So it’s back to the depressing topic of Atlantic Monthly blogger and paid PR flak for defense contractors, Joshua Foust–something I’d rather avoid, but the scumbags won’t let me. Foust and his minions have managed the impossible–they’ve outdone themselves in vileness; who imagined such a feat was possible? Ever since I exposed Foust as a massacre-denier defending the interests of Kazakhstan’s dictator for life, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and covering for Chevron, the biggest US oil company doing business in Kazakhstan, Foust’s personal web site, Registan.net, has waged a rank smear campaign against an heroic Russian journalist, Elena Kostyuchenko.
Going after Elena Kostyuchenko is as low as it gets: She’s the only independent journalist to get a report out of Zhanaozen, where Kazakh riot police slaughtered up to 70-plus striking oil workers and locals. It was Kostyuchenko’s on-the-ground reporting, in a city cordoned off and under violent martial law in order to keep reporters like her out, that blew a hole in the regime’s official lowball death toll figure of 13-17 or so—the more “acceptable” death toll figure that Foust demanded others in the Western media abide by as well. Kostyuchenko’s eyewitnesses and sources reported a death toll closer to 100, while Kyrgyzstan’s opposition channel K-Plus reported up to 70 dead and 500 wounded, which the AFP ran on its wires.
It was when I contradicted the Kazakhstan dictator’s official death count that Foust first attacked me. So in order to protect Nazarbayev, Foust & Friends have taken on the sordid business of smearing one of Russia’s most daring, heroic independent journalists as a “rumor monger,” comparing her to a “hag” or “village bimbo” who spreads gossip and believes anything she’s told.
We’ve also learned (big hat-tip to reader Sam Knight) that Foust has good personal reasons to protect Chevron. First, recall that Foust attacked my article about the massacre by claiming that that Chevron had absolutely no connection whatsoever to Kazakhstan’s state oil company, KazMunaiGaz, whose subsidiary was behind the massacre of the striking oil workers. Foust has since backed down on his claim that Chevron is not connected with KazMunaiGaz—Chevron’s own promotional material boasts of its many multi-billion-dollar projects with KazMunaiGaz—but what Foust didn’t reveal is that one of his bosses at the American Security Project sits on the board of directors at Chevron. I’ll have more on that later in this article.
Before I get into Foust’s smear against Elena Kostyuchenko—and it’s really one of the most vile, disgusting things I’ve read in a long time, even by Foustian standards—let me first give you a little background on the reporter whom Foust & Friends smeared.
Elena Kostyuchenko is a correspondent for Mikhail Gorbachev’s famous muckraking newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper whose courage and daring can be measured in the sheer number of its journalists who have been murdered, beaten, or arrested—including one of my first and favorite sources when I started reporting in Russia in the mid-1990s, Yuri Shchekochikhin (who was probably poisoned with the same type of polonium that later was used to murder Alexander Litvinenko), and the more famous reporter and human rights crusader, Anna Politkovskaya, who was assassinated in her apartment building entrance in 2006.
To some in the liberal intelligentsia world, Elena Kostyuchenko is considered one of the heirs to Anna Politkovskaya. A reporter who is also a human rights crusader, Kostuchenko is also openly gay in one of the most dangerous countries for out-of-the-closet homosexuals. In May of 2011, Kostyuchenko was one of the few homosexuals who marched in the Moscow gay parade—which is almost a suicide mission for Moscow’s gays—and she paid the price: Kostyuchenko was savagely beaten in the skull by fascist thugs, and hospitalized with a concussion.
Here is how the widely-publicized attack on Kostyuchenko was reported on the site Gay Russia:
A few hours before the banned Moscow Pride rally took place in Moscow, Elena Kostyuchenko, a journalist of Russian daily paper Novaya Gazeta, came out on her blog and explained while this year, she will be marching with Pride participants not as a journalist but as an open lesbian.
Kostyuchenko was then severely attacked on Manege Square while waiving a rainbow flag and trying to meet with other Pride participants.
“Yes, I understood that I could suffer. I attended previous Pride attempts as a journalist and saw what happened with the participants. Of course, it was scary and painful. But I did not expect such an explosive reaction. (..) Just today, I am out of the hospital and, I realize the power of the wave of information in the last day. I heartily thank everyone who supported me and my family in those days.”
Asked whether she feels that after this experience she became an activist, Kostyuchenko dismissed the title and said that:
“In the media I have several times been called a LGBT activist, but I am not. This would not be fair, especially in relation to these activists who have spent several years of fighting for our rights at banned demonstrations, in courts and on the Internet. I am just a correspondent of Novaya Gazeta and a lesbian. When I feel better, I will continue to pursue my job as a journalist but if there is an opportunity to publicly speak against a violation of the rights of LGBT, I will do it.”
