Over the past few days, myself and Banter writer Jeremy Fassler has been engaged in a war of words with far left, self described "rogue" journalist Caitlin Johnstone. Fassler mentioned Johnstone, a writer and one-time astrologer from Melbourne, Australia, as an example of the increasing insane Alt-Left community continuing to propagate provably false conspiracy theories about Russia's interference with the U.S election and the monstrously offensive lie that the DNC had Seth Rich murdered because he had leaked emails to Russia.
Her writing can basically be characterized as an astonishing display of emotionally manipulative narcissism, devoid of logic, fact or sanity that would be laughed out of any reputable media outlet. But this is the era of the internet, and apparently anyone can make a buck pretending to be a journalist. Johnstone believes herself to be a major player in the war against the evil, amorphous "Deep State" trying to blow up the world (yes, really) by creating a nuclear conflict with Russia. Johnstone was absolutely livid about the piece Jeremy published, and accused the Banter of threatening her life by accusing her of writing for Russian propaganda outlets like Russia Insider (because of course she is so vital to the cause).
In fairness to Johnstone, it appears she hadn't actually written for Russian propaganda outlets specifically, so we amended the article to reflect the fact that she had instead knowingly allowed them to publish her work there (which she denied, despite her email clearly showing she knew). Either way, it was a trivial point and not the purpose of Fassler's original article, which was to expose Johnstone's ludicrous "journalism" and the vile conspiracy theories she is helping perpetuate in far left (and right) wing circles. We've received dozens of emails from Johnstone angrily threatening to sue us for lying about her, each one more unhinged than the last. As well as tweeting out private emails from me (apparently showing me "abusing" her), she is now promising to make taking us down her "life's work", a threat that would be funny if it wasn't so sad.
Generally speaking, I don't pay too much attention to low hanging fruit like Johnstone, but I do feel her writing provides an almost perfect example of the type of paranoid conspiracy fueled nonsense creating great instability in journalism today. The half-baked, lazily researched fear mongering she engages in is this era's iteration of the 9/11 conspiracy theories that plagued the internet in the early 2000's. Unsurprisingly, Johnstone is herself part of the 9/11 conspiracy theory movement, having penned articles for the '9/11 Truth Action Project', a site dedicated to promoting ridiculous conspiracies about the US government's involvement in the attacks on 9/11 (we'll wait for Johstone to angrily deny she knowingly wrote for them shortly after this is published).
This all might seem like a complete waste of time, but I do think it is worth looking at how the mind of a paranoid conspiracy theorist manipulates evidence to fit their disturbed world view and attract other vulnerable people to their cause. Incidentally, I don't think Johnstone's intentions are bad -- she likely believes herself to be a noble crusader for the truth, waking up the sheeple brainwashed by the corporate media with her searing insights and fearlessness. I actually sympathize with her somewhat, as we do live in highly uncertain times with an bewildering number of information sources vying for our attention, and she clearly isn't handling it all that well. However, she has chosen to spread her paranoid delusions on the internet in an act of sheer narcissism to a relatively wide audience, and has displayed shockingly little self awareness and astonishing levels of aggression when called out for her bullshit.
Let's take a look at the mind blowing opening sentence of her truly deranged piece propagating the Seth Rich conspiracy theory:
A statement purportedly authored by Seth Rich’s parents has been published in the CIA-funded Washington Post titled “We’re Seth Rich’s parents. Stop politicizing our son’s murder.” I don’t really know what is meant by this slogan about “politicizing” Seth Rich’s murder which mainstream outlets keep repeating and which Rich’s parents have oddly begun parroting, but speaking for myself I am not pushing any political agenda at all by reporting on the Seth Rich case. I’m pushing the prevention of a world-ending nuclear holocaust.
Right off the bat, Johnstone wants her readers to believe that the CIA -- apparently in collusion with the murderous DNC -- directed the Washington Post to print a fake news story quoting Seth Rich's parents to direct people away from the shocking truth that their son leaked emails from the DNC, not the Russian government. Not only that, "rogue journalist" Caitlin Johnstone is not only here to save stupid Americans from themselves, but the whole world!
