Last week, some troll named Joshua Foust attacked my article about the massacre in Kazakhstan on December 16. I really had no idea who Foust was until I started getting emails from readers telling me “some guy with a goatee is having a meltdown on Twitter.” What upset Foust so much about my article was that I dared to report a death toll number, “up to 70,” that differed from the official figure of 15 that the regime in Kazakhstan wanted the outside world to believe. Why did Foust take on the role of massacre-denier for Kazakhstan’s notoriously brutal, corrupt regime?
Foust, it turns out, has spent much of the past decade getting paid by defense contractors to front for them as one of their paid PR monkeys. One example: Last year, Foust published a hit piece in the Columbia Journalism Review attacking an award-winning Washington Post investigative series about the vast hidden defense contractor industry, without disclosing the fact that Foust was an employee of Northrop Grumman–one of the largest defense contractors in America.
Foust’s job is the opposite of journalism—he gets paid by war-profiteers to lie to the public, to cover for them while they soak the public for government contracts. That’s what Joshua Foust does for a living; and besides carrying the water for defense contractors as a “strategic communications” flak, Foust has spent the past few years talking up Kazakhstan’s despot-for-life, Nursultan Nazarbayev—and talking down the appalling human rights records both in Kazakhstan and in Uzbekistan.
Of all the brutal despots in that region, none has stolen Foust’s heart like Kazakhstan’s dictator-for-life, Nursultan Nazarbayev, or “Nazzy” as Foust affectionately calls the man responsible for murdering scores of striking oil workers. “Nazzy” has poured huge sums of his ill-begotten wealth back into Washington DC and London to pay off politicians, academics, think-tanks, and media hacks to lie about what a wonderful reformer he is and what a great place Kazakhstan is turning out to be—they also get paid to attack and undermine human rights advocates who report unpleasant truths about what goes on there, something Foust does all the time for his favorite despot, although we’ll probably never know if he gets money for that too. (One hilarious example: A PR firm founded by Haley Barbour proposed waging an “online social media campaign” attacking Sting after he canceled a concert in Kazakhstan over labor rights abuses; not surprisingly, Joshua Foust attacked Sting’s boycott and belittled the striking oil workers’ struggle as “more than a bit silly”–just a couple of months before they were massacred.)
So this same Joshua Foust attacked my article last week on the grounds that the death toll I reported, “up to 70″ killed, was “completely invented”. Here’s an example:
“Mark Ames relies on a completely invented body count to polemicize the #zhanaozen riots. Classy!”
Yes, that really happened: a PR flak for war-profiteers really did shake with righteous indignation to protect a Kazakh despot’s lowball massacre death toll number from a journalist who dared to contradict it. (You’d have to spend some time in DC to understand how that makes any fucking sense.) Foust then went on his blog and attacked my article with more of the same nonsense.
To get a quick taste of the sort of wanton massacring unleashed by Kazakhstan’s forces that day, watch this short video (this came out after my last piece, and it’s much more graphic):
I know these Joshua Foust trolls all too well—they infest our website’s comments section. Which is why I didn’t want to bother responding to Foust. I’ve got too many interesting things on my plate, and I’m used to thwacking more serious trolls, household name trolls, than Joshua Foust. But unfortunately, some people think Joshua Foust should be taken seriously. That means we have to take Foust seriously too, despite the fact that he’s been wrong about everything since the day he first blogged. I’ll start by refuting his lies, and follow up with the real black comedy in the Josh Foust story, by shining a light on this five-foot-tall warmonger’s career, so that we understand his type better. The “Portrait of a Troll As A Young Waffendwarf” story about Joshua Foust’s rise from college flunk-out to community college mediocrity to “geopolitics expert” at the Atlantic Monthly is really the story of how “Failing Up” works in this late, rotten period in America. I should warn you, Joshua Foust’s story is one of the rankest, most depressing lives you’ll ever come across, folks: It’ll make you want to give up, just knowing what the Establishment rewards these days. Here’s a hint: it ain’t merit.
Let’s start with the death count I reported in my article, which upset Foust more than anything else. When I wrote my article about the massacre in Zhanaozen, I went on the assumption that the least credible account would naturally come from the murderers themselves—the regime in Kazakhstan. Which happens to be Joshua Foust’s only source. Unlike Foust, I relied primarily on independent sources, including the only independent report I know of to come out of Zhanaozen: An article published in Novaya Gazeta, Mikhail Gorbachev’s famous muckraking newspaper (where Anna Politkovskaya published until she was assassinated in 2006). Novaya Gazeta sent a correspondent into Zhanaozen, Elena Kostyuchenko, who reported counting a total of 64 dead bodies in the main hospital morgue in Zhanaozen, all victims of the massacre, as of 9am on December 17th; the correspondent added to that another 23 dead who, according to surgeons, died on the operating tables, bringing her total to 87 dead; and she reported at least 400 wounded from her reports. Novaya Gazeta also reported bodies seen piled up in the main police station—where scores of locals were savagely tortured, some released to the intensive care ward in the main hospital, others either buried out of site or unaccounted for. More victims of the massacre were reported to have died while being transported by ambulance from Zhanaozen to the regional capital, Aktau (the local hospital was overflowing with dead and wounded, and the ambulances were stuffed with three or four patients at a time).
