SHARE
Mother Jones. A shell of its former self is putting things mildly.

[Note: I’m not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting applications from all the finalists and then I’ll milk all this for another easy post where I rank them. I’m not sure how long this process will take but it will surely be done by the end of the year. You can read the last installment, “Jeff Bezos, Modern Day Pinkerton Head Cracker, and the Washington Post,” here. Previous entries include “Why the New Yorker Sucks, In One Annotated Story,” here, and New York TimesThe Intercept and Vox, links for which can all be found in the last installment.]

Why does Mother Jones, a once very solid if predictable lefty magazine which published many fine writers (including me), totally and completely suck? There’s one reason for that and it’s very simple: Clara Jeffery, David Corn, Kevin Drum and Bill “BuzzKill” Buzenberg, a former executive at Minnesota Public Radio who makes Garrison Keillor look edgy.

Well, there’s another reason, which I’ll get to below as well, namely cynical political opportunism and a willingness to stoop as low as necessary, and beyond, to suck money out of the wallets of rich donors, especially those hoping to force Donald Trump from office and impose on our doddering Republic a Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton junta, a cause for which Mother Jones is perhaps the nation’s leading advocate.

As self-installed editor-in-chief — after engineering a coup against her former co-editor, the far more principled Monika Bauerlein — Jeffery is the primary person responsible for Mother Jones‘s current sad state of affairs. And she’s also the person responsible for hiring fellow co-No. 1 reason for why the magazine sucks, its Washington bureau chief and hack extraordinaire David Corn (admittedly he was low on her list and she only turned to him after various candidates turned the job down, including me.)

Jeffery used to be a very good editor at Harper’s, where she worked with a variety of fine writers, including me, the magazine’s former Washington Editor. She even edited rather terrifically one of my favorite stories, “Licensed to Kill,” which tells the story of arms dealer Ernst Werner Glatt, who covertly worked with the CIA for decades, a tale which sits sadly behind the Harper’s paywall, like virtually everything else the magazine has published since 1865. But enough about Harper’s.

How did Jeffery go from being a senior editor at a prestigious place like Harper’s, which still publishes me, at least as of a year ago, to presiding over a shit show like Mother Jones in its current incarnation (not withstanding the fact that some great people still work at the magazine, which periodically, in the rare moments it’s not attempting to impose the Clinton Triumvirate, publishes amazing work)?

One can only guess but my personal stab, from what I know to be true, is Jeffery’s desperate quest to be approved by the mainstream even as she poses as an outsider, and the fact that she’s essentially an unconventional conformist whose politics are pretty centrist, which would be fine if she were running Minnesota Public Radio or some other outlet whose highest aspiration was to be bland, dull and nondescript.

Jeffery’s self-evidently phony outsider pose is seen in her regular attendance, along with the groveling Corn, at the White House Correspondents Dinner, the annual suckfest at which Washington journalists and politicians do what they do best: pretending they have an adversarial relationship while kissing each other’s asses. Jeffery pretends — like so many other people who love to have their picture taken at this awful affair while feigning indifference — that she is above it all by calling the event the “Nerd Prom,” an all too reverential description of this sad, sad spectacle.

I’d quickly note two other things that people have pointed out to me over the years in seeking to explain Mother Jones‘s descent into the pit of journalism hell: a self-conscious strategy to get people to promote its stories by linking to their work, no matter how atrocious; and, as alluded to above, a willingness to do anything necessary to get tech and other shit head billionaires to fork over cash.

And that leads directly to Mother Jones‘s reverse merger with PutinTrump.org, whose Editorial Director (and fundraising guru) is BuzzKill “Buzzy” Buzenberg, who you can follow on Twitter — please don’t — @NoPutinTrump. PutinTrump.org — whose logo is actually a hammer and sickle, as if Russia were still a Communist state or, more likely given the idiocy of these clowns, Trump were preparing to create the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of America — “was an election-season blog funded by the Progress for USA Political Action Committee, which was launched by Internet entrepreneur Rob Glaser, founder of RealNetworks and an early employee at Microsoft,” in other words, a big time tech donor behind the ongoing Clintonian coup attempt.

(Full disclosure: I truly don’t like Buzzy but I’ll admit I like him even less because he once criticized an undercover story I did about Washington lobbyists shilling for dictators, calling it unethical. This from a man who is currently seeking to promote regime change at home on behalf of the 1 percent and war with Russia, which would get a lot of people killed even if it doesn’t lead to nuclear holocaust. Buzzy launched his tip-less dart, where he essentially said that a journalist going undercover is worse than a lobbyist flacking for evil, when he was at the once respectable — and perhaps again, now that he’s gone — Center for Public Integrity.)

In May 2017, Buzzy and PutinTrump.org took over Mother Jones, which has been publishing ever since a stream of propaganda about Russiagate that is too lame and stupid to even mention or link to. But I will say that Mother Jones pimping for the crudest version of Russiagate is seriously bad, because the magazine is still perceived as being on the left.

