Earlier this week, Yves Smith of naked capitalism posted one of the most brutal takedowns I have ever seen. From Project S.H.A.M.E.: Megan McArdle, a Covert Republican Party Activist Trained by the Billionaire Koch Brothers.

If you have any interest in media or journalism, it is absolutely must read material.

I never cared for McArdle’s work — I always found it shallow and intellectually dishonest (see below). I erroneously assumed that some of her less intelligent statements were the result of ignorance. But I never suspected her to be an utterly corrupted pseudo journalist.

Now I know better. She is simply appalling, and any publication that publishes anything in the future under her byline is off my reading list.

I’d like to hear from the Atlantic, who should be thoroughly shamed for publishing this tripe for years. Putting out the terrific work of Derek Thompson barely scratches the surface of atoning for your sins.

In this modern age of blogs and digital media, it is now incumbent upon every publication that has hired non-journalists — including the Washington Post running columns by characters like me — to thoroughly vet these non-journo journalists.

Readers have a right to know if bylined authors work for the publication they are writing in, or as we learned about McArdle, somebody else entirely.



Smart People Saying Dumb Things (October 18th, 2008)

No Financial Villains . . . ?  (July 13th, 2009)

Rule of Law: Banker Criminality Demands Prosecution (May 20th, 2011)

Category: Financial Press, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

70 Responses to “Fisking McArdle”

  1. Moss says:

    This is a perfect example of why trust in the media is so low. This poll is a good sign to me. Maybe people are staring to educate themselves.


  2. cewing says:

    Not sure what the problem is here. I don’t think McArdle was walking around claiming she was a Liberal while she was promoting her Conservative/Libertarian ideas. Is it incumbent upon her to loudly declare her Right-Wing training and associations in every byline (e.g. “Written by Megan McArdle, KOCH BROTHERS STOOGE”)? Or should readers take it upon themselves to read her words and make up their own minds?

    I stopped reading her work in the Atlantic a long time ago because she’s boring and uninformative. Her politics are obvious. You might as well publish an expose on George Will next.

  3. cewing:

    It is a function of honesty and integrity. How can any media outlet manage someone who is dishonest and/or corrupted? If she failed to disclose her background, and who is paying her, she should be fired from where ever she misled those employers to get that job. (Or do you have to put a disclaimer on everything she publishes?)

    Bottom line: She is not fit to be a journalist or publish at a legitimate outlet. Let her go back to JaneGalt.com

  4. bobnoxy says:

    I just finished reading Predator Nation by Charles Ferguson of Inside Job fame. He devotes a couple of chapters to how the economics, academic and media have been bought off by the very rich and corporations. The next time I see any expert appearing on any television outlet, my first instinct is to wonder who he really works for.

    It reminds me of the run up to the Iraq War, and all the retired generals appearing on the news who were sure we needed to rid the world of such a mortal threat. Come to find out many of them worked for defense companies or right wing think tanks.

  5. ThatsNotAll says:

    Barry, how many network journalists are married to Democratic party operatives? Are you going to save us from that conflict of interest? I do find your blog informative. Anytime I want an update on what goes for conventional wisdom among the narrowminded upper crust in the Big Apple I only have to read your blog. I especially like the thrill of watching you contort yourself around the cognitive dissonance that Obama and his cronies have done nothing to clean up Wall Street but it is still all the fault of Republicans. Stay classy Long Island.


    BR: I have no idea — do you? Can you cite a data source for that? How many media folks are married to “Democratic party operatives”? Republican party operatives?

    Well, at least you properly followed our comment instructions . . .

  6. george lomost says:

    Great piece Barry. I used to read her blog during the runup to the Iraq invasion, this now clarifies why her stuff was so weird.

    I have long contended that the torch of AgitProp was taken up by the Right soon after the fall of the Berlin
    Wall. This adds another tidbit.

  7. bobnoxy says:

    ”Barry, how many network journalists are married to Democratic party operatives? Are you going to save us from that conflict of interest?”

    Great point. So, how many network journalists are married to Democratic party operatives? Since you asked, I’m sure you must know something there, right? I for one, am all ears!

  8. HEHEHE says:

    I have to agree that this is much ado about nothing. I get even more of a chuckle about Yves calling the Koch’s Libertarians and the continuous besmirching of Ayn Rand’s name. Mcardle and the Koch’s are all about Crony Capitalism – I am still trying to find a true Libertarian or a passage in Ayn Rand’s work that supports Crony Capitalism and the ensuing bailouts, no bid contracts, beneficial legislation/regulatory schemes etc that comes with it. You can say what you want about Ayn Rand’s work from a literary perspective, express your view of her as a person, discuss the ideas she expressed re the State vs. the individual – but the borrow and spend economic policies pursued by the Republican Party and the likes of the Koch’s aren’t supported by anything she’s ever written. Anybody who says that they are is lying. The Left has always hated that woman for some reason. I think they’d get more way more traction if they just pointed out what the reality of the Republican economic agenda really is, rather than always throwing around the Ayn Rand bugaboo. Of course then they might have to deal with their own failed economic policies too so all the better to through Ayn Rands name under the bus.


    BR: You are right about the Crony Capitalist hiding under the banner of Libertarianism

  9. “I don’t see any evidence offered that Koch money funds FreedomWorks, or any astroturfing organization . . . ”

    “…from what I know of [the Kochs], astroturfing doesn’t really seem like their style.”

    —From McArdle’s attack on an investigative article exposing the first Tea Party protest as a Koch/FreedomWorks Astroturf campaign; February 2009

  10. winstongator says:

    There are also network journalists married to Republican operatives


    BR: its a non-issue — dont feed the trolls

  11. perryair says:

    “A” is connected with organization “B”, which receives millions in funding from those evil folks with “C” so they are immediately not credible.

    A-Megan McCardle; B-Reason Institute, IHS, Mercatus Center, etc etc; C- Koch Indusitries
    A-Obama; B-Obamas own fundraising team, DNC, etc etc; C- your choice of any huge wall street bank

    Isn’t this game fun?

  12. Liquidity Trader says:

    I cannot believe some of you are going to defend her brand of dishonesty.