Because I’m dealing with a paid liar like Foust who people still take seriously, I urge everyone, even Joshua Foust, to read Elena Kostyuchenko’s harrowing dispatch. I know that Foust doesn’t read Russian, despite calling himself an “expert” on the region–so I’m providing my own rough, abridged translation at the end of this article.
Joshua Foust: “OMG stop hyperventilating!“
Besides relying on Novaya Gazeta, I also took my numbers from other independent reports I read at the time of my article, like this one published in the AFP:
“Kyrgyzstan-based opposition channel K-Plus claimed … about 70 people were killed and 500 wounded.”
So there you have it: Joshua Foust lied as only a PR flak can lie when he claimed that “Mark Ames completely invents body count.” One thing to remember is that Foust has absolutely zero qualifications to be an expert in anything, let alone FSU geopolitics: Foust doesn’t even know Russian, the universal language in that region; and as a student, Foust failed out of James Madison U. with a 0.57 grade point average, then spent the Bush years in community colleges trolling for the Iraq war, which Foust called “the most successful invasion in history” while attacking critics of that war as “TRAITORS, IDIOTS!” in CAPS. But I’ll get to that a little later on in this article.
Look, there are a lot of reasons why every self-respecting reporter should distrust the official Kazakhstan account of the massacre, most of it obvious. But since some people got taken in by Joshua Foust’s “expert” thinking, thanks to the Atlantic Monthly giving him a perch next to our old friend Megan McArdle, I’ll explain it here as clearly as I can why you should not trust the official version and official body count coming out the Kazakhstan regime’s PR department. When you try to figure out what happened at the scene of a violent crime or mass murder, the perpetrator of that crime (and anyone on the murderer’s payroll) is always the least credible source, because he has a vested interest in downplaying his crime by several degrees–as do his paid shills. So between victim, eyewitness, and murderer, the murderer is the least credible of all. This is especially true in Central Asia.
Let me give an example. Back in 2005, there was a massacre in Adijan, Uzbekistan, leaving up to 1000 dead. In the immediate aftermath, the Uzbek authorities insisted that only a handful of people died, while eyewitnesses and victims of the massacre reported anywhere from several hundred to well over 1,000 killed. After awhile, the Uzbek authorities upped their body count to a few dozen, as though it was a big concession; meanwhile eyewitnesses and victims kept insisting it was much higher, in the 1000 range. Finally, Uzbek authorities settled on a hard, specific figure of 187 dead; meanwhile, Western human rights groups’ best estimate is anywhere from 700 to over 1,000 dead. Like with the Kazakh authorities, Uzbekistan’s dictator insisted that it was all caused by foreigners and outside agitators.
Moreover, Kazakhstan is acting like it’s got something to hide. It’s put Zhanaozen under martial law, and the authorities cut off all Twitter, internet, and cell phone access, isolating and terrorizing the city with murders, torture, and beatings. Two Russian reporters were arrested trying to get in, and Western reporters were only allowed strictly monitored Soviet-style access. It’s no wonder Reporters Without Borders ranked Kazakhstan 162nd for press freedoms—less “free” than even Libya in its last year under Col. Gadhafi.
So just to repeat one last time: My death count for the massacre was based on independent local sources. Joshua Foust’s was based on the official death count given by the regime responsible for the murders. His is a PR flak’s version of events; mine is a reporter’s. You take your pick.
Now onto Joshua Foust’s second false accusation: On his blog, he accused me of “dishonesty” because I reported—accurately, and easily verified– that Chevron is the leading Western partner of Kazakhstan’s state oil company, KazMunaiGaz, which belongs to the Nazarbayev clan. What I wrote is that Chevron and KazMunaiGaz are partners on several major projects. Chevron’s revenues from its Kazakhstan ventures are a key contributor to the oil giant’s global profits. Chevron’s deep ties and partnerships with KazMunaiGaz are so public and well-known, I still can’t understand why Foust bothered with a lie this easy to debunk—but then I remember, he’s a PR flak, what’re the consequences of getting caught lying when you’re a PR flak? An extra Christmas bonus?
Here’s what Foust wrote:
“if Ames were honest he’d note that Chevron has nothing to do with KazMunaiGaz (which is wholly owned by the government of Kazakhstan), so tying the American oil company to workers employed by a Kazakh firm is actually pretty mendacious. And to repeat: dishonest.”
Wow, “mendacious” and “dishonest”—somebody owns a Thesaurus.
Foust asserts, “Chevron has nothing to do with KazMunaiGaz.” By “nothing” I assume Foust means “nothing.” As in, there is no relationship whatsoever between Chevron and KazMunaiGaz. Nothing, nada, zilch, never met the guy.
That’s Foust’s position. Again, I wrote, “Among KazMunaiGaz’s leading American partners is Chevron.” Foust wrote “nothing.”
So, guess who lied and who got it right?
Fact #1: Tengizchevroil, which operates one of the world’s ten largest oil fields in Kazakhstan, is owned 50% by Chevron, 20% by KazMunaiGaz, and smaller shares owned by a handful of other oil firms.
Fact #2: The Caspian Sea Pipeline consortium, the multibillion-dollar oil export pipeline, is led by Chevron, and has among its partners KazMunaiGaz. See here.
Fact #3: A few weeks ago, Chevron signed a new deal bringing in KazMunaiGaz as a partner on yet another major oil field project in Karachaganak.
