Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Malaysia to Bloggers: If We Want Your Opinion, We'll Pay You for It

English: Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In an appalling smear-for-hire campaign, 10 online media columnists were paid by the Malaysian government to trash opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on various U.S. media Web sites, according to a BuzzFeed story reported by paidContent.org.

Allegedly, former Guardian opinion columnist Joshua Trevino, whom the daily jettisoned last year over conflict of interest concerns, served as the Malaysian government's conduit, facilitating payments ranging from $2,000 to $36,000 to the 10 columnists, who, in turn, wrote about Malaysia. Trevino, himself, garnered more than $389,000 from Malaysia, according to the paidContent account of the BuzzFeed scoop. Ibrahim is enmeshed in a sodomy trial that human rights advocates have decried as politically motivated.

Among the beneficiaries of the Southeast Asian nation's largesse were conservative columnists for The National Review, Huffington Post and Red State. HuffPo pulled the offending posts after the BuzzFeed story broke, citing a conflict of interest breach, but "TUOL"'s Facetiousnes Editor suspects HuffPo just objects to its contributors being paid for their efforts, however ignoble.

The paidContent article blames online journalism sites' voracious need for content for making it so easy for Malaysia to manipulate the media for its own purposes. Strange times, indeed, when BuzzFeed, best-known for publishing cat photos ad nauseum, does solid investigative reporting at the same time Watergate legend, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, arrogantly displays his increasing irrelevance, imploding on the Sunday talk-show circuit as a darling of the right-wing lambasting his treatment by Obama Administration officials.
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