Inside Media Matters: What Did Ben Smith Know and When Did He Know It?

The thing about Ben Smith is that we always seem to eventually discover something about him that helps to explain so much.

Over the past few weeks, after he moved from Politico to Buzzfeed, I haven’t written  a word about Ben Smith. There’s no reason not to give someone the opportunity to clean up his act. Now that some time has passed, though, it’s become pretty clear that the same Ben Smith who blogged over at Politico is the same Ben Smith commanding a bunch of reporters over at Buzzfeed.

Smith’s journOlist speciality is creating distractions to keep Republicans off-message. He’s a genius at coming up with nonsense-narratives, or items that build upon or amplify nonsense-narratives, that are specifically designed to give Obama’s Media Palace Guards something to talk about other than Obama’s failed record or whatever it is the Republicans want to talk about. I first caught on to what Smith was doing back in 2008 when he published this.

Go take a look at Buzzfeed Politics right now. You’ll see that little has changed and that this story, “Shopping With the Gingriches” is PURE Ben Smith. It’s a story meant only to build on the nonsense-narrative surrounding Newt’s line of credit at Tiffany’s. It’s bait for the MSM to create a talking point and feed that narrative. And not just any nonsense-narrative, but one that fulfills Barack Obama’s reelection gameplan based on class warfare. Nothing in that story is about policy, history, vision, or news. It’s a hit-piece disguised as human interest, and I’ll say it again: it is pure Ben Smith.

But if you really want to understand how Smith operates, how biased and one-sided he is, read this.

The thing about Ben Smith is that we always seem to eventually discover something about him that helps to explain so much. For instance, there was the day we discovered Smith was a member of Ezra Klein’s notorious JournoList. And then came yesterday…

Here’s the timeline:

1. Yesterday morning,”The Daily Caller” published a lengthy, well-sourced feature piece about the inner-workings of Media Matters for America (MMfA). Within that piece, a source says of Ben Smith:

Ben Smith [formerly of Politico, now at] will take stories and write what you want him to write,” explained the former [MMfA] employee, whose account was confirmed by other sources. Staffers at Media Matters “knew they could dump stuff to Ben Smith, they knew they could dump it at Plum Line [Greg Sargent’s Washington Post blog], so that’s where they sent it.”

Anyone’s who has watched Smith for as long as I have was not surprised by that information. Smith has been critical of Media Matters, but it’s like when the ACLU defends a conservative. It’s a fig-leaf, something they can point to and pretend they’re objective. If I were a left-wing operative disguised as an objective journalist, I’d tell my friends at MMfA that if this relationship’s going to work, for cover, I’m going to have to hit them now and again.

2. By one o’clock yesterday afternoon, Politico’s Dylan Byers, who worked for Smith at Politico (and who loves him some Media Matters), had already published two stories defending Smith, including this hilariously transparent one titled: “Daily Caller Publishes Old MMFA Memo.”

Byers then goes on to claim…

That internal memo was actually shared with POLITICO’s Ben Smith (now editor-in-chief at BuzzFeed) and written upalmost a year ago. From Smith’s piece in March of 2011:

In an interview and a 2010 planning memo shared with POLITICO, [MMFA founder David] Brock listed the fronts on which Media Matters — which he said is operating on a $10 million-plus annual budget — is working to chip away at Fox and its parent company, News Corp. They include its bread-and-butter distribution of embarrassing clips and attempts to rebut Fox points, as well as a series of under-the-radar tactics.

The timing of this publication is a bit unfortunate for The Daily Caller, which just yesterday suggested that Smith was a dumping ground for Media Matters’ research and now finds itself sourcing the same material as though it were exclusive a year after the fact.

What Byers is doing here is two-fold. First, he’s trying to claim Ben Smith is ready and eager to expose Media Matters, which would prove Smith isn’t in bed with them. Second, Byers wants everyone to dismiss the Daily Caller story as nothing more than repackaged old news — a nothing-to-see-here story (which is a classic Media Matters tactic).

And now things are about to get interesting….

3. A couple of hours later, lookie what gets published at BuzzFeed. Yep, the ENTIRE Media Matters memo in question.


So what did Ben Smith know and when did he know it?

1. If Smith had the full memo back in 2011, why wasn’t it published in full at Politico?

2. If Smith had the full memo, why weren’t all the contents of the memo reported on? (You can read the juicy stuff Smith didn’t report on here.)

3. Did MMfA give Smith the memo and ask that he only reveal certain portions of it?

4. When did Smith get the full memo? And if it wasn’t within the last week or so, why weren’t the full details released until after the Daily Caller’s story ran?

5. Is Smith under some kind of agreement with the source of the memo?

6. Does Ben Smith own a tanning bed (Smith’s rules of relevancy, not mine)?

Smith is a public figure, in a role of responsibility and public trust.

Therefore, we deserve to know what Ben Smith knew and when Ben Smith knew it.