So I just provided three obvious examples proving that what I wrote– “Among KazMunaiGaz’s leading American partners is Chevron”—and disproving Foust’s lie that he published, claiming, “Chevron has nothing to do with KazMunaiGaz.” The reason it matters is obvious: There have been lawsuits over the past decade holding U.S. oil firms accountable for profiting from crimes against humanity overseas. KazMunaiGaz, Chevron’s partner, wholly owns the subsidiary, UzenMunaiGaz, at the center of the massacre and the oil workers’ strike. I’ll bet that Chevron also has a PR payroll to keep this out of the public.
Well folks, there you have it: I’ve proven that Joshua Foust lied to downplay the massacre death toll, and I proved that Joshua Foust lied to protect Chevron from its deep ties to KazMunaiGaz, whose brutality and intransigence towards labor organizers at its subsidiary led to the massacre on December 16. That wasn’t hard–but it was disgusting, having to respond to a massacre-denier like Foust. Now, let’s get to know him.
* * *
What do you get when you inject Chuck Todd’s DNA into the nucleus of Matthew Vadum’s egg?
Now that that’s out of the way, the question is: What kind of lying filth is Joshua Foust? How does someone become so vile? And why do some people take a pea-brained troll like Joshua Foust seriously?
At The eXiled, we’ve been saying for years now that the loudest yapping neocon warmongers are usually pathologically wounded twerps working off their bad childhood grudges.That, and plain old stupidity, explains a lot of what makes a woofing neocon who he is.
Joshua Foust is a textbook example proving the theory, so much so that he deserves more looking into. I want to answer what made Foust admit, without any irony, this:
“for years I’ve wanted to be an action movie super villian… I mean, an evil genius is still a genius, right?”
Joshua Foust got off to a rough start on the road to becoming this “evil genius.” He entered James Madison U. a second-rate public university in Virginia, as a freshman in 1999, but JMU proved more than his little brain could handle. Foust flunked out of JMU his freshman year with a 0.57 grade point average, and spent the next several years in community colleges, while working for a Navy contractor designing web sites. After several years in community colleges, Foust tried transferring to the University of Michigan to get himself a respectable diploma, but Michigan rudely rejected him. The only university that accepted Joshua Foust as a transfer student was the University of Colorado at Boulder—ranked America’s #1 Party School by Playboy magazine.
That, folks, is what passes for a “thought leader” at the Atlantic Monthly.
This is important to point out because Foust has a reputation for being an arrogant ass towards everyone who does serious work–he never fails to belittle others for their supposed lack of intellectual seriousness. So let it be known to every poor victim of Joshua Foust’s trolling attacks: Joshua Foust failed out of a second-rate college with a 0.57 grade point.
That’s failure on an epic scale. And it was an experience that filled Foust with lasting illiterate hate:
I harbor a serious hatred towards James Madison University. I went there for one abortive year in 1999. I left in disgrace, on academic suspension with a 0.57 GPA. I hate that I went there, I hate that I screwed up that year, and I HATE that I have to keep sending those horrible transcripts every time I apply to a school, fellowship, or internship
Maybe it’s just coincidence, but Foust also hates my alma mater, Berkeley:
I Hate Berkeley. Berkeley is controlled by a minority population of wacky insane hippie freaks. …Berkeley is controlled by a city council, who in the face of post-9/11 patriotism, asked firemen to remove the American flags from their trucks as to not be offensive.
The man’s a poet, folks.
For resentful dumbshits like Foust, the war in Iraq was a hate-manna from heaven. Foust repeatedly cheered the war as “the most successful invasion in history” and attacked critics as “TRAITORS, IDIOTS!” He attacked Joe Wilson as a “liar” and a “phony” and attacked Eric Alterman for not admitting that Saddam Hussein worked with Al Qaeda on the 9/11 attack. Very little has changed from the neocon Bush-era Foust to today’s pseudo-realpolitik Foust defending war, war-profiteers and Central Asian tyrants–except that now he has a copy editor.
But before getting into Foust’s neocon phase, let’s first find out what makes him tick. As Foust himself admitted, what turned him into this warmongering troll was his painful experience growing up a bullied twerp :
I was picked on by all the popular kids, occaisonally beaten physically. It was a very isolating experience, and I spent about three years essentially by myself. This was during the socially-crucial early adolescent years (12, 13, 14), and I can still, today, see how that experience affects my attitudes towards certain things.
Foust wrote this confessional blog post on the fifth anniversary of Columbine, and it’s worth keeping in mind every time you read about Foust today defending tyrants and shilling for war-profiteers:
“I had fantasies about killing each and every one of those boys who had hit me, who had slammed my face into a locker as I walked to class, who had tripped me into the water fountain, who had yanked down my gym shorts and pointed and laughed at my embarassment. I wanted to kill them, and at times I was desperate enough to where I could clearly and calmly imagine myself doing so. That’s why I’m so conflicted about Columbine…I try to stuff that sympathy back into the deepest corners of my psyche, and it’s easy when I see video of what those two wrought. But it comes bubbling back to the surface when their misery is explored. I see them, and I keep thinking I could have been that.”
Oddly enough, this may be the only honest thing Joshua Foust ever wrote, and it almost makes you want to reach out and give him a hug, tell him it’s okay—which may be why he tried to scrub it from the Internet, along with a lot of other posts I found. Painful confessions such as this:
So, I entered high school lonely, depressed, and very aware of how other people saw me. … My life had demonstrated that those in authority had little or no desire to stop violent bullying, and that even parents tended to downplay the severity of what happened.
