Scott Horton Interviews Ken Silverstein
Ken Silverstein, Washington Editor for Harper’s Magazine, discusses his article “Neoconservatives hype a new Cold War;” the public relations firms used as lobbies for foreign governments, like Randy Scheunemann’s Orion Strategies; the close-knit world of Washington D.C. where everyone knows everyone else and investigative journalists self-sensor for fear of alienating friends and colleagues; and the incestuous relationship between Georgia’s government, Scheunemann’s PR firm and reporters who collaborate to produce an anti-Russian propaganda echo chamber, not journalism.
I was wrong about Scheunemann talking with Saakashvili in the days before the Georgia war of 2008. I regret the error. -Scott
MP3 here. (18:29)
Ken Silverstein is the Washington Editor for Harper’s Magazine and writes Washington Babylon for Harper’s online.
A former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Silverstein has covered such topics as intelligence collaboration between the CIA and controversial foreign governments in Sudan and Libya, political corruption in Washington, and links between American oil companies and repressive foreign governments. His 2004 series “The Politics of Petroleum,” co-written with T. Christian Miller, won an Overseas Press Club Award. His stories on ties between the government of Equatorial Guinea and major U.S. companies—including Riggs Bank, ExxonMobil and Marathon Oil—led to the convening of a federal grand jury, and to investigations by the Senate and the Securities and Exchange Commission. His report, co-written with Chuck Neubauer, on a lobbying business opened by Karen Weldon, daughter of Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, led to the opening of an investigation by the House Ethics Committee.
Silverstein has been an outspoken gadfly in the newspaper business. In December of 2005, a memo he wrote to his editors at the Los Angeles Times expressing his dismay over their insistence on false “balance” was discussed in an article by Michael Massing in The New York Review of Books. While reporting on potential voter fraud in St. Louis in 2004, Silverstein was angered to learn that his findings were to be woven into a larger “balanced” piece on accusations being made nationwide, when it was clear that Republican charges of irregularities in St. Louis were insubstantial. “I am completely exasperated by this approach to the news,” Silverstein wrote. “The idea seems to be that we go out to report but when it comes time to write we turn off our brains and repeat the spin from both sides.”
Silverstein had been a contributing editor to Harper’s before joining the Times. One of his pieces for the magazine, The Radioactive Boy Scout, became a highly acclaimed book of the same title published by Random House in 2004. He has also written for Mother Jones, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Slate, and Salon. From 1989 to 1993 he was a correspondent for the Associated Press in Brazil.