Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos did not pay $250 million for the Washington Post because it was a good deal. In his own words, “It is the newspaper in the capital city of the most important country in the world. The Washington Post has an incredibly important role to play in this democracy.”
Clear away the PR euphemisms and the world’s richest man was saying that he bought the Post because it sets the agenda in Washington D.C. and helps determine the outcome of elections.
Bezos isn’t the first tycoon to buy influence by buying an influential paper. The power he wields with the Washington Post is a pale shadow of the Hearst empire. Dot com billionaires keep buying up media white elephants. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is buying Time. The Atlantic is in the hands of Steve Jobs’ widow. The New Republic is being run into the ground by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.
But the media also changed. What used to be straightforward bias and agendas has become a shadowy underworld of fixers, brokers, leakers and hackers that has more in common with the spy world.
Bezos paid $250 million for the Post, but it may end up costing him as much as $68 billion.
At least if you listen to Bezos, who claimed, at first in a series of trial balloons through intermediaries, and then more openly in a Medium post, that his affair had been made public in retaliation for his ownership of the Washington Post. Bezos suggested that the Saudis and Trump might be at fault. Others of the billionaire’s intermediaries, including the Post, have blamed his mistress’ pro-Trump brother.
The two conspiracy theories, one involving Saudi hackers and the other his mistress’ brother, leaking intimate texts and photos, are contradictory. But conspiracy theories usually are. The insistence of the Amazon boss that a foreign government and Trump supporters are responsible for his private messages leaking online is really no different than the Clinton conspiracy theory about Russia and Trump.
Hillary Clinton tried to shift the blame to Trump and the Russians after wasting $1.2 billion on her failed campaign. A divorce may cost Bezos as much as $68 billion and undermine confidence in Amazon and his leadership. Blaming Trump, Russia and the Saudis redeems acts of otherwise unforgivable stupidity. It transforms abusers like Hillary Clinton and Bezos into victims by blaming their folly on a conspiracy.
But if the Saudis did hack Bezos, it would be because his ownership of the Washington Post had put him at the nexus of a shadowy underworld of information operations. The first shot was fired when the Post gave Qatari lobbyist, Jamal Khashoggi, a former terrorist propagandist and old friend of Osama bin Laden, column space. The Qataris, beyond backing Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran, also sought regime change in Saudi Arabia by mobilizing an effort to overthrow its current monarch.
While Bezos had paid top dollar for the Post, the Qataris and other interests were also using the Post for their own agenda. And the Amazon CEO either did not understand what was going on or approved of it. The Washington Post is a clearinghouse for special interests looking to set the agenda in Washington D.C. Many of those interests, like the Qataris are foreign, malicious and extremely ruthless.
Bezos and the Washington Post had no objection when Qatari hackers passed on the emails of Elliott Broidy, a deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, to reporters revealing his own private life. Instead the Post gleefully featured some of these hacked emails. When Bezos demands sympathy as the innocent victim of foreign hackers, he is guilty of the worst sort of entitled hypocrisy.
The Broidy hack was one of a series of Qatari operations targeting Americans seen as being allied with the Saudis and the UAE. The media mandarins cheering Bezos showed no sympathy for those victims.
If the Saudis had struck back at Bezos, it’s hard to see him as anything more than fair game. And the media outlets fulminating at the National Enquirer should be asked how it was any different when Qatari lobbyists were carefully feeding them the private emails of Broidy and their other victims.
The only answer is that it’s okay when Qatar hacks Republicans, but it’s out of line when the Saudis hack Democrats. There’s no comparing the New York Times or the Associated Press gleefully airing the prurient details of Broidy’s sex life with the Enquirer airing the prurient details of Bezos’ sex life.
That’s not journalism. It’s the calculated hypocrisy of political informational warfare.
The Washington Post weaponized allegations of sexual misconduct in political warfare. Bezos whines that his affair, which did happen, was wrongly made public. Meanwhile the Post falsely accused Justice Kavanaugh (among other Republicans) of sexual misconduct that never happened. And it did cover up rape allegations against Justin Fairfax, the Democrat Lt. Governor, which appear to have happened.
This was the “incredibly important role” that the Washington Post played “in this democracy.” And these were the rules by which it played it. Republicans were accused of sexual assault and child abuse, and Republican officials had their private affairs revealed and private emails published. Meanwhile Democrats had their rape accusations buried deep down in the Washington Post’s deepest basement.
This was how the Washington Post played its political influence game. And Bezos had no problem with that because it helped him achieve his political goals, defeating Republicans and electing Democrats.
The media is singing the Amazon CEO’s tune and bemoaning his misfortune. But the only reason the Qataris, the Russians, the Saudis and the North Koreans began hacking and leaking emails is because of media collusion. When the son of a Democrat official hacked into Sarah Palin’s email, the media gleefully searched through her inbox for any damaging material without caring about the ethics of it.
When Sony was preparing to release The Interview, a comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un, North Korean hackers leaked the emails of Sony employees. Instead of boycotting the hackers, the media republished many of the stolen emails, and destroyed the career of studio head, Amy Pascal.
The media claims that foreign governments hacking into the emails of Americans and then leaking them to the media represents a “democratic emergency”. But there would be no “emergency” if the media just stopped reporting on and publishing stolen emails. Instead the media calls for all sorts of emergency measures, for a crisis it claims is worse than Pearl Harbor, but won’t stop running the stolen emails.
Bezos may just be collateral damage in the complete lack of ethics shown by his media investment.
The Democrats backed the Qatari Islamic terror state as part of their alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood. The red-green alliance manifested as the Washington Post was allowing Qatar to use its pages to promote the overthrow of the Saudi regime. And the Post’s dirty deal may have backfired on Bezos as the shadowy underworld of internet information operations bit the biggest internet billionaire around.
This doesn’t make Bezos a victim.
Victims don’t own papers that gleefully publish other people’s hacked emails and affairs, but whine when it happens to them. Bezos didn’t just betray his wife, he betrayed every basic principle of ethics. His Medium post and his spin doctors claim the ultimate privilege, that of the abuser from retaliation.
Jeff Bezos thought that the Washington Post’s collusion with Qatar, that the hacks and smears of Republicans, served his economic interests. His greed and megalomania may have cost him $68 billion.