The major “business” source for an op-ed published Sunday by the New York Times, encouraging advertisers to pull their support from Breitbart, is “Joshua Zeitz, vice president of corporate communications at the ad-tech company AppNexus.”
Zeitz is presented as a disinterested, authoritative voice within the advertising industry. In fact, he is a Democratic hack who left an academic career to work for former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine. He followed Corzine after his 2009 defeat to derivatives broker MF Global, where he served as chief of staff to the CEO during one of the worst financial scandals since the Great Recession.
During the time Zeitz worked for Corzine at MF Global, from 2010-2011, the company allegedly took money from customer accounts to cover its reserves after making bad bets. Some $1 billion in customer money was lost. Farmers and ranchers were particularly hard hit, as CNN described in 2011, because many used MF Global to arrange futures contracts to hedge against commodity price volatility. “MF Global’s demise has now put business on hold for many farmers who executed trades through the firm and have had their accounts frozen,” CNN noted.
The Times itself reported just last week that a federal judge approved a settlement between Corzine and federal regulators, according to which Corzine has agreed to pay a $5 million penalty and has agreed to accept “a lifetime prohibition from leading a futures broker or registering with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.”
With that record, one might expect any business advice from Zeitz — such as the curious decision to encourage companies to pick a fight with a website boasting some 45 million unique readers per month — to be accompanied by hefty disclaimers.
But Zeitz, amazingly, has managed to fail upwards. As NJ.com reported in 2011: “Zeitz was laid off on Monday. By Tuesday, he was at MWW Group, an influential New Jersey-based public relations, marketing and lobbying company, where he will serve as a senior vice president for corporate affairs.” He has since moved on to AppNexus, where he landed a job in the executive suite.
AppNexus is a legitimate company; its Twitter account, however, behaves like a bot. It simply repeats the same messages over and over — an odd thing for an advertising company to do in social media.
For example, it has tweeted a link to a Dec. 19 article by its CEO in the UK Independent, explaining why AppNexus was pulling its advertising from Breitbart, almost every single day since the article was first published. It has done likewise with several other repeat articles.
What, exactly, is AppNexus paying Zeitz to do?
(The argument in the Independent article is ludicrous. Unable to point to any link between Breitbart News and hate crimes, the CEO, Bryan O’Kelley, cites a study by a Harvard academic on “dangerous speech patterns” to determine that “Breitbart exhibits a pattern of speech that explicitly incites violence against various minority groups.” So much for data-driven analysis. As for “speech patterns” that have led to actual hate crimes, like the cop-killers inspired by Black Lives Matter: total silence, apparently, from AppNexus.)
The New York Times op-ed, written by Pagan Kennedy (was “Infidel Carter” already taken?), is titled, “How to Destroy the Business Model of Breitbart and Fake News.” It includes explicit, step-by-step instructions on how to intimidate businesses into pulling their ads from Breitbart via third-party advertising platforms.
Thus far, the impact on Breitbart’s expansion has been less than minimal, but the anonymous trolls behind the effort make clear that they intend to target other, smaller firms.
Zeitz tells the Times: “We’re not banning them because they’re alt-right or conservative. We banned them from our marketplace because they violate our hate speech policy, which prohibits ad serving on sites that incite violence and discrimination against minority groups.”
Zeitz does not, and cannot, cite one example of so-called “incitement.” He is merely doing what he did for Corzine in New Jersey and at MF Global: namely, spinning lies.
Is that good for the AppNexus brand? It is certainly embarrassing for the Times.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.