    As our host would write, “Astonishing Cognitive Dissonance.”

  13. I’ve read your work for the last year or so, with an eye-rolling contempt at your…

    Actually, you haven’t. Traffic logs plus your registration at 9:14 am this morning reveal you to be telling falsehoods.

    I strongly urge you to make investments based upon Ms. McArdle’s ideology and financial writings,

  14. Highflyer says:

    Oh my God you’ve exposed a right wing plot. You might want to focus on QE forever Barry. There’s a plot. 25% + devaluation of currency in last 10 years. A CPI that does not relate to real inflation. Megan is the least of our problems.


    BR: What is this QE you are discussing? (maybe you can find something in these 1915 posts).

  15. DrSandman says:

    So based on this, anyone that published a press release from DOJ without revealing that it was created in collusion with billionaire leftist (hence, dirty) money from Soros is also off your reading list?


    Really, this is nothing more than a small-minded hit piece on someone who is telling inconvenient truths. tsk tsk.


    BR: Good example. Here is Media Matters press release about Soros’ donation to the site: Soros announces FIRST ever contribution to Media Matters (October 20, 2010). If you have a McArdle’s announcement about her funding, please share it.

    PS: You have a very bizarre definition of “Truth.”

  16. sjcny says:

    Her byline blurb is hilarious….

    “Megan McArdle is a special correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast covering business, economics, and public policy. A former senior editor at The Atlantic and writer for The Economist, Megan has a diverse work history including three small startups and a disaster recovery firm at Ground Zero.”

    She’s the perfect Koch-fueled Serious Person; Distinguished Journalist! Entrepreneur!….Plus 9/11! Never Forget!

  17. Oral Hazard says:

    I don’t see an ombudsman in The Atlantic’s masthead or at The Daily Beast. It seems that McCardle may style herself an “advocacy journalist,” but I don’t think this would pass muster at a place like the NYT:


    The fiance’s involvement in a story she covered should have been disclosed.

    Maybe there’s a cautionary tale in here about transitioning from blogger to professional journalist. MSM outlets want to attract the readership of successful bloggers but maybe gloss over the absence of professional training/discipline.

    Anticipating reactions to this comment: yes, MSM “journalistic ethics” often appear to be a joke, but there are still a lot of folks out there trying to play by the rules.

  18. DrSandman says:

    Furthermore, do you believe there is ANYONE in the media now that isn’t connected with either leftist money or right money? There is no objective press. There never has been. There is only adversarial press and every reporter brings his own biases and viewpoints to the story.


    BR: Your false equivalency is absurd. This woman is deceptive non-disclosing ideologue, therefore all journalists are ? There are quality journos who do outstanding work. Open your eyes and learn the difference between fact and opinion.

  19. [...] Ritholtz, and Yves a review of the career of Atlantic/Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist Megan McArdle by Yasha [...]

  20. “Borrowers were not brought down by predatory lending. . . . Borrowers were brought down by a willingness to gamble on rising home prices–exactly the same thing that knocked out Lehman Brothers. At least Lehman Brothers had the excuse that ten years of rising prices had completely screwed up their default models.”

    —McArdle on why homeowners were more to blame than bankers for tanking the economy; September 2008

  21. hue says:

    network journalist married to Republican operative ;) http://bit.ly/SIriUn

    hall of S.H.A.M.E: Zakaria, Levitt, Davidson, Gladwell, Huffington http://bit.ly/UlsRxB

    Ames & Taibbi http://vnty.fr/OMbpv8

  22. CharlesII says:

    I think people have missed an important point, here.

    Read the McArdle quotes. She has failed to disclose her relationship with the Kochs even while denying that they influence the political process . And there she is a paid, trained operative in the media denying that there’s any undue influence on the media.

    The Kochs are worrisome not because of their political beliefs, and not even so much because of their money. They worry me because they have adopted Bolshevik tactics, of saying anything no matter how deceptive and doing whatever is expedient for the cause. One has to understand the John Birch Society and its tactics, which have been denounced by left and right alike, to understand why McArdle represents a danger to core American values.

  23. gms777 says:

    There’s a heckuva lot of innuendo in the linked article, even to the point of tarring her for what he father did for a living. Here’s an example:

    “In 2001, after her job offer in management consulting was “rescinded”, McArdle was given a day job in the construction industry, which her father was lobbying for at the time…”

    Her father was lobbying that “industry,” and she got a job in that “industry.” It is a very huge industry–construction. And, horrors, she was “given” a “day job.” At least she didn’t have a “night job,” probably “walking the streets” to work.

    I almost feel sorry for the lady.

  24. Ramstone says:

    There’s always bias — and sometimes the cure is worse than the disease (e.g. On the other hand, Prof. Wingnut of the Crackpot Inst. suggests the world is, in fact, flat). We could make every journalist, airquote or no, wear Nascar patches. But the best remedy is to read critically. If the reasoning’s poor, then you appropriately discount the writer’s message in future (looks at Adam Davidson).


    BR: There is not always bias — there are good faith attempts at being even-handed, and then there is this sort of disingenuous crap.

  25. Oral Hazard says:

    I also thought that the guilt by association bit with her father was unfair.

  26. Livermore Shimervore says:

    We have mistakenly promoted bloggers to the level of journalists which is already a pretty low bar to begin with. This is like promoting opticians to eye doctors except that these can actually pass a written exam of some type. From what I see there’s little fact finding in journalism today just reporting of assertions that fit some pre-conceived slant, a purpose for which a blogger turned “journalist” is more than fit for… MSDNC and Fox “News” being the biggest recruiters of these fake journalists. Most importantly to understand, much like has been written about Nial Ferguson lately, if you can make a reputation for yourself as parrott for the politics of the wealthy and special interest, then you’re well on your way to making more money in speaking fees (the literal preaching to the converted) than you stand to make in your day job. That’s the goal of these types, appeal to the politics of the segment that write the checks so that these shills can make enough from those appearance to pen more bias at their leisure and not whenever the rent is due.

