| Glenn Greenwald and the $250 Million “Angel Investor!”

Glenn Greenwald and the $250 Million “Angel Investor” ~ Jonathan FranklinTruthout.

Glenn Greenwald, the author and blogger behind the publication of the NSA documents obtained by former contractor Edward Snowden, announced Oct. 16, 2013, that he is leaving British newspaper The Guardian to join what he described as a “once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity,” a new media organization designed to promote in-depth reporting.

2013.10.17.Greenwald.MainGlenn Greenwald speaking at the Young Americans for Liberty’s Civil Liberties tour at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

According to news reports, a minimum of $250 million will be invested in the all-digital, no-print project. The yet-unnamed media project will be bankrolled by Pierre Omidyar, the 46-year-old billionaire founder of eBay. Omidyar, who was considering buying The Washington Post this year, decided that for the same price – $250 million – he could build his own investigative journalism outfit.

In an interview with NYU journalism professor James Rosen, Omidyar said the project “brings together some of my interests in civic engagement and building conversations and of course technology, but in a very creative way.” Omidyar said, “I have always been of the opinion that the right kind of journalism is a critical part of our democracy.” But until the uproar over the Snowden revelations, he hadn’t yet “found a way to engage directly.”

Omidyar, chairman of the board at eBay, has a net worth estimated at $8.5 billion. For the past three years, he has been publisher, CEO and founder of Honolulu-based news site the Civil Beat. While Civil Beat has been run via his nonprofit Omidyar Network, the new venture will be managed separately, with revenue plowed back into journalism. Given Omidyar’s initial quarter-billion-dollar financial commitment and tech credentials as eBay founder, the project is likely to reshape popular concepts of what’s possible in modern journalism.

Initial hires reportedly include Greenwald, his co-reporter and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill of The Nation. The project is likely to focus on privacy, surveillance and what Scahill dubbed America’s “Dirty Wars” executed in secrecy by the Tampa, Florida-based Special Operations Command. But Omidyar has stressed that he wants the new organization to cover entertainment and sports news, as well.

Omidyar’s commitment to the venture will include a bevy of top lawyers and editors. While many details remain under wraps, Rosen said Omidyar will focus on “The Personal Franchise Model,” in which he invests in journalists with a personal brand, e.g. media superstars with huge online following and a solid track record of investigative reporting or specific expertise on a subject.

In a statement posted on a company website, Omidyar wrote: “I don’t yet know how or when it will be rolled out, or what it will look like. What I can tell you is that the endeavor will be independent of my other organizations, and that it will cover general interest news, with a core mission around supporting and empowering independent journalists across many sectors and beats. The team will build a media platform that elevates and supports these journalists and allows them to pursue the truth in their fields. This doesn’t just mean investigative reporting, but all news.”

Given the massive cutbacks and dissolution of news bureaus by US-based media companies, the advent of a huge cash investment plus a tech pioneer looking to reward pre-eminent reporters and editors is a huge shot in the arm for those who believe in a free press. Furthermore, it is an example for every tech company that goes public in a multibillion-dollar IPO (think Facebook and likely Twitter next year). With each new IPO, a crop of tech-savvy young billionaires is born. These power brokers now have the ability to upend the definition of what is possible – not just in journalism but in the field of their choice.

Given the stark revelations from the Snowden documents and the dearth of resources to fund long-term reporting projects, the announcement by Omidyar is likely to resonate for years. As for the final form of his company and the journalism to be pursued, a good bet is to look at Omidyar’s brief forays into journalism at that Honolulu news site, Civil Beat. In a searing defense of Julian Assange in 2010, an editorial from Civil Beat speaks to the inherent rights of a citizenry to be informed of its government’s actions. Referring to US government pressure to strangle WikiLeaks by threatening online payment services, the Civil Beat editorial board wrote “by taking the steps they have to shut down WikiLeaks, governments create a chilling effect on other publishers, making it less likely that information that sheds light on government policy and actions that citizens should know about becomes public.”

It’s not often those powerful statements are backed up by quarter-billion-dollar commitments. This story, I would wager, has just begun.

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| Rationalising regime-change: Failed states are a western myth!

Failed states are a western myth ~

The concept of the failed state is meaningless. It was invented as a rationale to impose US interests on less powerful nations.

A boy walks past a bullet-scarred building in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a.