So, on a smaller scale because Mother Jones has very little influence outside of the corridors of power at MSNBC, this is something akin to the New York Times promoting the Iraq War and thereby allowing the George W. Bush administration to claim that “even the liberal” Times backed that stupid conflict. And I’ll also say that Mother Jones‘s coverage of Russiagate is every bit as sleazy, dishonest and dangerous as the Times‘s coverage during the run up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. (See more below.)

Before summing up I would be remiss not to note Jeffery’s horrifying Twitter feed, where she kisses the ass of the 1 percent she’s hoping to get money from (just yesterday she fantasized that if “I were a billionaire,” she’d fund local news coverage); berates homeless people she encounters while walking the wild streets of San Francisco; and, among other unbelievably dumb things, promoted a “tweet storm” by moron Eric Garland and likened it to a new Federalist Paper and the “single greatest thread I have ever read on Twitter.

(See this excellent story from Paste which goes over some of the same ground I’m covering here. Also see this hilarious story in Deadspin about Garland’s “tweet storm.”)

Before turning to Corn and banging on “political blogger” Drum, let me note that I recently sought comment from Jeffery and Corn about what’s happening at the magazine and about alleged misconduct by David Corn (more below). I wrote, lightly edited, in part:
I don’t like David’s work and I think Mother Jones is a disgrace; your merger with Putin Trump is only the latest sign of your intellectual bankruptcy. It’s sad to see what you’ve done to the magazine. I don’t really give a rat’s ass about David…And by the way, my source has no animus towards David. I don’t really even have any animus towards David anymore, he’s a joke. And I apologize for any errors, I’m dictating. Let me know if you need any clarification.
I never heard back from either of them.
Turning to the milquetoast Democratic lapdog Corn, let me disclose that much, but by no means all, of what follows has been extracted from an article I wrote not long ago for the New York Observer, “David Corn: 47 Percent ÷ Liberal Bullshit = Boring Journalism; Amid hefty speaking fees and endless TV appearances, Mother Jones’ star investigative reporter has gone native.” That story began:

When it comes to the national liberal media, few names shine brighter than David Corn, Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief. He’s a regular on cable news networks, where he can reliably be counted on to serve as a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party, and he regularly attends events like the White House Correspondents Dinner… 

In an Observer story about the 2009 Dinner, the first of the Obama era, the “omnipresent” Mr. Corn was seen dashing about here and there and “in a conversation every time you looked up.” Mr. Corn is also an active member of the Gridiron Club, another group of ass-kissing journalism insiders that holds an annual white-tie dinner.

In addition, Mr. Corn is the author of a number of predictably dull books, for example The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception and Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Cantor, and the Tea Party, which he described as “a behind-the-scenes narrative covering the White House from the disastrous 2010 midterm elections until the promising start of 2012. It is a reporting-driven tale of how President Barack Obama got his groove back in time for the reelection campaign.” (Note to Ambien addicts: Buy this book, you’ll sleep like a baby.)

(Disclosure: I wrote for Mother Jones for a long time but no longer do and guess I probably won’t in the future.)

Corn, let me add, directly plagiarizing further from my Observer story, is best known for breaking the secret videotape in which Mitt Romney told a group of GOP donors that 47 percent of the American people were freeloaders and would always vote for Democrats so it would be hard for the GOP ever to win an election. (In fact, the GOP can’t win elections primarily because they are mostly retrograde lunatics who hate women, gays and minorities. The Democrats are more or less the same but not as retrograde on social issues.)

But to say Corn “broke” the story is a bit of a stretch. He published it only because a source dropped the videotape in his lap and actually the Huffington Post — which also annoys me because it is so beholden to the Democratic Party — broke the story, to the best of my recollection, and Corn and his editors at Mother Jones hogged the credit.

Corn loves to be on cable news and the 47 percent story helped him enormously. His desperate desire to get on TV was the subject of mockery at Mother Jones’ Washington office. “It’s almost time for me to go see Chris [Matthews] on Hardball,” he’d say in a phony self-deprecating way, while the staff laughed behind his back. Several people alleged that he kept a coatrack outside his office where he’d loudly muse over his sartorial options for that evening’s television duty.

Anyway, the 47 percent story was typical of Corn because he’s not a reporter, he’s a bloviator who does easy stories and he mostly works on articles that back his own political agenda and especially if they don’t piss off anyone in the Washington media who might advance his career. In short, Corn will not shit in his own living room, which leads to safe and boring journalism.

(To read about Corn’s speaking fees, about the disgusting nature of Washington night life, and to see my brilliant daughter’s photography, some of which accompanied the Observer story, make sure to click here.)

