Dec 16 2013

Funding models, Glenn Greenwald, Omidyar, and tinfoil hats

(Reposted with permission. ek)

by lambert at corrente

Sun, 12/15/2013 – 5:35pm

On The Greenwald Question:

It is true that the “left” (for some definition of left that would include Greenwald’s civil liberties work, even if under the aegis of strange bedfellows) has struggled with a funding model. If Corrente were 10 times its size (with concomitant increase in size for similar blogs) that would make, I’m convinced on no evidence at all, a big difference in the discourse.

Hitherto, a reader support model — though reasonably free from conflict of interest, i.e. buying into the bullshit — has enabled survival but not growth. I don’t know why.

Another model is to become Kos or TPM or ThinkProgress, and to be funded by the Democratic nomenklatura. So here we have conflicts of interest. (“Who kidnapped Josh Marshall”?)

Another model is advertising, selling eyeballs (which, to be fair, Naked Capitalism does, in addition to reader support). At scale, and IMNSHO NC is not at scale, we have potential for a different sort of conflict.

And another model is finding a patron, which is what Hamsher did, CJR does (Soros, IIRC), and now Greenwald has done. A different sort of conflict. (Marx, we might remember, was funded by Engels, a Manchester factory owner.)

So what model do you use if you want to get a story out?

I find it hard to fault Greenwald on ethical grounds, especially if he got some up front “Fuck you” money from Omidyar. (I haven’t been following the ins and outs, and it may be that Greenwald has disqualified himself on other grounds in his various defense of himself.) If Greenwald doesn’t ruin his personal brand, he’s free to walk away. For some definition of “free.”

However, I’m not sure the funding model is the story. Let me now put on my tinfoil hat:

Call me foily, but if I were a really astute right wing billionaire who thought long term, and who wanted a lot more leverage over the government than I already had, I’d:

  1. Get a technically astute and ideologically aligned mole into the NSA;
  2. Have them steal a lot of extremely incriminating data;
  3. Dole just enough out to the press to show what I had;
  4. Keep the great bulk of it as a “fleet in being,” as it were.

I’ve also considered the idea that Snowden was the tool of an NSA faction that didn’t like the rampant illegality; that could combine with #1.

GG comes in at #3, and as an archivist/researcher in #4. He doesn’t even have to know.

I know this reads rather like a real-life late William Gibson novel, with Omidyar in the role of Hubertus Bigend, and “the data” as the McGuffin, but real life these days resembles a Gibson novel, except more convoluted, darker, and with even nastier villains.

I had always had this way of thinking in the back of my mind, but this story really brought it to the forefront for me:

   Officials Say U.S. May Never Know Extent of Snowden’s Leaks

That story reads very much like normalizing the situation to me.

So, Omidyar becomes a sort of data-driven sovereign, with informational nukes. Of course, that would imply that the tippy top global ruling class runs on blackmail, but then you knew that.



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  1. ek hornbeck
  2. MO Blue

    Investigators remain in the dark about the extent of the data breach partly because the N.S.A. facility in Hawaii where Mr. Snowden worked – unlike other N.S.A. facilities – was not equipped with up-to-date software that allows the spy agency to monitor which corners of its vast computer landscape its employees are navigating at any given time.

    Six months since the investigation began, officials said Mr. Snowden had further covered his tracks by logging into classified systems using the passwords of other security agency employees, as well as by hacking firewalls installed to limit access to certain parts of the system.

    We are spending gazillions on this spy crap and we did not from the get go make it spy proof. Idiots

  3. MO Blue

    Looking back at the various blogs I have read, I tend to think that there could be problems with reader support models as well. Have to wonder if the blog rules are enforced quite as stringently against a comment made by someone who contributes big bucks to the blog as opposed to someone who only contribute small amounts or nothing at all.

  4. MO Blue

    on blogs and how much may be needed to fill up comment sections with a back and forth discussion of issues. Also have been wondering how a blog can have a healthy mix of people with varying ideas and still stick to using information and facts to debate issues.

    It seems that too often facts are met with what I consider dishonest Republican techniques used to discount or distract from the issue at hand rather countering with real information. Somehow this has become the American standard for “debate.” And IMO like the “uniquely American health care solution” leaves much to be desired.

    I seen standards that held up for some time dissolve to the point that good blogs have become nothing but ongoing fights and many have disappeared as a result. I’m sure that blog owners don’t want to waste their time being grade school playground monitors. Not sure if the current environment and what has become SOP for debates will allow an open dialog on issues.

    I have read more than one comment on blogs to the effect “Why should I post a link to information to support my position when you will just come back with another link to counter my POV.” Guess I’m getting too old because that is what I though debating an issue was all about.

    Bottom line, I have a lot more questions than I have solutions and would like to read what others think about this issue.

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