Over the course of the last week, I came across two tenuously related stories: 1) the career of Gawker founder Nick Denton and 2) the sudden unemployment of Gawker journalist Adrian Chen.
I’ve decided to post what I’ve found on these topics because I suspect the information will mean more to some of my readers than it currently does to me. Therefore, a.nolen’s Reflections on Page Six, for your perusal…
I find it both grotesque and poetic that Lloyd Shearer, the king of 1970s gossip column Personality Parade, should also be a behind-the-scenes power-broker. Not just any power-broker either, but one on such a level that he could comfortably lob threats at his contemporary, William Egan Colby, the head of the CIA.
Perhaps I shouldn’t find the gossip/power combo surprising. Perhaps, in order to publish gossip you’ve got to be better connected than the people you talk about. If you weren’t better connected, one of your victims would eventually take you down, legally or otherwise, in revenge.
If you view the ‘gossip column’ as a way for the biggest dog on the block to bite the necks of the smaller dogs, then Lloyd Shearer’s creepy letter exchange with Bill Colby makes a lot of sense.
In the spirit of snarling dogs, I’d like to introduce you to Nick Denton, founder, contributor and editor of Gawker.com.
Who is Nick Denton?
Nick Denton was born in 1966– he was a baby when Colby, Angleton and the rest of the crew were battling it out for CIA dominance. So how did he find himself in Lloyd Shearer’s shoes?
Nick Denton was born in Hampstead, what New Yorker magazine calls a “citadel of the moneyed liberal intelligentsia,” to a Hungarian immigrant mother and her economics-professor-then-husband. New Yorker continues:
Nick found himself in a near-bespoke environment of cosmopolitan cool, where his kinds of otherness—Jewish, Hungarian—made him blend in rather than stand out. So it was with the private school he attended, University College School, which placed little value on family crests but sent yearly waves of graduates to Oxford and Cambridge. Which is what happened to Denton.
At Oxford, Nick became editor of the socialist student publication Isis. Socialism/communism has always found a good home in Oxbridge, the UK’s elite university duo. In fact, the KGB used Cambridge in particular to recruit some of its more famous British spies. In this milieu, Nick Denton befriended powerful people who Denton’s buddy and Guardian journalist Somon Kuper describes as “Young Chiefs”:
“Another characteristic of the new élite is networks. The Young Chiefs, who tend to live near each other in the centre of London, get the big breaks from old friends or people they meet at their friends’ brunches or leaving parties. On the political side, the Young Chiefs are so close-knit many of them are related. Ed Balls (Oxford, Harvard and the Financial Times , economic adviser to Gordon Brown) and David Miliband (Oxford and MIT, head of the Downing Street policy unit) studied in Boston together as Kennedy Scholars. Miliband’s younger brother, also called Ed, works with Balls.
Balls’s younger brother, Andrew (Oxford, Harvard and now the FT ) is well-placed for entry. Balls’s wife, Yvette Cooper (Oxford and Harvard, now a Labour MP), is a Young Chief too, as is her sometime tutorial partner at Oxford, Stephanie Flanders (Oxford, Harvard and the FT, senior adviser to the US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers).
The information technology entrepreneurs are more diverse. Only about half went to Oxbridge. But any hopes that the Internet revolution could smash the old éelitist networks have been dashed: the CVs of the Net tycoons are remarkably like those of the politicos. Nick Denton (Oxford and the FT, founder of Moreover.com) was a friend of Flanders at the FT and through her met the elder Balls and Miliband. Tim Jackson (Oxford and the FT) is the founder of QXL. At Oxford both read PPE, the politicos’ degree, as did Charles Cohen, founder of Beenz.
What I’d like to stress about Denton is that, despite his protestations to the contrary, he is of the privileged, post-WWII U.K. establishment. One of the characteristics of this ‘elite’, on both sides of the Atlantic, is that they like to project themselves as ‘underdogs,’ when they are anything but. Denton’s protestations of being ‘outside’ the NYC elite are both flattery to himself (See! I’m the little rich self-made kid!) and a defense mechanism, like pulling the ‘race card’. But, on with Nicky’s story…
In 1989, at the age of twenty-three, Denton left Isis to cover the fall of communism in his mother’s native Hungary for The Financial Times. This period in Hungary made his career: after the revolution, Denton began to cover the subsequent waves of Western investments, which lead to him write a book with Nick Leeson, the creepy securities trader who brought down Barings Bank. (As a former finance industry professional, I promise you that only an establishment journalist would be let near a book deal like Leeson’s.)