    As for Rithotlz being a shill for the Obama-Biden team, that’s contradicted on the very same page of this website where he directs his readers to Taibbi article critical of the President’s financial squad. Which is hardly the first or 15th time that’s happened.

  27. And I wrote & set the Taibbi post last night, before I knew I was going to do anything about McArdle.

    Hardly the first time I have criticized this president, but it makes for a convenient short cut to recognize folks worth ignoring.

  28. “Here’s the thing: humans aren’t like bonobos. And do you know how I know that we are not like bonobos? Because we’re not like bonobos.”

    —McArdle explains why she’s not convinced by evolutionary biology; August 2010

  29. theexpertisin says:

    If BR held all journalists to a high ethical standard they would become an endangered species. And Media Matters would not matter, or be tax exempt.


    BR: That you consider not being utterly corrupt a high ethical standard speaks poorly of you.

  30. posthack says:

    Hi Barry,
    You were correct to pile on her. Not only is she a well-paid right wing troll, McCurdle is working for the two most evil billionaires on the planet.

    She was never a “real” journo as some pointed out, so her con job is not quite so corrosive as the legions of corrupted and corporate-owned economists, politicians and mainstream journos in print and tube.
    CJR had a great piece about mainstream journos taking Wall St. money a while back.

    Perhaps the solution is to have a Corporate Ownership Rating pop up beside the byline or TV super every time one of these “experts” speaks or writes.

    Megan McCardle (100%-owned, Koch Industries, not to be trusted on: Politics, Business issues, Civil Rights, etc)

  31. “I’ve basically outsourced my opinion on the science to people like Jonathan Adler, Ron Bailey, and Pat Michaels of Cato . . .”

    —McArdle on where she gets her climate change information; February 2012. (Pat Michaels admitted on CNN he gets 40% of his funding from the petroleum industry.)

  32. gman says:

    When one consumes media one must remember, that the line between “news” and PR and advertising is a very fine line. Throw in a fair amount of pandering to peoples own prejudices and you are beginning to be able to protect yourself and your investment decisions in this media landscape.

    Some PR firms even pay people and set up algos. w/ talking points to try to take over blog posts discussions. that are critical of clients and help shape debates in clients favor. Barry may have sniffed out some up thread.

    Media consumption like any other product is “caveat emptor”..your investment returns will improve with this simple understanding.


    BR: It shouldnt be . . .

  33. gman says:

    It would be helpful when consuming media if the source wore a patch like a NASCAR driver.

  34. Doubtful says:

    I’ve been reading
    (Shame the Hacks who Abuse Media Ethics)
    since it began not too long ago.
    Although all of their takedowns have been fun reads
    I do get the feeling they are more hatchet jobs than not.
    It’s not that what the write isn’t true, but that it’s
    not that hard to find good dirt on just about anyone.
    I bet they could even do a piece on Barry Ritholtz
    that would be a good read.

    I wonder why this one caught your attention rather than the
    one on Malcolm Gladwell or Arianna Huffington or Steven Levitt,
    for example? Could it be that you already disliked
    Megan McArdle and “confirmation bias” kicked in?


    BR: I used to like Gladwell, but he is too narrative driven for me. Lots of his anecdotes dont stand up under statistical analysis. Levitt kinda jumped the shark with the 2nd freakonomics. And I have no love whatsoever for Huffington’s brand of serfdom. I have mentioned all of the abovein the media and on the blog.

    This caught my attention due to naked capitalism. Though now that you mention it, I am far more offended by the excessive egregious nature of McArdle’s Agnatology than by Gladwell’s innumeracy.

  35. I love the organized attempted trolling both here and naked capitalism.

  36. Ozinator says:

    Hello Barry,

    I found this thread and site through The Exiled Online (same guys who do SHAME). You should go there and see the rewrites they do for trolls…hilarious! I like the effort you put in for spotting trolls (they have become clever in the way they they pretend to share sentiments while claiming “there is nothing to see here”). Had me thinking that a SHAME type project for going after busy trolls would be fun and useful if possible (and legalish).


  37. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Cleaning up the corruption and the misaligned incentives in our current economic situation is going to take a lot more gutsy, honest, tough reporting.
    McArdle has disqualified herself from participating in that endeavor.

    Publications who retain her risk committing economic suicide in a world where most of us have more blog posts, podcasts, books, and news items than we can ever hope to get through.
    Quality matters.
    Most of us have to be strategic about what we choose to consume (or comment on) in any given day.
    Information-wise, she’s an expense that I cannot afford.

  38. Roanman says:

    I struggle when I come across pieces like this to understand the outrage. The entirety of our media is bought and paid for at some level. When somebody I read or correspond with start going off on the Koch Brothers, I think about George Soros, when somebody goes off on George Soros, I go to the Koch Brothers.

    Wanna rant about corporations being people, I ask myself, are unions people as they enjoyed the same right of speech that corporate entities did in the Citizens United decision.

    The fact is that none of this gets us home, it’s all wasted energy and shame on all who participate in it on both sides. Frankly, that we have such polarized sides in this horror story doesn’t speak well of any of us.

    Too much media of all kinds is in the hands of far too few people, and is going to espouse the view of it’s masters, just as far too much of the banking industry is in the hands of far too few people and is going to serve it’s masters. That the government falls into the same category probably goes without saying, but I’ve an extra minute to waste here.

    Posts like this do nothing but foment more upset and less problem solving. We got enough upset for a couple generations. Just read the shit or don’t, make a decision and move on. To the extent the Koch brothers or
    George Soros or anyone else is financing the dreams of Satan himself by feeding some writer is neither here not there. Get over it.


    BR: Another lesson in false equivalency, brought to you by a site ironically named “Justthinking.”

    Or not

  39. Doubtful says:

    isn’t so much about what the profiled people
    do or say or even if they are lying,
    but as they describes themselves:

    The S.H.A.M.E. Media Transparency Project takes the war against
    corporate trolls and media shills to a new and more effective
    level. Its goal is to expose corrupt media figures, document
    journalistic fraud and make life a little harder for covert
    propagandists who manipulate the public, degrade our democracy and
    help perpetuate oligarchy power.

