28 April 2011

Ames and Levine smear again

Mark Ames and Yasha Levine are at it again. You may not know who these people are. I didn't before last November, and I hadn't heard of them since until Mr. Ames tried to contact me last night and his and Mr. Levine's article was published this morning. Let me refresh your memory. Last November, when I had my run-in with the TSA, these two "reporters" wrote an article trying to connect me and other like-minded individuals with a vast right-wing conspiracy funded by the billionaire Koch brothers. I never responded to it because it was so quickly derided as a fact-free smear by all sorts of media outlets, most notably Glenn Greenwald.
It seems to be a consensus even among liberal, Nation-friendly journalists that the attack on Tyner was not merely misguided, but odious, as all such journalists who commented (at least that I know of) condemned it, often in terms at least as harsh as the ones I used.  In addition to their own Nation colleague Jeremy Scahill (who denounced it as a "shameful smear"), Mother Jones' News Editor Daniel Schulman wrote:  "This Nation story is journalistic malpractice of the worst kind"; The American Prospect's Scott Lemieux, on his blog, called it "Liberal McCarthyism" and an "embarrassment"; and the usually rhetorically restrained Ezra Klein condemned it as a "hit piece" which I had "rightfully hammered."
The Nation article utterly failed to connect me to anyone on the right or any sort of activities of an "activist" nature (other than possibly my blog). Fast forward to yesterday. In keeping with his journalistic standards, Mr. Ames waited until 8:30pm EDT to contact me for a comment on his story. He tried to goad me into calling him back telling me that he was on a deadline for that evening and by referencing a blog post about the TSA that I admitted to deleting saying that it contradicted everything that I said during my interviews following my TSA encounter in San Diego. First, who waits until 8:30pm to get a comment for a story that is going to run the following morning? It was clear to me that Mr. Ames already had his story and there was nothing that I could have said that would have made a bit of difference, and that brings me to my second question. What made Mr. Ames think that I would talk to him? It's clear from the content of his article that it's a good thing that I didn't.

The thrust of the current article is that all of the anti-TSA "hysteria" is an attempt to block the TSA from unionizing. I'll come back to that charge, shortly. The article spends only a few sentences talking about me, but I'd like to address them:
The anti-TSA campaign was at its media-hysteria peak in the weeks after the Republican election sweep, spurred on by last year’s hero, John Tyner, who refused a pat-down, telling TSA agents, “You touch my junk and I'm going to have you arrested.” Tyner disappeared from the scene after he apologized on his blog, and admitted that he didn't tell the whole story and had actively tried to erase it (Tyner did not return our call or answer our message requesting comment).*
This is all true, such as it is. The context if the story would lead the reader to believe that I had concocted the entire incident either for personal gain, or as the writers suggest, to prevent unionization of the TSA (again, I'll get to the anti-union charge). Note the asterisk at the end of the paragraph. It leads to the end of the article where this final note appears:
*“To those of you who feel duped, I apologize”—so writes John Tyner in a contrite blog post headlined “The ‘Whole’ Truth”  dated November 30, 2010. A week earlier, he was the biggest media sensation in America, freeing us from state tyranny; by the time he apologized to America, America had already lost interest and moved on.
Again, true. Mr. Ames shows his journalistic integrity, adding a final, snarky smear to his article but leaves out the immediately following sentences from my blog post, from which he quotes, because they completely contradict his premise. Here they are:
There is no reason to feel that way, though. I stand by my assertion that the encounter was not planned or staged. I stand by my account of the events that occurred at San Diego airport. And I stand by everything that I have said and written since the event. I stood up to what I saw as an affront to everyone's 4th amendment protections and dignity, and that has started a real conversation about how much liberty we're willing to give up in the name of feeling safe. Let's not lose sight of what's really important, here.
But we have lost sight. In fact, in my previous post, on April 14th, I wrote about this very idea. The point of that post was that fear of terrorism has caused us to overlook TSA misbehaviors including stealing from passengers, failing to prevent terrorist attacks/attempts, and abridging civil liberties. Mr. Ames apparently isn't concerned about the TSA's incompetence or its "Gestapo" tactics. No, he only wants them to be unionized; personal property, safety, and civil liberties be damned.