Denton used the contacts he made wading through investment bankers, and their political helpers in the former USSR, to become an entrepreneur himself. San Fransisco was on the horizon… and sudden riches.
Denton became a multimillionaire by selling a handful of forgettable start-ups, none of which were enough to catapult him into the upper echelons of Silicon Valley. Denton wanted to be on the inside of something, so in 2002 he weighed his options:
He [Denton] needed a new gig, and to get out of San Francisco. He whipped up a spreadsheet and did an analysis of places to live in, assigning weighted scores to such categories as “old friends,” “business opportunities,” “Hungarians,” “Jews,” “hotter guys,” and “nature.” (The last one accounted for little.) Then, rationality be damned, he tweaked the inputs until New York came out on top. He moved here in the summer of 2002.
When I read that excerpt, I feel like I’m being lied to. Whatever really happened, we can be sure that Denton began Gawker Media in New York.
Gawker Media’s flagship company, Gawker.com, is an NYC-focused website that is dedicated to spreading gossip about celebrities and not-so-celebrities. The Guardian describes Gawker this way:
[Gawker] was initially written by a young woman called Elizabeth Spiers who, in 12 posts a day covering everything from a Tina Brown memo to the latest hiring and firings at the New York Times, perfected a gloriously sharp, nose-against-the-glass outsider take on the big wheels of Manhattan’s press and publishing worlds.
Gawker eventually branched out into sex tapes and is generally considered to be an online, smuttier version of News of the World, which is read by many people who don’t admit to reading it. Gawker is famous for forcibly outing Peter Thiel, the closet-homosexual Facebook investor and founder of Palantir Technologies– a CIA/In-Q-Tel partner. Hypocritically, reclusive Denton hid his gayness in the past and didn’t admit it to his parents until he was in his thirties.
Gawker is generally liberal in tone: they don’t like the Tea Party (contributor Allie Jones is obsessed with smearing it), but on the other hand, high-profile contributor Adrian Chen (before he was let go under mysterious circumstances) disparaged Snowden and Wikileaks, while he talked-up Tor– all wise career moves in The Free World. As Adrian Chen said in a 2012 article:
Chen’s inconsistency is not because he’s stupid; it’s because Tor is a bona fide US spook asset, while Wikileaks is not entirely under US control and, sadly, Snowden was designed to suck up attention from somewhere else. Chen always played his cards in service of the house. That last observation is important, for reasons I’ll explore in a minute.
Gakwer Media is not just Gawker.com, it’s also Gizmodo, a tech site which played an important role smoothing over intelligence shenanigans around Spamhaus; Fleshbot, a porn site; Deadspin, a sports website; and the angry feminist tabloid Jezebel, amongst other less-well-known websites.
Although each one these websites are US-focused, Gawker Media itself is not an American company– it’s not even British:
On October 5, 2002, Nick Denton registered the domain Gawker.com. Its administrative contact was a low-tax offshore company in Budapest, called Blogwire Hungary Szellemi Alkotast Hasznosito. The last three words translate as “Intellectual Property Exploitation.”
I would like to point out, readers, that there are much easier tax havens to work in than Hungary. (We’ve come a long way from Isis, Nick.) Offshore-Fox says it well:
Regrettably, bureaucracy and the rubber stamp still rule in Hungary, although things are increasingly getting better. The actual details are not worth going into here, but the formation of a KFT quickly requires an experienced guide.
But don’t worry about the corruption. For men like Denton, who have contacts amongst globalist bankers and their cronies in ex-Soviet block countries, anything is possible. (To Quentin Tarantino’s dismay, Gawker’s holding company is registered in the Caymans.)
Have Denton’s riches and prestige changed his politics? In a February interview with Playboy, Denton supports permanent revolution, nationalized monopolies and union-busting. Is that program something an elitist Oxford socialist could get behind? You bet! Denton: How can the government correct income inequality by taxing monopolies if those companies hide themselves overseas?
I think I’ve given a reasonably comprehensive portrait of who’s “dishing the dirt on America”, as The Guardian so eloquently puts it. Now onto the mystery of his newest ex-employee, Adrian Chen.
Bye, bye Adrian!
Last November, Adrian Chen published his final piece for Gawker.com, ‘After 30 Years of Silence, The Original NSA Whistle Blower Looks Back’. Ten days later, Chen’s boss John Cook suddenly announced Adrian was leaving Gawker for a freelance career.
After 30 Years of Silence is remarkable because in it Chen commits at least three sins according to Langley’s playbook: Chen suggests Horowitz has been an intelligence since his Black Panther days; Chen (accidentally) suggests Poitras, Gellman and Greenwald have a US intelligence connection like Horowitz; and finally, Chen mocks the CIA apologists’ last refuge: that agency excesses are WASPs’ fault.