    I generally like what they do, but I think claims like Gladwell shilled
    for the big tobacco companies are a bit over the top.

  40. yon’ Ritholtz,

    you went with..”…But I never suspected her to be an utterly corrupted pseudo journalist…”

    you’re, too, kind, though ‘some’ were trying to tell you..

    Mark E Hoffer Says:
    July 13th, 2009 at 10:28 am

    McArdle gets her ‘talking points’, fed to her, from Party Central. She is, definitely, one for the List of: “those that should Understand that they can’t be Understood.”

    as a +

    hack 2 (hk)
    1. A horse used for riding or driving; a hackney.
    2. A worn-out horse for hire; a jade.
    a. One who undertakes unpleasant or distasteful tasks for money or reward; a hireling.
    b. A writer hired to produce routine or commercial writing.
    4. A carriage or hackney for hire.

    shill (shl) Slang
    One who poses as a satisfied customer or an enthusiastic gambler to dupe bystanders into participating in a swindle.
    v. shilled, shill·ing, shills
    To act as a shill.
    1. To act as a shill for (a deceitful enterprise).
    2. To lure (a person) into a swindle.
    [Perhaps short for shillaber.]

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


  41. Greg0658 says:

    “are unions people as they enjoyed the same right of speech that corporate entities did in the Citizens United decision”

    union peoples donations are personal/family cash withdrawn from checking accounts, after taxes paid, earned from labor
    corporate account profits (doesn’t even have to be in profit), before taxes paid, a pseudo tax write off cost of doing business, earned from the above mentioned laborers buying everday items to survive with
    1, 2, 3, 45678910 .. ok I calmed down .. I think you are in need of union help too .. how about we try the United States of America playing a symphony

    The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

  42. theexpertisin says:

    Since the end of the Soviet Union, I thought Show Trials were frowned upon. Evidently not.


    BR: ?!?

  43. ibid says:

    I don’t get the outrage here, Barry. I’ll bet I could write a very similar timeline for Matt Yglesias, or Ross Douthat, or Ezra Klein, or etc. Bet I could do it for former Jimmy Carter speechwriter Jim Fallows, editor James Bennet, Ta Nahesi Coates, Conor Friedersdorf, and probably your boy Derek Thompson (who I agree is absolutely terrific).

    But let’s focus on Yglesias, since he seems like the closest contemporary to McArdle, they frequently reference one another in their writing and seem to be friends, they seem to have traveled similar paths including contemporaneous stints at The Atlantic, and so on.

    Does the fact that Yglesias writes for CAP mean that the journalism he produces for Slate is irretrievably corrupt? That’s not a rhetorical question, though my answer is, “Of course not.”

    If you answer “Yes, it does”, then I think you’re logically consistent but mistaken. I find both McArdle and Yglesias to be honest brokers of opinions that I sometimes agree with and sometimes don’t. Both sometimes write things I find ridiculously stupid and/or outrageous, and when that happens I comment on both of their blogs to say so. But I don’t find either to be corrupt or intellectually dishonest.

    If you answer “No, Yglesias and McArdle are completely different beasts”, then I suspect you’ve got problems with McArdle that go beyond that list of bullet points you linked to.


    BR: Anyone who is on a payroll, or fails to disclose to specific affiliations should receive similar treatment.

    Stop defending the indefensible

  44. Matt says:

    Long time reader, first time commentator.

    I think you’ve been falsely taken in here. If you click the links the provide you find things only tangentially related to the point their trying to make or some outright fraud. A short example, click the Bonobo thing, where “McArdle explains why she’s not convinced by evolutionary biology; August 2010″ and you get instead “As someone who’s wary of evolutionary biology stories which just happen to tell us that our dominant social structures are “natural”, I should find the book interesting.” Same thing with the link talking about how she trusts Cato people, it links to a post where she’s criticizing group-think. They also don’t say if the speeches she gave while writing for the Atlantic where paid or not. That would seem to make a big difference in world of journalistic ethics.

    I think if you look at the evidence it’s not that strong. Also take a look at the other people they’ve run profiles of. Steve Levitt is a global warming denier (funny in the last book he says people are causing global warming), Goldberg of the Atlantic is an “apartheid Israel” shill. The authors seem to mix up things that are no big deal (McCardle’s dad had clients that were accused of crimes), things that are clear mis-readings, and things that might be a big deal if the offered more evidence.


    BR: If you have read McArdle over the years, you know she is a wing nut with little respect for facts or logic. The evidence is her body of work.

  45. Matt says:

    Bah, the y key on my keyboard stinks. A few of those the’s should be they’s.

  46. susanoftexas says:

    Ibid, surely someone as shrewd and impartial as yourself has observed that McArdle is sometimes wrong because she says her source material says something that it does no actually say, or because she makes a math mistake that always happens to favor the point she wants to make, or because she says she has information that in fact she does not have. Her dishonesty has been proven many times over the years, in exhaustive detail.

    It’s possible that McArdle is simply so vain and egotistical that she thinks her wisdom and insight on economics and politics (fields she has not studied in depth) are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and that she is so worshipfull of wealth that she would support people like the Koches even if they had not given her and her husband one thin dime, but her lack of integrity is not in doubt.


    BR: My concern is the deception she practices. (Her actual commentary is silly enough its easily debunked on its face). Readers have a right top know who is paying authors.

  47. Rick Caird says:

    I am not sure why Yves Smith posted this piece nor am I certain why Barry finds it so persuasive. It was neither a fisking nor a take down. First, this was the work of two guys (Yasha Levine and Mark Ames) who started a Moscow based paper called eXile. If you look at their credits


    it is clear they are on the far left side of the ledger. Their unfounded hatred of the Koch brothers comes out clearly. The major criticism of the Koch brothers seems to be they are rich from running a business and they favor libertarian idea. Both of those would be an anathema to communists. I don’t like George Soros, Media Matters, and ThinkProgress, but I have nowhere near the vitriol these guys have for the Koch brothers.