A couple of years ago, Kostyuchenko was featured in a Guardian article about Novaya Gazeta:
Elena Kostyuchenko, aged 21, is one of the paper’s youngest reporters and recalls how Politkovskaya’s work – with her total devotion to exposing injustice – inspired her to join the paper. At the age of 16, and already working on her local paper in the provincial town of Yaroslav, not far from Moscow, Kostyuchenko read one of Politkovskaya’s articles on Chechnya: it was a moment of revelation. “I was shocked. I realised that everything I knew about this country, about what was happening, was wrong,” she says.
She moved to Moscow, enrolled as a journalism student and becameNovaya Gazeta’s youngest ever staff member, aged 17. “When Politkovskaya was killed I realised I had never told her she was my idol.” Now, she says, she praises colleagues to their face. Why? “You come to work, see your colleagues and think: ‘Who’s next?'” she says.
Elena Kostyuchenko holds a sign reading “Homophobia Kills/Stop the Pogroms” just before getting her skull bashed
This is the woman whom Foust’s stand-in on his website, registan.net, compared to a “baba” or “bimbo” in the modern slang meaning of the word. The attack on Kostyuckenko’s credibility came in a gigantic blog post by one of Foust’s pals, some creep named Michael Hancock-Parmer. I’ve never heard of this guy, but those two hyphened last names sure are impressive—much more impressive than his foreign language skills.
First, Hancock-Parmer sets up his Big Takedown by making some sort of jibe about my Russian language skills:
Mr. Ames’ own claims to authority on Russia have never, to my knowledge, derived solely from his linguistic abilities, so I’d rather not get into who knows what languages how well…
And then a couple of paragraphs later, Hancock-Parmer “proves” his own alleged Russian language skills by hilariously flubbing a simple three-word Russian aphorism:
In Russian there is an expression, perhaps not so common but one I’ve heard before – ОБС standing for Одна Баба Сказала, or “A grandmother said.” This is used to describe the spreading of rumors, whether on the street or in newspapers.
I couldn’t believe what I just read there—it was as though Foust & Friends were begging to be flayed all over again—how can you fuck up something this easy? In contemporary Russian, the word “Baba” [Баба] is a derogatory word for a woman with heavy class overtones meaning, in this context, “dumb hag,” “provincial hag,” “dumb peasant woman,” “dumb hick woman,” etc. In regular slang usage, the closest American equivalent to “Baba” would be somewhere between “broad” or “foolish girl” or “bimbo.” But in the context of framing his attack on Kostyuchenko’s reporting, using this Russian aphorism with the word “Baba” is extremely derogatory–sexist and classist–calling Kostyuchenko and her sources dumb, unreliable peasant hags.
Foust’s stand-in was supposed to rescue Foust’s shattered credibility after my article…but instead he screwed this up so badly, I almost wondered if he was setting me up for a softball smackdown. Could Michael Hancock-Parmer really be this stupid? Or was he some “evil genius” like Foust dreamed of becoming, setting me up in his “evil-genius” trap? Or did some Russian at the University of Indiana who hates him put him up to this?
Just to be sure, I double-checked it with some Russians I know, including eXiled editor Yasha Levine, who was born in Russia, and Yasha’s father, a professional translator who runs a translation business. If we were to be as forgiving of Foust & Friends as possible, then sure, there are a lot of ways you can translate the word “Baba”—it can also mean “witch” for example, in a certain context, or even “grandma” in some archaic context—but in contemporary usage, and “baba” is a word used often in conversational Russian and slang, “baba” means “bimbo”; and in this context, it means “dumb hag.”
To quote the inimitable Joshua Foust: “Classy!”
Foust’s comrade’s smear-job begins with bad slapstick, and from there it quickly devolves into the sort of rank, PR evil we’ve come to expect from Foust & Friends. He accuses Elena Kostyuchenko of the same sort of “rumor-mongering” that, for example, supporters of the pro-Kremlin regime in Chechnya used to hurl at Anna Politkovskaya before she was murdered: They used to argue that she was a rumor-monger, that she was an “advocate” rather than a reporter, and that Politkovskaya’s reporting could not be relied on since you really can’t trust victims of massacres to tell the truth. Here is the paragraph where Foust’s sleazeball pinch-hitter, Michael Hancock-Parmer, sets up this smear:
In Russian there is an expression, perhaps not so common but one I’ve heard before – ОБС standing for Одна Баба Сказала, or “A grandmother said.” This is used to describe the spreading of rumors, whether on the street or in newspapers. Rumor is important – it tells us a lot. But rumor is no more or less dependable than other sources of information – it comes with its own biases, its own spin, its own problems. The reporter that Ames is quoting saw none of the events herself. That’s a key element of this story – she is a foreign reporter asking, in many cases, incriminating and uncomfortable questions. Reading between the lines, one can see that she is having mixed results and causing more than a little discomfort. The people to whom she is speaking are unsure of her motives and nervous about the intrusion – because they rightly doubt whether this journalist actually cares about what happens to them. Journalists are not aid workers or doctors, and while it’s important to know what’s happening in the world, sending in a journalist to “find the story” will often produce more of a story than originally existed. At the risk of repeating myself, I again say: I do not doubt that horrible things happened to good people in Janaozen on December 16th. But I also know that Elena Kostiuchenko is not the best, or only, source of information for what happened that day.