Looking back on pictures of me from them, I looked miserable. I looked like I hated myself. I was thinking that there was something I was doing, something about me that was causing those kids to harass me constantly. It wasn’t until years later that I finally realized that none of that was my fault. Regardless, I was driven close to suicide more than once.
Now you might be tempted to assume that the pain Foust endured as a bullied twerp would have turned him into a good person sensitive to others’ pain, more empathetic and more enlightened. If so, you’ve been watching the wrong movies.
You should read the reports on bullying, or listen to what real bullied kids are like (I wrote about this in my book Going Postal). Getting bullied like that doesn’t necessarily turn the bullied nerd into a nice empathetic guy. It makes bullied kids hate the world, on a level you non-bullied happy folks will never understand. Sometimes bullied twerps get over it and move on. Other times, they turn into spite-fueled Waffentwerps whose only dream is to bully others–to be a “super villain,” as Foust wrote.
That describes Joshua Foust, neocon loon who spent the first few years of Bush’s Iraq war bullying and attacking and cheering on the mass-slaughter. This sordid episode on Foust’s blog, proudly recounting how he put a young Iraqi woman in her place, is a perfect example:
Tonight, I had class with a girl who has accused me of murder. Her name is Arnish, and she is an Iraqi. She was in my International Relations class last semester (the fall), and she and I spent the majority of the semester arguing about the war in Iraq. She was pushy, loud, foul-mouthed, arrogant, and ethnically snobby (“I’m better because I’m not American, white boy!”).
When did she call me a murderer? Right after she called me a “fucking nazi zionist” because I said I supported the Just War Doctrine. I was trying to explain that the Iraq War fit the criteria for a Just War (a war of justice, not “just a war”) when she cut me off, screaming her invective at the top of her lungs. My professor did nothing to calm her down, instead opting to stare, wide-eyed at the pronouncement of such vitriol.
Luckily, there was a random Serb chick in the class, who, though her English was limited, leapt to my defense, and managed to get Arnish to shut up for a time
This is the larval-stage Joshua Foust: wounded, warmongering, morally indignant against real victims of war: How dare she question a five-foot-tall Waffendwarf’s commitment to the “Just War Doctrine” just because hundreds of thousands of her fellow countrymen were killed in that war? Classy!
But here’s where it gets really creepy: Foust later pursues the poor Iraqi girl in a fitness class in Washington DC, and makes sure that she seethes with the same impotent rage that he’s been seething in his whole life:
When she walked into my fitness class this evening, my stomach lurched slightly. Fearing a cold stare, or some snide quip, I found myself trying to place as much physical distance between us as possible. Yet, while we were warming up, I found myself spending much of the time beside her, ignoring my very existence.
She wouldn’t make eye contact with me the entire night. Eventually, as the class wound to a close, she brushed past my shoulder, her eyes glued straight ahead, her nosed turned the slightest bit upwards.
Yes, “how sad.” You can tell Foust practiced that line for years: That moment where he gets to adopt the pious, patronizing concern of the bully. Oh, you poor wounded twerp, so wronged, so misunderstood by the world!
So now that readers understand who Joshua Foust is, let’s see how this translates into Foust’s geopolitical expertise.
In 2004, just as the Iraqi insurgency was about to explode, Foust cheered,
“more than a year down the line from the most successful invasion in history, what has happened is simply stunning. Iraq has a constitution, it has a provisional government that has already begun to ignore some US officials (meaning: independent thought is well on its way), it’s gearing up to hold the first real elections ever. Iraq has the freest press of any Arab nation, and as a whole the infrastructure in Iraq is in better shape than it has been since 1991.”
As for the war’s critics, Foust wrote:
the Left is currently aflame with hatred and shrill irrationality. Which is why, despite my intense dislike for Bush, his seriousness (I never thought I’d say this) is winning out.
There is a growing body of evidence that Saddam Hussein had extensive ties to Al-Qaeda. In fact, as more and more evidence becomes public that detail the depth of Saddam’s workings with Al-Qaeda, I have to wonder if anything will really change. Will [Eric] Alterman fess up and say that the case against the war isn’t so easily closed? Of course he won’t. Anti-warriors can never be wrong, because war is always wrong. It’s never justified, no matter what.
Attacking intelligent people who were right and calling them wrong was a skill he worked on early on: He attacked Richard Clarke after his damning testimony made Bush’s war look bad:
Why Is Clark Wrong?
It’s simple, and I’m running out of different ways of expressing this: he has absolutely no case for his self-righteousness…he’s out to get Bush, and he needs attention. Simple, superficial, shallow, seen through, and alarmingly easy.
Foust even troll-attacked Joe Wilson:
Over and over, Foust practiced trolling and belittling war critics:
The Democrat’s whining over Iraq can be picked apart piece by piece, but it gets old. 500 dead is a “quagmire?” Sheesh – if we cannot accept 500 dead soldiers during a war, then we cannot accept fighting war. It’s that simple – by an historical measurement, our low casualties are nothing short of astonishing.
He contrasted these traitors, idiots and shrill hypocrites who opposed the war with hardened Waffentwerps like Joshua Foust, who used this old Roman cliche in a piece defending Donald Rumsfeld:
“is it better for the world to love us or fear us? While I would prefer love, I’ll take fear—no matter what, the Islamists will hate us, and if they fear us as well than we can at least have some measure of security.”