    Their first bullet point on McArdle was some of that world famous “guilt by association” complaining of her father and then some of her father’s clients. That was a waste of pixels. The fifth bullet point accuses her of “advocated the use of violence to suppress antiwar demonstrations”. That is clearly a misrepresentation of what she wrote


    All she said is if the anti-war demonstrated attempted to “create mayhem” in February 2003, New Yorkers would not take kindly to it and she was referencing a friend who had been an anti-war pacifist. In other words, Yasha Levine and Mark Ames lied.

    Later, they complain about McArdle attending the Institute for Humane Studies. What is the big deal about attending the Institute for Humane Studies and getting a $3200 stipend? Why would an alumnus not return? Do Levine and Ames think she should have attended “The George Soros Institute of Journalism” instead?

    The so called “scrubbing” of McArdle’s name points to two different documents. One has the program on it and the other does not. The second document notes they are sold out. Do Levine and Mark Ames really think Walter Williams and Charles Koch were also “scrubbed”?

    Then Levine and Ames assume the Tea Party was “astroturfing”. That started with Pelosi who clearly who had no idea what the term meant. There was no false grass roots movement. The event I attended in WPB had at least 1000 people and was covered on the local news. There was also this huge march in Washington. Only someone who does not understand “astroturf” could claim that was what was happening.

    The complaints Levine and Ames come out with are basically difference of opinion. There is no “Shame” here. There is no “failure to disclose” here. McArdle is still a libertarian, free market, Chicago school, Milton Friedman influenced writer. That is the real objection of Levine and Ames (and Yves Smith, whom I will wager did read what was posted or followed the links)

    I have been reading Megan McArdle since she was blogging as Jane Galt. Her work at the Atlantic was terrific and she is not afraid to go into the comments sections to defend or explain what she has said. At the Atlantic, she also got very long comment sections filled with intelligent comments and with a lot of give and take. I wish she were still at the Atlantic because the Daily Beast is not showing comments.

    The whole screed is simply Yasha Levine and Mark Ames venting their hatred of the Koch Brothers, anything related to the Koch brothers, and all things libertarian. I have run into their work before and it was crap then, it is crap now, and it will always be crap because they have zero interest in accuracy, only slash and burn attacks. This was not about Megan McArdle. It is about the Koch brothers and worth no more than a shrug of the shoulders. Anyone who writes as much as McArdle can have quotes (or, God forbid) even errors selectively pulled out of their work. Should we get Yasha Levine and Mark Ames to do a similar piece on Paul Krugman?

    To quote Shakespeare, this is all “Much Ado about Nothing”. However, I suspect the real objective of Levine and Ames is to try to clear the field of opposing writers.


    BR: Depends if “facts” and “reality” are important to you.

  48. jonhendry says:

    Kind of a shame that Radley Balko gets mentioned in a way that kinda spatters some of the mud on him too.

    Yeah, he’s associated with Reason and the Kochs, but his main focus has been on the militarization of police, police abuses, SWAT overuse and wrong-address raids, police puppycide, etc. And his reporting was key in getting a wrongfully convicted guy off death row, retried, and eventually released from prison.

  49. Mark Ames says:

    Atlantic Council FAIL: McArdle didn’t actually vote for Obama:

    So the managing editor of some neocon thinktank outfit called “The Atlantic Council” is claiming McArdle can’t be a GOP activist because she “voted for Obama.”


    Leaving aside the obvious stupidity of that, the fact is that McArdle only claimed she “would have” voted for Obama but she “forgot to register in time.”


  50. YanquiFrank says:

    Apparently many people don’t understand the concept of a conflict of interest: getting paid by those you write about or in support of is a conflict of interest. Period. One doesn’t need to prove intent or prove a direct pay for play arrangement. The mere fact of the payment is all that is needed. If you think you can be paid by someone and then be objective about them that means you are naive at best, stupid at second-best and corrupt at worst. Go read the research and philosophy behind the concept before proudly displaying your ignorance.

    Anyone with familiarity of the various and sundry legal codes of ethics understands such concepts. Journos are not required by law to maintain the same ethical codes as lawyers. They can’t be fined, censured or jailed for failure to comply with conflict of interest ethical guidelines. That does NOT MEAN ethical rules SHOULD NOT APPLY TO THEM AT ALL!

    What is a profession? A profession is the activity performed by a professional, A doctor, lawyer, journalist or politician (and perhaps some others — an engineer, etc.) is a professional. What does it mean to be a professional? A professional does not have just a job or a career. The fulfillment of her duties requires something more. That something more is RESPONSIBILITY. And not just any responsibility to “get the job done”. It is a hierarchy of responsibility. A physician’s first responsibility is to her patient. A lawyer, to her client. A journalist, to the public. A politician — her constituency. But these professions also have other responsibilities as well. This complex hierarchy of responsibilities IS what defines a profession. The technical and ethical guidelines that inform the professional tells her how to navigate her responsibilities in her chosen profession

    A lawyer has a responsibility to the court as well as to her client. This responsibility has a name — its called being “an officer of the court”. There are several complex duties that follow from the state of being an officer of the court. In fact, an attorney in a criminal matter, if they know their client to be guilty, is caught in a very difficult position where the duty to the court and the duty to the client conflict in ways that can be vey difficult to navigate. I point this out to describe an example of the ethical difficulties that can arise in a professional situation, and to point out that there are many degrees of ethical misbehavior.

    If a journalist works for a paper owned by a company that is a sibling (they have the same parent company), and her boss asks her to leave out pertinent facts or otherwise distort a story so as to help avert trouble for the parent or sibling firm, the journalist is caught in an ethical dilemma. If the journalist knows in the back of her head that the way she spins a story will matter to the sibling company, she may be tempted to soften the hard corners as it were, to smooth things over. She may not even be fully aware when she is doing so. This can happen with preference-bias situations where there is no economic or pecuniary connection even more subtly. These all illustrate different degrees of ethical corruption. The first is explicit and forced, the others more subtle, and generally less serious in that they tend to distort in softer, less effective and conclusive ways, though preference bias especially can be massively corrupting. These are complex issues.

