(c) Beth Cortez-Neavel/Knight Center. Jill Abramson, at a conference organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin. Pierre Omidyar's Network was among the sponsors.
By Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
I've been waiting to see what this whole Jill Abramson deal was all about. Now Politico has helped explain it better for me.
I thought perhaps it really was some kind of feminism thing -- this is a real issue and I've experienced it myself in different workplaces even at the most "progressive" outfits. The number of perfect West Side liberals who deliberately pay women less in this town, and ask them intrusive and sexist questions like whether they plan on having any more children or not would make your hair curl. I do get that.
But I still felt as if there was something else "up" here in this story. After all, when we're in the half-million a year salary category, the numbers going up or down $50,000 aren't that big a deal -- it isn't fair to compare Phil Taubman with Abramson because Phil had served in foreign postings and had more seniority -- unless, of course, you call Washington, DC a foreign bureau. Abramson had never been abroad.
Like anyone close to journalism in New York, I had heard she was bitchy and also lefty. I worried after Bill Keller left because he held the line against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and wasn't uncritical of Snowden and was there when the Times did some critical reporting, with CIA sources, of Snowden's tenure in Geneva and later his seminar in India.
Then Keller left, and things changed for the worse. Charlie Savage, who went from a Manning critic to a Snowden booster, was allowed to run loose with the stories, all pro-Snowden, and some of which reprinted Foundation for Free Press press releases -- even though he is way too smart for that.
Not a single critical thing has been said about Snowden all this time, and glowing coverage is given to Greenwald's prizes (the prize really went to the Guardian, not him), his new book, etc. -- and worst of all the ombudsperson, Margaret Sullivan, who is supposed to be impartial, has absolutely gushed and fawned over the Snowdenistas.
There's a story in Glenn's book about how Sullivan privately apologized for an article that went out early in the Snowden affair in which two experts on China from the intelligence community were quoted as saying they thought it likely that Snowden's laptops had been copied by the secret police in Hong Kong. Greenwald bristled that there was "no proof" of this.
Well, what would he accept as proof? China is a police state and copies people's stuff all the time -- they hard-wire it into their computers for sale in the West. I'll never forget how the former political prisoner Wei Jingsheng once called out the West at the UN for selling the very equipment that enables China to do this surveillance better, too.
Not that they can't surveil on their own. I once watched in horror as Lenovo computers were gifted to all the winners of prizes one year at the Overseas Press Club. China hacks everything, including, BTW, the New York Times, whose people were threatened with expulsion. Of course anything Snowden had was copied, if nothing else, over that state-controlled wi-fi at his hotel and other means. It doesn't matter if there was "nothing" on his laptop but the means by which he reached his stashed documents -- they still might get something. Greenwald has no proof that they didn't.
Although Sullivan was appalling on this incident conceding in a column that it wasn't fair reporting, and appalling in another one conceding that the extremist loon Kevin Gosztola had a point, it wasn't enough for Greenwald, he still knocked the Times for not completely removing the offending lines about the theory of Chinese penetration. Imagine! Unless the field is completely sanitized of wrongful thinking, the Snowdenistas are never satisfied.
To be sure, the relationship between the Guardian and the Times has been cosy, although not completely without some mysteries (such as why the Guardian stole away Robert MacKey, another tendentious "progressive", but then he abruptly quit soon after making the move -- whereupon he came back to the Times again.)
The Guardian gave the Times all their Snowden stache when the British authorities came calling with a buzz-saw to destroy all the stolen documents. The Guardian also collaborated on WikiLeaks.
Abramson may have thought she could pull off this Guardian-splicing maneuver without anyone noticing it if she just kept it on the down-low and eased Gibson in as an "innovator" who was going to fix the Times lagging digital edition -- but it was caught, and that compiled with other problems meant she had to go.
Seldom at a place like the Times is the issue of "socialism" versus "capitalism" ever actually debated out loud, with terms like "technocommunism" ever being discussed -- that would be absurd. These things have to be articulated in "the personal is political terms".
But it's clear as a bell to me. Sulzberger, a capitalist, and his various editors, are liberals who want certain socialist things, and backed Obama for that reason. But they don't want socialism completely for themselves, and don't want to be overthrown, obviously. They like Snowden because he helps batter away at a Washington that they feel still hasn't "reformed" enough and doesn't welcome them sufficiently, and he is for "transparency" which they as newsmen like in theory (although not about themselves). They like the whole anarchy thing because it's a useful tool to get rid of enemies.
Yet they're not going to go to the mat for the revolution -- for example when Natasha Leonard, an Occupy operative who got away with pretending to be a Times stringer for awhile, was outed when she got arrested for refusing to disperse at the Brooklyn Bridge, she was out of the Times in a New York minute. That's how it is, and that's a good thing, because Leonard is a vicious radical socialist ideologue -- as you can see where she is perched now, salon.com.
Perhaps this near-death brush with socialist revolutionaries will be a sobering experience for the Times. Maybe the coverage of Snowden will come back and I will subscribe to the digital edition again.
My comment at Politico, "under moderation":
Oh, I get it now! This isn't at all about feminism, glass cliffs, salary discrepancy, or even a bitch female management style that wouldn't rankle if a man had it.
It's about whether or not the Times, which is liberal and capitalist, is going to hire away the stage manager of the Snowden operation, Janice Gibson, from the radical and socialist British Guardian's American edition.
And the answer is: no.
Abramson thought she could wrangle this by not keeping people informed, by making it be about women or digital or something else.
But it's about radicalization of the Times, and the owner saw it for what it was, saw that it was being put over on him and their colleagues, and said "no".
And I'm glad he did because I don't want the Times to be the Guardian. Indeed, I stopped subscribing to the Times precisely because of their poor and uncritical Snowden coverage which is way too enthusiastic about this felon and hacker.
Had they brought in Gibson, who authorized and engineered the Snowden operation in Hong Kong with Greenwald and edited the stories, under the guise of "modernity" we would get even more horridly skewed news. No thanks.
Watch to see Abramson get picked up by Pierre Omidyar for his "Intercept" or related projects -- although really, she's likely too expensive and too high-class for that operation that has filled up with bloggers like Greenwald. I can see her going to some other mainstream liberal paper or news magazine, perhaps. On the other hand, Marcy Wheeler has abruptly quit Intercept, they don't have any other women except Laura Poitras who is a mouse, so maybe Pierre will step up.