities. WBEZ journalists may not accept any form of compensation from the individuals, institutions or organizations they cover.”
Note: Neither NPR nor This American Life have responded to S.H.A.M.E.’s requests for comment about Davidson’s conflicts of interest.
Planet Money’s Ally Problem
Ally Bank has been Planet Money’s exclusive sponsor since 2009, a relationship that provides a textbook example of conflict of interest. Below are two screenshots of Ally Bank advertisements running on Planet Money’s website:
Davidson’s Shame Quotes
I feel like the voice of business journalism is sort of, it’s an authoritative voice of God.
The last time I interacted with University of Chicago faculty in an extended way, they were my professors. Sitting on a stage as their ‘peer,’ I felt like a kid who had borrowed his dad’s suit.
–Davidson describes his reaction to being invited to talk about the “unintended consequences” of financial regulation at Chicago University’s 58th Annual Management Conference in April 2010
Raising [corporate taxes], or even maintaining them, might satisfy the anti-corporate angst of protesters and populists, but it won’t come anywhere near paying off our debt. Most people who study the issue agree that the top federal corporate tax rate (35 percent of profits) is simply too high. The cardinal rule of taxation is that whatever you put a levy on, you’ll inevitably get less of.
–Davidson’s “It’s Not Just About the Millionaires”; New York Times Magazine; November 2011
Davidson’s PR Strategies
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.
–Davidson’s NPR segment “Can We Blame Or Praise Glass-Steagall?”
Most people who study the issue agree that the top federal corporate tax rate (35 percent of profits) is simply too high.
–Davidson on why U.S. should lower corporate taxes
I talk to a lot a lot a lot of left, right, center, neutral economists [and] you are the only person I’ve talked to in a year of covering this crisis who has a view that we have two equally acute crises: a financial crisis and a household debt crisis that is equally acute in the same kind of way.
–Davidson during his attack on Elizabeth Warren
Malcolm Gladwell made a similar claim in a 2007 New Yorker article that defended Enron. Read Gladwell’s S.H.A.M.E. Report for more info. [↩]
Six months ago, The eXiled announced a new media transparency project that would take our war against corporate trolls and media shills to a new and more effective level. The project is called “SHAME” and stands for “Shame the Hacks who Abuse Media Ethics.” Its goal is to expose and shame corrupt media figures, and make life a little harder for those who manipulate the public, degrade our democracy and help perpetuate oligarchy power, making their money by acting as covert propagandists for corporate interests.
As readers of The eXiled know, we operate a leading Washington DC political PR firm, “Our Founding Fathers Global Strategies LLC”, specializing in crisis-management and strategic communications for our negative-net-worth clientele. “Our Founding Fathers GS LLC” has devised a comeback plan for Mitt Romney to reignite his flagging campaign, which we offer gratis, pro bono.
We were going to wait ’til the snow melted, but a recent spate of corrupt hack-shill attacks on Team eXiled has prompted us to decide to make an immediate launch of a new project: a no-holds barred campaign to identify and expose corrupt shills and corporate trolls among political journalists and bloggers in the US. (more…)
The eXiled received this comment from Glenn Greenwald on the Joshua Foust article by Mark Ames. Greenwald has been undertaking the sordid work of defending his fellow libertarian Joshua Foust, despite Greenwald’s supposed principled stand against war-mongering, conflicts-of-interest and covering for Third World tyrants. We print below Greenwald’s comment posted on the Foust article, followed by our response: (more…)
Listen to eXiled editors Yasha Levine and Mark Ames on KPFK Radio’s “Beneath the Surface” with Suzi Weissman, as they discuss Yasha Levine’s arrest at the LAPD raid on Occupy LA and the appalling treatment of peaceful protesters he witnessed during his two-day stint in jail.
Thanks to an eXiled reader from Sarajevo, Jesenjin, comes this twist: The Wahhabi terrorist who shot at the US Embassy in Sarajevo wasn’t a Bosnian Wahhabi, but rather a Serbian Wahhabi. That’s because within Serbian proper (excluding Kosovo) there is a Muslim minority called “Bosniaks” living in the Sandzak region.
Here is a video of today’s Serbian (Bosniak, not Bosnian) Wahhabi getting shot in the leg after he got off a couple rounds at the US Embassy: (more…)
Last month, the New York Times magazine published a fluffer-friendly profile of James O’Keefe, the rightwing activist who specializes in bashing the poor and the vulnerable with a series of “pranks” against organizations like Medicaid and ACORN. One of the most stunning revelations in the Times’ fluff-piece that everyone seems to have overlooked: the 27-year-old O’Keefe still lives at home with his mommy and daddy, in their leafy upper-middle-class New Jersey suburb of Westwood. That’s right: the hero of right-wing preachers of “self-reliance” bashes the Nanny State from the safety of the best nannies a 27-year-old, five years out of college, can ever dream of. (more…)
The political establishment’s racist, authoritarian reaction to the 1992 LA riots—blaming broken black families, massing cops and troops, and Ron Paul’s advice to his family on how to kill black “animals” and get away with it…
Indonesia just executed two Australians by firing squad, putting a bit of a chill into bilateral relations. For me, this is great news. Until now, I had been led to believe that the tension between Indonesia and Australia was my fault…
The notion that the French are cowards is total bullshit, and anybody who knows anything about European military history knows damn well that over the past thousand years, the French have the most glorious military history in Europe, maybe the world.
This article was first published in The eXile on November 5, 2007 FRESNO, CA — By the time you finish this column you will be able to destroy huge buildings, kill hundreds of people in a few minutes, and strike terror…
I think I’ve finally found a religion I can convert to. I’m thinking of turning Sikh. And we’ll just slide right by all the puns popping into your little heads, if you don’t mind. The Sikhs are just the coolest warrior tribe around. Take their scripture.
This article is a War Nerd Classic Christians are stone killers. You put a Christian and a lion in an arena and I’ll bet Toyotas to Subarus the Christian’ll have the lion for lunch. Just look around you: lions are…
But let’s take the question seriously for a second here: who won in Iraq? To answer it, you have to start with a close-up of the region, then change magnification to look at the world picture. At a regional level the big winner is obvious: Iran. In fact, Iran wins so big in this war that I’ve already said that Dick Cheney’s DNA should be checked out by a reputable lab, because he has to be a Persian mole.