    One would no sooner throw out the hippocratic oath just because many doctors were abusing it than one should throw away an ethical framework for journalists because many of them are abusing it . The forth estate is inarguably the last and best defense against the extremes of political corruption, abuse of power and manipulation. Such an ethical framework for journalists is as vital to the proper function of the body politic in a democratic society as a doctor’s ethical care is for the corpus homo itself.

    The lack of seriousness amongst many of the commenters on this site is astounding. Whining about the MSM, and how all journalists are corrupt is just a rationalization for doing nothing, demanding nothing, expecting nothing from the journalistic profession. There ARE journalists with ethics. Two of them are Yasha Levine and Mark Ames. Matt Taibbi, Yves Smith and Barry Ritholtz are others, although I know the last two would likely disagree with me. The reason I say Yves and Barry are journalists is because in the areas of their expertise they have embodied at the least a solid baseline of ethical behavior. None of these ever takes money or gifts from those they report on. If they have a past relationship with a firm or individual then they discuss it openly whenever that relationship is relevant at all.

    If one reports on organized human activity, in any field of endeavor, and one maintains the ethical underpinnings that require the truth to be reported to the best of one’s ability; and one is cognizant of and protects against the various ways that bias can seep into one’s work, to the best of their ability; and if one cannot avoid connection to the subject then any connection is openly presented and discussed so that the reader may make up their own mind in an informed way as to the trustworthiness of the reporter and her report, then the writer is a candidate for the title journalist, and her work product can arguably be considered journalism.

    Yes the MSM is corrupt. The mass media conglomerates enforce a status quo-defending framework that eliminates most serious discussion on most issues. Thanks to alternative media and especially the internet, there are many other outlets to inform, educate and aid immeasurably in our ability to discern the truth of what is happening in the nation and the world.

    Despite this corporate control, the “legit” media, of which the Atlantic is one cog, is still conscious that it cannot dismiss or ignore all stories that harm the interests it is connected with or it may lose its credibility. They squash a lot, and ignore more and more of reality as they become more brazen. But they still have to maintain at very least the illusion, which limits them in their distortions and corruptions. Despite all of this, many of the most important stories do manage to get published. They are spun to limit the damage but they are there, and people can learn about them, and dig deeper elsewhere once they have been informed. I won’t go into the distinction between “original reporting” and “commentary” because the boundary between them is quite soft and it will wind up in a much more philosophical discussion of that topic than is truly necessary for our purposes. Suffice it to say that “bloggers” tend towards commentary and journalists tend towards original reporting; but I would add that the addition of powerful insight often deeply alters the import of a given piece of reporting in ways that invest an increased relevance to certain points or issues that can readily be described as additional or new information. There are also other ways the two are blurred.

    This is where the McCurdles of the world come in. They play the boundary between PR hack and journalist in order to weaken damaging stories, to cast a pall over the messengers, and to generally poison the discourse so that in may instances we turn away in disgust with the sense that no side is really representing anything of value. McCurdle pretends to be a journalist in order for her arguments (as pathetic as they largely are) to have the cover of legitimacy. She depends most on the blurred ethical lines of the mainstream press to give her cover. Their corruption allows her more thorough corruption to hide in plain sight.

    Here’s the difference between McCurdle and an actual journalist. Her career, and her husband’s career, are both largely if not totally due to the Kochs. Her husband has worked for them throughout his entire career, and continues to do so. She got her start with them, after other offers were rescinded (?), she was laughed out of the Foreign Service interview process, her father got her some work, and then the Koch’s picked her, trained her, and sent her on her merry way. She has before and continues to receive money from the Kochs for all sorts of speaking engagements, shindig-hosting, whatever. Does anyone doubt she has a landing pad with the Kochs anytime her career stops being “all it can be”? She went from the Atlantic where she is considered a journalist, now to Newsweek where she is writing front page stories, and all the while she is receiving significant direct and indirect payment from the Kochs and their organizations. And just like the government/corporate revolving door, McArdle lives through a door that revolves between legit news organizations and PR/propaganda firms owned by the Kochs.

    In a very real sense, she is a mole planted to obscure, cast doubt, poison, and otherwise mess with the discourse in favor of Koch priorities: when they needed someone to shill for formaldehyde (!) she was there. When Elizabeth Warren and her meddling became annoying, she was dispatched to perform a hatchet job . And then, when there is no immediate need for a targeted hit job, she lazily trawls the waters of the legit journalistic format and belches forth lies, innuendo, suspicion, doubt and distortion all in favor of the far-ranging long game being played by her host organism, the many-tentacled Koch empire.

    Admittedly, she is not that good at her job. She is lazy, and admits it. Her arguments often admit it for her. The Kochs have better PR. But she is useful as she gets a lot of the highly educated urban mushy “progressive” runoff from Ta-Nehisi Coates and the other bloggers at the Atlantic, which is an audience it would otherwise be very difficult to reach at all.

    She receives recurring pecuniary and other compensation from the Koch companies, media firms and think tanks, her husband is completely supported by the same. If it was just her husband that worked for the Kochs that would be one thing. It would be a relevant thing to know so that one could effectively compensate when reading her work. But because she is, was and will be receiving further compensation from the Kochs herself, she is hopelessly and irrevocably corrupted. Merely by the fact of the payments. The pretension that all, or even most, journalists are THAT compromised is what allows her kind to, again, hide in plain sight. She is fatally compromised. As are the other SHAME project subjects.

    Another journalist, off the top of my head, who is ethically “unencumbered” is Greg Palast. There are others including many of the professors over at UofM Kansas — like economist Michael Hudson, criminal prosecutor and professor William Black, and others. Historian Erik Loomis is another. From the right there is Mike Lofgren, former republican senate aide, and Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant US Treasury Secretary in the Reagan administration. There are countless others as well, many of whom work in obscurity and with little to no financial gain for any of their work. For them to be blurred out of existence due to lazy or corrupted thinking is maybe the worst part of all this hemming, minimizing and distorting of the basic issue which is ethics in journalism. So just shut up if you have nothing constructive to say about this very serious subject. Cynicism is death to ethics, and going along to get along is bad enough. But the worst sin is the attempt to weaken and decay the very powerful human need and desire toward ethical acts and their foundational requirement for a spiritually enlightened and meaningful life.