When it came to the 2004 elections, the self-described “libertarian” mused,
“I like Bush’s foreign policy, and I like his tax cuts. Those are very good things that have been executed very well.”
Showing he hadn’t changed much from 2000, when he flunked out of JMU:
“One of the main reasons I supported the man [Bush] in 2000 was his policy on tax cuts, and limiting the federal budget.”
As for John Kerry, Foust wrote: “his refusal to treat Islamo-fascist terror as the grave threat to civilization it is prevents me from considering him for President.”
What it all really came down to for this pea-brained neocon was simple:
“I can understand and debate Bush,” Foust wrote. “I cannot do the same with Kerry.”
And he cheered Bush’s 2004 victory by way of referencing Ben Affleck:
Is anyone surprised that news of a newly-elected pro-business President is making the markets bounce like Ben Affleck? Me neither.
Foust described himself as a “libertarian” and for all I know he is. He bragged about “my friend Doug Bandow”—the Cato Institute guy who was forced to resign in disgrace after Bandow was busted taking money from Jack Abramoff to plant PR in respectable media outlets like BusinessWeek. It’s the sort of thing Foust would later do as a matter of routine, such as when Foust attacked the Washington Post series on defense contractors, which Foust published in the Columbia Journalism Review without disclosing that he was an employee of Northrop Grumman, one of the biggest defense contractors in the country.
Now fast-forward to today: Joshua Foust, former neocon, is a full-time paid shill for war-profiteers. Through relentless networking and corruption, Foust has also burrowed into the media as an “expert” on Central Asia, a region that suffers from some of the world’s worst human rights abuses, but also happens to be the lynchpin of the war machine and revenues for defense contractors.
With Pakistan turning into a complete failure, Foust has been pushing a brilliant plan to keep the war going by moving America’s war machine out of Pakistan and into Uzbekistan, whose tyrant is responsible for boiling dissidents alive and dumping their bodies, and for the massacre in Adijan of 1000 of his own people. That’s the sort of thing only a do-gooder hippie would worry about, according to Foust:
It is pure folly to object to that outlook, or to write it off, as the human rights industry seems to want, as selling out to a vicious thug. In the real world, away from New York and Brussels, there sometimes are no perfect choices, only degrees of imperfect ones. A security partnership with Uzbekistan is one of those imperfect choices.
Or “imbecilic choices.”
Again and again, Foust attacks the human rights “industry” and defends poor Uzbekistan, as in this recent blog post:
“I’m sure in an ideal world we can wish away the war in Afghanistan and make sure every country in the region knows we are deeply displeased with their human rights violations, but in the real world people must make difficult choices. They have to prioritize. And the deal in Uzbekistan is meant to satisfy one purpose only: Afghanistan.”
The Waffendwarf really has it in for the human rights “industry.” A few years ago, when Human Rights Watch issued a 55-page report slamming Kazakhstan’s human rights record, Foust was there to defend his beloved Kazakh dictator:
“I could seriously be off here, but am I alone in thinking Human Rights Watch is hyperventilating over this?”
“Hyperventilating” and “shrill” are Foust’s favorite troll put-downs, going back to his pro-Iraq war shilling days:
“I’m heartened to see that a hyperventilating press has blown things a bit out of proportion. Iraq is still winnable.”
“Jeff Jarvis notices how the shrill harpies on the Left, like Juan Cole, can’t seem to wrap their heads around the tremendous victory this was for democracy.”
“Lately, though, [Jon Stewart]‘s been a bit shrill, a touch desperate to see Kerry elected and Bush defeated.]]
Last week, I too got flamed by Joshua Foust for being, you know, “shrill.”
This is the world through a corrupt flunk-out’s eyes. And it fully informs his every word and every thought about Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, public-relations, and war-profiteering.
On December 15, a day before the massacre in Kazakhstan, Foust was busy belittling and demeaning a Human Rights Watch report on Uzbekistan. Rather than take seriously the human rights violations in the report, Foust slammed HRW’s wanting PR department:
The problem with the report is not the data is contains, but rather how HRW is framing it…
Downplaying, mocking and deflecting is his favorite troll line of attack. It’s how Foust tried to undermine the Washington Post’s award-winning investigation into the hidden defense contractor industry, “Top Secret America,” which Foust ridiculed in a Columbia Journalism Review article “What’s Secret in ‘Top Secret’?”
Here’s a neat exercise: with the obvious exception of some interviews with corporate and agency spokesman, and a bizarre interview with a girlfriend in a bar, try to find something in The Washington Post’s “Top Secret America” that isn’t on Google.
You won’t find much.
Indeed, it is truly remarkable how little new information “Top Secret America” presents.
(NB: We will be following up with Columbia Journalism Review editors over whether or not they still stand by Foust’s article, published without disclosing his conflict-of-interest as an employee doing “strategic communications” for Northrop Grumman.)
And of course, you can count on Foust to defend the lobbying and public-relations industry from pesky investigative journalists. Less than a month ago, Foust was all over a bombshell series of articles by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, exposing PR shills for Third World tyrants in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Obviously, Foust didn’t like it.
First, he belittled and downplayed the significance of the reports, which sparked calls for government inquiries and new legislation in Britain (you can always tell a paid troll by their “nothing new here” nonsense):
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has a blockbuster story about how U.K.-based lobbyists use their relationship with the British government to advance the interests of their clients. The horrors!
