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Don’t Mess with Tex… er, Malaysia

[ 91 ] March 1, 2013 |

Noted without comment.

A range of mainstream American publications printed paid propaganda for the government of Malaysia, much of it focused on the campaign against a pro-democracy figure there.

The payments to conservative American opinion writers — whose work appeared in outlets from the Huffington Post and 
San Francisco Examiner to the Washington Times to National Review and RedState — emerged in a filing this week to the Department of Justice. The filing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act outlines a campaign spanning May 2008 to April 2011 and led by Joshua Trevino, a conservative pundit, who received $389,724.70 under the contract and paid smaller sums to a series of conservative writers.

Trevino lost his column at the Guardian last year after allegations that his relationship with Malaysian business interests wasn’t being disclosed in columns dealing with Malaysia. Trevino told Politico in 2011 that “I was never on any ‘Malaysian entity’s payroll,’ and I resent your assumption that I was.”

I’m in the wrong racket.

Comments (91)

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  1. Erik Loomis says:

    Given the shared hatred Trevino and myself have for the other, this is my favorite story in a long time.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      Trevino is an incredible asshole who, for some reason, used to be seen as a relatively “reasonable” online conservative voice by some on the “left” (remember Crossed Swords?). Until he gets convicted of something, though, I have a hard time celebrating the news that he was given close to 400 grand for shoveling his horseshit.

      (In the interest of full disclosure, Trevino’s use of the ridiculous pseudonym “Tacitus” inspired me to adopt my ridiculous pseudonym, initially on S,N!)

      • Murc says:

        I thought I was the only one who remembered Crossed Swords.

        I think I stopped going there when Trevino refused to refer to Lula de Silva and Hugo Chavez by any other term than “Caudillo.”

        • John says:

          That’s arguably appropriate for Chavez, but Lula? Really?

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          I liked the blog with the Latin name and Maximos as a featured writer. I can also proudly say that here at LGM we never took Trevino seriously.

          • Robert Farley says:

            I wish; as noted downthread, I made some defenses of the earliest version of the Tacitus site. I blame youth and inexperience.

      • high-pH Chemist says:

        Crossed Swords! I was just trying to remember the name of that. Wasn’t Armando from the GOS the other sword? I always thought the crossed swords imagery with those two more than a little homoerotic.

      • Robert Farley says:

        Oh, indeed.

        There was a point early on in which I was willing to defend his contribution. The original Tacitus site longer than most to hold on to a nonpartisan identity; there were progressive front pagers along with Trevino and a smattering of the worst that early Right Blogistan had to offer (the Insipid Bird Dog, for example).

        But at some point, Trevino figured out that bipartisan comity was not the path to fame and fortune in movement conservatism. He renounced and denounced the site (I remember him yelling at Atrios for pointing out that Tacitus already was a conservative site), and began churning out wingnut boilerplate. And things pretty much went downhill from there.

      • Brutusettu says:

        Swords Crossed Lives (now with more Benghazi)

    • timb says:

      Who knew he was a dishonest hack, aside from anyone who ever read anything he wrote

  2. hylen says:

    What’s better than a “nuanced” prosecution for sodomy?

  3. Kathleen says:

    We’re all in the wrong racket. Perhaps LGM could “rebrand” itself as an Onion-esque (without the four letter c word tweets) satire of a right wing/Burkean/glibertarian-free-markets-rawk journal of “news” and opinion. Poll: Which LGM Poster gets to play David Brooks?

    • bexley says:

      SEK – he can complain the decline of civilisation because of people having sex on their couches in his office without his permission.

  4. Anonymous says:

    When he blogged as Tacitus, I thought he identified with Tacitus, not a character in Tacitus.

  5. Froley says:

    What about Journolist?! /both sides

  6. Cody says:

    You’re telling me you don’t even get PAID by Beefeater?

    You’re really missing out to turn this blog into a massive alcohol advertisement platform.

  7. Thers says:

    This story is shocking. Trevino has long been known as the Internet’s Most Honorable Man, firmly committed to Civil Discourse.

