BuzzFeed’s Benny Johnson: Gorgeous Animus

(This post should have been the second part to a piece on Andrew Breitbart (part one is here), focusing not just on Breitbart but on his unhappy convergence with dying institutional media, which I think was something like a virus happening on a body destroyed by tuberculosis. It was by going through the various byways of that story, that I came across something else I think well illustrated how the press dealt with Breitbart, and finally this auxiliary case grew thick with its own material, an entirely separate pustule, an entirely separate post. On November 12, 2013, the first postscript was added. On December 20th, the second postscript dealing with BuzzFeed’s reaction to Alex Pareene’s naming of Johnson to his hack list, “Hack List No. 3: Benny Johnson”, and McKay Coppins portrait of Paul Ryan as a man of deep empathy for the needy, “Paul Ryan Finds God”, were added.)

Benny Johnson is the new media editor for BuzzFeed, a site I have, at best, mixed feelings about. I try and get at these mixed feelings slantwise. Breitbart, in his paranoid ravings which appear modeled, if not plagiarized, from an old anti-semitic essay in a Lyndon LaRouche essay (again, that’s part one) would rant about a Democratic Media Complex, a separate and alien entity that had conquered his country. I think his reaction was born out of powerlessness, and if others related to what he said, it was not because of any shared political ideals – he had none – but they identified with this sense of powerlessness, of the sense that they were rooted to the ground while something like a free floating liberal spacecraft hovered above and gave out diktats. What Breitbart felt most of his life, I think, was insecurity and fear about his own socioeconomic status, which ended up being channeled into other avenues – racebaiting and hatred of a liberal elite – that others found convenient and profitable.

This post is not devoted to Breitbart, and I make this digression because this feeling of alienation that he may have felt is not uncommon among millions now, and I feel it when I flip through Buzzfeed. When I skim the site, I always move close to the metaphor that Breitbart moves towards in his own Righteous Indignation, that of an alien invasion, something like War of the Worlds, which wipes out a good chunk of the planet, and the remaining humans are quarried and sedated so that their vital elements might be extracted. While sedated, they are shown collections of happy memories or shared experiences or movies they liked. There is something automatic and machine-like to the collections, as these aliens are entirely unfamiliar with humanity, and these remembrances are simply extracted from earth records, then arranged in a way that suggests a consciousness that is like you, has seen the same movies, gone through what you have, though of course it is just a neat trick – machines of genius who are able to create a warm and inviting space, like a McDonald’s franchise where no one sells crack. What is conveyed by the site is non-homogenous homogenity – all experiences, however varied, strange, or difficult, can be fit into some listicle1. Everyone, male and female, gay and straight, all ethnicities are welcome. The very site design itself, simple and, frankly, a little ugly, is to convey the sense of a friend’s room rather than a sleek office space.

Buzzfeed might be the future of news; it just got millions from its investors to fund a news division2. So, that is in part how this post came about. Another part is that Benny Johnson was a fan of Breitbart’s and was involved in making a tribute video commemorating that man’s life, “Man Against the Mob”, a short film of him yelling at various people intercut with his roller skating among protesters. In his 2011 CPAC speech, he would describe those same protesters as animals, and joke about the protester women as worthless for being old and unfuckable (again, part one).

This film I came across via Yasha Levine’s excellent “Buzzbagger Ben”, a piece mainly devoted to Buzzfeed’s news division head, Ben Smith, but whose terminal paragraphs are given over to Johnson. The piece reminded me that I’d read, in January, Oliver Willis’s very good “22 Attacks On Obama And The Left From BuzzFeed’s Newest Editor”. I give kudos to both for their work, but I don’t think they reached far enough. This would be the third part of how this post came about: the desire to show how someone can put out some rather hateful material, then have that material immediately be forgotten about because it is convenient. This is apt when discussing Breitbart, because he could go ahead and destroy a service that helped out the indigent, or destroy someone hardworking and decent like Shirley Sherrod, and then have that malevolence forgotten about a few months later, because he was friendly with enough pressmen, and they were happy to act as a fountain of Lourdes. Johnson’s career arc is even more striking, from rabid partisan to cheery member of the happy welcoming Buzzfeed enclave.

So, Willis and Ames do excellent work, but they don’t go quite far enough. Benny Johnson actually made a very big appearance on the internet about six years ago, in the kind of Aleksey Vayner video that makes you ask, “This person actually exists?”

It was “Support the Troops the College Republican Way”. The point of ire towards the video was not that someone was helping the troops, but what felt like the utter remove from what was taking place, an attempt to heal something very grim with simple beef jerkey. Because this was the laugh line: “Beef jerkey. Love beef jerkey. That is the biggest thing. They just love it.”

There was also “UIowa College Republican Answers the Conservative Calling”:

A video called “Illegal Aliens Versus Cuban Cigars”:

Alright, presidential candidates I got a question for you. Here’s my Iowa driver’s license. Now. You’ll give these to illegal immigrants? Yet these illegal immigrants that are coming into our nation, getting driver’s license, and I can’t get a good Cuban cigar? I don’t see the connection here.