…These activities are not on their own necessarily nefarious, unless you think the very existence and practice of PR firms is nefarious (which, in fairness, some people do).
The Bureau’s investigation is …ultimately limited by the outrage that, yes, PR and lobbying firms really do influence their respective governments for income.
But the fallout in Britain continued to grow, so Foust went for a more direct attack in the Atlantic Monthly. He headlined his PR piece, “Is The Lobbying-For-Dictators Scandal Overstated?” You’ll never guess Joshua Foust’s answer:
This does not look like the craven attempt to “whitewash” Uzbekistan’s reputation that BIJ and theIndependent allege.
The BIJ posted a followup story condemning the PR firm for altering Wikipedia pages to benefit its clients (the firm did not do so for Uzbekistan). In a coordinated story, The Independent quotes Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales condemning Bell Pottinger’s edits as “unethical.”
But is editing Wikipedia to benefit oneself really unethical or even new?
People deserve to know the agendas behind the information they’re fed — whether from a bad client like Uzbekistan or a good client like a human rights foundation. But their story here seems to overstate the scandal in ways might turn people off and risk making the whole concept appear exaggerated and overhyped.
Foust even claims that the Founding Fathers were a bunch of public-relations flaks who wanted to found a libertarian lobbying-friendly republic:
In the U.S., that is kind of by design, at least in theory: The Federalist #10 explicitly endorses the idea of private groups banding together to petition their government. In the original concept, so many citizens would be so busy petitioning their government that the total result overall would be equilibrium — that is, the marketplace of lobbyists would lead to an optimal result.
Ten bucks says that Doug Bandow trained him to say that.
So let’s go back one more time to the early Joshua Foust. This is the very first blog post Joshua Foust put up when he launched his waterboy career in late 2003, the day Saddam Hussein was captured. Reading this in context gives us a sense of the continuity linking the early, larval Waffentwerp neocon to today’s Joshua Foust. Note again, Foust tried to delete evidence of his previous neocon incarnation from the Internet–but being an incompetent failure, he naturally failed to wipe it.
Headlined “It’s Over,” Foust debuted his voice to the world thus:
Those who considered this war a failure, or those who refused to see this war as anything but a failure, will spin the war as a failure until we leave the Middle East to its own, destructive devices. I think what’s been shown today is the power of patience, the power of muddling, and the power of our ability to work in terrible circumstances. This is just a huge PR coup for our side, not to mention the best news ordinary Iraqis could have ever possibly hoped to have heard. It’s over now. There is clean up, sure – there are still bad guys to be had. But it’s over. They can start to move on (how foolish they look today), and rebuild their lives. One of the biggest complaints about the occupation was that it did nothing to rid the world of Saddam – we had simply forced him into hiding. Well, that complaint is as old as Saddam looks to be, and the reasons for being so against this occupation will fade away as the resistance does.
Who takes a guy like this seriously? The folks at the American Security Project, a Washington DC defense contractor lobby outfit whose board of directors includes the former CEO of Lockheed and a US Chamber of Commerce Executive. Earlier this year, they described Foust as a “powerhouse of thoughtful analysis” when they hired him away from Northrop Grumman.
And Foust hasn’t let them down. As a “Senior Fellow at the American Security Project” Foust could be seen testifying to a Senate Subcommittee hearing urging them not to increase oversight over private intelligence contractors like Foust’s paymasters:
This public consensus that contracting must be curtailed is based on the assumption that contracting has grown beyond anyone’s ability to control it, that it results in widespread fraud, waste, and abuse, and that the fundamental nature of contracting presents analysts, agents, and officers of the intelligence community with irreconcilable conflicts of interest. These are the wrong issues to worry about.
The biggest problem facing the IC contracting industry is not that some contractors abuse the system, but that the government has designed a system that encourages abuse. …I argue in this testimony that the first step in fixing the issues we associate with IC contractors really begins with fixing the government.
Now Joshua Foust makes sense—he is the living embodiment of “Failing Up,” a cultural disease that is rotting this country at its core. Foust is a failure and a moron, with a valuable mixture of misanthropy and shameless ambition, traits that helped Foust fail his way up to the top of the DC Establishment. Because today, especially in a corrupt cesspool like Washington DC, failure and shamelessness are currency, whereas brains and integrity are handicaps. Joshua Foust has finally become the “super-villain” he dreamed of becoming—not much of an “evil genius” but definitely a villain. He’s a real-life Tracy Flick, only shorter, uglier, meaner and dumber: In other words, the real thing.
Here is Foust, the libertarian, explaining why Washington DC is the ideal place for an aspiring “super-villain” and “evil genius” twerp. It’s a good insight as to why so many fucking libertarians work in the government: Because that way, they can control you and fuck you up while stuffing their own pockets:
It’s way too easy to hate D.C. I’m sick of people, especially from New York and LA, looking down on all us here – we few who really do control your fate. No matter how culturally superior you may feel, it still takes a single rider to an authorization bill, a single poorly placed comma, a single intern working overtime, to seriously dick us all over. D.C. is for serious people who are obsessed with serious things, like power and security and control (and others).