    • Warren Terra says:

      I remember those long screeds about how he’d come up with all of these Very Important Ethical Rules That All Good Bloggers Must Follow, about a decade ago. I also remember the pointing and laughing when he failed to follow his own rules, not long after. Even so, this tawdry business – complete with lying to Politico – rather surprises me.

  8. Jay B. says:

    Malaysian Rent Boy Josh Trevino admits he shouldn’t have lied to Politico, but also says there’s nothing untoward to being a paid agent of a human rights abuser because they didn’t tell him what to write. It’s just an amazing coincidence that they continued to pay him no matter what he wrote.

    Just an absolutely disgusting shitstain of a human being. And, of course, Ben Domenench. Jesus F. Christ, I keep thinking conservatives can’t be as obviously awful as the policies they espouse, but, of course, they are.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Someone paid Domenech? To write? And in the tens of thousands, too? And it got published?

      We’re all in the wrong rackets.

      • Warren Terra says:

        1) Domenech is described in the piece as “a former Washington Post blogger”. This is generous to a major fault. He was a we-need-a-conservative voice positive-discrimination hire (think Jennifer Rubin, but less successful), and he lasted about 48 hours before getting fired because it turned out the writing portfolio that got him the job was mostly plagiarized from other writers.

        2) Domenech – an effectively unemployed and effectively unemployable disgraced failed professional blogger – got $36,000, while Malasia purchased the supposed credibility of an editor of Commentary for $5,500. I know no-one takes Commentary seriously, but even so I’m surprised at that disparity.

        • Robert Farley says:

          It was Trevino making these decisions; I have to wonder how the Malaysian government feels about its expenditures. But then Trevino was a big Domenech backer at Red State, even through the scandal.

        • The Neo-Confederate McCain says:

          think Jennifer Rubin, but less successful

          I’m trying to get my head around such a concept.

          • timb says:

            to do it, you have to leave the world of having poorly reasoned opinions and move to “poorly reasoned opinions manifested by a distinct number of character flaws.”

          • Hodor says:

            She had a pretty good B-movie career. Screamers wasn’t all that bad. What? Different Rubin? Oh, that one.

        • tonycpsu says:

          Big Media Ezra had Domenech on MSNBC the other night while subbing in for O’Donnell on The Last Word, and Chris Hayes had Josh Trevino on his weekend show a couple times last year. These assholes keep failing upward, helped along by mainstream liberals.

      • Chester Allman says:

        We’re all in the wrong rackets.

        The sad thing is, there’s no reason why anyone here couldn’t get themselves on the wingnut welfare gravy train, except, you know, scruples.

      • herr doktor bimler says:

        Someone paid Ben to republish a set of assertions, with some alterations of the wording. Naturally they went to the expert.

        • commie atheist says:

          From the Politico piece:

          Ben Domenech, responded to questions by forwarding a post from earlier this month whose author wrote that he was “not paid by Taib, Barisan Nasional, the government of Sarawak, the government of Malaysia, David Cameron, Tony Blair, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, the Bilderbergers, the Illuminati, Opus Dei, or Santa Claus.”

          Haha, that Ben, such a kidder.

          • montag says:

            And that’s the exclusive list. Note that it doesn’t include Josh Trevino.

            Domenech is pretty good with weasel words (they’re probably the only thing he does well on his own), so I expect there are some real creeps (which is not to say that Trevino is not a real creep) helping him with the rent money.

    • cpinva says:

      to support horrible policies, it’s quite required that you be a horrible person. you can be a charming psychopath, but you’re still a psychopath.

      “I keep thinking conservatives can’t be as obviously awful as the policies they espouse, but, of course, they are.”

  9. djw says:

    I must say this raises my opinion of Trevino. If you’d asked me a decade ago if this “tacitus” blowhard was the kind of person capable of conning the Malaysian government out of 400 grand, I’d have responded with considerable skepticism. (As to his ethics, my previous opinion didn’t require an adjustment in light of this news.)

    • Erik Loomis says:

      On the other hand, it again reminds me how bloody easy it is to get on wingnut welfare. Actual talent, not required.

      • cpinva says:

        you needed to be reminded?