This got such reactions as “The Perfect Chickenhawk”, “OMG, how absurd: Ben Johnson, College Republican” and “Overnight in New York: Iowa’s Benjamin Johnson, Fabulous”, and “YouTube Debate Snubs Ben Johnson!”. Johnson would have to emphasize in an email, which promptly got made fun of, “I am not actually gay”. He ended up with an entry in Encyclopedia Dramatica. The common consensus was: gorgeous man and, to use the vernacular, screaming queen.

Andrew Breitbart wrote that liberals were more brutal, more evil than Al-Qaeda; a view happily shared by his fellow partisans, and again, indulged and forgiven by his press friends. Let the record show that when I came across these videos and their reaction, I didn’t want to put them in here. Others may have happily encouraged Breitbart’s sadistic impulses, and he showed them no restraint; I try hard to fight mine own. But after I came across the material in Benjamin Johnson’s later career, as one character might say, how could I resist?

There is nothing wrong with Johnson being misclassified in his orientation. I may lack Johnson’s looks, but I understand how we senstive types always get misfiled. There was a time when any woman without heavy make-up and any man who read poems outside a bathroom wall risked such misclassification. I am just surprised that he seemingly lacks empathy with those with whom he is miscategorized.

For instance, after this episode, he works for a while at the Family Research Council. The FRC was classified by the Southern Poverty Law Council as a hate group. There was a lot of back and forth over whether the designation was deserved, but the basis for the designation is undisputed. The FRC and its well-known leader, Tony Perkins, are virulently anti-gay. The entry on the Council at the SPLC website is here.

Here is a quote from a Tony Perkins fund-raising letter, taken from the SPLC site.

The videos are titled ‘It Gets Better.’ They are aimed at persuading kids that although they’ll face struggles and perhaps bullying for ‘coming out’ as homosexual (or transgendered or some other perversion), life will get better…It’s disgusting. And it’s part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle.

This is Johnson while an intern at the FRC, advertising the benefits of the council for future interns:

Hello future Family Research Council intern. My name is Benjamin Johnson. I’m a current intern at the family research council and have been so for three months. And I am here to endorse this program and tell you that there is no better place to fight the battle of social conservatism than here in this beautiful building…uh…801 G Street, right across from the Smithsonian, right here in Chinatown, right here in the heart of our nation’s capitol. It’s a spectacular program. It’s totally worth your time. They’ll even make it worth your time, more so, by giving you free housing on Capitol Hill, a great living stipend, and if you play your cards right, there’s a real good chance you even get a free Family Research Council mug out of the whole deal. I don’t really see how you can pass that up. I just want to let you all know that there’s no better place to start waging your political battles against the leftist agenda, then right here in Washington, right here in the heart of our city. Hope you can join us soon.

Johnson also does work at the Heritage Institute and a “high ends arms manufacturer” in Switzerland. Who this might be, I can only guess. That “high end” is used suggests a consumer product, a luxury product, and so I guess maybe the high end pistol manufacturer Sig Sauer. The detail of his employment at Heritage is taken from his author bio at the Daily Caller, while the details of the high end arms manufacturer is taken from “Polanski’s Saviors: Hollywood, the MSM, and a Weak Obama”, an article published at (Johnson’s articles at Breitbart). The articles by Benny Johnson at Breitbart, though without author photo, are most certainly by the same Benny Johnson as some of the articles overlap with those credited to Benny Johnson at The Blaze, which are accompanied by an author photo.

Johnson has also worked for Accuracy In Media, conducting interviews and putting together video segments. It is here that we might see what makes so much of Johnson’s work repellent – it is not that he presents ideas that one might disagree with, but that he seems to set up certain people as convenient targets. His persona in this and other videos might be described as “Every 80s villain, ever”. Pauline Kael once described John Glover’s Scrooged character as someone whose hair is always asking, “Tennis, anyone?” Benny Johnson’s hair asks the same question.

There is this video, “The REAL Congressional Black Caucus”, where he seems to clown eye just about everyone except Allen West, who is allowed to speak at length and without edits. There are certain tropes brought up here that can’t help but make me think he’s playing sly racial games, giving the clown eye to someone in traditional african dress and trying on pimp furs.

I don’t think I would have an issue with some iconoclastic comedian who had a sarcastic, nasty take on all peoples, whether they be the Black Caucus, the Catholic Church, whoever. The first rule is to be funny, the second rule is to be merciless. There is, however, a very strong contrast in attitude between how he acts in the Caucus video, and how he is with Ann Coulter, a figure who provides much for savage ridicule, but who he treats with complete deference.

He interviews her for a half hour and not once finds anything to make fun of in anything she says:

Johnson also appears in the AIM video “Dick Durbin LOVES $60 fees!”, a video about overdraft fees, which I found interesting for one detail. It includes a fairly lengthy excerpt of the theme music to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Given that this is a political ad, and given that Steven Spielberg is fairly protective about how his music is used, and given that Accuracy in Media promotes a conservative agenda that empahsises the importance of property rights, I can only assume that Accuracy in Media got the rights to the music and Spielberg is far more passionate about the issue of overdraft fees than I thought. The same goes for MIA, whose “Paper Planes” seems to be used at even greater length.

