Introducing the World's Fakest Journalist
My planned “mini series” on the recent NATO Summit in Madrid, which as you may recall I was amusingly authorized to attend, got interrupted last week thanks to a mild-to-moderate bout with COVID. Based on the presumed period of incubation, I almost certainly contracted COVID at the NATO Summit itself — which almost makes the protracted coughing spells worth it. Because now I can forever blame NATO for afflicting me with the dreaded deadly virus, due to their appallingly lax mitigation measures and reckless refusal to accept that WE’RE STILL IN A PANDEMIC!!!!!!!!!!!
Maybe I could personally blame Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, just because blaming a forgettable Norwegian administrative functionary would be funny. I could even stretch the bounds of epidemiological logic and blame Joe Biden, seeing as he also contracted COVID this past week. Having been in his close physical proximity, we may well have inhaled the same aerosol particles.
Most satisfying of all, though, would probably be to blame a person called Julia Macfarlane, who also attended the Summit in some sort of journalistic capacity, and who I therefore also would’ve shared tainted airflow with. Shortly after the Summit concluded, Macfarlane began rattling off charges that I’d falsely impugned her cherished colleague, Russiagate fantasist and CNN correspondent Natasha Bertrand. While waiting for Stoltenberg’s press conference to begin one day, I had observed a NATO press aide generously guide Bertrand into a prime seating location, after which she was called on to ask the very first (banal) question. Macfarlane declared that Bertrand had not been ushered in by any aide, even though Macfarlane, sitting out of eyeshot in the front row where Bertrand was being directed, wouldn’t have been in a position to see this happen. I, however, did see it with my own two eyes, and heard the interaction with my own two ears — whereupon I contemporaneously documented it in my own notes.
So Macfarlane was dead wrong, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sermonize about how my non-existent error highlighted the importance of only following “accredited, bona fide journalists in this age of misinformation.” While ascribing any inherent trustworthiness or value to “accreditation” is laughable, in this instance, I happened to have been accredited by NATO itself — which would presumably mean that NATO was complicit in enabling the proliferation of dangerous misinfo. As far as what exactly Macfarlane meant by “bona fide,” your guess is as good as mine — but I’d guess she probably meant something like “sponsored by certain corporate media outlets.” Macfarlane wrote, “I actually never heard of this dude before until people at Nato who had were questioning how he got accredited.” Apparently some unnamed “people” were offended that NATO procedures had broken down and allowed for the entry of someone who was so much less accomplished and celebrated than Julia. And I admit inferiority: unlike Julia, I cannot tout having been named to the “Forbes 30 under 30” list on my Twitter bio. That’s one monumentally insipid accolade I will certainly never be able to advertise.
It didn’t take much effort to discover additional hilarities. Two seconds of googling revealed that despite her preening about what supposedly constitutes “bona fide journalism,” Julia was not at the NATO Summit under the auspices of any journalistic outlet — but rather for an American PR agency. Pompously named “Global Situation Room,” the agency offers “Sophisticated Solutions For Complex Communications® Challenges.” It further specializes in “thought leadership” and “crisis management,” among other noble endeavors, and is run by former White House operatives:
There’s no client list available, but I’m sure they solve “communications challenges” for only the most kind-hearted individuals and corporations. The firm also mentions that they can “produce podcasts,” and that is evidently what Julia Macfarlane has been hired to do. But here’s the real kicker. Not only is Julia the “bona fide journalist” being paid by a PR firm, the podcasts she produces for the firm are proudly co-hosted with none other than Sir Richard Dearlove — the former head of British spy agency MI6. I wish I were making this up.
As the UK spy chief from 1999-2004, Dearlove presided over the promulgation of the notorious “Dodgy Dossier,” which peddled phony “intelligence” to justify the invasion of Iraq. Apparently this minor historical fact doesn’t trouble the devoted “misinformation” combatant Julia Macfarlane though, as she’s eagerly welcomed Dearlove as a valued colleague. When I pointed out the comically massive irony that she of all people had appointed herself the arbiter of “bona fide journalism,” despite in fact working for a shadowy PR firm littered with spooks, Julia tried to flaunt her past employment arrangements with ABC News and the BBC. As it happens, that illustrious ABC News portfolio included orchestrating a gauzy TV rehabilitation special for MI6 operative Christopher Steele. Yes, that Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous Steele Dossier — i.e. one of the most flagrant sources of “misinformation” in recent American history:
If someone invented Julia as a caricature designed to discredit the journalism industry, it would almost be too far-fetched to believe. But there she is. And as far as the BBC is concerned, I enjoyed informing Julia that her apparent one-time employer had just days before invited me on their flagship World Service radio program to give a commentary on the NATO Summit — notwithstanding her dismissal of me as an “irrelevant blogger.” Which seems like a curiously antiquated attack for someone so determined to let everyone know that she’d once been deemed a prizewinning “30 under 30.” (She’s currently 33.)
Julia capped off her tirade by alleging that I’d shamefully “praised” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, in the question that I’d posed to him during a press conference. Which of course is another dumb lie. But I’ll get to that, and other Turkey-related affairs, in a future article.
Funny as it would be to blame Julia for giving me COVID, I’ll graciously refrain, if only because she already provides such an overabundance of priceless comedy material. Which reminds me of another moment of humor during the Summit: at one point I was wandering around the grand, palatial Media Center and spotted two US Senators, Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). As you might expect, my natural inclination was to try to interview these two powerful elected officials, but this proved to be another radically untenable notion. After waiting patiently for them to finish a milquetoast interview with a POLITICO journalist, I calmly approached, and began an exchange with Tillis.
Less than 60 seconds passed before a flamboyantly flustered Senate aide ran up and frantically ushered Shaheen and Tillis out of the room. Nearly hyperventilating, as though barely able to hold back tears, the aide complained that I had been “very persistent” in attempting to ask questions of the senators. That’s right: she was emotionally devastated that I, a journalist credentialed to attend the Summit as media, calmly attempted to ask questions of two US Senators — inside the specifically-designated Media Center. Anguished as this aide was, she was one of the very few people at the Summit who still chose to wear an oversized face mask, so at least she managed to protect herself from viral devastation.
The full delegation of Senators there at the Summit — three Republicans, three Democrats — subsequently decided to hold their triumphant joint press conference at an undisclosed hotel in a totally different part of Madrid, with no advance warning given, except to a tiny clique of journalists such as the aforementioned milquetoast POLITICO correspondent. If you ever wonder why elected officials tend to be asked mundane questions that seemingly serve no purpose other than to stoke petty drama, or reaffirm bland orthodoxies, one reason is because there’s always a tangle of arcane rules and little secrets governing when and where journalists may receive access to these officials. And the journalists presumed credible enough to be granted access could very well include literal PR operatives and spy associates, such as our good friend Julia Macfarlane.