        “On the other hand, it again reminds me how bloody easy it is to get on wingnut welfare.”

        at this point, it’s a given. it would be far more shocking if a talented person were to be hired, by wingnut anything. presumably, that won’t ever happen, a talented person would have far more self-respect, and could get work in a place they didn’t need to cover with a brown paper sack.

      • timb says:

        Just spot on. The Grift from that side goes top-to-bottom and, if you’ll write anything, they’ll pay you for it.

        It was no different in law school. The few conservative students, some bright, many not, were rewarded with jobs by other conservatives due to their politics.

        Maybe conservative opposition to Affirmative Action is based upon projection?

  10. Funkhauser says:

    In Trevino’s defense, the UMNO is really, really good at cheating at elections to ensure that it wins. And at arbitrary detentions. And media censorship. And at throwing policemen and tear gas at protesters.

    The GOP could learn a few tactics from the delightful bunch at UMNO. I can see why he’d gladly take their money.

  11. Patrick says:

    “I was never on any ‘Malaysian entity’s payroll.” It was all under the table, he continued indignantly.

    • BigHank53 says:

      No, you see, “payroll” is a clear statement of employment, with benefits, tax deductions, etc. As a contractor producing work-for-hire, you’re merely engaging the free market transaction of dollars for words. You’ll note he didn’t say he never worked for a Malaysian entity.

      If he was especially clever, he managed to keep the bulk of the cash offshore so he won’t be taxed on it.

  12. Royko says:

    Relax, don’t do it
    When you want to go to it….

  13. Midwest_Product says:

    Isn’t “I’m in the wrong racket” a comment?

  14. Barry Freed says:

    Well, as someone or other once said: “To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it.”

  15. rea says:

    He’s not being prosecuted, even though his failure to register on time (rather than 4 years after the fact) is a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years.

  16. timb says:

    Anyone happy to see Ben Domenech tell us he wrote his own copy? It’s good to see he doesn’t plagiarize propaganda and can, for once, produce original, obsequious bs on his own. He is growing into a hack from just the roots of a crook

  17. anthrofred says:

    Dear India,

    I am familiar with your human rights record, internal colonialism, and simmering internal military conflicts, and would happily forget about all of them and write about tourism instead for a sufficient amount of money. Please send payment in non-sequential 1000-rupee notes. You must not allow a pundit gap with Malaysia!

  18. Sly says:

    I’m in the wrong racket.

    Damn you, conscience!

    • anthrofred says:

      Has your conscience been acquainted with Mr. Washington Jefferson Lincoln Grant Franklin? Mmm? There’s more dead white guys where that came from!

      (You’re right, though. Damn ethics.)

  19. Linnaeus says:

    Wonder if Chris Hayes will ever have him on Up again.

  20. oldster says:

    Yeah, it was one of the weird tics of the old Obsidian Wings that the front-pagers were expected to treat Tacitus as though he were honest.

    Him and Moe and Sebastian Holsclaw–lying sacks all of them, but for some weird reason even Hilzoy would pretend that they were reasonable.

    I wonder how much Holsclaw makes on the side.

    • Uncle Kvetch says:

      Indeed. OW eventually wore out my patience by continuing to grant the benefit of the doubt to people who clearly no longer deserved it.

  21. grouchomarxist says:

    JT was a “reasonable” Republican only in the sense that — unlike so many of his rancid brethren — he could string a few sentences together in a semi-coherent fashion and even occasionally sound as if he’d come within semaphore-distance of reality.

    But somehow, his transcendent dickishness always managed to shine through. It comes as no surprise to me to find that he’s sold his … talents to a bunch of murderous authoritarians.

  22. Chilly says:

    You guys are being unfair. If a big liberal blogger were being paid to shill for a foreign government, I’m sure nobody in the right blogosphere would make a big deal about it.

  23. herr doktor bimler says:

    Domenech’s mendacity and willingness to believe an obviously spurious story about Hagel being a paid agent for foreign powers suddenly makes a lot more sense.

    Domenech [...] got $36,000
    So Trevino rates Domenech’s intellectual honour as worth 1/10 of his own? Heh.

  24. Jon Hendry says:

    So basically Dennis Rodman is just the new Trevino Chair of International Relations?

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