Not that I consider him a friend, but I’ve had a couple of friendly interactions with Cenk Uygur over the years and have always found him to be polite and courteous in our interactions. He even did an interview with the Banter a year or so ago, so despite the disagreements some of the writers here at the Banter have had with him, I’ve always thought he was OK.
That was until yesterday when Uygur dedicated 16 painfully irritating minutes to attacking the Banter because of an accurate article Justin Rosario published calling him out for demanding purity tests for progressives while pretending he wasn’t. (Watch below if you can stomach it:)
It is hard to know where to begin with Uygur’s idiotic diatribe and astonishing lack of self awareness — a characteristic equalled only by his “army” of dedicated leftist militants ready to pounce on anyone deviating from liberalism as prescribed by their hallowed saint, Bernie Sanders. Firstly, the entire tone of Uygur’s little rant exemplifies Justin Rosario’s point. After an Alex Jones style introduction calling us “the Media” that has “decided they will attack us,” Uygur dismisses the Banter as being a part of “the establishment” that dislikes both Bernie Sanders and Cenk himself. Calling us “The Daily Fluffer,” Uygur proclaims that we are “the saddest part of the internet, guys who are not part of the establishment but desperately want to be.” [Note: are we part of the establishment or not?]
“They write these things on this little blog,” he goes on. “Like, please, establishment, we don’t like Bernie Sanders either, Cenk Uygur is a really bad guy. Can you please hire me someday?”
I’m not sure quite what to make of this given, a) I vocally supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary, and, b) I own The Daily Banter outright, pay my staff from the ad and subscription money we generate, and am not looking for funding from “The Establishment,” whatever that is — or does he think we’re looking to be a part of the “TYT Army?”
The rest of the segment saw Uygur attempting to take apart Justin’s piece by calling him an establishment shill over and over again, trying to shame the Banter staff for not having as much traffic as TYT’s “80 million unique viewers” (it drives us crazy!), not running for office, daring to suggest minorities and women have other differing political priorities than Sanders, supporting pragmatic Democrats and being critical of hardcore leftists. According to Uygur, people like Justin are responsible for getting Trump into office because they supported a status quo candidate when “the American people didn’t want a status quo candidate.” This despite the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million people.
Responding to everything Uygur leveled at Justin would be incredibly time consuming and, frankly, a complete waste of time. His breathless distortion of Justin’s article is yet another example of his inability to separate fact from his strict leftist ideology and more proof that Uygur is mostly interested in feeding red meat to his “army” of rabid online supporters. You see, adhering to ethical reporting has never been Uygur’s thing, as Sam Harris found out after an amicable, three hour debate with him on religious violence and Islam in 2014. Months later, Uygur apparently forgot about the whole thing and launched into a baseless attack calling Harris “a foaming-at-the-mouth neoconservative,” and implied that anyone sharing Harris’ views on Islam is “a racist and a bigot.” Harris summarized Uygur’s unethical distortions of his views as follows:
I guess I’ve ceased to think about it. I pushed back against it briefly, saying on Twitter, obviously my three hours with Cenk had been a waste of time. It appears to have been a waste of time, at least for him. I think many people got some benefit from listening to us go round and round, and get wrapped around the same axle for three hours.
Actually, it wasn’t a waste of time for him because I heard from a former employee there that that was literally the most profitable interview they’ve ever put on their show. I don’t know what he made of off that interview, but I don’t begrudge him making money off his show obviously. But I feel that Cenk now systematically acts in bad faith on this topic. He has made no effort to accurately represent my views.
You know, again, it’s child’s play to pick a single sentence from something that I’ve said or written and to hue to a misinterpretation of that sentence and attack me. And I think that the thing I’ve finally realized here — and this is not just a problem with Cenk, it’s with all the usual suspects and all of their followers on Twitter — I’ve just reluctantly begun to accept the fact that when someone hates you, they take so much pleasure from hating you that it’s impossible to correct a misunderstanding. That would force your opponent to relinquish some of the pleasure he’s taking in hating you.
