Virgil: Bond Villain Jeff Bezos Shaken, Not Stirred

Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos looks on during an event organised in New Delhi on October 1, 2014. The 'Creating an enabling environment for SMEs in the digital economy' event was organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). AFP PHOTO/ SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP …
SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images, MGM/UA

For a while, it seemed that the Jeff Bezos vs. David Pecker story was dying down.  You remember all hullabaloo that from January: the messy stuff about divorces, and hacks, and you-know-what pics.  But then the MSM developed a bad case of Michael Cohen on the brain, and the story faded.  

Yet now the Bezos brouhaha is back, courtesy of The Washington Post, the newspaper owned by Bezos, and also thanks to The New York Times, which takes a slightly less kindly view of Bezos.

As we shall see, the Post has just put its reportorial knife deep into the chest of Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos’ girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, whom Bezos and the Post seem to view as the bad guy, the one responsible for the embarrassing leaks to the National Enquirer.  

For his part, Michael Sanchez says that he is innocent, mostly, and he has own take on recent events—and yet on February 26, he was flattened by 2,500 words of fresh Post reportage. 

Then on March 4, the Times jumped in with a piece headlined, “How Jeff Bezos Went to Hollywood and Lost Control.”  The story wasn’t that bad, and yet still, perhaps the Times is enjoying the spectacle of the owner of the rival liberal national newspaper paper suffering some.  As the Times put it, “Mr. Bezos is at the center of an honest-to-God melodrama, full of salacious revelations, family betrayals and international intrigue.”  

Hmm.  Those words “international intrigue” certainly do fit Bezos.  The Amazon honcho does, indeed, have a lot of power.  And that gets Virgil thinking . . .

You’ve probably noticed it, too: Jeff Bezos looks a lot like Ernst Blofeld, the fictional villain in several of the early James Bond movies. (And to bring things more up to date, Blofeld also was the inspiration for Dr. Evil, as portrayed by Mike Myers in the Austin Powers films.)

Of course, nobody is accusing Bezos and his global company, Amazon, of doing anything like what Blofeld and his international outfit, SPECTRE, were imagined to be up to.

Yet still, as the founder and chief executive of the world’s second-most valuable corporation—who has also spent billions to develop his own private rocket company—Bezos is a movie-worthy figure, and he has had his recent moment of notoriety. Indeed, his response to that notorious moment has revealed the full extent of his planetary potency.

Donald Pleasence as villain Ernst Blofeld in the 1967 film "You Only Live Twice." (Screenshot)

Donald Pleasence as villain Ernst Blofeld in the 1967 film “You Only Live Twice.” (Screenshot)

That moment started with the January 9 announcement that he and his wife were getting a divorce. Okay, so divorce itself isn’t notorious anymore, but the very next day, the National Enquirer published some lurid details, complete with paparazzi photos, about Bezos’ affair with Los Angeles TV personality Lauren Sanchez.

Soon thereafter, no less than the president of the United States, Donald Trump, weighed in with a snarky tweet:

Trump, of course, has long sniped at Bezos and the newspaper he bought in 2013, the Washington Post. Trump believes the Post is biased against him and his presidency and, furthermore, that Amazon has been getting a sweetheart deal on shipping rates from the U.S. Postal Service. Meanwhile, Trump is known to be close to David Pecker, the chief of American Media Inc. (AMI), publisher of the Enquirer.

Lauren Sanchez (AP Photo)

On January 21, the Enquirer struck again, publishing racy text messages between Bezos and Sanchez. By now the rumor mill was going strong: not only about Bezos, his marriage, his company—and his judgment—but also about any possible Enquirer connection to Trump. Moreover, there were rumors that the government of Saudi Arabia might be involved because the Saudis and the Post have been in a feud since a Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul last October. And to complicate things further, the Saudis and the Trump family, including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are known to be tight.

Then, on February 7, Bezos posted his account of the Enquirer story, including the sensational allegation that the tabloid had tried to blackmail him over lewd personal photos that it had obtained.