So, what about the charge that I'm part of this vast right-wing conspiracy? Much like his last attempt to associate me with the TEA party (of whom I've been critical), the Koch brothers (if only I could get them to send me some of their billions), or any other right-wing entity, Mr. Ames presented no evidence to support his charge: absolutely none. Here's where Ames' and Levine's journalistic standards really shine. Here is a blog post of mine from October of last year, previous to any of these events, where I stated that I don't vote. (I did vote from approximately 2004 to 2008. I registered as a "decline to state" voter, California's equivalent of non-partisan.) Here's a blog post from February of this year where I argue that democracy is a tool by which the majority can and does oppress minorities (note the specific mentions of drug legalization and gay marriage, some issues the "right" is very against). Good work tying me to right-wing ideologues, guys.

And finally, what about the charge that my encounter was rigged to prevent TSA unionization? Again Ames and Levine are wildly off-base. Here's a blog post of mine from February of this year in which I argue that preventing unions is illegal under the First Amendment. I clarified my position in response to a commenter to this post. I had suggested that the proper remedy was for the government to fire workers who wanted to unionize, not restrict their civil liberties. The commenter responded that firing workers would also be a violation of First Amendment protections because it was a different method of "breaking the union". I responded:
Firing workers does not violate the workers' freedom of association. The first amendment protects the right to freely associate. Nothing grants a person the *right* to be hired/employed by another.

Employers want to pay as little as possible; employees want to be paid as much as possible. Let them sit down and negotiate. If they can't reach an agreement, then they don't contract with each other. End of story.

Typically, in a (non-union) negotiation, the employer has more power because the prospective worker needs the job more than the employer needs the *particular* employee. Unions are an attempt to deal with this by predicating a significant number of jobs on any particular member's job. So, employees [sic] fired union workers to try to break the unions, and then the government made it illegal to fire workers because they are in a union, a clear violation of the employers' property rights.

Now the government is suffering the blowback of its own policy. It can't fire the workers because of the Wagner Act, but to try to regulate them is a violation of the first amendment. It's such delicious irony.
For those of you who missed it, I believe the Wagner Act to be unconstitutional for the same reasons that I believe union regulation to be so: it violates the freedom of association. My own writing, from months ago, again contradicts Ames' and Levine's "reporting". Good work tying me to anti-union factions of the right-wing, guys.

Ames' and Levine's assertion that my encounter with the TSA was a stunt is based on my own "admission" which, as it turns out, is an unequivocal denial that it was anything other than a stand against an infringement of civil liberties. Their attempt to tie me to right-wing entities is based on... well... nothing. It is contradicted by my numerous writings critical of any number of things that the right wing does. And finally, the implication that I'm anti-union is again contradicted by my own writing. I hesitate to call Ames and Levine hacks. Arguments should be about issues, not the people promoting them. Ames and Levine have twice now, though, smeared me in clear contradiction of the facts, in an attempt to make their case. It's really a wonder to me that anyone continues to print what they write.


  1. You have to give it to them, tho. They don't give up. Despite all the shame they suffered after the first one, they keep doing spinning lies and unsubstantiated claims. LOL.

  2. I read their article in Alternet and then followed the link to your blog. I agree that they seem to have misrepresented your intentions but overall they're right about the right-wing antiunion use of your video.

    Just because you didn't intend to aid the Koch brothers doesn't mean that they didn't grab onto your video and use it for their own purposes.

  3. @April 28, 2011 2:37 PM: Be that as it may, I don't appreciate Mr. Ames' insinuation that I aided them in whatever effort they may be pursuing or that what happened to me was anything other than an individual standing up for his rights.

  4. Dude, but you already tried scrubbing the record of your action. That's weird. Why?

  5. @MrBlumpkin: I'm not sure I understand what you're asking. I explained the deleted post and why it was deleted here: http://johnnyedge.blogspot.com/2010/11/whole-truth.html

  6. If its any comfort, I didn't read the Nation story as indicting you at all. I thought it pinned the astroturf use of the episode on Drudge et al. The story notes another case of the young boy denied by the boy's father. Rather than leaving a sense that it was you, it emphasizes a rehearsed, strategic network.

  7. Good stuff - well written as always, Johnny. I've followed your posts here in Thailand and elsewhere since your first "15 minutes" and continue to be impressed by your writing. Keep up the clear communication, whatever the topic. -Scot


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