One last thing about Corn. When I wrote to him and Jeffery recently it was to inquire about rumors and very specific allegations of sexual misconduct. “It would really look bad if you’re Hillary Clinton for David the way Hillary protects Bill,” I wrote in a line directed rather clearly at Jeffery.

As noted above, I never heard back, which is sort of odd under the circumstances, but yesterday Politico published a story on the same rough topic. Here’s an excerpt:

Mother Jones magazine’s editor and chief executive acknowledged on Thursday that they investigated Washington bureau chief David Corn for inappropriate workplace behavior three years ago, warning him about touching female staffers and insensitive descriptions of sexual violence, and would now probe the allegations further in light of two emails written by former staffers in 2014 and 2015 and obtained by POLITICO.

One of the emails, written in 2015 by a former staffer outlining concerns she had heard from other women in the Washington office, said Corn, now 58, made “rape jokes,” “regularly gave [several women] unwelcome shoulder rubs and engaged in uninvited touching of their legs, arms, backs, and waists,” and “made inappropriate comments about women’s sexuality and anatomy.” The other email, from 2014, was by a former female staffer who claimed that Corn “came up behind me and put his hands and arms around my body in a way that felt sexual and domineering.”

Corn, in a statement to POLITICO, said that neither his comments nor his touching of colleagues was in any way sexual.

“I am an exuberant person and have been known to pat male and female colleagues on the shoulder or slap them on the back, but always in a collegial or celebratory way,” he said. “I have never touched any work colleague in a sexual manner. Once concerns were raised about this type of contact, I have been mindful to avoid it to prevent any misperception. If anyone ever perceived any of this as ‘sexual’ or ‘domineering,’ I am sorry—that was never my intent.”

“Sexual violence is not funny, and I have never joked about it, or about women’s sexuality and anatomy,” Corn wrote.

“Oh,” wrote a story at boingboing.net, “That clears it right up.”

As to political blogger Kevin Drum, I recently asked Washington Babylon‘s chief research assistant, the excellent Theo Papathanasis, to do a round up about him. “You’ll have to forgive me if this is a bit muddled, but reading about RussiaGate all day has been positively brain-desiccating and I had no choice but to supplement what’s left of my cerebral fluids with Old Grand-Dad,” he wrote when reporting back. “You know, for health.”
Actually, Theo’s memo wasn’t muddled at all. He unearthed an interview from 2005, which provides a good deal of insight into Drum’s intellectual caliber:
Q: Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you’ve ever changed your mind?
 
A: The Iraq war. I supported it initially, but before the war started I switched to opposition on practical grounds (i.e., that George Bush’s approach was incapable of accomplishing the goals it was meant to accomplish). Since then, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that, in fact, I should have opposed it all along on philosophical grounds: namely that it was a fundamentally flawed concept and had no chance of working even if it had been competently executed.
Note here that those aren’t philosophical grounds, but tactical ones. A philosophical reason might have been to invoke Just War Theory or Clausewitz or something. There’s none of that here. He effectively says he changed his mind, opposed the war for practical reasons, but should have opposed it for…practical reasons. There’s no real difference between saying a goal can’t be accomplished and that the same thing has no chance of working. This is pure babble.
Then there was this:
 
 Q: What personal fault do you most dislike?
 
A: Loudmouthism. I just made up that word, but I imagine it’s clear enough not to really need a definition.
To begin with English has a few ways to better construct that word. The gerund “loudmouthing” would have been slightly pithier and “loudmouthery” would have, at least, provided comedic effect.
But that’s not the juice here, Theo noted in his memo. The personal fault he dislikes the most is the same thing he uses — in the same interview — to describe the essence of political blogging, the only thing for which he’s known:
So if you do it (i.e. blog), do it because you enjoy mouthing off for its own sake.
The man appears to be totally clueless and oblivious. It calls to mind the Delphic inscription, “Know thyself.” It also calls to mind Trump’s contribution to the world’s great aphorisms: “I do it to do it.”
Moving on.
Q: What talent would you most like to have?

A: That’s easy: the ability to write great fiction. Or even good fiction. I’ve gotten so much pleasure from reading fiction during my life that I very much wish I could pay the world back by writing some of my own. Sadly, I lack the imagination to do so.

Yes, Drummy, you do, not to mention the lack of talent, creativity, intelligence or wit.

I don’t really have the time or patience to do more about Drum, but here is a link that’s representative of what he’s been up to more recently, “Are Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Really BFFs?“, and an inadvertently funny story by his colleague Denise Clifton, “Putin’s Pro-Trump Trolls Just Targeted Hillary Clinton and Robert Mueller.”
Jesus, that’s just pathetic and entirely reflective of what a joke Mother Jones has become. Vandalic Russians trolling American democracy into complete dissolution,  Barbarians at the Gates and all the rest of the nonsense that Americans are currently being bombarded with.
So that’s about it, but I’m sure you all agree by now that Mother Jones‘s application for Hack List 2017 should be strongly considered by our elite panel of judges.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email