  51. Ozinator says:

    I think Rick Caird should have McMegan’s job! He’s much better at it

  52. Oral Hazard says:

    The 2009 thread referenced by Mark Hoffer above is instructive. I love reading Taibbi, but he’s shrill and over-the-top, as are the SHAME authors. Linking McCardle to her father’s connections is a cheap shot and not to be taken seriously. Blaming the world’s ills primarily on Goldman Sachs is sloppy, particularly when we came to learn that ground zero/patient zero for the derivatives monster was Morgan Stanley, not Goldman.

    You don’t need to go Hunter S. Thompson gonzo — or S.H.A.M.E. cheap innuendo-propagandistic — to effectively take down worthy subjects like McCardle or Goldman. As Barry and a few other commenters have already said, her body of work speaks for itself if you think critically when you read.

    On conflicts of interest, as has been said, they are not illegal in journalism or a few other fields (unlike law, where they very much can be illegal) but very often journalistic media outlets take the position that the mere appearance of impropriety calls for disclosure. S.H.A.M.E. has performed something of a public service here, but it’s a mixed bag that undermines The Cause.

    I also fault The Atlantic and Newsweek/Daily Beast for not doing a better job vetting what they publish under their logos. The publishing culture that allows these things to happen comes from the top down.

  53. Invictus says:

    For those of you who are insisting this is a Liberal issue, note that Project SHAME trashed Ariana Huffington as well . . .

  54. YanquiFrank says:

    Oral Hazard, you are wrong about Taibbi. He isn’t “shrill”, he writes directly, and doesn’t give his subjects the benefit of the doubt, as they have not earned it. You may not care for his style, but that is irrelevant. And the SHAME project very blankly presents facts. The fact that McArdle found work through her father is not a “cheap shot”. Its a fact. One you can do with what you want. Disregard it if you think its not relevant. I say it adds to the accurate image of a person who has had not a little trouble making it in the world without help from powerful sources to obtain work. Its not propaganda to present facts. The SHAME project is presenting a picture. And if there is a problem with the facts that make up that picture than you and others can say so, but you can’t argue with the facts. Has McArdle written anything that makes her worthy of a post at the Atlantic? How does she compare to the other Atlantic bloggers in the quality of her insight? Did she really deserve a Newsweek cover article? I have never seen any work from her that puts her anywhere near the level of a legit journalist, and taking work from the her father and the Kochs, and then reporting on subjects that bear on their business, is thoroughly unethical behavior. You’ve made a lot of statements, but haven’t shown any real reasons for the statements you make: Morgan was really ground zero for the derivatives fiasco? Hardly, but regardless, derivatives were only a part of the story in the ’08 crash, and the fact that Goldman has more alum working in powerful government positions than any other of the wall street firms is relevant to the position Taibbi has given them. Your arguments are weak, and you attempt to cover that by giving begrudging credit to SHAME at the end of your comment, and then belatedly bring some blame to the parties really responsible for the rise of McArdle — the Atlantic, as if SHAME bears any responsibility for anything but bringing her numerous direct conflicts of interest to light. Lame. “The Cause” you refer to doesn’t really exist outside of SHAME, so to claim they are a mixed bag is just a way to weaken the one team that is doing this work. Supposedly legit journalistic outlets like NPR and the Atlantic, as well as others, routinely present paid PR hacks as journalists and the truth of this has been extremely difficult to come by, until SHAME started giving us the cold hard facts on some of the worst players in this regard. Your backhanded attempts to weaken that effort merely help to stack an already stacked deck against honesty and ethics in journalism.

  55. susanoftexas says:

    Mr. Ritholtz, I agree, which is why I have discussed McArdle’s ties to the Koches many times.

  56. gremlin says:

    I find that article to be written in the breathless tone of ‘loose change’ , with hyperlinks to pictures or databases showing the koch’s gave $100000 to some think tank (do these people not know how to use comma, or does it just look worse when there are many zeros?), and then McArdle worked as a judge for their event. OMG. Did the other judges at that event write stories declaring that they are now conflicted?

    You could do this same treatment to anyone working in media. I see no writer that declares their conflicts of interest and the conflicts are universal.

    When a “look out below” post is made here are conflict’s declared? are you short stocks or are you telling your clients to wait for the muppets to sell while I help scare them out of their stocks so you can buy them back next week? [BR: My positions are always and have always been disclosed]

    There are no angels, and pointing to one person and calling them a black sheep when it is an industry of black sheep is disingenuous.


    BR: No, you cannot. That’s the point — there are some people who are quality & have good ethics and other people don’t. This is YAFEA *

    * Yet another False Equivalence Argument

  57. DeDude says:

    @ Rick Caird

    “First, this was the work of two guys (Yasha Levine and Mark Ames) who started a Moscow based paper called eXile. If you look at their credits……it is clear they are on the far left side of the ledger. Their unfounded hatred of the Koch brothers comes out clearly.”

    You kind of lost me right there a the beginning. If your first argument against something people say is that they are “Commies” (and should, therefore, not be trusted), then I just cannot waste my time reading the rest. If you have some actual arguments against the accusation that McArdle has undisclosed economic ties to the Koch brothers and huge conflicts of interest in her writings, please let us know.

  58. To review the right wing Pro McArdle argument:

    1. Everyone does it.
    2. Much ado about nothing
    3. Several straw man arguments on off topic issues
    4. Facts do not matter
    5. There’s no difference between Pulitzer Prize winning Investigative journalists and deceptive liars.

    You embarrass yourselves and make my key point even stronger.

  59. YanquiFrank says:


    You pick the weakest points in the article and pretend they are the whole argument against McArdle. Nice try, but you just can’t get around the fact that she IS an exception — she is, has been and will be a paid operative of the Koch brothers. Even the most bland and power-worshiping schmuck journalist at Politico or the NY Times is not an actively paid employee of a billionaire’s empire. There is a difference. Get a clue.

  60. susanoftexas says:

    The McArdle Pro-McArdle argument is no better: “Thought about responding but one hardly knows what to say. Almost every particular is wrong or out of context.”