The attempt at simple provocation, at treating one group as an enemy, continues on in a piece written for The Blaze, “New Black Panther Field Marshal: Whites ‘Should be Thankful We’re Not Hanging Crackers By Nooses…Yet, Yet, Yet’”. The ostensible news value is that this marshal supposedly was involved in preventing white men and women from voting in the ’08 election. Its more specific purpose appears to be to quote the things this man has said in order to create a vile image to be hated by those who visit The Blaze.

From the piece:

  • “You should be thankful we’re not running around here hanging crackers by nooses and all that kind of stuff, yet, yet, yet.”
  • “Some of us, some of y’all – are even scared to have a wet dream about killing the g*ddamn cracker.”
  • “We’re raising men and women in this army, we don’t have time for punks. We don’t allow fa*gots and lesbians in this army– sorry, wrong army. This is for black liberation, not rainbow liberation.”
  • “Just imagine everybody listening right now, you walk outside on your block in your hood, and everybody on your block is now revolutionary. Everybody on your block is ready to bang on this cracker. Can you imagine what kind of community that would be? … That is the kind of community our ancestors would be proud of.”
  • “And we’ll really show this cracker a project that’s behind never wish he would have started. Turn them projects out, because a black power project and no crackers allowed up in here. So much to the point that then their developer will be scared to come in here; we’re taking it. Just like we took our land for our garden, G*damnit, the projects is next. We’re taking it back, block by block, house by house, street by street, hood by hood, town by town, city by city, state by state.”
  • “You can fight this white man– and I’m not telling you to go out there and attack nobody– but in self-defense it’s okay to fight back. We’re taught to send this cracker to the cemetery; when he put his hand on us, we send him to the cemetery in self defense. Again, I’m not telling you to attack anyone, but if they put their hands on you and if you are a [unintelligble], and in the name of your creator, and the name of our ancestors, we’re to kiss them goodbye, kiss ‘em goodbye, kiss ‘em goodbye.”

The article is very effective in generating a reaction. I take some of the quotes of the commenters, casually and without cherry picking:

If Barry had a son, he would probably look like BeeBop Shabazz Tideley Wink.

To Samir Shabazz

You are a punk. You talk and thats all you do. Bring your a$$ dwn to Port Orange Florida and I guarantee the crackers here will make sure you never walk again bitc*

This is one of Eric “The Red” Holders people.

What most whites are afraid to admit….and what Rev. Jesse Peterson will tell you is true….is that this kind of rabid hatred is common throughout black communities. Blacks are told whites are the basis of all their problems and failings and lack of ability to achieve in this society, so whenever they get a chance they think they’re evening the score.

Since the vast majority are not very bright, they can’t understand that beating an innocent white to death can’t be payback since the white did nothing to them and they haven’t suffered anything anyway. Whining about slavery two hundred years ago doesn’t even factor into the equation, since they were never slaves. They love to hate whitey and their abject hostility and animosity will only continue to get worse. It gives them an excuse to blame someone else besides themselves for their many failures and lack of achievement.

White racism is almost non-existent and slavery is a non-issue. Blacks can’t get ahead as a group…with or without AA gimmies…. because their group I.Q. average is only 85, and no racial group in the country has an average that low.

Somebody needs to convince them of that instead of pretending they’re victims of some sort, because they’ve already killed, beat, raped and tortured far too many whites already, and it is only going to continue to get worse as it has these last three years. Our families are at risk daily.

And this POS has been a guest of the Muslim in chief at the white house

Sorry I don’t think he will change. He does all black americans an injustice. Why doesn’t Holder go after these guys? Are they related? This is what the dem’s are all about.

Johnson’s work at Breitbart continues in this tradition. In “Polanski’s Saviors: Hollywood, the MSM, and a Weak Obama”, Barack Obama is found guilty because Switzerland refused to allow the extradition of Roman Polanski.

It is, I think, boilerplate rabble rousing. I give lengthy excerpt:

Lets look at the five point international criminal precedent this administration has set-

Obama’s Newest Entitlement program; open to any Enemy of the State:

1. If you blow off your genitalia on Christmas day, we will read you your Miranda Rights before ever noting what you say.

2. If you shoot up an Army base killing 11 solders while yelling Allah Akbar, we will blame ourselves and our stressful wars of occupation, not radical Islam.

3. If you are the self proclaimed mastermind of the most successful plot to kill Americans in history, and over see its bloody completion, we will be sure to try you in a respectable downtown Manhattan civilian court.

4. If you attempt to kill thousands in Time Square, we will not even allow the words “Islamic Extremist” in the courtroom.

5. *Brand New!* If you are an admitted Russian Spy bent on scrounging as many states secrets as you can from liquored diplomats in cocktail lounges, we will give you a free trip home and wont even trouble you with a trial.

