Why the once-respectable magazine published an op-ed from someone it once called an "alt-right leader who has praised white supremacist Richard Spencer."
Newsweek is not really Newsweek, and it hasn’t been for a long time.
When I hear the word “Newsweek,” my mind conjures an image of the magazine rack inside a Borders bookstore circa 2003. As smaller magazines jumped in and out of stock, opened and closed in the blink of an eye, industry stalwarts like Newsweek, TIME, Sports Illustrated, and The Atlantic were everpresent.
But like Borders, Newsweek is no more — and not just in the sense that it (briefly) stopped putting out print copies of the magazine in 2012 (before resuming its print runs). Even so, when I think of Newsweek, when I see a link to an article from its site in my Twitter feed, my mind goes back to the bookstore image burned into my memory. That’s a big part of the problem.
Newsweek still exists, in name if not content. Founded in 1933, Newsweek was purchased by The Washington Post Company in 1961, and was one of the top-performing magazines in the world. As that industry took a 21st-century beating and Newsweek began experiencing annual losses in the tens of millions of dollars, it was sold in August 2010, and merged with The Daily Beast before being decoupled from the Beast and sold again in 2013 to IBT Media, which rebranded itself as Newsweek Media Group in 2017. In 2018, the Manhattan District Attorney raided NMG headquarters as part of a money-laundering investigation tying the company to the far-right Christian fundamentalist-led Olivet University. Newsweek purged staffers who were reporting on and investigating the company’s wrongdoings and left the editorial operation in the hands of Nancy Cooper, a toady who wouldn’t rock the boat like the previous editor-in-chief Bob Roe did.
Since then, it’s been a right-wing nightmare.
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Under Nancy Cooper’s leadership, Newsweek has become a right-wing opinion outlet virtually indistinguishable from sites like The Daily Caller and The Federalist.
Earlier this week, Newsweek published an opinion piece by Jack Posobiec. But before I get to that, I want to point out how Newsweek had covered him in the past, in the days before it took a hard right turn.
On August 15, 2017, Newsweek described Posobiec as an “alt-right leader who has praised white supremacist Richard Spencer” and added that Posobiec “has also played a leading role in conspiracy theories advanced by the alt-right online such as Pizzagate, which accused Democrats of running a child sex ring out of a Washington D.C. pizza parlor, and the murder of Seth Rich, who the alt-right claims was killed by Democrats after he leaked the party's emails to Wikileaks.”
Posobiec, a Trump activist who writes for Rebel Media, a Canadian-based online political news commentary publication, is currently helping organize multiple alt-right rallies similar to the one in Charlottesville in cities throughout the U.S. this coming weekend. He has in the past defended white supremacist Richard Spencer.
Spencer, who was one of the leading figures at the Charlottesville march, claims to have coined the term "alt-right" to make the group's views more palatable. He has said repeatedly that his vision for America is a white ethno-state.
Posobiec has also played a leading role in conspiracy theories advanced by the alt-right online such as Pizzagate, which accused Democrats of running a child sex ring out of a Washington D.C. pizza parlor, and the murder of Seth Rich, who the alt-right claims was killed by Democrats after he leaked the party's emails to Wikileaks. The group calls American intelligence agency findings that Russia hacked the Democratic party's emails a hoax.
When Spencer and his white supremacist National Policy Institute were blocked from speaking at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. in September 2016, Posobiec sprung to his defense, saying he is "not sure why they are being censored."
Posobiec has often also tweeted about "white genocide," which J.M. Berger, a fellow with George Washington University's Program on Extremism, identified as a phrase used to recruit members to the white nationalist cause in a September 2016 report.
And then in a November 10, 2017 article about Posobiec doxxing the woman who accused Roy Moore of sexual misconduct, Newsweek referred to him as “a far-right conspiracist” who “told his followers to stalk the victim at her workplace.”
In a bizarre defense of Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl, a right-wing conspiracy theorist and media star told his followers to stalk the victim at her workplace on Friday.
Jack Posobiec, a Trump supporter with a large online following, posted a recent Facebook photo of Leigh Corfman, the woman who told The Washington Post that the then-32-year-old Moore tried to bed her in 1979, and told his Twitter followers to target Corfman at her last known place of employment.
And on January 14, 2018, just weeks before Nancy Cooper would be brought in to nod and smile as Newsweek went full propaganda, the magazine ran a story identifying Posobiec as an “alt-right man who took ‘rape Melania’ sign to rally,” referencing a time Posobiec allegedly concocted a plot to make anti-Trump supporters look bad by bringing a sign reading “Rape Melania” to an anti-Trump protest (the details of which, you can find here).