Indeed, not only did Bezos give his side of the story, but he also—using the authority of his well-known celebrity security consultant, Gavin de Becker—threw in four mentions of Trump and five mentions of Saudi Arabia.

So while the story was often played for laughs—sample headline, “Bezos Exposes Pecker”—the underlying narrative could be vastly more serious.

Bezos’ implication seems clear: Trump and the Saudis are somehow tied to the Enquirer’s scoops. Indeed, as if there were any need to juice things up further, it was even suggested by others—although far from proven—that the Saudis had used Israeli spyware to hack Bezos.

The New York Post headline on February 8, 2019. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

So by now, we can see that we have the makings of a new James Bond-ish saga: The world’s richest man, owner of one of the nation’s most important newspapers–a man willing to play hardball with the largest metropolis in the U.S., New York City, over a new corporate location, which he will now put elsewhere–now finds himself stalked, and perhaps even hacked, by a prominent tabloid publication–which he reportedly considered buying, as a way of shutting down the story.  In the meantime, even as multi-billion-dollar divorce proceedings begin, insinuations and accusations swirl around the president of the United States, as well as an exotically wealthy foreign government. And oh yes: All of this can be further connected, maybe, to the special counsel investigation of Robert Mueller, who seems to be casting a wide international net.

Indeed, Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, who admittedly is becoming Shepard Smith-ian in his anti-Trump stance, says that the blowback from the Enquirer story could doom Trump.  (For what it’s worth, Napolitano’s disdain for Trump now seems to extend far beyond legal issues; he disdains Trump for just about everything.)

So will Mueller, in fact, get involved in the Bezos-Pecker story?  How ’bout the Trump-loathing Democrats who now control the House? To borrow the Enquirer’s old slogan, “Inquiring minds want to know.”

Jeff Bezos and wife, MacKenzie Bezos, at a West Hollywood, California, Oscar party in February 2017. (Jerod Harris/Getty Images)

Jeff Bezos and wife, MacKenzie Bezos, at a West Hollywood, California, Oscar party in February 2017. (Jerod Harris/Getty Images)

Yet there’s one additional element to this story that never entered into the Bond formula: The Main Stream Media has chosen to lionize Blofeld—oops, I mean Bezos.

Needless to say, the Post has always been in the bag for its owner—typical headline: “Jeff Bezos stands his ground.” (And all the others are just as puffy.) Yet other media outlets, too, are giving Bezos the hero treatment. Here’s CNN’s Brian Stelter:

His security chief’s probe and the Enquirer’s panicked reaction enabled Bezos, through a blog post, to reframe the story—making him out to be a journalistic hero rather than an embarrassed tech exec.

Indeed, Kelly McBride of the Poynter Center, a journalism think tank, said of Bezos, “I think he changed the first line of his obituary from Silicon Valley billionaire to First Amendment defender.”

Yes, much or most of this exaltation of Bezos is due to his potential role, journalists hope, as the man who can help bring down Trump.

Yet there’s also the undeniable magnetism of Bezos’ money and power. That was the point of a February 8 column in the Seattle Times headlined, “How Amazon gets whatever it wants.” In the words of columnist Danny Westneat:

It does say something about American culture and politics today that the multibillionaire wannabe playboy with the penis pic peccadillo is the good guy in the story.

Continuing, Westneat marveled at that February 7 blog post of Bezos, the one headlined, “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” in which Bezos recorded that Pecker and AMI had made him an “an offer I couldn’t refuse”—that being a reference to another famous movie villain, the Corleone crime family:

Bezos was channeling “The Godfather,” in which an offer you can’t refuse means you wake up with a butchered horse head in your bed. That Bezos mocked this and trumped it, even while acknowledging that others might be forced to knuckle under, was a raw demonstration of the rarefied leverage and power Amazon enjoys at the tippy top of our society.

As for the “tippy top of our society,” it seems that Bezos, operating from his commanding vantage point, can make things happen—even inside the federal government’s executive branch, which his arch-enemy, Trump, presumably leads.