Uygur so blatantly misrepresented Harris’ views that even his former employee and friend Dave Rubin took him to task for lying about Harris. In an interview with Tablet Magazine in June of last year, Rubin said: “The way he [Uygur] became the leader of the group just relentlessly lying about Sam, and then to sit there for three hours with the guy and just double down on every lie — it showed just such a flaw in character.”
On the Joe Rogan podcast, Rubin went into greater detail about his former boss’s penchant for lying, saying that it was part of the reason why he left. “I just could not believe it,” said Rubin. “There’s people that have edited things where Cenk says one thing directly to Sam’s face, and then days later saying the complete reverse things sitting down with Rezla Aslan saying ‘yeah, he means all Muslims,’ and it’s like, yeah, you just said to his face, you just said to his face that you know that’s not what he says”.
You can watch the clip of him lying here.
Uygur’s flagrant lies and distortions are becoming something of a legend online, so much so that you can’t take anything he says seriously. While I happen to agree with him on much politically, he simply isn’t a reliable source of information. Take for example this cherry picked “take down” of Justin’s argument. Wrote Justin on Monday:
The fact that being a part of the establishment automatically bars you from being a progressive is, itself, exactly the kind of nonsensical purity test Uygur is pretending doesn’t exist. Elizabeth Warren, one of the most progressive people in all of Congress, will be disappointed to learn she’s just another establishment shill.
Uygur then isolated the second sentence in the paragraph as an example of Justin’s dishonestly:
Oh, I guess they must have taken that from my article. I didn’t say that in my article, I didn’t mention Elizabeth Warren at all. Well they must have taken it from something I said on air! Except, I never said that on air.
Disregarding the fact that Justin specifically mentions this later on in his piece when discussing Uygur’s take on Warren’s endorsement of Clinton (Uygur called it a “tactical error”), it isn’t difficult to parse the original intent. Justin clearly wasn’t quoting Uygur at all and was merely pointing out that by Uygur’s definition of what constitutes a real progressive, Warren isn’t one of them. But no, Uygur shamelessly used it as an attempt to smear the Banter as an “establishment site” desperate to take money from “the establishment” — whatever the fuck that is.
Personally, I don’t want to spend too much time battling other liberals when Donald Trump and the Republican Party are in the process of laying waste to the country, accelerating global warming as quickly as they can, and kicking off the next World War. But good God are Cenk Uygur and his merry band of militant regressive leftists annoying. Shortly after Uygur’s show, amongst many other emails and tweets, I received this heart warming message from one of “TYT Army’s” cheerleaders:
Granted Uygur and the rest of the staff at TYT aren’t responsible for the abuse hordes of their internet trolls devoted to the cause hurl at enemies like us, but they might want to think about what would inspire someone to send an email like that.
I’m not going to blame Uygur and the Bernie left for Clinton’s loss against Trump as even if it were true (and I don’t think it is) it serves no purpose re-litigating old battles. I supported Bernie Sanders because I believed he was the better candidate. I supported Hillary Clinton as soon as she beat Sanders because I thought she was infinitely better than Donald Trump. Many of the other writers at the Banter believed Clinton was the better candidate from the outset, and while I disagree, I don’t think they are corporate shills for the establishment. Towards the end of Bernie’s campaign, I did however begin to see what my colleagues at the Banter had been saying all along — that leftist purists would ultimately damage the party by demanding loyalty to their cause and threatening everyone who dared disagree. Sanders’ rabid supporters managed to turn off huge swathes of progressive voters who didn’t see the need to incessantly disparage Hillary Clinton and burn the Democratic Party to the ground in order to create a pure progressive agenda for the country.
Uygur has openly declared war on establishment Democrats (no purity tests of course!), and will be banking on the left lining up behind people like himself to lead the fight against Republicans. I say good luck to him, but if his central strategy is kicking “those establishment Democrats in the ass”, he’s going to be sitting on the sidelines for a very long time. Beating the Republicans should mean working together, but not according to Uygur and The Young Turks who seem to believe lying and distorting everyone else’s position is OK as long as it serves their agenda. Which apparently is more about their 80 million followers on YouTube than anything else.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.