Dear Josh Marshall:
At TheNation.com we make it a point to practice fearless, bold, timely journalism that raises critical issues ignored by the mainstream press. On very rare occasions that ambition leads to mistakes, and when it does, we’re committed to acknowledging them and setting the record straight. Unfortunately, a recent article by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, “TSAstroturf: The Washington Lobbyists and Koch-Funded Libertarians Behind the TSA Scandal,” was one such moment.
As Glenn Greenwald of Salon quickly pointed out (and as other writers echoed), the article wrongly suggested that John Tyner, the libertarian citizen-activist who coined the “don’t touch my junk” protest against the TSA’s security procedures, might be linked to an Astroturf operation. Ames and Levine’s article didn’t directly call Tyner a plant, and they didn’t say that he was funded by the Koch brothers. Nonetheless, their article gave that impression—by placing Tyner in the article’s lead and by using a generally disparaging tone to refer to him. The article also used innuendo to cast doubt on Tyner’s motives, and when Tyner denied any connections to lobbyists and to Koch-funded organizations in an interview, we printed his denial—but we didn’t press hard enough to get clarity on his actions and intentions. We should have stopped and done just that, and if Tyner’s story checked out, we should have removed him from the piece.
Dear Fran Townsend:
Most notably, the Exile nurtures a peculiarly vicious and schizoid attitude toward women. …
It’s not ironic–Ames and Taibbi explicitly scorn the bourgeois safety net of irony–and it’s not just a rhetorical stance. “You’re always trying to force Masha and Sveta under the table to give you blow jobs,” complains their first business manager, an American woman, in chapter six, “The White God Factor.” “It’s not funny. They don’t think it’s funny.” “But…it is funny,” replies Taibbi. They take particular glee in trashing several former female staff members in print, taking multiple potshots at the aforementioned business manager’s “gorilla ass.” They’re equally nasty to her replacement, who quit in disgust after they went on a four-month “brain-sucking speed binge.”
And Ames’s treatment of Russian teenage girls is documented with frightening glee. In the book he recounts one evening with an expat investment banker pal and what he thought were three 16-year-old girls:
“When I went back into the TV room, Andy pulled me aside with a worried grin on his face. ‘Dude do you realize…do you know how old that Natasha is?’ he said.
“‘No! No, she’s fif-teen. Fif-teen.’ Right then my pervometer needle hit the red. I had to have her, even if she was homely.”
After they do it, she tells him she has a three-month-old baby.
“It was hard to imagine that Natasha had squatted out a baby,” Ames writes. “Her cunt was as tight as a cat’s ass….I’d slept with mothers before–they’re a lot wider. Sex with them is like probing a straw in a mildew-lined German beer mug.”
Later he learns that she’s lying–she has no baby, but rather is four months pregnant. After she has an abortion, he writes about her in the Exile, suggesting that she be sterilized and awarded “one of those cheap trophy cups with the inscription ‘World’s Greatest Mom.’”
You’re welcome to him.