Benny Johnson talks about what job he’d like to have more than Political Editor @ BuzzFeed.
A couple of weeks ago Benny Johnson, the pseudo-conservative political pundit, was let go from BuzzFeed for plagiarism. Apparently Johnson has been a gratuitous plagiarizer for more than a year. Nobody seemed to care before July 24th, when Benny’s career came to screeching halt. What happened?
The story goes that on July 24th two no-name twitter dudes, @crushingbort and @blippoblappo, set up a WordPress blog, ‘Our Bad Media‘, listing instances of Benny’s obvious plagiarism. Miraculously, of Gawker found ‘Our Bad Media’ on the very day of its first post and wrote an article about Benny’s bad behavior. Trotter’s Gawker article caught BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith’s attention, resulting in Benny’s being fired.
Plagiarism is bad, but it’s not the astounding part of this story. What’s amazing is that the bloggers, @crushingbort and @blippoblappo, expect the public to believe their take-down of Johnson was: “just something two people with some spare time did on a whim after it seemed like it’d probably be more than just a shot in the dark.“
Benny Johnson’s firing seemed fishy to me from the git-go and insincere statements like the one above have prompted me to investigate the various players involved in Benny’s saga.
The anonymous bloggers, @crushingbort and @blippoblappo, say they were motivated by Johnson’s self-righteous tweets accusing IJReview of plagiarism after IJReview did plagiarize a widely-read and snarky article by Johnson, which mocked George Bush Sr.’s unfortunate sock-style. As ever with Benny Johnson, the mockery was subtle and posed as a tounge-in-cheek compliment to Bush I, no doubt why IJReview picked it up. IJReview didn’t get the joke, and pulled the article (apparently) after Johnson called them out on their plagiarism.
Johnson’s cutting remark to IJReview, the supposed-political-ally of ‘whiter than white’ Benny, launched @crushingbort’s and @blippoblappo’s crusade against Benny and ended Benny’s BuzzFeed career.
“@crushingbort: It [the attack blog, Our Bad Media] was definitely prompted by Johnson tweeting about the IJReview.”
@crushingbort’s and @blippoblappo’s web-chronicle of Johnson plagiarism spans a grand total of two days, 24-25th July, and the blog hasn’t been updated since. (‘Our Bad Media‘ claims to be ‘on Journalism’, but it only talks about Benny.)
Our Bad Media’s J.K. Trotter/Gawker connection smells, especially because of the timing of Trotter’s July 24th article, which outed Benny as a plagiarist. Trotter’s Gawker (NYC-based) article was published at 2:16 pm (EST) on the same day as @crushingbort’s and @blippoblappo’s first post! (That’s three hours BEFORE the first comment on the blog (time-stamped 5:24 pm) if the blog is East Coast, but five hours ahead if the blog is West Coast! By the ‘Our’ in ‘Our Bad Media’ I presume the blog is American.)
Not only was J.K. Trotter remarkably ahead of the WordPress curve, but Trotter had time 1) to contact BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith for a statement and receive a reply 2) notice that BuzzFeed articles had been altered after his initial contact with Ben Smith and 3) get his article about Benny Johnson’s plagiarism-oopsy through Gawker’s editorial process before 2:16pm on July 24th. Trotter’s a fast worker! Be careful, J.K., rushing is what got Benny into trouble…
Let’s recap the chain of events: two disinterested citizens do two days of blogging which 1) get BuzzFeed’s attention by the first day and 2) leads BuzzFeed to fire an editor on the second. Wow. That’s got to be some type of record.
Johnson’s editors, lead by Ben Smith, took less than 48 hours to fire him. Somebody on BuzzFeed’s ‘editorial’ mailing list leaked Ben Smith’s ‘We Fired Benny’ email to Gawker’s J.K. Trotter within that 48 hours:
After carefully reviewing more than 500 of Benny’s posts, we have 41 instances of sentences or phrases copied word for word from other sites. Benny is a friend, colleague and, at his best, a creative force. But we had no choice other than letting him go.