Donald Trump's Twitter fails continued this weekend as the president retweeted a man who once carried a "Rape Melania" sign to a rally.
On Saturday evening, the president shared with his 46.7 million followers a tweet from Jack Posobiec, the "alt-right" internet activist best known for the "pizzagate" conspiracy theory that falsely suggested Hillary Clinton ran a sex trafficking ring from a Washington, D.C., pizza joint.
Posobiec frequently tweets pro-Trump messages and was among the organizers of the DeploraBall inauguration party, but in a move intended to discredit anti-Trump protesters, he carried a "Rape Melania" sign at an anti-Trump rally, BuzzFeed reported at the time.
And here’s how Newsweek refers to him now.
On Monday, Newsweek published an op-ed by Posobiec, only identifying him as a “Senior Editor of Human Events and a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute. He is a veteran US Navy Intelligence Officer and Mandarin linguist.”
The piece itself is a poorly written screed that doesn’t actually make a relevant point one way or another. In it, Posobiec wrote about his time “working in Shanghai in the mid-2000s.” Given his propensity for inventing stories1, take that with a grain of salt. But this isn’t actually about the content of Posobiec’s editorial; it’s about illustrating how far Newsweek has fallen. The opinion section of the site is pretty uniformly right-wing (with a few exceptions), so it’s not about “hearing all points of view” or anything like that.
Also on Monday, Newsweek mentioned Posobiec in an article about the far-right anti-vax “Trucker protests” in Canada, noting that he shared a meme approvingly calling Canada “Truckistan,” and describing him as “Jack Posobiec, a host on Human Events, a conservative political news site.” Again, this is a big change from how Newsweek had referred to him just a few short years ago.
Multiple parentheses—or the "echo," as it is sometimes referred to—is a typographical practice used by some anti-Semites on-line. It typically consists of three pairs of parentheses or brackets used around someone's name or around a term or phrase.
When used around someone's name—such as (((Natalie Weiss)))—it is intended by the user to indicate to others "in the know" that the person being referred to is Jewish.
When used around a term or phrase—such as (((banker)))—the intent is generally that the word "Jewish" be placed in front of the term or phrase, or simply that the term or phrase is actually synonymous with Jews.
Journalists Cooper Fleishman and Anthony Smith traced the origins of this anti-Semitic typographical symbol to a 2014 podcast that used an audio echo as a sound effect when someone on the podcast mentioned a Jewish name. Other anti-Semites translated the audio echo into a typographical symbol used primarily on social media sites such as Twitter.
The use of the echo was relatively uncommon, but in the spring of 2016, some anti-Semites began using the echo when responding to or re-tweeting Jewish journalists, or journalists thought to be Jewish, which brought more attention to the practice.
1488 is a combination of two popular white supremacist numeric symbols. The first symbol is 14, which is shorthand for the "14 Words" slogan: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." The second is 88, which stands for "Heil Hitler" (H being the 8th letter of the alphabet). Together, the numbers form a general endorsement of white supremacy and its beliefs. As such, they are ubiquitous within the white supremacist movement - as graffiti, in graphics and tattoos, even in screen names and e-mail addresses, such as email@example.com. Some white supremacists will even price racist merchandise, such as t-shirts or compact discs, for $14.88.
The symbol is most commonly written as 1488 or 14/88, but variations such as 14-88 or 8814 are also common.
There’s a lot more to say about Newsweek, but this will have to do for now.
This was not a one-time lapse, but part of a larger trend. This isn’t your grandpa’s Newsweek — well, maybe your Newsmax-watching grandpa’s Newsweek.
In addition to the alleged “Rape Melania” stunt, his pizzagate lies, and his baseless claims of a Seth Rich conspiracy, in 2020, Posobiec pushed a hoax about Black Lives Matter protesters planting bombs at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC. A 2017 article at NBC News notes that Posobiec was, at the time, “a lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Navy Reserves, assigned to Joint Reserve Intelligence Support Element Dekalb. From March 2014 through March 2017 he was assigned to a Reserve Intelligence Unit at Office of Naval Intelligence's Naval Maritime Intelligence Center in Washington” whose “service record shows one overseas deployment: 10 months in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, starting Sept. 11, 2012.” Additionally, in 2016, Posobiec added the words “fmr CBS News” to his Twitter bio, lending him a sense of credibility despite local and national CBS News organizations denying that he ever worked there.