Last week, Buzzfeed reported that Medium, the popular blogging site, had suspended the accounts of several prominent alt-right figures, including Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec. In response, Mother Jones’ reporter Shane Bauer sent out this tweet, saved via screenshot:
Bauer was referring to the same Caitlin Johnstone, self-styled “rogue journalist” from Melbourne, Australia, who tried to sue the Banter following a pair of articles, one from myself and a follow-up from Ben Cohen. If you read Ben’s story about Johnstone’s pathetic attempt to sue us, you’d realize she isn’t worth spending any energy on. Sadly, there are some who do take her work seriously, and in doing so they are harming the integrity of their publications.
There’s a certain kind of left-wing pundit who is so obsessed with keeping their anti-establishment credentials that they sacrifice their integrity. Glenn Greenwald, for example, developed a wide readership when attacking George W. Bush and the Iraq War, but with the coming of the Obama Administration, he began to relentlessly attack the center-left for not being sufficiently ideologically pure. Now he’s a regular on Fox News, where he dismisses the Russia scandal on Tucker Carlson’s show and attacks anyone who believes it to be true as a neoliberal sellout.
Johnstone herself is a Diet Glenn Greenwald, serving up the same “anti-establishment” talking points, but without burning a prior track record of credibility because she never had one. However, many on the far left propagate her voice because she echoes their anti-establishment agenda and that’s all that matters. They ought to know better.
When Robert Scheer founded Truthdig in 2005, he promised to report on issues “that are insufficiently covered by mainstream media”. For a while, he made good on this, publishing articles critical of the war in Iraq and much-shared opinion pieces from contributors like Kevin Tillman, whose brother Pat died in the war. But, like Greenwald, his site has devolved into questioning the Russia narrative and publishing stories with headlines like, “Is MSNBC Now the Most Dangerous Warmonger Network?”
Last month, Truthdig reporter Emily Wells cited Caitlin Johnstone as a source in an article titled “Journalist Warns About Ex-Intelligence Officials in Media.” Johnstone had written a piece criticizing MSNBC and CNN for bringing on former CIA directors John Brennan and Michael Hayden as contributors, which proved to her, along with major corporations buying media outlets (like Amazon and the Washington Post), that the Deep State was collaborating with the oligarchy to feed us lies:
“Time and time and time again you see connections between the plutocratic class which effectively owns America’s elected government, the intelligence and defense agencies which operate behind thick veils of secrecy in the name of “national security” to advance agendas which have nothing to do with the wishes of the electorate, and the mass media machine which is used to manufacture the consent of the people to be governed by this exploitative power structure.
“America is ruled by an elite class which has slowly created a system where money increasingly translates directly into political power, and which is therefore motivated to maintain economic injustice in order to rule over the masses more completely. The greater the economic inequality, the greater their power.”
This would be groundbreaking if any of it were true, but it’s not. The idea of the “Deep State” is a useful distraction for the far left to comfort itself when their worldview falls apart, much the way “Fake News” has become a rallying cry for the right. Both damage our discourse, according to the Daily Beast’s Rory Cooper, because they represent the same lack of faith in our institutions that bring the two ends of Jean-Pierre Faye’s horseshoe closer together. Johnstone revels in it, exalting those who stand against The Man, like Julian Assange, with retweets and love poetry praising the WikiLeaks founder (Yes, I wish I was making that last part up. Click at your own peril.)
It’s bad enough for Truthdig to consider Johnstone important enough to cite; it’s worse that Consortium News now publishes her articles routinely. Like Truthdig, Consortium, an investigative news site founded in the early days of the internet, began with the promise to dig beneath the headlines and tell you what the mainstream media wouldn’t. Like Truthdig, it too has into conspiracy-mongering. Before his death on January 27th this year, founder Robert Parry warned that “Cold War tensions” had resumed between the West and Russia, another talking point the far left loves. Four days after his passing, Consortium began publishing Johnstone’s Medium articles, which they now do at least once a week. Here are a couple of their titles with summaries:
“Why Democrats Love Bush Now” – Democrats hate Trump and were fine with Obama’s intervention in Libya, so now they all love Bush and his neocons.
“Responding to Bernie’s Promotion of the New Cold War” – A sigh of disappointment that even Bernie Sanders now believes Russia hacked the 2016 election.
“How Establishment Propaganda Gaslights Us into Submission” – In which Johnstone attacks an Atlantic journalist who said she was crazy and claims that she’s not the abuse victim, you’re the victim for believing the media’s lies.
“America’s Election Meddling Would Indeed Justify Other Countries Retaliating in Kind” – A tired argument from the left that recalls the “everybody does it” excuse Art Buchwald lambasted in his famous column of Watergate rebuttals for Nixon fans.
If Truthdig or Consortium had done any sort of a background check on Johnstone before publishing her work, they’d learn that even though she’s against the “establishment,” she is not a reputable or legitimate source. It would be one thing if her conspiracy-peddling was the worst thing she did, but last summer, she caused a firestorm on the left by calling for an alliance with Mike Cernovich and the alt-right, arguing that both sides hate the deep state and the MSM in equal measure. Even Bernie Sanders fanatics like Eric Draitser in Counterpunch and Progressive Army’s Ben Dixon stood against her, wary of the dangers that awaited anyone who would dare collaborate with someone as horrendous as Cernovich. Kooks like HA Goodman and Tim Black defended her on the grounds that the left was being intolerant towards anyone who didn’t agree with them 100%, but it was not enough to hide that Johnstone had revealed her true sympathies: she’d rather align with white nationalists than with those who actually believe in the social causes the far left supports.
To all who have given Johnstone a platform – Truthdig, Consortium, MintFreePress, Global Research, and Medium – it’s time to stop. You gain nothing from collaborating with someone who does not help you or your causes and would rather have support from white nationalists than leftists who want social change. Johnstone is not a journalist; she is a flagrant self-promoter and conspiracy monger with no journalistic credibility whatsoever The more exposure she gets on your outlets, the worse your own credibility becomes.
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.