“Kill your idols”: Chelsea Manning and the reactionary “left”

Quotes by Chelsea E. Manning (pictured above) from a recent Washington Post article by Jenna Portnoy titled “Chelsea Manning: ‘The establishment needs to be challenged.’” Note that she has a necklace which is a hashtag, showing that what she writes on Twitter is part of who she is as a person, and connects to an analysis of her as a popular figure.

In August of last year, Tarzie, a self-declared “queer small a anarchist” who lives in Brooklyn, delivered a biting criticism of Chelsea Manning, the trans female whistleblower, who is the subject of this article. This writer said that they are free to “weigh in at length on Chelsea Manning’s rebirth as a 14-year-old fashion icon and anti-communist.” They further commented that Manning’s stunt which recapitulates “the Cold War “truism” that Nazi Germany = The DDR = The Soviet Union requires an answer,” since this is a common false equivalence, saying that good ‘ole Snowden was saying basically the same thing. Tarzie further wrote that without question Manning and Snowden, along with others, who “liken Lenin to Robert Lee are the most misleading kind of propagandist, regardless of how they see themselves,” further concluding that their motives are not of concern but rather the fact that they are “foisting it on impressionable nitwits in thrall to their celebrity and dissident cred” is disturbing. To counter such notions of anti-communism, Tarzie offered as a disinfectant an “excellent talk from Michael Parenti, which places the failings of communism in historical perspective.”

Saying all of that and recognizing the recent debate over Chelsea Manning and her actions, which will be discussed later in this post, it is worth delving more into Chelsea Manning, the reactionary “left”, which some call the “Celebrity Left,” and related aspects.

Table of contents

  1. The contours of the reactionary “left”
  2. The reactionary nature of Chelsea Manning
  3. Manning and the saga of FitzGibbon Media

 

The contours of the reactionary “left”

In the past, Tarzie has criticized the prominent parts of what he calls the “celebrity left,” or what can be call the reactionary “left.” On this blog, I have used the term to refer to supposed anarchist David Graeber (“Anarchy Dad”), “celebrity left personalities” Shaun King and DerayNoam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald (who claims to hold a “higher truth“), Snowden (who is inherently deceptive and claims to be “adversarial” meaning that he should undoubtedly be criticized), Naomi Klein, and artist Molly Crabapple (her real name is Molly Klein) while implying that the term also refers to bourgeois pacifist David Swanson and Obamabot Ta-Nehisi Coates. However, in none of these did I talk about the contours of reactionary “left” or “celebrity left” as Tarzie prominently calls them. The closest I came to defining the term “celebrity left” was in my article harshly criticizing Naomi Klein’s 273-page-book No Is Not Enough and arguing that she is a brand (all links not from my own blog have been retained):

The book itself, with the title “No Is Not Enough” on an orange background…with praises from Arundhai Roy, Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz, Michelle Alexander, Cornel West, Bill McKibben, Yanis Varovfakis, Michael Stripe, Keeanga Yamatitta Taylor, Danny Glover, and Eve Ensler. Could there not be a bigger panoply of (mostly) bourgeois progressives, some of whom have their own brands consisting of themselves?…Hence, Klein herself is a brand “in the marketplace” as was alluded to earlier in this article, and is part of a bigger brand: Haymarket Books. Sure, they sell book of “radical” and progressive authors, but they engaging in branding, just like Verso Books…Furthermore, the organization she is part of, 350.org, is branding to the max, which is interesting considering it is not mentioned AT ALL in this book, apart from the dust jacket. The book itself is a product, a commodity to put in more evident terms. How can Klein not recognize she is a brand? The same goes for Matt Taibbi, Edward Snowden, Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Chris Hedges, to name a few. These members of the “celebrity left,” as some have called it, are not the only brands. Bourgeois progressive media like Truthdig, Democracy Now!, Mother Jones, and the Nation, foundations like the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and non-profits like Public Citizen are all brands.

This begs the question: what is the “celebrity left”? In September 2014, Tarzie defined the Celebrity Left as those who who have an expansive “Twitter following in the tens of thousands and up” or capable of having such a following, and also “getting paid from time to time by mainstream media or larger liberal outlets to write and gab.” He also added that such individuals operate under “different or fewer constraints than the media as a whole,” that the funding sources of these individuals showing that the “presumed border between mainstream and alternative media is largely imagined,” that the higher status of these individuals “permits them a childishly despotic relationship with their critics” which usually takes the “form of sneering anti-radicalism — and the protection of fans…who dole out discipline on their behalf.” Tarzie further said that the latter is why “neoliberal billionaires and right wing media moguls find them worthy investments,” saying that such personalities are “essentially religious figures and so evaluating them becomes an issue of good and bad.” I would add  that such individuals do not  like criticism and dismiss it as silly, distracting, or unfounded, some of whom have been written about by Tarzie. [1] Other possible candidates for this “celebrity left” include Johnetta Elzie, Laurie Penny (not her real name), Sarah Jeong, Sarah Kendzior, Benjamin “Ben” Norton, Medea Benjamin, Bill McKibben, Chris Hedges, and Brittany Packnett.

It is worth investigating “what they actually believe and what they actually do” as one person, as noted earlier, suggested about Manning. These individuals may have some “wide recognition; fame; renown” but only in certain circles, as they are not famous or well-publicized people, as the definition by the fourth edition of the Webster’s New College Dictionary states for the word “celebrity.” As such, it may be detrimental to radical analysis to call them the “celebrity left.” Rather, one can have a broader group, considering them left reactionaries or the reactionary “left.” This person could as easily be applied to established media personalities like Melissa Harris-Perry, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Chris Matthews, Lawrence O’Donnell, Al Gore or Michael Moore as much as Chelsea Manning. This would help put them into context of existing bourgeois politics within the murderous empire, allowing one to criticize the reactionary elements of the “left.” Others can use the term “celebrity left” if they wish, but I think it limits the realm of discussion.

The reactionary nature of Chelsea Manning

A quote from her first column in The Guardian, showing her reformist, anti-revolutionary attitude. This photo is a revised version of the original posted on Manning’s twitter account, which was re-posted from her instagram account, in November of last year.

In late January of this year, /r/communism erupted in a storm with a post titled “i’m sorry for supporting Chelsea Manning.” Within it, the loyal comrade wrote that Manning has “gone full fucking reactionary these past few weeks” and said that he was “at least hoping she could eventually see past anarchism and move towards proper marxism,” saying at the end that “remember, comrades: kill your idols,” the latter used in the title of this article. There was over 40 comments on this thread, with some saying that it shouldn’t surprise people “she turned out to be a liberal” and that they “never thought of her as any different from Snowden or any more “left” than Sanders,” while others said that she is we should be aware of her but “actively seek to move past” as she remains “confined to the ideological trappings of capitalism-imperialism.” Comments ranged from those saying that “why would we (as a sub) support Ms. Manning anyway? She had always been an anarchist, and anti socialist,” that she is “is an inspirational figure, someone who did the right thing” but that “she is by no means a communist revolutionary” as her “announcing a Senate run under the Democrats should show just how liberal her politics are,” and others saying that she is a “big military supporter in spite of being personally aware of the war crimes they do on a regular basis” and that one should “not project revolutionary politics onto your fav celebrities” but rather “investigate what they actually believe and what they actually do.” As an active contributor on /r/communism, I of course commented as well, writing that

…I remember how people thought she was a pacifist, but she said she wasn’t anti-war or even a conscientious objector, but was only a “transparency advocate.” While she seems to be firmly anti-Trump, from a pursuing of her twitter account, she has said she wants ICE and Customs dismantled calling ICE the “gestapo”, supports universal basic income, believes the FISA court should be abolished, opposes police militarization and mass incarceration (I think?), has somewhat anti-authority beliefs and hangs out with other celebrity left as some call them. Lets say all of that is positive and genuine (not sure all those views are). It still doesn’t excuse equating the Nazi gestapo, Soviet nkvd, East German stasi, and ICE as one and the same! They aren’t! Its a bit disorienting to go through her twitter feed to say the least. I say that as a person who supported her throughout. I don’t think she has ever been radical, from what I can remember. This fulfills her self-defined “motivational” role, basically like a celebrity: “My role is to motivate people and remind them that there are ways in which we can defend ourselves”

After this, I said that I would like to know more about universal basic income, and that while Manning claims she “crashed” the party of bigots, but she actually didn’t do this at all, with the black bourgeois figure, DeRay as her “friend.” I also noted that she “believes in “radical anti-authoritarianism” (whatever that means)…doesn’t believe in borders and thinks that “anyone wanting to immigrate to America should be able to”…noted in that recent interview she had.” The response on /r/communism was a change from previous more supportive responses and for good reason!

