Friday, March 18, 2011

Arianna Huffington vs. the values of Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington's 2008 book Right is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe (And What You Need to Know to End the Madness) contains a chapter - the second chapter, in fact - titled "The Media: Equal Time for Lies." It opens

It has become more difficult to ignore the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Rush limbaugh; they're no longer lonely kooks wandering in the wilderness; they've got access to the halls of power, and they're staying for dinner. Their infinite string of distortions, spin, and outright lies has left no doubt about whose side these guys are on.
The bold emphasis is mine and I'll return to it in a moment.

Huffington continues, adding that worse than the development of a fiercely ideological and untruthful "right wing" propaganda media is a mainstream media that enables it by adhering to the notion that there are two valid, dichotomous perspectives to every issue; "and [that] both deserve to be given equal weight." A neutral stance in the presentation of views is fine for issues of honest debate, she writes, "but there are other issues that quite simply do not have two sides." Such as the reality of global warming or the lack of an imminent threat from Iraq. "It's the quaint notion that both sides are arguing in good faith with at least some of the facts on their side that has been cynically exploited by the Right."


Which is why I found it so curious that in the wake of the Huffington Post merging with AOL for 315 million dollars one of the first apparent changes would be Andrew Breitbart becoming a columnist.

And so now we get back to the quoted material that I put in bold emphasis. Andrew Breitbart - now given a platform at Arianna Huffington's website - is one of the leading "zealots" with an "infinite string of distortions, spin, and outright lies" that Arianna Huffington denounces in her book. As I noted before, Breitbart is a "cretinous, pathological liar;" an apparently sociopathic liar who casually called for the execution of climate scientist James Hansen in response to a faked global warming scandal that Hansen had no involvement in.

Virtually everything he says appears to be bullshit and he is part of the "lunatic fringe" that Huffington opposes in her book title and content. His reckless, shameless and remorseless lies, spin, and dishonesty have helped to devastate ACORN and defame Shirley Sherrod and lose her her job.

And what is Breitbart doing in his first post at Huffington Post? Engaging in apologetics for the latest dishonest smear video from his collaborator James O'Keefe, a truly heinous and despicable individual who excels in lies and bigotry.

I quote from an article that appeared on the Huffington Post a year ago to sum:

Andrew Breitbart has a job to do and he does it well. Breitbart's job is to lie and distort the truth in order to advance a right-wing agenda, embarrass liberals, and undermine the Obama administration.

Breitbart is not a journalist, researcher, or pundit. He is a propagandist. He operates several websites (BigGovernment, BigJournalism, and BigHollywood), where he and other right-wing bloggers spew their political pornography. The articles that appear on these websites are contemporary versions of what historian Richard Hofstadter called, in a famous 1964 essay, the "paranoid style" of American politics practiced by extreme conservatives.
I'm all for challenging one's views with different perspectives and opinions; I'm not for rewarding an intellectual villain with a platform, not for lending credibility to known prevaricators and the truth disinclined. Somehow I got the impression that Arianna Huffington felt the same way.

But this is not the only issue that has arisen since AOL's acquisition of the site.

The Newspaper Guild is calling on unpaid writers of the Huffington Post to withhold their work in support of a strike launched by Visual Arts Source in response to the company’s practice or using unpaid labor. In addition, we are asking that our members and all supporters of fair and equitable compensation for journalists join us in shining a light on the unprofessional and unethical practices of this company.
Journalist Chris Hedges had already excoriated Huffington on this subject, also noting what seems like a contradiction between what Huffington has written in a book and done in practice

Any business owner who uses largely unpaid labor, with a handful of underpaid, nonunion employees, to build a company that is sold for a few hundred million dollars, no matter how he or she is introduced to you on the television screen, is not a liberal or a progressive. Those who take advantage of workers, whatever their outward ideological veneer, to make profits of that magnitude are charter members of the exploitative class. Dust off your Karl Marx. They are the enemies of working men and women. And they are also, in this case, sucking the lifeblood out of a trade I care deeply about. It was bad enough that Huffington used her site for flagrant self-promotion, although the cult of the self has reached such dizzying proportions in American society that such behavior is almost expected. But there is an even sadder irony that this was carried out in the name of journalism.


This latest form of “liberal” exploitation exposes yet again the liberal class for who they really are—opportunists whose operating methods are as callous as those used in running the textile mills in southern China. Is it any wonder that working men and women, who have been abandoned and betrayed by these self-identified liberals, hate the liberal class and its transparent hypocrisy? Is it any wonder that the some 40 million Americans who live in poverty are invisible to the wider culture? Is it any wonder that the tea party and all the lunatics on the fringe of our political spectrum put their cross hairs on the liberal class and its purported values? Let’s not forget the title of Huffington’s latest book: “Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream.”

Liberals like these deserve the rage they engender.

The argument made to defend this exploitation is that the writers had a choice. It is an argument I also heard made by the managers of sweatshops in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, the coal companies in West Virginia or Kentucky and huge poultry farms in Maine. It is the argument made by the comfortable, by those who do not know what it is to be hard up, desperate or driven by a passion to express one’s self and the world through journalism or art. It is the argument the wealthy elite, who have cemented in place an oligarchic system under which there are no real choices, use to justify their oppression.
See also the Guardian's explanation of why its writers have gone on strike against Huffington Post.

Huffington has brilliantly and gracefully exploited at least hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of otherwise bright and qualified professional writers. She is revelling in both wealth and celebrity, having been lifted by the combined efforts of this army of the uncompensated. Brava, Madame Capitalist. But as a very public voice, she has suddenly morphed from being a soul sister of progressives into a Koch sister, contributing to nothing so much as that betrayal of the middle class.

We have enjoyed our own audience in this corner of the cultural universe for some time, and have done what we can to cut the writers in on the action because we think it is only right. With $300m of working capital in hand, I can assure both our writers and readers that this piece of the action would only increase. Thus, we have decided to call for a strike of the unpaid, non-unionised and unemployed Huffington Post contributors. Let all writers cease to contribute for now, and until the executives at the Huffington Post negotiate a proper contract with those writers, and establish proper content and quality controls, they ought to deny them the profit-generating benefits of unpaid labour.

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