Okay, that’s enough of Foust for now. The reason I went into more detail about this guy isn’t because he’s the worst troll we’ve dealt with, nowhere close. But he does almost perfectly represent the rot and corruption and everything wrong and anti-meritocratic in 21st Century America. It’s depressing when you think about how many Fousts are in Washington and New York, gumming up anything good or honest, providing cover for the very worst that this world has to offer.
Now, as an antidote to Foust’s trolling about the Kazakhstan massacre, I strongly urge you to read this incredible account of what really happened in Zhanaozen, published in Novaya Gazeta. Recall again what Foust wrote, and then scrubbed, on his feelings about Columbine:
as more and more details came out about the motivations behind Harris and Klebold’s rampage, I found myself sympathizing with them. That’s right—I found sympathy with mass murderers.
* * *
Special “Novaya Gazeta” correspondent Elena Kostyuchenko reports from the rebellious steppes of Kazakhstan. (The names of sources have been changed to protect them)
December 20, 2011
Zhanaozen, or just “Uzen’” as it’s known—is a city of about 100,000 people located in the western part of Kazakhstan, in the Mangistauskaya Oblast’ (region). This Oblast’ is considered Kazakhstan’s most expensive, and it’s most toxic, polluted region as well. And within this Oblast’, the town of Zhanaozen is the most expensive of all, and it’s most life-threatening.
Locals here have a saying: “When a sinner from Zhanaozen dies, instead of going to hell he’s sent straight back to Zhanaozen.” It only rains here once a year—and snows maybe once every few years. No weeds or plants grow in this parched earth; in the city, almost no trees to speak of, and the few that do grow there have to be watered daily. The terrible wind that blows through the steppe throws dust into your eyes. In the summer, it’s unbearably hot; in winter, even when it’s only -3 Celsius (29 F), it’s inhumanely cold, the wind literally blows right through your body. You’ll only find roads paved with asphalt in the very center of town—the rest of the roads are unpaved. The buildings and apartment blocks are built low, made of yellow limestone.
15-year-old Aislu, a student in the oil and gas technical college, explains, “We arrived [at the square], and the protesters were there. I knew that my mom was standing there, so I wanted to go up and meet her. But the police wouldn’t let me, they surrounded us. I called my dad: ‘They’ve surrounded me, I can’t leave the square.” I was crying. He left work and came and got me out. They started to let us go home. He led me out of the crowd, told me, ‘You go home, I’ll be there shortly.’ I moved away, and then a bullet struck him in the leg.”
The taxi driver who brought me around Zhanaozen explained to me heatedly how people walked straight into the gunfire without fear. It was only later I understood that it wasn’t so much courage—it was just that no one out on the square could believe that the police would actually open fire on them. “We thought at first maybe these were rubber bullets. It was only when a kid next to me got shot in the head, and the bullet blew a giant hole there, that I understood they were out to slaughter us,” said a striking worker, Sholpan. “I saw right in front of me how they cut down a woman who was kneeling over her fallen daughter.”
The police firing into the crowd on the square lasted about 10 minutes. There were police shooting into the crowd from the Uzenmunaigaz office as well; after they finished shooting, the police moved into the local city administration building, then they moved back to police headquarters.
That’s when the “pogrom” flared up. The youngsters carefully set the city administration building on fire, torched the hotel, the headquarters of Uzenmunaigaz [a subsidiary of the ruling family-controlled KazMunaiGaz, a partner with Chevron on several major projects, and the company that crushed the labor union drive], and started torching the shops. They started with two furniture stores that were owned by wives of city officials, then started burning down others. It was strange how the pogrom had a sort of logic. They torched only those buildings or businesses that were connected to the government or to Uzenmunaigaz.
The burnt-out headquarters of UzenMunaiGaz, a wholly owned subsidiary of Chevron’s main partner, KazMunaiGaz
At about 4pm, the OMON (Interior Ministry paramilitary forces) arrived and spread out from the main square throughout the city, shooting everywhere.
“I was ready to become one of the looters,” says Akku. “My family is completely poverty-stricken—my husband and i have been without work for a long time now, sometimes we turn out apartment into a sort of beauty salon. I try sewing things whenever I can. The only time we eat meat is when we’re invited to someone’s home. When they smashed into the Sulpak store, I thought to myself, ‘I know exactly where to find an iron, where the sewing machines are. I could earn myself some money if I only had my own sewing machine! So I went in and took one. And that’s when the OMON (paramilitary) stormed in. Everyone scrambled, barely getting out alive. But I saw who was able to steal something—the poor, they’re the ones, the poor.”
Two banks and several ATM machines were looted. Some of the taxi drivers claimed that they saw kids pulling money out of the ATMs, then throwing the money into the air.
The prosecutor’s office confirmed “11 dead from the mass disturbances” and “more than 70 wounded.” [The “official” death toll since raised to 15.]
Right now the hospital and the morgue are under tighter guard than even the main police station headquarters.
About 20 OMON paramilitary soldiers in full gear, with shields, are standing in attack position next to the entrance. About three dozen women and several men are gathered around. They security forces have set up a security perimeter around the entire hospital complex. No one’s allowed into the morgue, no one’s allowed into the hospital wings. No one’s allowed to see the wounded either.
The crowd’s divided into two groups: Those who came for the living, and those who came to claim the dead. They’re not letting anyone in to see the survivors; they’re not letting the dead bodies out. Then there’s a third group, the worst off of all—those who don’t know what happened to their son, their brother, their father. They’re rushing back and forth between the hospital and the police headquarters, screaming through the morgue’s gate at the attendant, then fleeing from the OMON who chases them away.