This presents a number of problems. For one, any dedicated comrade should be horrified at the idea of partying with a bunch of bigots rather than protesting them and/or engaging in other anti-racist actions. It seems illogical to say you are crashing a party when you are schmoozing up with bigots of here, there, and everywhere! To her credit, however, she has been listening to these criticisms, saying in a recent tweet that

its been over a week since ive let everyone who helped me out of prison down, so many of you have helped me thru tough times, i tried too hard to do too much, im sorry im a human being and not a symbol, i have hit rock bottom

This is positive, but her logic that she “tried using my access/privilege to find ways to fight and undermine them” seems flawed. This is part of her response to “intense criticism for attending the A Night for Freedom party at the nightclub FREQ NYC hosted by right wing leader Mike Cernovich” as noted in The Daily Beast, for which she says she is “acting as a double agent, trying infiltrate the alt-right world to gain insight into their plans for rallies, get togethers, and general political strategy” as her connection with “right wing social media leaders began in autumn of last year” as she got more “involved in direct anti-fascist action in the wake of white supremacist-led violence in Charlottesville” by her own account. [1x] The same article says that Manning’s solution was “to use her fame and celebrity to integrate with an admirer who had connections with several alt-right social media personalities.” This included her connection with “Gateway Pundit writer Cassandra Fairbanks” whom she disagreed with, and was invited to go to “Escape the Room with friends” which she agreed with, feeling that she could “use the celebrity and fame I’ve gotten since getting out of prison to gather information and to ultimately find ways in which we who are against the alt-right can undermine the alt-right,”  deciding to double down on “her decision to hunt for information on the alt-right’s dealings.” She later spent an evening in playing Cards Against Humanity at the apartment of Gateway Pundit correspondent Lucian B. Wintrich, with Manning later saying that she learned that these individuals “don’t actually believe the things that they say…they’re opportunists and that they exploit their Twitter followers’ fears.” The Daily Beast then claims that Manning’s plan to establish “relationships with alt-right media figures to gain insight into their plans isn’t as far fetched as it seems at first blush” with Manning apparently using “her celebrity to access the [Manhattan] party to confront the alt- right VIPs on hand by making her presence felt in opposition, even if she wasn’t necessarily planning on making a scene inside before joining the anti-fascist protest assembling outside” with the party headlined “by VICE co-founder Gavin McInnes,” and said that there was “a transphobic rant,” viewing her presence as a protest. This flies in the face of “a photo that have been released this week showing Manning with a relaxed demeanor and smiling, with drink in hand as she conversed with McInnes,” then emerging from there to “join the protesters outside, who by that point had surrounded the entire building.” She talked gto the protest marshall “and relayed several bits of useful of information, including the number of people inside, the general mood, what people inside were talking about, and whether they were planning any after parties.” The Daily Beast concluded that “it’s impossible to really know what was going through Manning’s head as she decided to escalate her relationships with figureheads of the alt-right in order to supposedly gather intelligence on their plans” and that her “decision-making process appears nonsensical to all but the most ardently engaged in the anti-fascist movement and the whole thing has an air of impulsiveness,” leaving supporters confused and betrayed. As she said at the end of the article,

People have every right to be confused and hurt by this. Regardless of good intentions, I leveraged my privilege to gain access to spaces others couldn’t dream of entering safely. I never meant to hurt my supporters. No amount of information on the alt-right is worth losing the trust of my supporters.

I think that she made the wrong decision to enter the party. It may have had some short-term benefit, but ultimately it was worthless.

Then there’s her decision to run for office. Since she had NO established platform yet, other than what she has said on twitter, this isn’t worth discussing for more than a sentence, except to say that it shows that she doesn’t really care about the masses of people, whom the Democrats don’t really serve at all. As Ralph Nader said, in Omidyar’s plaything called The Intercept, of all places, the Democratic Party has been in decline since the 1970s, due to poor decisions and other factors:

…I’m going to give you millstones around the Democratic Party neck that are milestones. The first big one was in 1979. Tony Coelho, who was a congressman from California, and who ran the House Democratic Campaign treasure chest, convinced the Democrats that they should bid for corporate money, corporate PACs, that they could raise a lot of money. Why leave it up to Republicans and simply rely on the dwindling labor union base for money, when you had a huge honeypot in the corporate area? And they did. And I could see the difference almost immediately. First of all, they lost the election to Reagan. And then they started getting weaker in the Congress. At that time, 1980, some of our big allies were defeated in the so-called Reagan landslide against Carter, we lost Senator [Gaylord] Nelson, Senator [Warren] Magnuson, Senator [Frank] Church. We had more trouble getting congressional hearings investigating corporate malfeasance by the Democrat [congressional committee] chairs. When the Democrats regained the White House [in 1992] you could see the difference in appointments to regulatory agencies, the difficulty in getting them to upgrade health and safety regulations. The second millstone is that they didn’t know how to deal with Reagan. And the Republicans took note. That means a soft tone, smiling … You can say terrible things and do terrible things as long as you have [that] type of presentation…they took the economic issues off the table that used to win again and again in the thirties and forties for the Democrats. The labor issues, the living wage issues, the health insurance issue, pension issues. And that of course was a huge bonanza for the Republican Party because the Republican Party could not contend on economic issues. They contended on racial issues, on bigotry issues, and that’s how they began to take control of the solid Democratic South after the civil rights laws were passed…As a result they drew back geographically, to the east coast, west coast and so on. And that created another millstone: You don’t run a 50-state [presidential] campaign. If you don’t run a 50-state campaign, number one you’re strengthening the opposing party in those states you’ve abandoned, so they can take those states for granted and concentrate on the states that are in the grey area. That was flub number one. When they abandoned the red states, they abandoned five states in the Rocky Mountain area, and started out with a handicap of nine or ten senators…Next millstone, the labor unions began getting weak, weak in numbers and weak in leadership. They began shelling out huge money to the Democrats for television. And as they became weaker they lost their grassroots mobilization on behalf of the Democrats. The Democrats began the process of message preceding policy. No — policy precedes message…The last millstone is, they make sure by harassing progressive third parties that the third party never pushes them. I’m an expert on that. They try to get them off the ballot…Unfortunately, to put it in one phrase, the Democrats are unable to defend the United States of America from the most vicious, ignorant, corporate-indentured, militaristic, anti-union, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-posterity [Republican Party] in history.

Then we get to Manning’s endorsement, on twitter, of Universal Basic Income (UBI) which calls for a discussion of the concept itself.