Sadly, this spineless administration has seen fit to open new chapters of naivety precisely when the World needs realism. Through this administration, we have demonstrated that our legal system is obtusely political and cripplingly agenda driven. Its laws are pulled by the shaky whims of an administration far more concerned with political correctness than constitutional or a national security. In this world filled with enemies, and criminals America needs a leader, not a man-child bent on winning three more Nobel’s.

The only way this administration can get a legal footing is to go after law-abiding states such as Arizona for enacting laws that 73% of America Approves of. The Democrats own Governors are disgusted by the move. The political condescension of which is unprecedented in American legal history.

There is “At Last, CNN Finally Gets Something Right About Islam”:

A chilling and shockingly honest portrayal of poor immigration policy by CNN. This is a freak act of journalistic integrity aimed squarely upon the crippling policies of arch-tolerance and appeasement. CNN, for perhaps the first time I applaud you. In the light of recent events, let us not be too obtuse to the grasp that these people are taking dead aim at America.

If you are a peaceful Muslim, please comment on this. Let me know you find this equally offensive and confounding.

Apparently, Johnson divides muslims between those peaceful and non-peaceful. There are good and bad muslims, just as there used to be good and bad jews, and they must demonstrate clearly their allegiance. The issue does not appear to be immigration reform, but hysteria that the west is about to be over-run by radical muslims.

Here is “Dear American Taxpayer: You Are Paying for the Ground Zero Mosque”. The article is provocative, and I wish to give it fair hearing, so I give it full excerpt:

Chances are you’re in not in the 20% of Americans who support the blasphemous Ground Zero mega-mosque.

But guess what? You are currently paying for the Imam who wants to build it to visit Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar to raise money for it.

[this video now carries the message: “Obama Financing Imam’s Tri…” The YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement.]

Reports the New York Post:

London-based Arabic-language newspaper that interviewed Abdul Rauf reported that he said he would also [on his State Department funded trip to the middle east] collect money from Muslim and Arab nations around the world — raising the possibility that the American government is helping him build contacts in oil-rich states.

This is yet another obtuse, politically cumbersome move made by an administration crippled by its need for multicultural adoration. Why not instead send the Imam to Pakistan where he can help shovel out drowning families, or to Somalia where he can persuade vicious Islamic Radicals to stop murdering in the name of his peaceful religion? Such a blissful stance toward the enemies of civilization has the potential for chilling consequences.

“Most Muslims love Osama Bin laden, like I love him myself.”

One can nod politely as our President lectures us on the evening of Ramadan, enlightening us as to how peaceful and beautiful Islam is, pleading with us to rise to his level of cultural relativism where we make no distinctions between Islam and Christianity, Ground Zero Mosques or Amish country churches, good or evil.

How enchanting an existence President Obama must have. It is yet another thing to actually live in reality, outside the cozy glow of your teleprompter, your 70-person secret security detail, and your princesses’ $75,000-a-day taxpayer funded Spanish beachside pleasure sprees. In the real world there are Islamic radicals who wish death to us and they widely support this Mosque.

The real question that most Americans are asking is, “Where is the outcry from those ‘peaceful Muslims’ we always hear about?” Where are the protests against these vile British Muslim activists that promise death to those that support the military? Where are the protests against the actions of Hamas or the insanity of this Mosque proposal? There is nothing but silence so far as I can hear.

When our POTUS raises a glass of non-alcoholic beverage in a toast to Islam, in the spirit of peace let us raise one with him. However when Obama defends the incendiary mosque on the grounds that it is legal, then let us protest. How cowardly is this President’s excuse. Of course it’s legal. The question is whether it’s right and what precedent does it set. If the project is indeed now righteously doomed than what has Obama once more proven? That this the administration has again acted against the will of the American people… with our own tax dollars.

The Breitbart articles were written in 2010; the Blaze piece on Samir Shabazz has a publication date of May 21, 2012. The last piece I look at, and one very much a part of this xenophobic trend of identifying an other and hating it, is again from The Blaze, and published May 18, 2012. It deals with overseas U.S. tourism advertising, and it’s called “Swamp People, Hippies, Hijabs, and a Gay Couple: See How the Obama Admin Is Branding America Abroad (& the LGBT Adviser Who’s Behind It!)”. I’d say of all of Johnson’s work, this is the one that really made me want to throw up.

From the piece:

Last week, President Obama made history by being the first sitting president to publicly support gay marriage. Now, his administration is the first to openly advertise homosexuality around the globe as an “American ideal.” The Blaze has uncovered documents that show how central gay rights themes have been to the administration and how they are being used by the administration to propagate a rebranding of America and its values.

Second, in a prominent scene, two gay men are shown riding a trolley together, one sleeping on the other’s shoulder. And the actors featured in the scene are a gay couple who were specifically recruited for a “homosexual presence” in the ad. According to an interview with Outsmart Magazine, the two actors, Edward R. Cox and Gideon Hodge, are to be “Face of Gay America to the World.” In the interview, the actors gushed over the role:

“They told us this was the first-ever travel commercial for America. And they wanted gay representation
in it!”