More fast workers! Smith ends the note by undermining himself:
Tonight’s decision is not a knee-jerk response to outside criticism, though we are genuinely grateful to the people who helped point out instances of plagiarism. Nor is it meant as a personal condemnation: Benny at his best is a creative force, and we wish him the best. Finally, it is not a warning that you’ll be fired for a small mistake or an isolated error. We will always have a more forgiving attitude toward bold failures, innocent errors, and misfired jokes than more skittish old media organizations.
I agree with Ben Smith, there’s nothing knee-jerk about Benny’s firing. I believe that Benny got on the Bush Clan sh*t-list with his snide mockery of this prominent American family. Benny pushed the Bushes too far when he jeered at their media project, IJReview, which despite its bluster about page views, is struggling to be taken seriously.
Jeb Bush could stand you mocking his demented father, Benny, but hitting his pocketbook took things one step too far.
The twitter quote above is the earliest reference to ‘Our Bad Media’ I could find; it’s time-stamped 10:12 am on July 24th. Notice how Benny’s attack on IJReview came just one day before. @crushingbort and @blippoblappo are fast workers too!
So, seriously folks, who’d Benny p*ss off?
Well… IJReview is a shell of a media outlet with only two staff members listed on their website: Bubba Atkinson (Editor in Chief) and Kyle Becker (managing editor). There are no current Staff Writers it seems, which makes sense, because IJReview appears to do nothing but aggregate internet content and turn it into ‘click bait’, making IJReview.com the most popular internet destination I’ve never heard of. DeathandTaxesMag.com:
The right wing has its own Upworthy knockoff. According to Quantcast, it’s [IJReview's] quickly becoming more popular than Upworthy, and even conservative sites like Breitbart and The Daily Caller. It’s called Independent Journal Review, though its name is a huge steaming turd of a lie, because it’s neither a journal nor a review nor independent.
More important than it’s management, however, is that IJReview is funded by 27-year old Alex Skatell and 42-year old Phil Musser: IJReview is just one tool in their election-molding toolkit, ominously called ‘Media Group of America’. This is how DeathAndTaxesMag.com describes IJReview’s backing:
The site is funded by Alex Skatell (former staffer for the National Republican Senatorial Committee) and Phil Musser (a former Tim Pawlenty adviser). It’s owned by Media Group of America, a conservative LLC which also runs consulting firm IMGE (which has worked with clients like Boeing and BMW) as well as Gravity, which manages technology and data for campaigns.
Alex cut his teeth working for 1) liberals in Australia “as digital director for the Liberal Party of Australia and now Prime Minister Tony Abbott”; and 2) Republicans in the USA “as Director of New Media & Technology for the Republican Governors Association (RGA)”.
Phil Musser is much more interesting: he’s a creature of US Senator Mel Martinez, a Cuban-American power-broker who ran US government department HUD (The Department of Housing and Urban Development) from 2001-2003. HUD is a nexus of cronyism, theft and scandal: HUD’s role in dubious mortgage repackaging schemes is part of what brought on the 2008 financial crisis in the USA.
Phil Musser also worked at HUD from 2001 to some time in 2004:
Phil served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. At HUD, Phil managed the development of public policy, a thirty billion dollar budget and served as a key liaison to the White House. Additionally, Phil coordinated intergovernmental relations and worked with many governors, mayors and local officials on important community housing issues.
Musser left HUD at about the same time Mel Martinez did, in order to work on Martinez’s political campaign!
In 2004, Phil served as a senior advisor to Senator Mel Martinez’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in Florida and as a deputy director of the G-8 Summit in Sea Island, GA, for the U.S. Department of State.
Mel Martinez got his start in politics by being a “pragmatic” friend of Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Jeb is the sock-loving George Bush Sr’s second son, and father of Mexican-American political hopeful George P. Bush. Martinez is a creature of the Bush Family; Musser is a creature of Martinez; IJReview is a creature of Musser.
See where I’m going? The money that gave Mel Martinez his leg up is probably behind IJReview. That money probably got tired of Benny Johnson peeing on their
socks pant-legs. So two bloggers, who’d rather not reveal their names, were paid to attack Benny Johnson (a poor-quality journalist and an easy target) for two whole days, giving BuzzFeed an excuse to fire him by the end of the second day.