Since the 1980s, the idea of UBI has been circulating in “left-of-centere” political circles in countries such as Finland, with the idea it would “combat the economic and social consequences of falling industrial employment by freeing all” to make “meaningful contributions to society” but it is also appealing to the right-wing that sees it as “a possible way to a leaner, less bureaucratic welfare system.” [1a] As such, some say it is an “answer” to automation and some claim end “poverty with a stroke.” The idea’s conception is vague, but it seems to be that it means that the “government would pay every adult citizen a salary, regardless of wealth, employment income or if they worked at all” with the theory that this would solve “a host of endemic economic problems, from poverty to chronic joblessness, that are only likely to worsen in the coming century,” along with disruptions from technology, with this idea dating back years in Western political thought. [2] It is well-rooted enough that the Nixon Administration studied the idea in the later 1960s, unsuccessfully trying to “get a basic-income benefit through Congress” and is backed by Silicon Valley mavens Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar, and Bill Gates along with others like Andrew Stern (formerly of the SEIU), and Charles Murray of the AEI (American Enterprise Institute), to name a few. However, critics say it is just a way to starve the existing government programs, especially those that boost “universal child care or free college tuition” with most critics, and even some proponents, saying that the “the costs would be absurdly prohibitive in any case.” Specifically, Robert Greenstein of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says “a check of $10,000 to each of 300 million Americans would cost more than $3 trillion a year” while Lawrence “Larry” H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary, said that “paying a $5,000 universal basic income to the 250 million nonpoor Americans would cost about $1.25 trillion a year.” [3] Even with this, there are ongoing experiments in Finland, Kenya, Scotland, Canada, the Netherlands, India, and Italy of UBI, with the one in Finland being a short two year program only targeting the unemployed, and implemented by a “centre-right, austerity-focused government interested primarily in spending less on social security” along with bringing down the unemployment rate. [4]

There are a host of problems with UBI, claimed to be utopian. For one, it could sap the “desire to work” and it “divorces assistance from need” along with not being  politically resilient as some might think. [5] It may attract those across the political spectrum, including horrid libertarian economists F.A. Hayek & Milton Friedman, former Democratic candidate George McGovern, Stephen Hawking, Bernie Sanders, Andrew McDowell, political scientist Charles Murray, CATO Institute peoples, the Brookings Institution, the IMF, and others with a bourgeois viewpoint along with interest across the world, with a global network of support. Even Killary Clinton thought that it was a great idea, thinking about it during the 2016 presidential campaign. However, its supposedly “radically simple” approach does not “liberate” people in a capitalist society, from their jobs or give them more “bargaining power,” and be “revolutionary” as some proponents seem to think it will since a good number of those who support it, especially on the right-wing, want to eliminate all social programs, an excuse to “get rid of the welfare state” especially if those in power are hostile toward social services programs which serve the proletariat. [6] Some proponents are even unsure about is success, saying that “it could fail disastrously, or it could change everything for the better,” since we don’t know what would happen if it is implemented, a worrisome thought to say the least. Also, terms like “universal” and “basic” are not defined, likely leading to discrimination by those implementing the program to exclude “bad” people, as they claim it is “universal.” [7]

Sure, you can say there is a “patchwork benefits system” in the murderous empire, for example, but UBI’s universalism is a trap in and of itself, with failures in all the “four major negative income tax experiments” within the murderous empire held from the 1960s to the 1980s. It is further problematic that UBI may be, as some proponents say, is about embracing automation despite its effects on the proletariat which would benefit the capitalist class! Some proponents go out and declare that UBI is about making sure “the market is working as efficiently and effectively” by giving everyone, supposedly, “the minimum amount of voice with which to speak in the marketplace for basic goods and services,” an improvement on capitalist democracy, and others noting that it would allow the proletariat to become petty bourgeoisie. [8] However, the claims it will “even the playing field” in capitalism is magical thinking. You can’t regulate away exploitation. You can only do that through determined effort and struggle by the masses, not some law passed by stogy legislators. Of course some capitalists oppose the concept of UBI as would be “too expensive” or expands government too much, but there are also others who support it. A major problem is that there is no unified thought on UBI with some thinking that all payroll and income taxes should be replaced with “a 25% flat tax on income regardless of source,” benefiting the bourgeoisie (as they would be paying less tax and the proletariat would be paying more!), while others want higher taxes on the bourgeoisie and elimination of certain subsidies. [9] The libertarian proponents of UBI probably hint at the obvious results of the program: “free markets” would be reinforced, welfare programs limited, supporting the exploitative relationship of capitalists over workers, and reducing “bureaucracy.” All of these effects, in existing capitalist society, would hurt the proletariat. Regardless of what the proponents claim, UBI would support the bourgeoisie plain and simple, bankrupting a society (or societies) allowing the bourgeoisie to take even more control than they already have. Even Jacobin, the magazine for butt-hurt social democrats, argued that “UBI isn’t an alternative to neoliberalism, but an ideological capitulation to it” because the most “viable forms of basic income would universalize precarious labor and extend the sphere of the market.” [10] They further added that “if UBI does take shape, current power relations will favor those who have economic power and want to profit by weakening the existing system of social protection and labor market regulations.” That should be enough to reject the program all together. After all, while having a capitalist society and operating as part of the capitalist system, exploitation will always be there, even if you think you have “tamed” it.

In sum, Manning’s support of UBI shows she is standing with the bourgeoisie with a “trendy” political position, and not supporting the proletariat, yet another aspect of her horrid reactionary politics.

Manning and the saga of FitzGibbon Media

This video still comes right after Trevor FitzGibbon of the PR firm, FitzGibbon Media, declares “we work 24/7…to get our clients injected into the national and international news cycle, online through social media, pack a punch to make sure that clients, who are the real heroes here, are going to break through.” It also quotes the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Elyse Hogue, as praising the firm as an “extension of her campaign team.” The Executive Director of Color of Change says the same thing. This firm, as noted later in this section, has ties to Chelsea Manning herself.

Disturbingly, these views and attending a party of bigots is the least of the problems with the company she keeps. Her popularity is part due to her connection with the collapsed PR form, FitzGibbon Media (FGM). It is worth remembering what happened considering that some created crowdfunding for former FitzGibbon employees, and others  said that it “can be tough out here for women in the workplace.” [11] It is worth recalling that the form worked with clients like the ACLU, MoveON, Rock the Vote, Chelsea Manning Legal Defense Fund, WikiLeaks, Purpose, Credo, The Nation Institute, “Flood Wall Street“led by their client Energy Action Coalition,to name a few. The organization also opposed “Stand Your Ground” laws, assisted SumOfUs in “fighting” against Bank of America apparently, and demanding, hypocritically due to FitzGibbon’s predatory behavior, pushed for the passage of a new and improved Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and called out the Nature Conservancy for working with paper manufacturers (before FGM was formed).

FGM, having the same abbreviation as female genital mutilation, shutdown after various female employees, such as journalist Sierra Pedraja, Rachel Tardiff of a Democratic Party partisan organization (Media Matters), Heather Parker, “Mary,” “Beth,” “Tracey,” and “Karen,” among others, noted that Trevor FitzGibbon, former communications director for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, had engaged in sexual harassment and assault (including groping) toward them, even inviting people to his hotel room and requesting photos of some. [12] He also treated male staffers with an “overgrown frat boy demeanor” and angrily dismissed the accusations, declaring in sexist terms that “being accused of rape was actually worse than being raped,” defending his role as a “calculating predator who knew exactly how to exploit his power.” He did something similar at his former PR firm, Fenton Communications.

With employees apparently caught off guard when management said the firm was closing soon, due to the fact that they could not work under the leadership of a sexual harasser like him, staffers received no bonuses or severance, while some former clients said they were willing to “work with the company’s former employees.”Still, the “activist Left was shocked in December by the collapse of progressive communications consulting firm Fitzgibbon Media” as one article put it. This was indicated by those at The Nation engaging in hand-wringing about the disintegration of “one of the country’s most powerful PR firms on the left…[with] FitzGibbon Media is unique in [that]…the employees banded together and decided to speak out,” while Jamil Smith in the horrid New Republic declaring that “yes, you can be a liberal and a sexual abuser…[progressives] need to stop believing that liberalism elevates us over the possibility of being sexist.”

Of course FitzGibbon calling the accusations of sexual harassment “a distraction to the mission at hand” and defending his pervy behavior. Former staffers responded to this, saying the following on the tumblr of one “Ginny Simmons,” who was   the VP of the firm:

The team that comprised FitzGibbon Media is incredibly sad and disappointed to confirm that allegations have been made against Trevor FitzGibbon, FitzGibbon Media founder and President, for sexual assault and harassment of multiple female staffers. Staffers reported over a half dozen incidents of sexual harassment and at least two involving sexual assault committed by Trevor FitzGibbon against his own employees. For decades, Trevor presented himself as a champion of the progressive movement, claiming to support and respect women and feminist issues, from equal pay to reproductive rights, but his actions prove a hypocrisy so great that FitzGibbon Media closed its doors today, as we could no longer continue working under his leadership. We lost our jobs standing up for what’s right, to ensure a safe workplace for all — and while we may have been left without jobs, benefits and long-term healthcare, we have our integrity and each other. We are devastated to see our beloved place of work closed at the hands of such a coward and hope to continue working on the social and political issues we love and care so deeply for in the future.