The direct connection from the administration to the controversial commercials has now come to light through Obama official John Connor. Connor presently serves as Obama’s Director of the Office of White House Liaison at the United States Department of Commerce. He is openly gay and was in charge of Obama’s LGBT outreach efforts in the northeastern United States during the 2008 Presidential campaign.

The accompanying pictures and their captions:

And of course, we’re gay friendly now.

Nothing says America…like Hinduism.

Apparel shopping?

She found one!

Norman American Traditions

I think it’s the Hindu Holi festival, but I don’t think that matters to the writer.

A dream come true!

American music!

More american music!

Yes! America!

Again, this piece was not done in some ancient history, but last year. I don’t think anything would justify such an ad, but I could understand the feeling behind it and Johnson’s other work if it was made by an older man, an uneducated man, perhaps worn down by the lack of opportunity, so that he would turn to this kind of vile, petty loathing. Johnson is a man in his twenties, a Magna Cum Laude graduate from the University of Iowa with a degree in organic chemistry and developmental psychology (“Benny Johnson Bio Campaign Tech 2013”). If I once felt anger at what he wrote, I now only feel exhaustion and despair, that someone who could do so much, creates such trash. It’s like stumbling upon a man of privilege and Princeton graduate tagging up a church wall.

That an amateur such as myself came across Johnson’s work makes me assume that the Buzzfeed news editor, Ben Smith, a professional journalist, and Jonah Peretti, widely considered to be brilliant3, have also come across his work and consider it of no consequence. Buzzfeed, whatever my objections to it, is inclusive. Their News site has been out front in support of same sex marriage. Their listicles include “28 Signs You Were Raised by Persian Parents”, “27 Signs You Were Raised By Immigrant Parents”, “27 Things You Had To Deal With As The Only Black Kid In Your Class”. You might find such insights made banal when they’re in listicle form, but they do not treat the subject as the outsider, as a thing. I can only assume that Buzzfeed is something like a restaurant where they serve everyone, yet where the waiters happily make fun of their customers’ funny names or clothing when they’re within earshot, indifferent to whether they hear or not. The customers are expected to abide this, that it is a joke, something of which it will be insisted, “forget it, let’s move on, okay?”, much as would be implied of Andrew Breitbart’s treatment of ACORN and Shirley Sherrod, and the customer will have no choice but to agree4.

The second part of my Andrew Breitbart piece was to focus on the decay of the press, and how such a decay allowed for the brief ascendance of Breitbart. This decay is all affecting, and ever present every day, though we may not perceive it, as there is always a surfeit of news, just a question of what news. The news not covered does not involve a missing ideological perspective, so much as a people who are outside of reach of the national papers, and whose coverage would entail not simply a few hours of watching TV, or even interviews, but an in-depth commitment that most press organizations now lack the resources to make. Were I to pick one such story, it would be the fast food strikes in St. Louis and Detroit, which have been ably written about by Josh Eidelson (“Surprise fast food strike planned in St. Louis “ and “Fast Food Strike Wave Spreads to Detroit”), and few others. The men and women of those strikes fight harder for something than Benny Johnson has ever fought for anything in his life, and yet this man, who has had the easier path, has nothing better to do with his possibilities than make the most squalid, spiteful work. He appears to believe the news of the world is a rightful representation of the world, and those he insults don’t exist in actuality. Were I to ask this man why he did what he did, I can’t imagine a single answer that could not be likened to an irresponsible child, and I can’t think of an answer that would not move me from exhaustion to cold anger.

Absent a proper conclusion, I close with an excerpt from Chris Hayes’ essential Twilight of the Elites:

Though it’s obviously a far cry from the antebellum South, extreme inequality of the particular kind that we have produces its own particular kind of elite pathology: it makes elites less accountable, more prone to corruption and self-dealing, more status-obsessed and less empathic, more blinkered and removed from informational feedback crucial to effective decision-making. For this reason, extreme inequality produces elites who are less competent and more corrupt than those in a more egalitarian social order would. This is the fundamental paradoxical outcome that several decades of failed meritocratic production has revealed: As American society grows more elitist, it produces a worse caliber of elites.

The problem we now face is that there is a very real sense in which the winners of twenty-first-century America live on a different continent than everyone else.

POSTSCRIPT: On November 12th, 2013, I came across this parody of BuzzFeed and Johnson, “EXCLUSIVE! @BennyJohnson’s 20 Most YOLO Moments” by methadonna5 (via “Behind FeedBuzz, Weird Twitter’s blistering BuzzFeed parody” by Virgil Texas). It is equally funny and disturbing, containing some of the same material I too came across (it was published a few days before this post), though I missed out on Johnson’s tweets from last year which are just disgusting. Taken from “20 Most YOLO Moments”:

POST-POSTSCRIPT: On December 18th, 2013, as part of his very funny hack list at Salon, Alex Pareene posted the entry “Hack List No. 3: Benny Johnson”. Pareene showed some mercy, and did not include the disgusting attack Johnson had made on an Obama administration official, simply because he was gay: “Swamp People, Hippies, Hijabs, and a Gay Couple: See How the Obama Admin Is Branding America Abroad (& the LGBT Adviser Who’s Behind It!)”. It did not include Johnson’s tweets making fun of those applying for citizenship – though it did feature a prominent link to “EXCLUSIVE! @BennyJohnson’s 20 Most YOLO Moments”, where any reader would be able to see Johnson’s Blaze story and his tweets.

