Archive for ‘David Kuo’

March 26, 2009

In Search of Right-Wing Gonzo

Or, Why Culture 11 Sucked So Bad:

In less than six months of publication, Culture 11 burned through a stack of start-up capital rumored to be north of $1 million. . . .
“I never even heard of this Culture11 site until I read that it was gone,” said veteran conservative blogger Dan Riehl. “If someone wants to know why it failed, extrapolate that out to other bloggers and web surfers, that was it. Having never seen it, all I can conclude is that it really must have sucked.”
Charles Homan of the liberal Washington Monthly naturally pursues the theme that there is some ideological flaw in conservatism that accounts for the failure of Culture11. . . .
Homan has got it all wrong. The problem at Culture11 was that personnel is policy.

Please read every brutal word, you stupid punks.

UPDATE: Linked at Nashville Post.

UPDATE II: Linked by Paco.

February 5, 2009

You thought you’d heard the last word on the Culture11 Hindenburg?

Richard Spencer of Taki’s Magazine lays the knife deep in the bones of the decaying carcass:

In the end, Culture 11 wasn’t just focused on all the boring non-culture I associated with the late-90s, but had itself become a kind of dot-com company, replete with ill-informed funders, an ill-defined product, massive capital expenditures, and a guru-like CEO who’s in fact naïve and buffoonish.

At last night’s CEI open house, I talked to a former Culture11 staffer or three, and one of them was keen to inform me that they had a gut feeling something was badly wrong with the project, but were in no position to fix it.

UPDATE: Scott Payne says farewell, and also does a roundup of reaction at The Moderate Voice. Anyone else who feels the need to throw a shovel-full of dirt on the casket, e-mail me the link. I wouldn’t want to miss anything.

UPDATE II: Flame war in the comment field? I’ve done a series of columns for TakiMag, but nobody’s asked me to write about 9/11 Trutherism, and . . . well, I write for money.
February 4, 2009

‘Self-referential hipness’

Too terse to be truly gonzo, I think, but Fear and Loathing in Georgetown had this on the Culture11 shutdown:

I hope for two things:
1) The writers at Culture11 all find new employment, especially Poulos.
2) That they recognize the failure was a result, not of the sagging economy, but allowing their self-referential hipness to get out of control. It went to your heads like a nerd who becomes a popstar overnight.

Which sums up something important, I think. Competitive Enterprise Institute is having an open house tonight at their new HQ. Why am I mentioning this? Expect updates . . .

UPDATE: The reason I was mentioning the CEI open house was because it was a news opportunity. How many journalists showed up at the open house? Lots. How many were shrewd enough to see it as a news opportunity? Only one.

Granted, that’s just a sort of society-news tidbit — the stuff that shows up in community newspaper features called “Scene & Heard” or some such. But somebody‘s got to do that sort of stuff, and the haughty arrogance of those who think such minor-league reporting to be beneath them has always disturbed me. The lean-and-mean journalism operations of the future will require more versatile generalists, and fewer narrow specialists.

February 4, 2009

Loyalty to losers

Be a political operative or be a journalist, but when you try to be both, don’t think we don’t notice:

NYT: Ex-Journalists New Jobs Fuel Debate on Favoritism

To which Jules Crittenden replies: “There’s a debate?” (Via Instapundit.) This is a subject dear to the hearts of conservatives and, indeed, is quite nearly the raison d’etre of the conservative blogosphere. As Rush Limbaugh says, the problem with talking about liberal bias in the media is that he could do 15 hours a week and not even begin to scratch the surface.

I complained during the campaign season about certain conservative pundits who worked for various GOP primary contenders, and/or for the McCain campaign, knowing (a) what the benefit was to them for having gone through that revolving door, (b) that they would return to punditry pretending that no transaction had taken place, and (c) that upon their return, most of their readers would discount the possibility that they might make another such transaction.

If you’ve watched this kind of revolving-door thing as closely as I have for as long as I have, you start keeping handy a supply of salt, since everything that most political journalists and pundits write must be viewed in light of the possibility that they’re angling for a campaign job, a speechwriter’s gig, or some other career perk from the politicians they cover.