With such accusations, some of FGM’s former clients [13] condemned the actions of FitzGibbon, whose actions were aimed at a total of (at least) thirteen women, 10 who were employees and 3 who were FGM clients. This is made worse by the fact, as PR Daily observed, according to FGM’s former website, “two-thirds of the 30 employees listed are female.” That’s a pretty strong case that FitzGibbon is creep, and definitely more of a creeper than Anakin Skywalker in Episode 2 of the Star Wars series in the way he acted toward Padme. With the end of FBM, which was in the process of expanding to a London office and had a new San Francisco office, with an office in L.A. adding a new employee named Naomi Seligman in 2010, one could say that FGM clients are at least partially responsible in covering up FitzGibbon’s abusive behavior.

Beyond this, the firm, which was described as “astroturf” by Tarzie, fulfilled this reality when Andy Stepanian with FGM spoke on behalf of Bree Newsome, a Black woman who took down the Confederate flag in front of the South Carolinan Statehouse, on June 27, 2015, a connection which Newsome didn’t even acknowledge as the hashtag of “#freebree” spreading across the twitterverse. [14] One article on a PR website, is most illuminating on this subject, noting that the firm

handled publicity for the removal by activists of the Confederate Battle Flag from the South Carolina Statehouse…Bree Newsome, who climbed the flagpole to take down the flag, said her group couldn’t wait any longer for the flag to go. She said, “It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.” The flag’s removal soared to the top of Twitter’s trending topics for most of June 2y…In its piece, CNN credited FitzGibbon Media, which represented Color of Change in the flag action, for reporting the event.

This use of FGM apparently to just “report” the event is troubling as it casts doubt on Newsome’s supposed radicalism. This troubling nature is enhanced by the fact that FGM promoted the event on their Tumblr, even reporting it originally for the first time on the same Tumblr, in a post where Newsome declares that “we removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.” This association with FGM throws doubt on Newsome herself, at least in my mind. This shows that FGM had a fundamental amount of power in social justice organizations, a number of which claimed to be grassroots. This is confirmed by an article in Style Weekly, noting that”Trevor FitzGibbon…knew for a week that the flag takedown was coming, but the exact time changed when capitol security showed up unexpectedly”with FitzGibbon hiring “the videographer, created the news release, trained people on the ground on how to deliver their message, and juggled the huge volume of media requests and appearances.” [15] Furthermore, the article says that FGM client Color of Change, “helped fund the effort,” with FGM getting “the first call whenever a huge progressive moment is about to happen anywhere in the country” engaging in pro-bono work for “leading organizations and public figures in the progressive world,” with staff sent to Ferguson after Michael Brown was shot  “to assess the situation and work with youth voices, friends of Michael Brown.” The article also said that “FitzGibbon visits Manning occasionally, runs her social media accounts.”

How does Manning connect to FGM? We know that in December 2015, when FitzGibbon was forced out and FGM closed that Manning’s account tweeted that “the crisis at @fitzgibbonmedia is hardly a “distraction.” Dozens of people are hurt, humiliated, and traumatized =( My thoughts are w/ them.” The question remains, who wrote this tweet? Was it Manning or someone else? This may seem to be worthless question. As Tarzie wrote in April 2015, in post titled “Chelsea Manning is not on Twitter. Her PR Agency is,” it was noted that the official story is that “she’s dictating tweets over the phone to a representative.” Tarzie noted that Manning’s agency is FGM, which is an organization which he describes as specializing “in co-opting non-partisan dissent for the Democratic Party.” Tarzie notes that MoveOn is the model for “niche astroturf campaigns for a variety of left-liberal concerns” and that “a number of Fitzgibbon’s larger clients are in the same vein” along with FGM participating in “soft imperialism” with the Ford Foundation and Amnesty International as clients, which makes Manning’s connection weirder considering the relationship between FGM and Manning goes back to 2011 at least. Tarzie also writes that we can “take everything her astroturfing PR Agency tweets on her behalf or publishes under her name, very, very seriously” and that he has “no illusions of unearthing a deep dark secret.” There are also a number of articles in Newsweek, NBC News, and the New York Daily News that show FitzGibbon’s involvement with Manning’s account. [16] Newsweek wrote in April 2015 that Manning created her account “with the help of Fitzgibbon Media, a self-described global, progressive communications firm,” with the account then managed by a FGM employee, while NBC News said that FBM is “handling Manning’s account…posting messages she dictates by phone and telling her about the responses.” An article in the New York Daily News added that “the note [in which Manning said her account was genuine], written on Manning’s personal letterhead, arrived late last week in Trevor Fitzgibbon’s mailbox,” with the message appearing “on her account Thursday.” with Fitzgibbon “one of two people with the keys to the Twitter account.” [17]

On December 18th, after the demise of FGM, “the Sparrow Project,” lead by the former senior director of the firm, Andrew “Andy” Stepanian (as noted on his LinkedIn), said that Manning’s account was discussed and will be “handled.” The same day, a tweet came from Manning’s account announcing that “control of this account has temporarily been transferred to a volunteer associated w/ https://www.chelseamanning.org” (dead link) likely written by Stepanian himself. Even Chuckles or Charlie Davis, an aspiring member [18] of the reactionary “left,” noted FGM’s involvement, writing that

Though owed tens of thousands of dollars, Manning’s lawyers have not stopped working (the fund paid $10,000 toward its bill in March after receiving $10,636 in donations, or $9,412 after bank fees). The shortfall has led Manning herself to appeal for funds on her new Twitter account. Her posts are currently dictated over the phone from military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to an employee of the public relations firm Fitzgibbon Media, according to a handwritten letter from Manning. That firm has been paid by the Chelsea Manning Support Network to promote Manning’s cause.

However, according to a resolute commenter, Mr. Kal Holmann, Glenn Greenwald said that FGM represented the Chelsea Manning Support Network for pro bono (it seems that many organizations were represented by FGM on a pro bono basis) because of the “rightness” of her cause. As I said in my comment, it remains to be seen if we should trust Greenwald’s account over that of Chuckles. Even so, it is undisputed, in both stories, that the Chelsea Manning Support Network was FGM client. Mr. Holmann also argued that while the relationship between Trevor FitzGibbon and Chelsea Manning, “remains of historical interest, it’s hardly pertinent to the left’s current concerns with Chelsea’s behavior.” I tend to disagree, as FGM had a pivotal role as a PR firm in progressive circles.At the present time, Manning likely does not have ties to the creep Trevor FitzGibbon, and neither do the progressives who rightfully left him in the dust when FGM closed down in December 2015. It is possible, however, that Manning has relationships with former FGM employees and may have some doing PR efforts for her, a possibility which isn’t out of the question. Now, back to the main article, my fellow readers.

With such involvement in promoting progressives, it is no surprise that the Venezuelan embassy in DC was given a “PR voice” by FGM, under a six-month contract with Trevor FitzGibbon and Suzanne Gilbert handling “Venezuela work” and reporting to “Maximillen Arvelaiz, charge d’affairs at the embassy” and another firm, Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications also working for “Venezuela under a one-year contract worth $420K.” Before the LinkedIn for FGM disappears [19], I think its is important to fully quote what it says so it can be saved for future analysis:

FitzGibbon Media was founded a little over four years ago, uniting a staff of communications and campaign experts to create aggressive strategies that ensure non-profits, foundations, and progressive advocacy organizations break out, break through, and get noticed. FitzGibbon Media makes an impact in the US and abroad every single day. Our expertise and aggressive strategies ensure our clients’ actions, messages, and spokespersons are a dominant force in the news cycle. Our work is second to none.

It tells you that the connection of Manning and FitzGibbon plants her within the “left” reactionaries but also shows she is not only anti-revolutionary but has the company of creeps which is disturbing. FGM, along with George Soros’s Open Society, is willing to pull in progressives for their own motives, like the support for the group, Hands Up United. You could call it a progressive PR firm, but that inherently means that those it helps will not, in any way, be radical.