Prior to these sins, Chen was a model establishment journalist, criticizing Wikileaks and promoting the US intel asset Tor. What made him commit career-seppuku?
My money’s on ignorance. I suggest, readers, that in Chen’s bull-rush effort to use Perry Fellwock to criticize Snowden’s leaks, Chen unwittingly got a little too close to the ugly 1970s political maneuverings of Denton’s and Horowitz’s political patrons, as well as the ugly 2010s maneuverings of Poitras/Greenwald/Gellman.
Chen’s article was okay’d-for-print by John Cook, the chief editor who has since left Gawker for Pierre Omidyar’s The Intercept. Chen, an ignorant foot soldier, walked the plank. Cook’s either been rewarded or given golden handcuffs– time will tell on that one.
If I’m right in this, it means that Gawker and Denton are patronized by the same business interests, Anglo-American business interests, that backed Colby’s career so many years ago. This is less far-fetched than it sounds, because capital pools have a remarkable persistence– as the old adage says, money begets money.
Adrian Chen’s weird career move doesn’t benefit Chen, it’s a knee-jerk protection of past and present CIA assets. The fact that Gawker moved to protect these assets (they made an example out of Chen), coupled with Denton’s ‘Cool Britannia’ roots, point to Denton being a creature of those business interests which started the OSS and FDR-Churchill-Stephenson’s collaboration. These are the same interests that felt threatened by Angleton’s files and have pushed a decades-long disinformation campaign about the first CIA Counterintelligence Chief.
Let’s look at the article’s sins in more detail.
‘After 30 Years of Silence, The Original NSA Whistle Blower Looks Back’ strains to compare Snowden’s revelations to those of Perry Fellwock, a disillusioned NSA analyst who first spoke out in the early Seventies. Fellwock leaked NSA information to Ramparts‘ David Horowitz and Peter Collier in 1972. Fellwock’s leaks were alarmist accounts of the NSA’s capabilities against the Soviets. Ramparts itself was a Catholic-funded, Soviet-sympathizing publication, so Fellwock’s information was used to discredit US claims of Soviet aggression and paint the NSA in very dark colors.
After Fellwock made a name for himself by outing the NSA, he began an attack on the CIA through magazine Counter Spy, which outed 225 CIA agents around the globe.
Counter Spy is the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) publication I first mentioned in my article describing Lloyd Shearer’s son’s KGB connection. That connection is so politically toxic, that David Obst didn’t even want to mention Derek or Lloyd Shearer’s name in his autobiography. So you see, Chen was playing with fire when he brought up Counter Spy.
Chen’s article focuses on Perry Fellwock’s work for Counter Spy. However, Chen doesn’t explain IPS in his article. Chen makes it sound like Counter Spy was Fellwock’s idea, along with radical-turned-capitalist Rennie Davis and Air Force Intelligence officer Jim Butz. A lot of spooks in the Anti-War movement, weren’t there!?
How does Chen tie all this old stuff onto Snowden? Adrian Chen makes the claim that Wikileaks is a modern-day Counter Spy; that Julian Assange is a modern-day Norman Mailer (Soviet sympathizer); that Horowitz and Collier were intelligence assets who undermined the Fellwock’s anti-war work; and that one day Snowden will regret his actions just as Perry Fellwock and Peter Collier regret the Ramparts article today.
Needless to say, this article perpetuates the intelligence-community claim that what little has been revealed by Greenwald/Poitras/Gellman has ‘made the US more vulnerable to terrorists’.
On to the unmasking of David Horowitz– Chen quotes Perry Fellwock:
“Fellwock told me he believes Collier and Horowitz were never truly part of the left, and that they misused his words purposefully to cause maximum chaos in a demented quest to hurt America.
“There was an element within our movement [the Anti-War Movement] that was fundamentally anti-American and wanted to create chaos in America and really disrupt and destroy American society,” he [Fellwock] said.”
If Adrian Chen were well-informed, he would have known that qualifying Fellwock’s claim was the safest thing to do next, but instead Chen provides information supporting Fellwock’s assertion. Strike One. This is incredibly dangerous for Chen because it lifts the lid on the big secret: the 1970s scandals were the result of factional US intelligence infighting.
Fellwock approached Ramparts’ editors as colleagues who would help him refine his own story; they saw him as a source, from which to extract a juicy scoop.