One of the reasons I’m always throwing elbows and raising hell is to make it clear that I have no such ambitions — although if Bob Barr had won the White House, the Senate confirmation hearings for the ambassador-designate to Argentina would be the wildest thing ever broadcast on C-SPAN. (“Senator, I’m sorry, but I must once again assert my Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.”) There were only 68.9 million votes and the threat of a bipartisan filibuster standing between me and $145K a year.

Am I objective about Bob Barr? Absolutely. Am I going to tell you everything I know about Bob Barr? Absolutely not. Why? Because nobody will pay me enough to screw Bob over like that. See, that’s the thing: The big money in the 30-pieces-of-silver racket is signing up with the winners, then screwing them over by selling to a book publisher the “insider exclusive” about a job the taxpayers already paid you to do once. Public service for private advantage. Nice work if you can get it.

I write for money, and loyalty to losers doesn’t pay anything, while betraying a winner can be very lucrative indeed. Betraying a loser — the vicious stuff that “McCain campaign officials” did to Sarah Palin — is an act so lowdown and cowardly that the only thing you might get in return is a politcal analyst job at CBS News. The “smart” thing to do as a political journalist is to keep your cards close to your chest until you think you’ve spotted the winner, then ass-kiss your way into a staff gig. But I’m too stupid to play that game, so the only politicians who ever want to hang out with me are the guaranteed sure-fire losers.

That probably explains why I so underestimated Michael Steele’s chances to win the RNC chairmanship, because he never seemed to mind hanging out with me. So if he is not going to say anything about that December 2006 meeting where I explained my brilliant plan for him to win the 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary, then I am certainly willing to pretend that conversation never happened. And if somebody asks me if I’m just joking, well . . . what’s it worth to them

Nobody trusts a guy who kids around like that (ROTFLMAO!) which is just the way I like it. Far be it from me to act all serious and responsible while I talk my way into a White House job, then sign a fat contract with a division of Simon & Schuster to backstab the guy who trusted me with that serious responsibility.

No, I’m very proud to be regarded as an irresponsible clown, a loose cannon on the deck who might start randomly firing off truth at any moment. Just a greedy capitalist who’s only in it for the money, but because I’m honest about that — and there is nothing more honest than pure capitalism — I don’t worry much about silly stuff like “conflicts of interest.” I mean, there’s no way in hell that anything I ever say is going to be quoted anonymously in the New York Times with an attribution to “a senior administration official,” right?

It’s kind of funny how two-faced backstabbers get paid big bucks to sell out their patrons, while an honest capitalist has to scrap for every dime. It’s easier to be honest, if somewhat less lucrative, when you make it clear up front that you’re completely untrustworthy. No “smart” person would play it that way, but when I come home at night, my wife doesn’t ask, “So, honey, who did you sell out today?”

Better to be a valuable friend and a dangerous enemy than the other way around.

Indiscreet? Sometimes. But if I slip up and accidentally say the wrong thing to the wrong person, my friends can always say, “Aww, that guy’s crazy,” and nobody’s going to argue otherwise, least of all me. (Who knows when the insanity defense might come in handy? If only G. Gordon Liddy had thought of that possibility . . .) So my friends are guaranteed “plausible deniability” up front. Suppose, hypothetically, I were to say that the Libertarian Party National Convention reminded me of a Cheech & Chong movie, nobody could possibly take that kind of remark seriously, could they?

“Senator, on the advice of counsel, I regret that I must once against assert my Fifth Amendment right . . .”.

Damn. Buenos Aires is lovely this time of year.

January 31, 2009

Good-bye, Culture11

While I was busy on other things this week, Culture11 folded, news that is worth a bit of personal commentary, since I narrowly escaped involvement in that debacle.

In July, a friend sent me an e-mail wondering if I’d be willing to contribute freelance features/columns to a project called “Liberty Wire.” Hey, if it pays money, I’m interested. But I was told to keep it hush-hush, as they were still in the planning stage and had a big roll-out planned, etc. In a subsequent e-mail, my friend explained:

We are a social media network that creates cultural content to develop online and offline community for the mass conservative market…offering irresistibly interesting perspectives on life in America from pop culture to politics, from faith to family. We are asking the question, how do you share and shape the culture? . . .
I was wondering if you’d be interested in contributing in the coming month? I’m trying lots of writers and hope to get regular gigs say, once a month columns perhaps. What do you think?