What happened to Christina C. DiPasquale, Nery Espinosa, Karen Scott, Suzie Gilbert, Yasmina Dardari, Tim Rusch, Al Thomson, Lucia Allain, Michele Setteducato, and Andy Stepanian, who all worked at FGM as of July 2015 (there are others who worked there in 2013, the next time the page was archived, in 2016, it was too late)? Well, Christina DiPasquale became the “founder and CEO of Balestra Media,” leading “strategic communications for progressive clients working on human rights projects.” It should be no surprise that Andy Stepanian is the creative director of Balestra Media (archived here), with the organization’s clients seeming to be some of same that were taken up by FGM:

  • National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) (partnered with other bourgeois “Latino” groups)
  • Global Witness (pushed along with millions of funding from Soros’s Open Society Foundations, with other money coming from the Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish governments, Omidyar Network, and Ford Foundation to name a few)
  • Stand With Congo (receiving support from varying partners, media organizations, and humanitarian imperialists like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International)
  • The Raben Group (a PR firm that works among “the LGBTQ community and communities of color” with philanthropic, corporate, and nonprofit clients. It is also where former FGM employee Nery Espinosa works)
  • Luminant Media (a “production and post-production company based in Venice, California” with a site that never loads)
  • AccessNow (a group which “defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world,” a mission which is complicated by their funding from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Cisco, to name a few)
  • NARAL Pro-Choice America (a group in favor of reproductive rights with millions of dollars of assets)
  • Chelsea Manning Legal Defense Fund (now defunct)
  • ACLU (A so-called “guardian of liberty…defend[ing] and preserv[ing]…the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States” but also sides with White supremacists and is incredibly liberal, not standing by radicals. It is funded by the Ford Foundation, Pierre and Pam Omidyar, and many other groups)
  • Fight for the Future ( a group that says it is fighting to “ensure that the web continues to hold freedom of expression and creativity at its core” but is funded by the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, other foundations, and varying other funders)
  • Free Press (an organization which says it “fights for your rights to connect and communicate” but is funded by the Ford Foundation, and a host of others. Michele Setteducato, former FGM director of media relations, seemed to work for Free Press at least up to 2016 but not at the present)
  • University of New Hampshire Casey School for Public Policy (a school supported by the Ford Foundation, and Goldman Sachs, to name a few)
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC) (a group which says it “responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.” It is funded by Pfizer, General Electric, Google.org, Ford Foundation, Citi Foundation, Chevron, Tides Foundation, and Microsoft to name a few)
  • EducationCities (a “national nonprofit network of 31 city-based organizations in 24 cities working to significantly increase the number of great public schools across the country” which is funded by the Gates Foundation, and Walton Family Foundation, among others)
  • Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) (a group which works with and educates “immigrants, community organizations, and the legal sector to continue to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people,” and is funded by some law firms and numerous other individuals)
  • Youth First Initiative (opposes juvenile incarceration, and has Andy Stepanian of The Sparrow Project as the head of creative direction for the organization. Those who fund this organization are not known)
  • Restoration Legal Arts (a “retreat, learning and action community for artists and ministers who are creating resources within today’s movements of liberation.” It has only two staff, a small board of directors, and two advising theologians. It is not known who funds this non-profit)

It seems evident that Global Witness, Stand With Congo, AccessNow, NARAL Pro-Choice America, ACLU, Fight for the Future, NHMC, Free Press, IRC, EducationCities, ILRC, and Youth First Initiative are not grassroots. They are all, basically astroturf. Others, like the Raben Group, Luminant Media, and University of New Hampshire Casey School for Public Policy have ties to bourgeois groups and corporate funders, but that is all that is known. Restoration Legal Arts may be tied to such groups as well. Chelsea Manning Legal Defense Fund/Chelsea Manning Support Network may have been grassroots originally but it received money from Glenn Greenwald, First Look Media (the overarching organization of Omidyar’s The Intercept which is a horrid place to work by all accounts), and Courage to Resist at least.

We know where Andy Stepanian, went, as noted earlier, but what about the others? It is not known what happened to Karen Scott, former Vice President of the Artist Action Team at FGM, and Al Thomson. For others, something is known. Tim Rusch, Senior Vice President & NYC office Co-Director seemed to work for the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United at one point (and before FGM, Demos). Suzie Gilbert who was in FGM’s London office seems to have stayed progressive and is still on Twitter. Yasmina Dardari, a FGM strategist, is seemingly working for Unbendable Media, after graduating from Columbia University. Lucia Allain, a “Dreamer” and immigration activist, is a blogger and National Media Coordinator for Movimento Cosecha.

This shows that the former FGM people are everywhere. So, be careful, comrades! Perhaps some of the former FGM employees can redeem themselves, but a good amount of them still stayed in PR-like work.

The  Company Manning Keeps

It is worth briefly discussing the company that Manning keeps. Lets start with Glenn Greenwald.

While I think that I don’t even think writing a post criticizing Glenn Greenwald is worth my while, a criticism is warranted. Back in 2010, when the Supreme Court decided in favor of corporations with the Citizens United decision, Greenwald supported the decision. As even Noam Chomsky said in an interview with Truthout, “…there are some civil libertarians like Glenn Greenwald who more or less supported it on free speech grounds. I don’t agree with it, but I can see the argument.” Specifically in an article in Salon titled “What the Supreme Court got right: It’s best for the government to stay out of the business of restricting political advocacy” Greenwald said that while he was “deeply ambivalent about the court’s ruling,” he claimed that “the Government is barred from restricting speech — especially political speech — no matter the good results that would result from the restrictions. That’s the price we pay for having the liberty of free speech” which he accepted as the norm, adding that “free speech rights burdened by campaign finance laws are often significantly under-stated” while further saying he understands and sympathizes “with the argument that corporations are creatures of the state and should not enjoy the same rights as individuals,” ringing his hands over these speech restrictions.Even if we agree that such restrictions are worthless, that doesn’t mean we should applaud this decision. In fact, we should condemn it.

This opinion connects with Greenwald’s support for a Supreme Court decision that overturned a law banning videos showing kittens being crushed to death for sexual satisfaction, with Randy Shields saying in response that

the inspiration for this piece was a tweet of Salon’s Glenn Greenwald where he defended the court’s decision. Screw you, Glenn Greenwald, and your lofty liberal white bread apologetics, which don’t mean shit in the real world of “crush” videos and capitalism.

Greenwald’s view is not surprising since he has gone to conferences of the CATO Institute and Socialism conferences, as noted on his twitter. Even Socialist Worker (a Trotskyist site) writer Kolponashokti-r Doinyo was critical of Greenwald standing beside two conservatives and not challenging them [20], writing that

… Glenn Greenwald took part in a college speaking tour sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation (FFF) and Young Americans for Liberty (a mouthpiece for Republican presidential contender Ron Paul) in early February…At the tour stop at Ohio State University in Columbus, the speakers talked at length about the infamous federal law called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the evils of the state having the power to detain citizens (and non-citizens) without the due process…All three panelists shared the belief that there are certain core principles which citizens should fight for irrespective of their professed political and ideological beliefs…Additionally, while words like “empire” and “imperialism” were thrown around to describe the U.S., there was no connection made between U.S. imperialism and the economics of capitalism. WHILE GREENWALD’S critique of Barack Obama for undermining civil liberties was correct, his decision to choose a platform provided by right-wing libertarians should be a matter of concern to people on the left. At the forum, he never raised any points of political difference that he might have with the libertarians, giving the impression that civil liberties issues trump all other political and social questions. In fact, he went so far as to say that the only person challenging the narrow political spectrum of the two-party system currently is Ron Paul, effectively showing support for him before the Republican primaries…For someone like Greenwald to speak on a platform provided by a right-wing libertarian organization connected to Ron Paul–and to speak highly of Paul without even hinting at political differences–while solely concentrating on the question of civil liberties does not reflect the political perspicacity that followers of his blog at Salon.com might expect.