What was perhaps most interesting is how inconsequential this all was to those who worked at BuzzFeed, how it was treated all as a massive joke. This, of course, was perhaps not surprising at all: the lives of others are a handful of dust to these people.

This was McKay Coppins referring, kiddingly, to Johnson as “the worst person at BuzzFeed” just as Pareene had:

Chris Geidner, another BuzzFeed writer, who often wrote on LGBT issues:

Johnson himself on the list:

Alex Priest at Uber:

David A. Graham, an editor at The Atlantic:

Again, given that Johnson had attacked someone in the Obama administration specifcally because they were gay, and given Geidner’s focus on LGBT issues, someone who has been vigilant about such things, would give a strong defense:

In reference, I’m guessing to some of Johnson’s inflammatory tweets, there was also this:

After all, this was all just a massive joke. On December 20th, Coppins would publish “Paul Ryan Finds God” about the senator and former vice-presidential candidate. According to this profile, the man who had recently found inspiration from Ayn Rand (whose works had inspired the satanic bible, as described in “The Satanic Bible and Ayn Rand”), had now found a new path to god by helping out the less fortunate. One might see the divide in public opinion and that of the glib, superficial approval of Ryan by BuzzFeed, the views of a privileged fraction imposed on the majority, in almost all of the public comments to the article right beneath it.

Joe Gayda, the most liked comment (thirty one likes) at 3:20pm EST December 20th (link):

The election wasn’t just last week. We have seen how Ryan and The Republicans have behaved since then. They shut down the government knowing who it would hurt most. They ruled out extending unemployment benefits in the current budget. They are already saying they have to “get something” to raise the debt limit, which cancels the economic optimism passing the budget might have caused. They continue to do everything they can to undermine an economic recovery that would help the least. And even Ryan’s Republicans are balking at how he cut Pentagon pensions. This piece is just a sop to the Catholics who care about what the Pope has said, to separate Ryan from Palin, as if Ryan isn’t worse.

Darin Greenwalt, comment with 26 likes (link):

And Buzzfeed jumps the shark.

Chris Goff, comment with 22 likes (link):

Wait…what? A champion of the poor? What country do you live in? Have you been actually been paying attention? Ryan’s policies would shift the tax burden even further away from the wealthy onto the poor who already cannot afford to shoulder the burden they are currently carrying. This article is one of the most misinformed pieces of pseudo journalism that I have seen in years. Shame on you Buzzfeed!

Michael D. Babrber (link):

Buzzfeed offers not one whit of real evidence that this religitard shyster has done anything legislatively to help the poor. Shame on your rotten journalism.

Stan Rezaee (link):

Is this suppose to be a fucking joke? Paul Ryan is god awful combination of being an out of touch politician and a horrible example of a human being. He is an elected parasite who has made it his life goal to make the lives of the poor as miserable as possible. How dare this hack writer tries to compare him to Pope Francis. The only thing that Pope Francis and Paul Ryan have in common is that their Catholics, however Ryan could just be faking it just to win the religious vote.

RicklSpanish (link):

No champion of the poor refuses to renew unemployment benefits for over a million people during a time where there is 7% unemployment, around Christmastime. BTW this is the first time in a Congress has done this when unemployment was this high. He talks a good game but private charities and churches are not going to cut it. If that was the case we would never have had a need for FDR’s and LBJ’s social programs in the first place.

Pakllel (link):

BuzzFeed, now deleted from my feeds (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). McKay is either hopelessly naive or a plant for the GOP. Stick to baby & puppy gifs.

OregonOrganica (link):

Is Buzzfeed even trying to hide the fact they are in the GOP’s pocket anymore?

HerasmusBDragon (link):

Keep it up, BFP. I get more laughs out of these fluff pieces than I do out of the cute puppies and kittens.

paulb114 (link):

So Buzzfeed is now the mouthpiece of the Republican Party? How can anyone in their right mind take McCay Coppins seriously with this junk. He offers no supporting evidence that Paul Ryan is now or has ever been a champion of the poor. Ryan always bases his budgets upon the backs of the middle class and poor – at times slashing millions from the very programs the middle class and poor rely on. This article is a joke and an example of bad journalism.

jacobg21 (link):

How can anybody take this seriously when Ryan just brokered a budget deal that includes massive cuts in unemployment, food stamps and other forms of aide to the poor while keeping in tact billions of dollars in corporate welfare?