So I proposed a story and asked, “What’s the rate?” My friend didn’t know yet, but as soon as things were formalized, I’d hear back, yadda, yadda. Three days later, I saw this in the New Republic:

Have you ever been reading Slate and found yourself thinking, “This is great, but if only if were more conservative…”? Then LibertyWire is for you! The new online publication, being launched in mid-August, is billing itself as “a conservative version of Slate.” David Kuo (left), a former Special Assistant to President Bush and author of tell-all Bush indictment Tempting Faith, is going to be the CEO. Bill Bennett (right),
former Secretary of Education and Drug Czar under Bush 41 and host of Morning in America, will be the editor chairman. I spoke with Kuo on the phone a few days ago, and though he would not divulge much on-the-record, he confirmed his and Bennett’s involvement.

And that was that. I immediately e-mailed my friend to say that under no circumstance would I ever associate myself with any project run by David Kuo. It wasn’t merely that I’d read Tempting Faith and found it emetically obnoxious. It was also that there was nothing — nothing — in Kuo’s biography that suggested he knew anything about running an online publication (or running anything else, for that matter). The man is an albatross, whose presence in any enterprise is an inerrant harbinger of doom, and I advised my friend to get as far away from Kuo and “Liberty Wire” as possible.

Well, “Liberty Wire” eventually debuted as Culture11, and editor Joe Carter has written a retrospective on the planning process that is ironic beyond words:

[N]o sooner had we put the editorial staff together than we had a crisis of conscience about what we were becoming. We had compiled a list of potential contributors consisting of the top 100 conservative pundits. . . . How would we be different, David asked, if we had the same writers as everyone else?
That was all the permission we needed to become, as David would often say, “Rolling Stone in the ’70s.” We wanted to be the place that found the next Cameron Crowes and Hunter Thompsons.

Heh. Ponder the yawning chasm between David Kuo and “the next Cameron Crowes and Hunter Thompsons.” It’s as if one day Kenny G announced he was looking for “the next Ramones.”

Personnel is policy. Imagine Hunter S. Thompson walking into the offices of Culture11, wearing his Acapulco shirt and aviator shades, reeking of gin, with a head full of mescaline and a satchel full of felonies. David Kuo would call the cops.

If Culture11 ever published any actual reporting, excuse me for missing it. Maybe they should have put a few bucks for “promotion” into their start-up budget. Speaking of ironic retrospectives, here’s Conor Friedersdorf:

Enter Joe Carter, then proprieter of Evangelical Outpost, fresh from the Huckabee campaign, hired by David Kuo, and charged with putting together an editorial team.

I’ve never met Joe Carter, although he’s worked with friends of mine, but there is something odd about that phrase “fresh from the Huckabee campaign.” If you are ever introduced to an editor as being “fresh from the Huckabee campaign” run, do not walk, in the opposite direction. Ditto editors “fresh from the Giuliani campaign.” (Meeting an editor “fresh from the Ron Paul campaign” — now, that might be intriguing.)

It has been my habit to twist Conor Friedersdorf’s nose from time to time, simply because he is so conspicuously earnest and, being incurably facetious myself, earnestness amuses me. Nevertheless, I feel sorry to see Conor standing beside the smoking crater of another doomed David Kuo project.

Likewise, it’s a sad thing for James Poulos, whose prodigious sideburns mark him as one of the great minds of our age (or any other). And some of my other friends, including the amazing Helen Rittelmeyer, have lost a freelance/blogging outlet. Also, there’s that anonymous friend who originally solicited my contributions for Culture11 back in the days when it was “LibertyWire” and before I knew of Kuo’s involvement.

Doubtless, someone will protest that Kuo is “a nice guy.” Exactly. (Cf., Leo Durocher.) By way of explanation, Kuo writes: “The economy racks up more victims.” In other words, Kuo claims that the meltdown of the economy caused the failure of his project. I suspect the chain of causality is nearly the opposite. The news that investors were willing to bankroll a commercial enterprise headed by David Kuo should have been a siren on Drudge: FINANCIAL COLLAPSE EMINENT!