The evidence for this? Amazon's Jeff Bezos, who bought the Washington Post, got a contract for Amazon Web Services to build servers for the CIA. That's it. According to Johnston this means the CIA now controls the Washington Post, and forced the globally respected, award winning media outlet to print fake news stories to cover up their murders. Of course Johnstone isn't actually saying this overtly, but that's what she wants her susceptible readers to think.
Let's be completely clear about this. Seth Rich was not murdered by the DNC and was not the email leaker. This is not debatable anymore as the evidence for this is completely overwhelming. Only halfwits like Johnstone and Sean Hannity are continuing to spread the monstrous lie, and if there was justice in the world, they would be sued into oblivion for profiting off of it.
The rest of Johnstone's piece is equally as insane, devoid of context and atrociously researched. Johnstone is courageously playing daring truth seeker over 10,000 miles away in another country, and her addled mind simply wanders from one conspiracy theory to the next, tying them together to create a grand narrative pitting the evil forces of moderate liberalism, MSNBC and people who work in government against brave truth seekers like herself:
The still unproven accusation that the DNC emails released by WikiLeaks were originally taken by Russian hackers was what began the manufacturing of support for these escalations. Americans generally didn’t think much about Russia until the mainstream media started telling them to, but now even local town halls which have nothing to do with foreign policy are dominated by this dangerous Russia hysteria. It was these hacking allegations that manufactured support for Obama’s provocative sanctions and increase of troops along Russia’s border at the end of his term, which Rachel Maddow has openly said cannot be pulled back without making Trump appear guilty of collusion with the Kremlin.
Do you see how this works? Does anyone get this? The fact-free Russia hysteria is being used to pressure Trump into maintaining these omnicidal tensions in the Baltic region, Ukraine and Syria which could blow up any second and lead to a chain of events which see a nuclear warhead being deployed by either side accidentally, on purpose, or a mixture of the two in the chaos of armed conflict, and once one goes off, they all do.
There is little point trying to convince someone like Johnstone of what every sane person in the world knows to be almost certainly true, that Russia hacked the DNC and attempted to swing the election in favor of Donald Trump. Why? Because she so desperately doesn't want it to be true that she will accept no evidence, no matter how compelling, that interfere's with her narrative. Johnstone and other conspiracy theorists appears to genuinely believe that by repeating that the Russia hacking story is "falling apart" over and over and over again that it will magically make it so. It isn't falling apart -- the evidence grows stronger by the day, and Johnstone and Co. are looking more idiotic by the minute.
The truth is, Caitlin Johnstone is a fantasist playing sleuth detective from her bedroom in Australia, and enjoying all the attention she is getting. She will no doubt use this article to portray herself as a victim of a grand conspiracy -- a brave soldier in the war against the McCarthyite press, and a forceful advocate for Truth, Justice and the Australian(?) Way. Her paying fans will lap it all up, and she'll march on spouting more nonsensical garbage to a crowd that has now completely isolated itself from objective reality.
This would be amusing if it wasn't causing so much damage to real journalists dedicated to doing real journalism. I'm no fan of the corporate media, and I believe it is in dire need of a radical shake up. But screeching lunatics like Johnstone do not have the public's best interest at heart -- particularly when they don't even live in the country they spend all day blogging about -- and do not care about honestly sifting through evidence and putting forward intellectually honest arguments, like an actual journalist would do. They care about themselves and the attention they can get from dark sermons about nefarious forces that only they understand.
This isn't about "the truth", it's about Caitlin Johnstone and her little vanity project on the internet.
If Johnstone wants "to go to war" with us and do as much damage as she possibly can to the Banter, she's more than welcome. We have far bigger fish to fry, so I won't be paying her any more attention after this. And as every conspiracy theory loon will find out at some point, the only person they're really doing damage to is themselves.
Update: A previous version of this article stated that Johnstone had not trained as a journalist. According to her, she graduated with a degree in journalism in Australia in 2003, although there is no mention of this on her medium account or profiles on any of the sites she has written for. Regardless, the Banter maintains that Johnstone is not by any meaningful definition of the word, a journalist.