The senior OMON officer has the list in his pocket of the names of those who survived and those who died, but he refuses to release it. One of the family members tried peeking over the senior officer’s shoulder, to get a glimpse of the list, if only to get an idea of how many names were on it—only to discover that there were several sheets of paper with names on them.
“My oldest son went out looking for his youngest brother, and they shot him in the chest,” a short woman starts whispering. “Who did this to my child? Who does this to children? Never shoot people, never shoot them, never!”
“Shut your trap, idiot!” the closest OMON says. “You have two kids, and still you talk like that!”
This frightened the woman—she hurried out of there. The others went silent.
“Shame on you!” says an old woman to one of the OMON troops. “Who are your parents? Are you even Muslim?”
The OMON turn their heads from her—there’s still a taboo about cussing out an old grandmother. The crowd starts getting restive as she shouts more insults at the troops. The senior OMONets says something into his walkie-talkie, and suddenly another detachment runs out of the hospital, brandishing their shields.
Korquelle is one of the few who managed to somehow get inside the hospital that day. Korquelle lives in one of the villages just on the outskirts of the Uzen’ oil fields, but she happened to be visiting her sister on the day of the massacre. Her sister’s husband is an oil worker, so Korquelle’s sister went out to the square to join the striking oil workers demonstrating there. Korquelle arrived on the square with her sister’s daughter, a third grader, along with a whole row of kids.
“I heard the first gunshots,” Korquelle says. “I said, ‘We’re not going there.’ But my niece said, ‘Mommy’s in there!’ So we kept moving forward. When they started firing, the wounded and the dead pushed us back. I saw five people lying right at my feet. Four of them were dead, another one was still alive. As a car drove by, some people forced it to stop, and loaded the dead and the wounded into the car. I got into the car with them and we drove straight to the hospital.
“In the morgue there wasn’t any cold water to wash the blood off of the corpses. I started counted bodies. There was one girl there born in 1995, she was part of the column of school kids I first saw out on the square. And a 10-year-old boy. But I couldn’t get a better look–they wouldn’t show us the bodies, they wouldn’t let us get close. Their bodies were lying in the far corner.
“I know that they brought in three children who were burned to death in the ‘Sulpak’ store, they couldn’t identify the childrens’ remains yet because they were burned beyond recognition.
“They were stacking up one body after another. That day they brought 21 corpses to the morgue. But at 9pm, Tamila, who works in the morgue, locked the door to the main morgue room. She went home, even as they continued bringing bodies to the morgue. So some people opened up a room next door to the main morgue, and started laying out more corpses on the floor—the corpses were laid out one by one, stacked right next to each other. I stayed there until 9am the next morning, on 17th of December, and during that time I saw them bring another 43 bodies.
“I asked around for ice, but I was assured that dead bodies don’t start rotting for three days.
“As for the wounded—by lunchtime there were 340 wounded in the hospital. All with gunshot wounds, although the bullets themselves were different—mostly submachine gun bullets, but also some bullets fired from pistols, and some from heavy machine guns. There weren’t nearly enough doctors to deal with it—we helped all we could by giving as much blood as we could. Those who knew how to use a needle were enlisted as volunteers to draw blood from donors. I didn’t know how to use a needle.
“I saw how they took a photo of one boy—he’d been shot twice, shot from an armored personnel carrier’s machine gun. The doctors told him—‘Go get treated at the local clinic.’ I remember also a 16 year old girl with a head wound, but still alive. By morning, the total number of wounded reached about 400, but 17 of the wounded had already been transferred to Aktau (the regional capital, about 200 kilometers away). They’d pack three to four wounded patients into a single ambulance and rush to Aktau as fast as they could.
“Early in the morning on the 17th, the police started releasing some young boys from the police headquarters jail—the boys had been brutally beaten, two were transferred straight to the intensive care. The medics who brought them to the hospital said that when they were in the police station, they saw corpses there as well, but the police refused to let them take the corpses away. Even later, the authorities still refused to let anyone come and take the dead out of the police station. What happened to them? Have they been buried?
“My sister was in the first row out on the square when the gunfire started. She said that she was able to duck from the bullets. They weren’t aiming at anyone in particular when they fired their AKs into the crowd; instead they just sprayed the crowd with bullets indiscriminately, so was able to duck them. Her daughter, whom I brought to the square just as the shooting started, is so traumatized that she still can’t sleep. And I can’t leave their apartment.”
Would you like to know more? Read Mark Ames’ article “Megan McArdle’s Hypocrisy Exposed: Portrait of a Libertarian as a Taxpayer-Subsidized Brat”. Also read “Anatomy of a Libertard: Will Wilkinson and the Koch-Funded Nomenklatura”.
Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.
Click the cover & buy the book!
Read more: adijan, american security project, atlantic monthly, caspian sea, chevron, columbia journalism review, defense contractor, eric alterman, human rights watch, iraq, joshua foust, kazakhstan, kazmunaigaz, lobbying, Megan McArdle, mikhail gorbachev, neocon, northrop grumman, novaya gazeta, nursultan nazarbayev, pr, pr flak, shill, sting, tengizchevroil, troll, uzbekistan, uzenmunaigaz, Washington Post, waterboy, zhanaozen, Mark Ames, Media Whores
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