Then there’s Chris Floyd who notes that Greenwald fits in with Ominyar’s reformism,   unlike Douglas Valentine who once said he’d give Greenwald and others a “free pass” for working with capitalist Omidyar, arguing that

Omidyar, who founded eBay and now owns PayPal, has recently become widely known — and universally lauded — for committing $250 million to fund First Look, a publishing group dedicated to adversarial journalism. He has assembled an all-star team for his venture, including Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Jeremy Scahill, Marcy Wheeler and others of similar reputation. It is no exaggeration to say that he has become a bonafide hero of the left, which has tended to dismiss all criticism or questioning of his new enterprise, or his wider operations, as the grumbling of jealous losers — or even as covert actions of the State, trying to derail this dangerous new threat to elite rule…Indeed, even Greenwald calls only for “reforms” of the system, for “real oversight” of the National Security State by legislators — the same legislators bought, sold, cowed and dominated by Big Money. I honestly don’t think that the powers-that-be feel threatened by an enterprise set up by one of their number that confines itself to calls for “reform” from “within”…Omidyar’s goals are limited: to protect the privacy of the individual from government. This is a noble, worthy aim. But based on his own actions, he is perfectly content for that privacy-protected individual to advance a punishing neo-liberal agenda on the rest of the world, and at home, in collusion with the National Security State if need be. Whether Greenwald, Scahill, Taibbi, Wheeler and the rest are equally content with this agenda is something we will find out in the months to come.

There are other critiques as well, like those that criticize him for misstating the charges against Chelsea Manning, and Israel Shamir’s articles (see here and here) about The Guardian, Snowden, and him getting to Moscow.

Oh, and let’s not forget the Freedom of the Press Foundation which recently waged a campaign against Wikileaks and claiming that funding still flows when it really doesn’t.  As Trevor Timm, of the foundation declared, at the last board meeting in October 2017,

…a consensus arose that we could not find any evidence of an ongoing blockade involving PayPal, Visa, or Mastercard. We decided we would therefore formally notify WikiLeaks that unless they could demonstrate that a blockade was still in effect, we would no longer provide a mechanism for people to donate to them.

Of course, Micah Lee, of the organization is saying that Wikileaks is lying (and has an “army of twitter trolls“), and trying to say Assange is anti-semetic.  As MintPress noted, the board of the organization voted “stop accepting U.S. donations for WikiLeaks,” claiming that “the financial blockade by the major payment processors is no longer in effect” and will not process any further payments to Wikileaks, as noted by the Washington Times. While Wikileaks is clearly libertarian in willing to hire that horrid Google engineer, they are right that the foundation was “substantially taken over by US oligarch Pierre Omidyar (Paypal/Ebay) cash and influence,” which once agreed with Wikileaks that there was a financial blockade! As one Wikileaks supporter put it, the answer for ending such donations lies “a man named Pierre Odiymar who is known for founding the site Ebay and for his board position at PayPal, and also created the Intercept news organization,” further writing that

…Up until a few months ago, the Intercept’s funding was public which showed financial resources coming from Pierre Omidyar’s NASDAQ securities. Removing this, is simply a publicity stunt in order that Omidyar can distance himself from the Intercept and appear to have no influence on its journalists…The only reason for dropping support of Wikileaks is purely political in nature and may very well be instrumented by the Clintons themselves…Recently, Micah F Lee has slandered the editor of Wikileaks on Twitter and is currently trying to smear his reputation. This also is included in the “Wikileaks Threat”…The biggest critics in 2010 of the Wikileaks bank blockade are now funded by none other than Pierre himself as seen in the chart below. This is an obvious attempt to silence the critics that are against his Wikileaks agenda…Needless to say, this dropping of funds by FPF should make patrons stronger in their support of this persecuted institute that has never been wrong in 11 years.

It seems that to some extent, Wikileaks has come around to the view of Tarzie, tweeting out one of his articles earlier this year.

Notes

[1] Articles/posts by Tarzie: Greenwald on Chomsky and Staying In the Mainstream Without Compromise, Citizenfour’s Astonishing Revelation: Greenwald is a “useless” “careerist” “boob”, Greenwald’s Free Speech Absolutism and Twitter’s Foley Ban, Do Glenn Greenwald And His Fans Really Care More Than You?, Greenwald’s Fireworks Finale Postponed, Sy Hersh is an Intel Asset and Therefore No Gary Webb, Snowden Lays an Egg, a Statue Grows in Brooklyn and Manning Wins a Round, and Cornel West’s Impermissible Opinions. Bill McKibben, a primer environmental activist who is part of the former FGM client, 350.org, promotes the New York Times on a regular basis. More importantly, 350.org celebrating that the New York Times featured the march on their front cover with a cover story, despite some saying the Times’s coverage was “pitiful.” This is laughable considering, looking at the Times’s own stats, their readers are “educated, affluent and influential” with over 85% with a college degree, and readers earning more than $75,000, with a median net worth of over $156,000. Hence, those that read the Times aren’t normal people, but are those that are affluent. That’s who their protests are supposedly reaching but likely not challenging in a fundamental way.

[1a] Jon Henley, “Money for nothing: is Finland’s universal basic income trial too good to be true?,” The Guardian, Jan 12, 2018, writing for “the inequality project,” a part of the Guardian supported by the Ford Foundation; Eduardo Porter, “A Universal Basic Income Is a Poor Tool to Fight Poverty,” New York Times, May 31, 2016; Dylan Matthews, “A basic income really could end poverty forever,” Vox, Jun 17, 2017.

[2] Matt Vella, “Universal Basic Income: A Utopian Idea Whose Time May Finally Have Arrived,” Time, April 13, 2017; Eduardo Porter, “A Universal Basic Income Is a Poor Tool to Fight Poverty,” New York Times, May 31, 2016; Chris Weller, “Mark Zuckerberg doubles down on universal basic income after a trip to Alaska,” Business Insider, Jul 5, 2017; Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), “History of basic income,” accessed February 2, 2018; Issie Lapowsky, “Free Money: The Surprising Effects of a Basic Income Supplied by Government,” Wired, Nov 15, 2017.

[3] Eduardo Porter, “A Universal Basic Income Is a Poor Tool to Fight Poverty,” New York Times, May 31, 2016; Lauren Thomas, “Universal basic income debate sharpens as observers grasp for solutions to inequality,” CNBC, Mar 25, 2017.

[4] Lauren Thomas, “Universal basic income debate sharpens as observers grasp for solutions to inequality,” CNBC, Mar 25, 2017; Jon Henley, “Money for nothing: is Finland’s universal basic income trial too good to be true?,” The Guardian, Jan 12, 2018, writing for “the inequality project,” a part of the Guardian supported by the Ford Foundation; Aditya Chakrabortty, “A basic income for everyone? Yes, Finland shows it really can work,” The Guardian, Oct 31, 2017. UBI was rejected in Switzerland by voters.

[5] Lauren Thomas, “Universal basic income debate sharpens as observers grasp for solutions to inequality,” CNBC, Mar 25, 2017; Eduardo Porter, “A Universal Basic Income Is a Poor Tool to Fight Poverty,” New York Times, May 31, 2016; Michelle Chen, “Could a Universal Basic Income Work in the US?,” The Nation, August 15, 2017; Christine Emba, “Universal basic income,” Washington Post opinion, September 28, 2015; Andrew Flowers, “What Would Happen If We Just Gave People Money?,” Five Thirty Eight, Apr 25, 2016; Aditya Chakrabortty, “A basic income for everyone? Yes, Finland shows it really can work,” The Guardian, Oct 31, 2017; Ellie Mae O’Hagan, “Love the idea of a universal basic income? Be careful what you wish for,” The Guardian, Jun 23, 2017; Scott Santens, “Why Should We Support the Idea of Universal Basic Income?,” HuffPost, Jun 26, 2015; Frances Coppola, “The IMF Gives A Cautious Welcome To Universal Basic Income,” Forbes, Oct 15, 2017.

[6] Lauren Thomas, “Universal basic income debate sharpens as observers grasp for solutions to inequality,” CNBC, Mar 25, 2017; Andrew Flowers, “What Would Happen If We Just Gave People Money?,” Five Thirty Eight, Apr 25, 2016; Ellie Mae O’Hagan, “Love the idea of a universal basic income? Be careful what you wish for,” The Guardian, Jun 23, 2017.

[7] Yuval Noah Harari, “Universal Basic Income Is Neither Universal Nor Basic,” Bloomberg View, Jun 4, 2017.