  61. YanquiFrank says:

    Ya know, this idea being pimped by many on this thread is that everyone lies and journalists have no ethics, ever, anywhere. These are also the same cohort that insist that the poor are constantly voting themselves money from the government. The REALITY, in both these cases is, outside this extremely cynical (and frankly rather vacuous and immoral) cohort, there are many journalists who take their ethical obligations seriously, and many of those are crushed under the corrupting weight of the consolidated corporate media conglomerates. As well, the one group that consistently votes for, lobbies for, and legislates money for themselves from the government teat is the wealthy class, that also is heavily republican. The poor and middle class decidedly DO NOT vote tax loopholes, government contracts and other favorable treatment for themselves. Similar to the way the less wealthy, on average, give way more of their income to charity, and pay more of their income in taxes, they also don’t LIVE FOR MONEY and the amassing of it (imagine a world where everyone had as much lust for money as Mitt Romney — civilization itself would collapse). They believe in ethical and moral grounding, they believe in the common good, and generally just aren’t so cynical. Then you have the “libertarian” right: a cohort that is largely made up of individuals and groups that constantly push the government to give them tax breaks, corporate welfare, etc., while at the same time have a deep and abiding belief that ethics do not exist and conveniently scoff at any notion that anyone operates with anything other than material self-interest in mind. These same people attempt to imprint their morally vacuous vision on the rest of us, and in the process have allowed and encouraged extreme corruption, regressive policies that predate on the poor and middle class, and poisoned the forth estate, perhaps irrevocably. And after they have successfully consolidated the mass media into a corrupt corporate blob by discouraging anti-trust actions, etc., they mock the rest of us for demanding and expecting ethics and honesty in journalism. These may seem disparate issues, but they are intimately tied together as problems that have been encouraged directly by the jaundiced views of the dishonest, self-dealing minority that is way over-represented in this thread.

    So go ahead and damn yourselves. But you will not convince the rest of us that there is no such thing as ethics in journalism, and you will not convince us that we don’t believe in the common good, in honesty, fair dealing and democracy.

  62. Oral Hazard says:

    For the sake of clarity, I am anti any media outlet allowing Megan McCardle to portray herself as a journalist. But that doesn’t mean I have to drink the kool aid.

    YankquiFrank said:
    And the SHAME project very blankly presents facts.

    No, they don’t. They have an apparent axe to grind with the subjects of their ire and have an agenda to advance. They present SELECT facts. They do not, for example, provide Megan McCardle’s shoe size or indicate whether she is left-handed or right-handed. Both of those latter data points are every bit as relevant to her lack of journalistic ethics as the sketchiness of her father’s clients — i.e., not at all relevant. It’s the cheapest kind of ad hominem crap.

    YanquiFrank says Matt Taibbi is not shrill. Yes, yes he is:

    But I enjoy his work and read it regularly. That’s because I can live with the cognitive dissonance of enjoying and respecting Taibbi as a strident and intemperate voice who is, nonetheless, hilarious and at times brilliantly insightful. Because let me clue you in on something: Goldman Sachs is not, in fact, a literal vampire squid. I know that’s hard for you to understand. See, that’s what we call metaphor.

    YanquiFrank asks: Morgan was really ground zero for the derivatives fiasco?
    Oral Hazard says: Why yes, yes they were. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/7886e2a8-b967-11da-9d02-0000779e2340.html

    YanquiFrank says: Your backhanded attempts to weaken that effort merely help to stack an already stacked deck against honesty and ethics in journalism.

    Oral Hazard says: I don’t drink the kool aid, so your “You’re either wit’ us or agin’ us” ideologue schtick doesn’t do it for me. Good luck with that.

  63. [...] is a hit job/I don’t like the tone,” “everyone knows this already,” (ahem, Barry Ritholtz didn’t and he’s pretty media savvy) and “why aren’t you attacking people on the [...]

  64. J says:


    Whew. Clowns is right. This same thing went down on NakedCapitalism as well. It was frickin’ exhausting to fight back against frankly. I have to wonder if any of them are paid shills. Then again, I think its more likely they are just libertarians. I don’t know if there is a more obnoxious block than libertarians. Give me nihilists any day!


  65. [...] Awesome comment troll smackdown [...]

  66. Don Druid says:

    I’ll freely admit that I never read this blog until the eXiled directed me here. However, many of the comments made by ‘readers’ look very familiar.

    You’ve certainly noticed that as soon as your link went up, a bunch of mysterious comments appeared following the same pattern:

    1) Dubious compliments for you and your site, often with false claims of long-time readership (good catch on one of these very early in the comments),
    2) False statements that “all of this is already known”, “nothing to see here”, etc. about the facts on McArdle
    3) False statements that “both sides do it”, “everyone does it”, etc. about McArdle’s naked conflicts of interest
    4) False statements accusing you of being a Democratic partisan, designed to draw discussion away from McArdle
    5) False statements arguing that there is effectively no such thing as a conflict of interest[!], and that McArdle’s financial interests in the subjects she covers mean nothing.

    Awfully suspicious, isn’t it? It’s almost as if these comments were crafted around a single playbook, with dos and don’ts handed down from above. Of course, if you keep an eye on Facebook ads, you’ll see the Kochs and their various shell organizations constantly putting feelers out for people to contribute to “online presence” for their anti-rule-of-law goals and missions. Heck, the Kochs even run a summer camp at GMU on this topic, described in the article about McArdle, to which a number of my friends in graduate and professional schools were invited this year (all declined). As was done with McArdle, the Kochs attempt to recruit students and young professionals and boot-camp them into this sort of false public pseudo-intellectual propagandizing.

    I’m pretty certain that the young shock troops have been deployed here and elsewhere to defend McArdle with the various lies and smears you can find in the comments made by others above. Thanks for taking them on – I’ll keep reading.

  67. [...] In the post last week Fisking McArdle, there seemed to be a concerted, coordinated Troll effort both here and at naked capitalism to [...]

  68. Moe says:


    How do you argue with likes of McArdle and the right when facts are completely irrelevant to them???

    Keep up the good work.


    BR: I just play this