Chen suggests Horowitz posed himself to Fellwock this way: he would use Fellwock’s NSA revelations to undermine anti-Communist policies and thereby harm the intel community and stop the war. In reality, what Horowitz and Collier revealed only served to harm the US, say Chen/Fellwock. Horowitz is the only participant from whom Chen does not have a quote about regretting the Ramparts article and questioning its motives!
Today, Collier echoes Fellwock’s disdain for the [Ramparts] article, with his own motivations. His doubts about the article, he said, beginning before it was even published, helped spur his first steps away from the left. About a month before the NSA story came out, Collier said, his father, a conservative who had argued heatedly with him about his radical politics, died of cancer.
“Towards the end, he was dying of cancer and here I was preparing to do this thing,” Collier said. “And he loved his country. After I did it, when I was still grieving for him, the thought came into my mind: I said, Oh, God, I betrayed my father’s country. This was really my first move out of the left, to understand what my intentions were: To hurt this country, to make it vulnerable, to make it less strong.”
How did Horowitz spin Fellwock’s message? According to Fellwock and Chen, Horowitz protected the NSA by twisting Fellwock’s message and leaving out an important point:
They [Horowitz and Collier] published this rambling interview that said some things that were true and some other things that weren’t true,” he [Fellwock] said. “They just turned it into a sensational piece of gossip as far as I was concerned.
Now that Fellwock was coming forward again, even hesitantly, he wanted to do it right. He squinted at a small piece of paper on which he’d written the key points about the NSA he had wanted to get across with his Ramparts article.
“Most people in those days thought that the NSA and CIA worked for the U.S. government,” he said. “But they don’t. They’re an entity unto itself, a global entity that is comprised of the Five Eyes.” The Five Eyes is the informal name for the intelligence-sharing agreement between the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. “This community operates outside of the Constitution,” Fellwock said, “and from everything I’ve seen, it still does.”
In Chen’s rush to paint Fellwock as a misguided, burnt-out “crazy” man– Snowden’s future– Chen inadvertently explains David Horowitz’s place in the twisted Colby/KGB media leak network, which Colby used so effectively. Horowitz was there to turn intelligence leaks into factually-questionable, juicy scoops.
Does it make sense that the CIA should have an agent like Horowitz at Ramparts in 1972? Yes, it does. According to Francis Stonor Saunders in her book The Cultural Cold War, Ramparts had come to the attention of the Johnson administration six years previously (1966), when Peter Jessup explicitly told Richard Helms (CIA head) that Ramparts needed CIA attention. That’s plenty of time to place or turn an agent(s) at the publication.
Chen spends a lot of time building Fellwock into Snowden, and building Horowitz up into an unprincipled intelligence agent. To be fair, neither Fellwock nor Chen says ‘Horowitz is a CIA agent’, however, it’s pretty much an open secret that Horowitz is, at least, a CIA operative. Horowitz’s career follows the path of many ‘non-communist lefters’ who ended up working for Langley since WWII.
If Fellwock is Snowden, and Horowitz is CIA, then what does that make Laura Poitras? OOOPS! Yeah, Chen, I feel your pain!
You’ll also notice that Chen doesn’t explicitly make the connection between secret agent Horowitz and secret agents Poitras/Greenwald/Gellman. He doesn’t do that because such comparisons would undermine his argument: that Snowden is an anti-American tool like Fellwock was. Although the Horowitz/Poitras connection isn’t explicit, it’s an unavoidable conclusion from the rest of Chen’s argument. That sort of thinking is *way too dangerous* for a gossip mag like Gawker. Strike two, Adrian.
I’m going to wrap this one up with that nasty old racial meme: the CIA/NSA/FBI are just a old bunch of white guys screwing over the world because of their evilocity. This meme is the hiding place of last resort for every OSS/CIA/GCHQ apologist since H. Montgomery Hyde and The Quiet Canadian.
After calling Norman Mailer out as a ridiculous drunk, Chen quotes Perry Fellwock with the following:
“What Mailer told me is that the CIA is basically a white Christian Protestant organization,” Fellwock said. “And white Christian Protestants have to find a devil in order to justify what they do. Their Christian values say they should help the poor, like the Communists were. But they were not helping the poor. They were helping the very rich. And this created a conflict inside of the white Christian Protestant mind that could only be resolved by them seeking out a devil and making that devil into an exaggerated thing. Thus, they exaggerated the threat of communism just like they’re exaggerating the threat of Islam today.”
Now Adrian, listen well. The evil WASP cabal behind the CIA is actually a very useful political tool which you shouldn’t make light of. A lot of time and money has been spent to hone that legend just right, as anyone who has read the MKUltra files well knows. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, Adrian– but horse is already out, isn’t it? Strike Three!