The ‘Our Bad Media’ blog was made-to-measure!
If you’re interested in reading what *probably* got Benny Johnson on Jeb Bush’s radar, check out How To Thank a Soldier by George W. Bush, 23 Things I Learned Spending A Day With George H. W. Bush at The George Bush Library and BuzzFeed’s celebrated A Gentleman’s Guide to Picking Socks. That sock one was published three weeks ago, on July 22nd.
This is purely anecdotal, but I’ve heard that the Bush clan is vicious with their vendettas and has a very long memory. Benny, BuzzFeed’s pseudo-conservative jester, has been making dangerous jokes at the Bushs’ expense for one year at least. Check out:
George H.W. Bush is obsessed with socks. He is even currently judging his own sock competition, run through his foundation. So what makes a good sock?
“When friends discover your fondness for feisty footwear, they will question your taste…”
“…and possibly even your soundness of mind.”
It would be prudent.
[I don't know why the preceding short sentence was in Benny's article header all by itself- a.nolen.]
17. Bush is always surrounded by four Secret Service men, even when he’s talking with a close friend.
[Is that friend Sally Shelton-Colby?! :) -a.nolen]
1. And the number one most important thing learned at the Bush library:
This photo exists.
If I’m right in my conclusions, then Benny was fired when he attacked the Bush family’s struggling internet media investment, The Media Group of America.
BuzzFeed itself is fronted by a really creepy character called Jonah Peretti, who helped found The Huffington Post. HuffPo now works closely with The Intercept investor Pierre Omidyar. I’ll remind you of these ties by quoting one of my previous posts, Apple Pie and Snuff Vids:
An awful lot of sickos have been talking to BuzzFeed about snuff fantasies. What is it about this news outlet?
Well, it was founded by Jonah Peretti, the same guy who founded The Huffington Post– you know, that disappointing online newspaper which teamed up with Pierre Omidyar BEFORE he found Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. See where I’m going?
The same people who are promoting Jacob Appelbaum and Tor, are promoting the clean-up agents Greenwald and Poitras, and are providing a platform signaling NSA wackos to go for it: “Your buddies’ll love you for ever and do you recognize this supermarket?”
a.nolen sees the formation of a media constellation: HuffPo, The Intercept, BuzzFeed.* Readers will remember that the Bush Family is no stranger to the intelligence community: George H. W. Bush was the CIA head who took over after William Colby and covered for Colby’s traitorous actions.
Bush Family intel connections just may explain how Jeb Bush could get BuzzFeed to defend his investment in IJReview so quickly…
It shouldn’t be forgotten that whoever @crushingbort and @blippoblappo really are, they knew to contact J.K. Trotter at Gawker, another spooky-smelling outfit. They knew that J.K. Trotter would do exactly what they wanted him to do.
I’m excited to see where Benny Johnson turns up next!
* BusinessInsider, the NYC news spigot founded by “a disgraced Wall Street analyst“, may also be part of this constellation. BuzzFeed and BusinessInsider published the ‘Snowden Supermarket’ pictures which, in an under-handed way, encouraged outraged intelligence personnel to take violent action against Snowden.
Knowing what I know now, I believe that when BuzzFeed and BusinessInsider published the supermarket pictures, and when BuzzFeed pushed Benny’s snuff piece, they were bolstering Snowden’s image as a martyr to people who wanted to believe that while simultaneously showing support for anyone who feels threatened by what Snowden did and making the argument for taking spying in-house. I believe a lot of thought went into Benny Johnson’s Snowden-snuff piece: America’s Spies Want Edward Snowden Dead. Edward Snowden himself drew attention to this piece in his ARD interview in January, so we know it’s one for which US intel wanted really wide viewership.
Why? Benny’s article screams ‘Snowden isn’t US intel!’ even though we now know Snowden is. Johnson’s piece pumps the idea that what leaks have leaked did damage to US intelligence, thought Johnson gives no examples of damage. The article stress that Snowden was a contractor. Benny was presenting the intel-lifer argument.
And now Benny’s gone from BuzzFeed. Don’t tick off the Bushes!