ExileOnDaytonStreet (link):

As long as he’s still in love with the works of Ayn Rand, I’m not going to believe that he’s capable of finding God. Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and pretty much any reasonable interpretation of Christianity are wildly incompatible.

philr18 (link):

Are you kidding me? Really Buzzfeed. Did someone send you some special brownies for Christmas? This is a man whose budget gets balanced ON THE BACKS OF THE POOR AND MIDDLE CLASS. You have the NERVE to use Pope Francis and this Ayn Rand kiss ass in the same sentence. Shame on you and the hacks that wrote this french kiss to Ryan. I’m beyond disgusted. You provide NO evidence that he’s on this Pope’s team. The evidence, had you not been too freakin’ lazy to look, suggests THE OPPOSITE.

MADx (link):

And they continue to cut, cut, and cut assistance for the poor. Titus 1:16 – They profess that they know God; but in works they deny [him], being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

scottthomasp (link):

This is a joke article, right? Like the Onion? If not, Buzzfeed needs to go back to what they’re good at: stupid lists of things we wouldn’t normally care about but for some reason like to waste our time reading, because they are not good at journalism.

mikei9 (link):

This article is one huge amalgam of bullshit and whitewash. Ryan’s actions speak volumns about his character, and none of it is good for 99% of this country.

Mark Eric (link):

Are you hopelessly naive, Coppins, or bought and paid for? Until you can point to an actual POLICY initiative to back your thesis, I’m leaving it at the curb with the rest of the trash. And you with it.

jimc52 (link):

Having your picture taken with poor people is not the same as helping poor people. As long as the GOP supports trickle down economic policies, they can’t truthfully claim to be helping anyone but the wealthy.

tomc57 (link):

Instead of direct indulgences from the Pope, Ryan proposes a voucher system where people can purchase their indulgences in the open market, thereby reducing their costs.

OregonOganica (link):

I can see why BF buried this article when it was the headline piece this morning. These comments are brutal and totally necessary. A lot of people realizing today Buzzfeed is the mouth piece for the Republican party with cat videos.

RandomFlux (link):

Whoever wrote this is on crack. Tell us another one, drunk uncle Randy!

davidh150 (link):

I totally see it, if you think what Jesus meant by “caring for the poor” is to take food out of their mouths and take the roofs from over their heads. You know, to help them simplify their lives. There is about as much of a chance that Ryan has experienced an epiphany about the plight of the poor as there is that the Pope is about to beatify Ayn Rand. What a pointless puff piece.

Steak Knives (link):

Now now, let’s not forget about when Jesus took the seven loaves and ate each one right then and there like a giant, voracious duck to teach the multitudes about not relying on handouts.

joyj6 (link):

He wants to take everything away from the middle class, supported shutting the government down, a wolf trying on a papel gown.

liandro (link):

What a load of crap. I’ve been reposting buzzfeed lists on social media for a long time, but after this profoundly dishonest hagiography trying to pass as honest journalism for a man who represents the worst in American government—a traitor to American democracy, an enemy of the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and basically anyone with a shred of humanity, I’m done with you, buzzfeed. You’re off the bus. When you’re ready to apologize for insulting our intelligence, let us know.

Lisa R. (link):

Paul Ryan sent an entire classroom of poor teenagers neckties because… um… because why would a poor teenager want silly stuff like food or medicine or job prospects when they can have a snazzy necktie? Oh and because all teenagers are boys? Yeah, he’s just like Jesus.

Ariuszme (link):

What a gigantic load of CRAP He’s always been very religious and very dangerous. He’s a devout follower of Ayn Rand and this crap about wanting to help the poor? Give me a f’cking break… he wants to steal democratic votes . I cannot stand this guy and this article is just laughable.

Coppins received some criticism of this article from ThinkProgress, in “BuzzFeed Declares Paul Ryan A ‘Champion Of The Poor,’ Offers No Supporting Evidence” by Annie-Rose Strasser and Alan Pyke; this he took a lot more seriously than what was said of Benny Johnson, giving it a hard sniff with the following tweet. The irony, of course, as already shown above, is that his colleague Benny Johnson used to critique the media over at Breitbart:

As said, none of this should be suprising at all, neither BuzzFeed’s shrug-off of what Johnson had written in the past or Coppins’ attempt to dress up a man who’d been a hard advocate of brutal austerity measures as a man with great sympathy for the worst off. Our lives, after all, meant nothing, nothing, to these people.

(Some small aesthetic edits have been made since publication; the footnotes, and the details regarding John Glover’s hair, eighties movie villains, and the part about The Blaze piece on the appointment of John Connor making me want to vomit, were all added on April 22nd. For whatever reason, Glenn Beck’s website, The Blaze, had been italicized, and the italics were removed on the same date. A few parts of the post-postscript were cleaned up on December 21st, but nothing in the meaning was changed. The comments to “Paul Ryan Finds God” after mikei9 were added on December 23rd, 2013. Footnote #4, quoting David Ehrenstein, was added on December 24th, 2013.)


1 Some accurate insights into this disposable culture that creates a connection that is perfunctory and shallow, a kind of machine press friendliness, something very different from the brief unforced intimacies of the short essays on The Awl or The Hairpin, might be found in Dwight MacDonald’s classic essay, “Mass Cult and Mid Cult”:

Masscult is bad in a new way: it doesn’t even have the theoretical possibility of being good. Up to the eighteenth century, bad art was of the same nature as good art, rpodcued for the same audience, accepting the same standards. The difference was simply one fo individual talent. But Masscult is something else. It it not just unsuccessful art. It is non-art. It is even anti-art.