Kuo will go back to the non-profit sector where he belongs, hired by some 501(c) tax-dodge that will pay him six figures as a “senior fellow” or “communications director” until about January 2011, when his name will pop up in connection with a Republican presidential candidate. Between now and then, save your money, so you can invest it all in shorting the InTrade stock of whatever candidate hires Kuo. In an economy like this, you can’t afford to pass up a sure thing.

UPDATE: Josh Trevino has some thoughts on the failure of Culture11, but since none of his thoughts are along the lines of “David Kuo couldn’t make a profit on the snow-cone concession in Hell,” can we really take Trevino seriously?

Hey, y’know, now that I think about it, maybe the sudden disappearance of Culture11’s funding might have had something to do with their investors noticing that Culture11 was making the “conservative” case for gay marriage. (Wonder who else noticed?) Also, if you’re trying to attract a conservative readership, slamming Sarah Palin might not have been the ticket, huh?

UPDATE II: I’m having fun with the intrablogospheric stuff this weekend. Traffic’s slow and after the RNC meeting I’m a bit burnt-out on political news, so excuse the self-indulgence. We will return to Gotterdammerung-on-the-Potomac by Monday. Meanwhile, Ericka says in the comments:

David Kuo is an inspiring and dynamic person with a big heart and certainly made an impact on my life in a positive way. . . .
We severely lack in the cultural department and perhaps we didn’t get it quite right this time around — but somebody needs to and I hope I’m a part of it when they do.

OK, we’ll take these arguments in reverse order:

  • Yes, agreed, conservatives need to engage the culture. And getting paid to engage the culture is a sweet gig.
  • Ericka, if somebody hired me to engage the culture full-time, that would certainly make “an impact on my life in a positive way.” But if I ended up out on the street after six months because that person didn’t have a clue how to run the operation, I might be hesitant to call them “inspiring and dynamic.”

Consider this post from May about insufficient cynicism among some conservatives:

[A] point I made in reviewing Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons: I write for money. And so far, nobody’s offered to pay me to save the world.
Professional writers who present themselves to the world in save-the-world garb are doing a disservice to the profession (and arguably, a disservice to the world, which is already in bad enough shape without more advice from journalists).

I have my beliefs, and I have my principles, but I try to avoid the True Believer trap. If you carefully observe human nature long enough, Ericka, you will learn that there is a certain Newtonian principle by which every sucker eventually finds the hustler who’s not going to give him an even break.

The phrases “con man” and “con game” derive from the word “confidence.” The con man’s trick is to secure the confidence of those who plunk down their money for snake oil or three-card monty. It the hustler’s ability to convince you that he is harmless and trustworthy that makes him dangerous.

Ericka, have you ever shot pool with a hustler? Game after game, you come this close to winning, only to have the hustler make a miraculous three-bumper shot on the eight-ball to win the game. Occasionally, he’ll let you win a game, just to keep your interest stoked, but the bottom lines is, you’re not gonna leave that pool hall with a penny to your name. The True Believer’s desire to do good for The Cause can easily make him a sucker for a very similar con, from which the sucker walks away broke and the hustler moves on to the next game.

A straight-up fee-for-service contract — “I pay you X amount to do Y” — is the only arrangement a professional journalist should ever accept. The minute somebody starts trying to sell you on a save-the-world vision, pack up your cuestick and leave that pool hall.

September 4, 2008

‘Dan Quayle with mammaries’

The worst comment to date about Sarah Palin comes from notorious RINO David Kuo, who calls her “Dan Quayle with mammaries.”

UPDATE: Thought just crossed my mind: If that’s what Kuo’s publishing on the Web, what’s he saying about Palin behind closed doors? You know, like Peggy Noonan when she thinks the microphone’s off.

UPDATE II: Amanda Carpenter: “What a jerk.”

UPDATE III: Amanda (featured in a Hot Air video interview) points out that Paul Begala invoked “the B-word” against Palin. Meanwhile, in celebration of “Stacy McCain Offends Everyone Week,” my criticism of Kuo at AmSpecBlog drew a rebuke from managing editor J.P. Freire, but a defense from Jeremy Lott. I also explained the roots of my dislike for Kuo, a practicioner of Gersonism, a gushy variety of “compassionate conservatism” that annoys me to no end. But don’t get me started, I could rant for hours . . .