A boy walks past a bullet-scarred building in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. ‘Rejected by scholars, the idea of the failed state has found a home within the noisy space of shallow political punditry that forms much of the national conversation.’ Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA

In the same week that the investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill spoke of the need for the US to “take a humility pill”, we’ve been subjected to precisely the opposite – yet another instalment of Foreign Policy magazine‘s annual Failed States Index, complete with accompanying “postcards from hell” purporting to show what it’s like “living on the edge in the world’s worst places”.

Quibbling with the many bizarre claims of the index is tempting (Kenya is “less stable” than Syria, we learn), but in the end such gripes only give credibility to this tedious yearly exercise in faux-empirical cultural bigotry. For anyone interested in actually finding out about places such as Yemen or Uganda, the index is probably the last place you’d want to go. But what’s more interesting, and more helpful in understanding what the index really does, is to grasp that the very concept of the “failed state” comes with its own story.

The organisation that produces the index, the Fund for Peace, is the kind of outfit John le Carré thinks we should all be having nightmares about. Its director, JJ Messner (who puts together the list), is a former lobbyist for the private military industry. None of the raw data behind the index is made public. So why on earth would an organisation like this want to keep the idea of the failed state prominent in public discourse?

The main reason is that the concept of the failed state has never existed outside a programme for western intervention. It has always been a way of constructing a rationale for imposing US interests on less powerful nations.

Luckily, we can pinpoint exactly where it all began – right down to the words on the page. The failed state was invented in late 1992 by Gerald Helman and Steven Ratner, two US state department employees, in an article in – you guessed it – Foreign Policy, suggestively entitled Saving failed states. With the end of the cold war, they argued, “a disturbing new phenomenon is emerging: the failed nation state, utterly incapable of sustaining itself as a member of the international community”. And with that, the beast was born.

What followed in the essay was a grumpy version of the history of the “third world” after 1945, in which Helman and Ratner lamented that the claims of “self-determination” made by colonised peoples had ever been established as a major principle for organising international affairs. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Helman and Ratner argued, the time for fripperies such as state sovereignty for third world nations was over. What these failed states needed was the ever-benign “guardianship” of the western world. We westerners would keep hold of our sovereignty, of course; they would make do with something called “survivability” instead, and be grateful for it.

Helman and Ratner’s piece elaborates on a well-known, but not much read, UN report by then general secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali, which had come out a few months earlier. In his Agenda for Peace, Boutros-Ghali recommended an expanded role for the UN in resolving international crises, but insisted that state sovereignty remain an inviolable principle. This was pretty much the opposite of what Helman and Ratner wanted, but if they insisted that they were in full agreement with him, then who’s to quarrel with that?

Back in the 90s, few political scientists showed any interest in the concept of failed states, and binned it on arrival. The problem was that it didn’t offer any insight as a mode of analysis: a civil war is a civil war. A famine is a famine. A political crisis is a political crisis. A failed state is just rhetoric without a substantial theoretical or historical basis.

Rejected by scholars, the idea of the failed state has instead found a home within the noisy space of shallow political punditry that forms much of the national conversation. Foreign Policy offered it something of a second life by publishing its annual index from 2005 onwards, at a time when the unfolding disaster of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, both of which had been justified as “humanitarian interventions”, was painfully clear.

Unsurprisingly, given that the term was custom made to advocate for precisely such interference by the US overseas, the term also made an appearance in the literature drafted between 2001 and 2005 that created the new international norm of the responsibility to protect (R2P), a doctrine whose application by the international community so far can best be described as highly selective.

There’s nothing empirical or objective about the Failed States Index, however many “stability” metrics they try to squash together. It doesn’t much matter where a particular country shows up in a given year. Putting history in a league table is plainly absurd, and – when it boils down to it – the index argues the same thing every year: that the US should be a kind of global regulator to which the rest of the world must submit.

It offers a version of the world to the American public that bears no relation to reality, but works very well as a way of rationalising overseas interventions past and present.

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| Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill: Is journalism being criminalised?

| Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill: Is journalism being criminalised? ~ YouTube.

In the wake of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leak of NSA files, Jeremy Scahill, author of Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield and featured reporter in the new documentary film of the same name, says under the Obama administration journalists are being intruded upon and whistleblowers are being charged with crimes. Scahill is also a national security correspondent for the Nation.

URLhttp://youtu.be/6aIcq_ftu2E 

Source: Guardian,
Length: 6min 27sec.

 


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