Masscult offers its customers neither an emotional catharsis nor an aesthetic experience, for these demand effort. The production line grinds out a uniform product whose humble aim is not even entertainment, but merely distraction. It may be stimulating or narcotic, but it must be easy to assimilate. It asks nothing of its audience, for it is “totally subjected to the spectator.” And it gives nothing.

[A] work of High Culture, however inept, is an expression of feelings, ideas, tastes, visions, that are idiosyncratic and the audience clearly responds to them as individuals. Furthermore, both creator and audience accept certain standards. These may be more or less traditional; sometimes they are so much less so as to be revolutionary, though Picasso, Joyce and Stravinsky knew and respected past achievements more than did their academic contemporaries; their works may be seen as a heroic breakthrough to earlier, sounder foundations that had been obscured by the fashionable gimcrackery of the academies. But Masscult is indifferent to standards. Nor is there any communication between individuals. Those who consume Masscult might as well be eating ice-cream sodas, while those who fabricate it are no more expressing themselves than are the “stylists” who design the latest atrocity from Detroit.

One might qualify this indictment by noting that quite a few of those Detroit atrocities are now mourned as a lost era in automobile craftsmanship; one might also note that the Buzzfeed’s archive of long form essays is enviable, the work there carrying all the qualities which I find absent in the business end of the site. “Why Did Jodon Romero Kill Himself On Live Television?” by Jessica Testa is a prime example of such, an essay dyed deep with the empathy and moral investigation in the lives of others, and of which Benny Johnson’s work is entirely dry.

2 From “Does Buzzfeed Know the Secret?” by Andrew Rice:

Peretti’s giddiness stands in enviable contrast to the dreary news from more established quarters of the media. Time Inc. has been cut adrift, Newsweek is a magazine no more, and the Times has suffered through yet another round of layoffs. Meanwhile, BuzzFeed’s investors—which include venture funds, the Hearst publishing corporation, and Huffington Post co-founder Ken Lerer—put $35 million into the company last year. Those funds allowed the start-up, formerly little known to anyone over 25, to embark on a series of moves designed to grab adult attention. Peretti hired star political blogger Ben Smith to assemble a news operation, and Washington’s Twitter feeds soon filled with scooplets from a band of frenetic reporters. BuzzFeed has since added sports and Hollywood coverage and even long-form journalism to its sugary listicles.

3 From “Six Degrees of Aggregation”, by Michael Shapiro, a profile of Arianna Huffington:

Jonah Peretti was 29 and had already earned a reputation as something of a wise guy. He had been a technology teacher at a New Orleans private school when he was admitted to a graduate program at MIT. His plan was to study ways networks might foster communication among teachers, but got sidetracked midway through his master’s thesis. In 2000, Nike was inviting customers to create footwear with personalized wording. The company had been criticized widely for selling sneakers made by desperately poor people in impoverished countries. Peretti, tall, skinny and bespectacled, submitted his request: He wanted his sneakers emblazoned with the word SWEATSHOP. Nike declined. At which point, Peretti did a clever thing: he e-mailed.

Nike replied. Back and forth they went: Peretti pressing his request; Nike, grasping at excuses, going so far as to refuse on the grounds that “sweatshop” was slang and therefore not permissible. Peretti, citing Webster’s, insisted it was not. He ended the exchange with a final request: “Could you please send me a color snapshot of the ten-year-old Vietnamese girl who makes my shoes?” What happened next represents one of those moments in which the tectonic media plates experienced a subtle but profound shift: Peretti offered the e-mail trail to Harper’s. The magazine declined. So, on January 17, 2001, Peretti forwarded the e-mails to 10 friends. Those friends, in turn, forwarded the e-mails to other friends and before long, a lot people who had never heard of Jonah Peretti—some of them in Australia—were sending around his e-mail conversations with Nike.

To his credit, Peretti completed his thesis on teacher communication, but his mind was elsewhere, looking for ways to replicate the sensation he had experienced with Nike. He left Cambridge and moved to New York, where he started a laboratory for what he called “contagious media.” At Eyebeam Art & Technology Center, Peretti, together with like-minded friends including his sister, Chelsea, an aspiring stand-up comic, produced what would come to be regarded as early independent benchmarks of virality:—in which white people try to ingratiate themselves with black friends in a manner so compellingly offensive that it earned a piece in The New York Times; and the “breakup hotline,” a telephone number and accompanying website for women attempting to rid themselves of unwanted suitors. “I was trying to have an impact on culture,” Peretti says.

4 A sentence that I came across which succinctly captures this is in “Sexual Snobbery: The texture of Joseph Epstein” by David Ehrenstein: “Politics is the act of choosing what one wishes to remember.”

5 We might see here the strange intersection of so many stories, since Methadonna was also shows up in the Twittergate scandal, discussed in “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Three”.

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