[8] Scott Santens, “Why Should We Support the Idea of Universal Basic Income?,” HuffPost, Jun 26, 2015; Sebastian Johnson, senior associate with Freedman Consulting, LLC, “The case for a universal basic income,” LA Times Opinion, Jun 29, 2017; Keri Leight Merritt, “Why We Need a Universal Basic Income,” Common Dreams, Sept 17, 2017.

[9] “The Growing Need for a Universal Basic Income,” Universal Basic Income, accessed Feb 2, 2018; David Z. Morris, “Universal Basic Income Could Grow the U.S. Economy by an Extra 12.5%,” Fortune, Sept 3, 2017; Matt Oraflea, “Why Milton Friedman Supported a Guaranteed Income (5 Reasons),” Medium, Dec 11, 2015; Robert Reich, “Why We’ll Need a Universal Basic Income,” Sept 29, 2016.

[10] Daniel Zamora, “The Case Against a Basic Income,” Jacobin, Dec 2017.

[11] The tabloid publication the Daily Mail declared that “the head of a major PR firm has shut down his business after ‘an avalanche’ of sexual harassment claims from female workers” and Tom Blumer in the right-leaning Newsbusters declared that here was the “virtually complete lack of establishment press interest in the story…the establishment press did virtually nothing with the story.” Another right-wing publication, the Washington Times, declared laughably that “the Left loves to claim moral superiority over the Right when it comes to women…Perhaps the reason progressives think women in America are so oppressed is that they are treated unfairly in liberal spaces” but correctly that we should “not excuse progressives for bad behavior.” Even Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy weighed in, saying “bad news for Dems indeed as FitzGibbon Media…abruptly shut its doors yesterday…In the past, the firm was criticized for taking money from the Venezuelan government for PR work…How about allowing women at liberal PR firms to carry guns? Sounds like that’s what’s needed, and pronto.” Other sites such as the New York Post, Mashable, Fortune, Variety, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos, RH Reality Check,Feministing, Ad Week, Jezebel, and Al Jazeera America, among others, had their respective articles as well.

[12] Amanda Terkel, Ryan Grim, and Sam Stein, “The Disturbing Story Of Widespread Sexual Assault Allegations At A Major Progressive PR Firm,” HuffPost, Dec 9, 2015;Amanda Terkel, “It Took Just One Woman Breaking Her Silence On Sexual Harassment To Take Down A Top Progressive PR Boss,” HuffPost, Dec 18, 2015; Amanda Terkel, Ryan Grim, and Daniel Marans, “FitzGibbon Media May Be Gone, But Staffers And Progressive Groups Are Rallying To Launch A New Version,” HuffPost, Dec 19, 2015; Emily Crockett, “FitzGibbon Media and the problem of sexual harassment in the progressive movement,” Vox, Dec 21, 2015; Ed Pilkington, “FitzGibbon Media sexual assault claims: alleged victims feared retribution,” The Guardian, Dec 19, 2015; Michelle Goldberg, “The Nice Guy Fallacy,” Slate, Dec 21, 2015; Marisa Kabas, “Alleged sexual assault victims describe working for Trevor FitzGibbon: ‘Every time I saw him, I feared him’,” The Daily Dot, Dec 18, 2015.

[13] The statements of numerous FGM clients were pretty similar, declaring that: “every allegation of sexual misconduct must be given the attention and seriousness it deserves” (AFL-CIO), “we admire the courage of the women who have come forward” about sexual harassment (Moms Rising), we are “shocked and outraged to hear of the alleged sexual misconduct of the President of FitzGibbon Media” (V-Day), “sexual harassment must be taken seriously and it has no place in the progressive movement or anywhere else” (Ultraviolet), “we are distressed and saddened by the alleged misconduct of the FitzGibbon Media president” (NARAL Pro-Choice America), and “we’re shocked and dismayed by the allegations of sexual assault and harassment at FitzGibbon Media” (MoveOn). Even the notoriously pro-Democratic Party joke of an organization, Working Families, said they were “stunned at the allegations of sexual harassment and assault” at FGM and that they “stand firmly with the staff who courageously spoke out.”

[14] Julia Jacobo, “Activist arrested after taking down Confederate Flag at S.C. Capitol grounds,” WPIX, June 27, 2015; CNN Wire, “NC woman climbs pole, takes down Confederate flag outside SC Capitol,” reprinted in Fox 8, Jun 27, 2015.

[15] Brent Baldwin, “The Fire Starter,” Style Weekly, Aug 18, 2015.

[16] NBC News, “Chelsea Manning Joins Twitter From Prison,” Apr 3, 2015; Nicole Hensley, “Whistleblower Chelsea Manning confronts Twitter account naysayers in prison letter,” New York Daily News, Apr 16, 2015;Lauren Walker, “Chelsea Manning, Leaker of Classified Information, Tweets From Prison,” Newsweek, Apr 6, 2015.

[17] Some of the tweets from the account included articles from The New Yorker (likely quoting FitzGibbon), USA Today implying that Snowden was a client of FGM. The latter is indicated by Snowden’s endorsement of DeRay’s proposals, promotion of the “Snowden Treaty” (see here and here) which was conceived, apparently, by Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda. The homepage of the Snowden Treaty shows that some of the “partners” of the Snowden Treaty are the usual suspects, such as Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras, to name a few. This is even more worrisome when the “description” of the Treaty literally describes nothing other than what the Treaty is supposed to do on a website that also almost no substance. It is also important to note that the Treaty was burst out of thin air in September of last year. FitzGibbon also promoted Chris Hedges (along with other clients) congratulated Chris Hayes on an Emmy, trolling about the Black Panthers, which he definitely wouldn’t support if they were around today, a rash of tweets which imply that CEPR, Color of Change, Hands Up United, and the nebulous “people’s climate” march are clients. There is also a connection between the later Michael Rattner of the Center for Constitutional Rights to FitzGibbon, with both promoting the sign “Jesus Loves Wikileaks” which may come from a guy named Sean Anderson or a number of other sources. It is worth mentioning because Rattner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Real News Network. This matters to FitzGibbon because CCR has legally represented/advised Wikileaks in the past, and Wikileaks, as noted earlier, was a FGM client. The FGM tumblr which seems to be taken over by former FGM employees, does note that FGM promoted the Google Impact Challenge, some Kansas juvenile justice organization (Kansans United for Youth Justice), served as a place for Hands Up United to publish a press release, and so on. Other posts are about a farm sanctuary (likely this is related), the black panthers, “blacktwitter,” mic.com, the Youth First Initiative, The Intercept (also see here and here), the “wear orange” campaign (see here and here), Obama, Baltimore United for Change (also see here), presente.org, black spring, White House, Kwame Rose, Nirbhaya (see here, here, and here), Chelsea Manning, and so on. FGM seemed to serve as astroturf, which is, as SourceWatch describes it, “apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms.” In days future, it is likely that this will continue under the purview of a new PR organization which serves the purpose as the old FGM. While PR is a staple of the media landscape and social justice circles, perhaps it is time to move beyond organizations and peoples in the PR industry. This means that the existing PR tactics which constitute a form of propaganda, should be critiqued, challenged, and opposed with a form of counter-propaganda which promotes radical anti-capitalist goals to improve American society and global society. It’s worth a try.