If Joshua Foust’s friend is to be believed here, reporters cannot be trusted to tell audiences what happened unless they were actually primary witnesses to events–and even then, who knows. Moreover, the witnesses and sources that journalists rely on for their stories are even less trustworthy, according to this Michael Hancock guy, who is studying the Kazakh language at the University of Indiana in some program originally founded as a Defense Department language program. According to him, eyewitnesses also cannot be believed to tell you what happened in a massacre they survived because, after all, you know how bimbos are with their rumor-mongering. A journalist whose reporting relies on eyewitnesses as sources is, in the mind of this non-reporter Hancock-Parmer, merely a rumor-monger relying on other rumor-mongers; a bimbo relying on bimbos. (Note how he spells some of the foreign words like “Janaozen” differently from its usual American spelling, “Zhanaozen”—it’s an old rhetoric trick designed to establish his ethos as some sort of language-authority to readers not versed in Russian. He should first learn what the fuck “Baba” means before showing off his “Janaozen” like this.)
I’m not going say anything more about Michael Hancock-Parmer’s sleazy, vile, and (I assume unintentionally) sexist smear job against one of Russia’s most courageous reporters and gay rights/human rights activists. You can read it if you want to, but I warn you, keep a bottle of Tums and maybe some codeine cough syrup nearby, it’s so disgusting it’s like the PR industry’s equivalent of sheisse porn.
Which brings me to Chevron, and Joshua Foust. In my last piece, I wrote how surprised I was that Foust would claim something as easy to debunk as when he 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.”
As I demonstrated in my response, Chevron has everything to do with KazMunaiGaz, something even Foust’s goons no longer deny. Here, just in case, is a brief run-down:
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.
In my article, I asked why Foust would bother defending Chevron with a lie so easy to debunk? One thing we know, Foust will be the last to disclose his conflicts of interest, as his entire blogging career is built on corruption and undisclosed conflicts-of-interest.
Welp, guess what folks: Turns out one of Foust’s bosses at the American Security Project, former US Senator Chuck Hagel, is a director at Chevron. According to Marketwatch, Chevron has awarded Hagel a total of 4,334 stock shares in Chevron at “0” dollars per share. Chevron stock trades at $106 dollars per share, making Chevron worth nearly $460,000 to Chuck Hagel, of which he’s already cashed in a cool $149,520. At the time Hagel joined Chevron’s board in March 2010, the stock was worth about $75 per share, meaning it’s risen over 33% since then. And as I wrote, Chevron itself attributes a good part of its foreign revenues to its operations in Kazakhstan.
Not only is Foust’s boss a board member of Chevron, but Hagel also helps fund Foust’s American Security Project through another outfit Hagel serves in, the Ploughshares Fund, which gave $344,500 to Foust’s employer in 2010.
Another one of Foust’s colleagues at the American Security Project, Andrew Holland, lists Chevron among his “groups and associations” on his Linked In page. Like Foust, Andrew Holland also writes about global oil and geopolitics for the Atlantic Monthly. I don’t know if Holland put Chevron down among his “groups and associations” merely because he loves pumping gas from Chevron stations, or if it’s because he’s taken money from Chevron. Whatever the case, you can be sure that the Atlantic Monthly, whose entire business model is built on conflicts-of-interest, won’t give a damn either way.
Would you like to know more? Read Mark Ames’ article “Failing Up Joshua Foust: Meet the ‘Evil Genius’ Massacre-Denier Who Shills For War-Profiteers” and “Glenn Greenwald of the Libertarian Cato Institute Posts His Defense of Joshua Foust…The eXiled Responds to Greenwald”. Also read the original article about the massacre in Kazakhstan that sparked this controversy, “The Massacre Everyone Ignored: Up To 70 Striking Oil Workers Killed in Kazakhstan By U.S.-Supported Dictator”.
Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.
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Read more: andrew holland, atlantic monthly, bloggers, chevron, chuck hagel, conflict-of-interest, elena kostyuchenko, joshua foust, kazakhstan, kazmunaigaz, massacre, nursultan nazarbayev, ploughshares fund, zhanaozen, Mark Ames, Media Whores, Russia
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