The Amazon man’s clout became even more manifest when we saw this headline from Bloomberg on February 8: “Bezos’s Story Spurs U.S. Prosecutors’ Scrutiny of AMI.” So we can see: It’s as if Bezos’ allegation is now guiding the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

And now comes that big new Washington Post story, the one painting Michael Sanchez as a schemer and a conniver, and perhaps also a bit crazy.  The Post quotes Sanchez, who seemed, bizarrely enough, to be happy to share with the Bezos-owned publication: 

Since January 7th, I’ve been accused by ‘anonymous’ sources and leaky ‘Amazon investigators’ of just about everything, including involvement in an international conspiracy theory involving President Trump, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and conservative operatives trying to ‘take down’ Jeff Bezos. 

Yes, it appears that Team Bezos—a team that includes the Post—have decided that Michael Sanchez is the leaker; in other words, Bezos and his people blame Michael, not Lauren, for the original leaks.  Actually, many reports hold that Lauren was involved, too,  if only through carelessness; it’s been reported that she showed some embarrassing material to her friends, and as they say, loose lips sink, well, you know.  

And yet for whatever reason—true love? larger game?—the Bezosians have chosen to keep the focus on Michael, to whom Lauren reportedly no longer speaks. 

After all, it would certainly elevate Bezos if he could turn his peccadillo into a major case against the Vast Trump Conspiracy.  That is, liberals everywhere would love it, and soon enough if the Bezos People play it right, over time, it might seem as if the whole mess was Trump’s doing, thus easing the stain on Bezos. 

Of course, the focus on Michael doesn’t mean that the Bezosians aren’t still going after Pecker, Trump, and whoever else. After all, it would certainly elevate Bezos if he could turn his peccadillo into a major case against the Vast Trump Conspiracy.  That is, liberals everywhere would love it, and soon enough if the Bezos People play it right, over time, it might seem as if the whole mess was Trump’s doing, thus easing the stain on Bezos. 

So will Michael Sanchez be able to tell his side of the story? He has his own explanations and theories, which seem to focus on, for example, the supposedly nefarious role of de Becker, Bezos’ security adviser.   

Sure, Michael Sanchez can talk all he wants, but it seems likely that the MSM will treat him harshly, now that Bezos and the Post have helped to further stamp him as an unlovable Trump lover. 

It’s impossible to know where all these allegations and investigations will lead—other than, of course, to some great spy thrillers to come, with or without James Bond.

The truth, of course, is that Amazon has always been in the middle of the high-stakes digital economy, and none of that seems as innocent as it once did. For instance, Amazon is now the third-largest digital advertising platform in America, behind only Google and Facebook—and we know about them.

Moreover, Amazon is a big player, too, in cloud computing, including for the Pentagon; in fact, Bezos’ company is currently embroiled in a $10 billion legal battle with another mysterious corporate giant, Oracle, complete with flying allegations of improper influencing.

And let’s not forget Amazon Alexa, which counts as a kind of in-house spy machine; that’s a piece of work that Bond author Ian Fleming never thought of, perhaps because his fellow Brit, George Orwell, already had.  Alexa has been accused of many things, and, also, indisputably, it has a creepy laugh that goes off at weird times.

In addition, of course, there’s the more familiar stuff about Amazon as a not-so-good corporate citizen; you know, nasty revelations about not paying taxesoverworking employees, denying them bathroom breaks–and firing them over too many, even for the medically needy-dipping into their tips, and generally contributing to the trend of the rich getting richer–and ever more arrogant.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, laughs as he speaks at a Washington, DC, event in September 2018. (Cliff Owen/AP Photo)

Jeff Bezos laughs as he speaks at a Washington, DC, event in September 2018. (Cliff Owen/AP Photo)

No doubt Amazon is paying plenty of lawyers to keep everything it does deemed as legal, and yet it’s still the case, in the icy words of Breitbart News’ Charlie Nash, “Amazon Helped Create the Invasion of Privacy Jeff Bezos Now Protests.” Yet all that aside, as far as the establishment media is concerned, Bezos, because he’s anti-Trump, can do no wrong.

Surely, flying high on a private jet to somewhere, Bezos is having a good laugh about that. You know, a good Blofeldian laugh.

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