[18] Charles (Charlie) Davis or “Chuckles” has many laughable ideas. Take for example a piece on Telesur English‘s website by Chuckles (a Telesur editor) on the “humanitarian crisis” in Yemen as a result of Saudi bombing of the country. He argues that there has been mass destruction with fighting between coalition forces and Houthi rebels “aligned with the country’s former dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh” (they are not),” saying that the only solution is the grounding of the “airforce responsible for so much destruction in Yemen by imposing a no-fly zone—and it can and should do so unilaterally.” He further adds that this is needed due to a failed peace process, citing humanitarian imperialist Amnesty International, claims that a “Saudi-led coalition” is bombing Yemen (no, it is U$-led), mocks anti-imperialists (“You Yankee imperialist pig-dog. I knew to what end all this performative ‘caring’ would ultimately lead: ‘Humanitarian’ war crimes on behalf of your Anglo-Zionist paymasters at the World Bank and Major League Soccer, which has been trying to infiltrate the Yemeni market for years”), and calling for U.S. aircraft in Yemen’s skies, but not dropping bombs? He further says there should be “cease-fire, perhaps, by depriving an arson of more firepower,” grounding the “Saudi air force by refusing to restock it with weapons and spare parts,” imposing a ““no-fly zone” unilaterally without even offending the world’s multilateral organizations, saving lives and its own duplicitous face by ceasing to continue what it’s done so far.” While some may think this is ok, it is still a response allowing for anti-imperialism. Yemen should solve its own problems, meaning that the murderous empire should pull all support for Saudi Arabia without a question. With all this, Chuckles was clearly being smug, and it was more silly than anything else, utter nonsense. In some twitter exchanges with him, he claimed he wasn’t calling for a no-fly-zone even though that was part of his silly plan! If this wasn’t enough, Chuckles engaged in Chucklesplaining, which one could describe as a derivative of what some have called “mansplaining.” Beyond this, he is just like Proyect who calls out “Assadists”: he seemed to say that it is absurd that “the U.S. government would conspire to preserve the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad” as proposed by Sy Hersh, who has his own problems, but then said that this is the reality! If this wasn’t enough, he scoffed at the idea of “a U.S-Israeli plot to effect regime change,” claiming that the Obama administration’s “train-and-equip program for rebels was explicitly directed at the Islamic State” not the Syrian government which doesn’t even make sense,claiming that Assad is an “Israeli-preferred fascist” (which also isn’t true), and ringed his hands about “apologism for mass murder.” This is no surprise considering his other deluded views, including but not limited to acting like Wikileaks is in tandem with Putin. This aligns with his anger at Russia, basically calling them “imperialist,” hating those who point out that sanctions on Syria are utterly murderous, believing foolishly in the Russia conspiracy, along with some other absurd opinions (also see here, here, and here), calling Soviet Russia “imperialist,” and saying that the Workers World Party is a “delegation of old crackpot commies” because they back people he doesn’t like (whom he calls “dictators,” in keeping with imperialist propaganda), ending up thinking that the Trotskyists are more reasonable, of course. And this is only a sampling of what he is wrote! Lest us forget that even though there was a Chuckles story about NSA spying in Venezuela, his buddy, Glenn Greenwald, wrote about this in O Globo in 2013! There has been something deeper: work for Russell Brand as even a simple search of the internet confirms. The love of Brand as noted in other tweets was later over. Elsewhere, Chuckles doesn’t even stop to consider that the US government is pushing prosecution and other measures in an attempt to nab Assange, not once. The best refutation of Chuckles’s points is the agreed statement of facts which one twitter user shared in this exchange. There are also a number of things which should also be of note. One of these things is Google plus. However, more important is Chuckles’s LinkedIn (version is archived here) To me, what this shows is that Chuckles has become a mainstay in progressive movements, and easily meshes with liberal propaganda outlets like Salon whose main duty, as it will, it to counter right-wing propaganda outlets. The fact that he worked for places like Vice, FX, Michael Moore, and Change.org without shame is telling. Need I say more?

[19] There are a number of other webpages on Idealist, Foursquare, Vimeo, and Flickr.

[20] Kolponashokti-r Doinyo, “Sharing a platform with right-wingers,” Socialist Worker, Mar 6, 2012.

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7 thoughts on ““Kill your idols”: Chelsea Manning and the reactionary “left”

  1. You’re right that Chelsea Manning’s “popularity is part due to her connection with FitzGibbon Media (FGM)”—a relationship that you say “goes back to 2011 at least.” However, as you indicate, FGM’s control of Manning’s Twitter account ended in December 2015. Since you reproduce a May 2015 claim that FGM was paid by the Chelsea Manning Support Network to promote Manning’s cause, it should be noted that Charlie Davis is the only one who’s ever said that. In July 2015, Glenn Greenwald commented at The Intercept (then an active FitzGibbon Media client), “FitzGibbon is representing Chelsea FOR FREE [all caps in original]. They’re doing it for only one reason: because Trevor FitzGibbon believes in the rightness of what she did and wants to help—so he’s using his time and resources to help her by helping to manage her communications. … By Chelsea’s own account, FitzGibbon has done a fantastic job representing her, devoting themselves with great commitment for no fee.” Of course, repping Manning pro bono does not make Trevor FitzGibbon any less of a creep. Yet she seems to have had no contact with him for the past two years. While their relationship remains of historical interest, it’s hardly pertinent to the left’s current concerns with Chelsea’s behavior.

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    1. Yes, that is correct that “FGM’s control of Manning’s Twitter account ended in December 2015” and it was then taken over by the Chelsea Manning Support Network, possibly in the hands of then-FGM employee Andy Stepanian when it was transferred.

      If Charlie Davis is the only one who ever said they were paid, then that does put his account of the events into question. The question remains if one should trust Charlie Davis’s account more than Glenn Greenwald or not. This would put both accounts of the connection of the Chelsea Manning Support Network and FGM into question. Even so, it does seem evident that the Chelsea Manning Support Network was a client of FGM, even if for free. Perhaps they believed in the cause, that is definitely possibly and it is possible with all the groups Trevor FitzGibbon did PR for, apparently pro bono for much of the time. But, yes, I agree with you that “repping Manning pro bono does not make Trevor FitzGibbon any less of a creep.” I doubt she had any contact with him after 2015. In fact, I doubt that any progressives had any contact with him after FGM closed down in December 2015. Instead, other former FGM peoples went their own way. I agree that the “relationship remains of historical interest.” However, I do feel it is “pertinent to the left’s current concerns with Chelsea’s behavior” because of the role FGM had as a PR firm in progressive circles.

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      1. I think you’re mistaken about Andy Stepanian running Chelsea Manning’s Twitter account after FitzGibbon Media imploded, but not about the continuing (indirect) FGM connection. On August 4, 2017 the account @SaveManning—long the centerpiece of Twitter advocacy on behalf of Chelsea Manning—tweeted, “Twas @lisarein behind @xychelsea’s twitter account, from Dec 17, 2015 to May 8, 2017.” Rein immediately confirmed this, tweeting, “Yup! That was me.” Rein is a co-founder of Creative Commons, where she worked closely with Aaron Swartz, who himself founded Demand Progress, a client of…(you guessed it) FitzGibbon Media. “In the hours, days, and weeks after Aaron died,” Aaron’s partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman has written, “Trevor FitzGibbon and his team at FitzGibbon Media donated their time to manage the overwhelming media interest.” It would come as no surprise, then, if Lisa picked up the reins (excuse the pun) of Chelsea Manning’s Twitter account after Trevor FitzGibbon lost his grip. Rein now bills herself as Chelsea Manning’s archivist, and in November 2017 hosted Manning as featured speaker at the annual Aaron Swartz Day (which Rein co-founded) in San Francisco.

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      2. Its possible it wasn’t Andy Stepanian. I’m glad you agree that there was a “continuing (indirect) FGM connection.” Well, many of these people like Lisa Rein, Creative Commons, and others have similar interests, so it isn’t a surprise they worked together, and Rein calls herself Chelsea Manning’s archivists, as you put it. It shows that through Demand Progress, and other progressive groups, the thread of FGM being the PR firm continues.

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      3. My larger point, though, still stands. While Manning’s relationship with FGM et al. is historically noteworthy, it doesn’t figure in the left’s recent disillusionment. Reflecting on her ill-fated foray into the alt-right, Manning has admitted, “look, i fucked up – i did this op since september with a few dozen other comrades, and it fucking went wrong – we fucked up, we were heavy on white/femme/trans people, and we didn’t see this outcome.” One such white/femme/trans person was in all likelihood Kelly Wright, communications director of Chelsea Manning for U.S. Senate, who tweets as black-flag anarchist @anarchakelly. On Twitter since June 2014, Wright did not tag Manning in a tweet until late October 2017, suggesting she is very much a latecomer. If Wright is typical of Manning’s newfound comrades, it seems Chelsea is now being advised not by legacy FitzGibbon Media-type public relations pros, but by amateur newbies with more revolutionary zeal than good sense. That’s the real story here.

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      4. I’ll agree that FGM’s relationship is not part of the recent disillusionment. I think it has to do more with her “ill-fated foray into the anti-right.”You have a point there.

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