Buzz Feed reported Friday that Red State founder and all around fucktard Joshua Trevino was given almost $400,000 to create propaganda for Malaysia and generally slime people in the pro-democracy movement there. In one way, this means very little. As the story makes clear, mostly Trevino just funneled money to other anti-democracy conservatives who naturally shill for the authoritarian Malaysian government. But in the other way, these people should have said something like, “This authoritarian screed was financed by the authoritarian Malaysian government’s propaganda department.”
One part of Trevino’s behavior was totally unacceptable. Back in 2011, he lost his gig at the Guardian over allegations that he was working for the Malaysians. This caused Ben Smith at Politico to ask him directly if the charges were true. Trevino replied, “I was never on any ‘Malaysian entity’s payroll,’ and I resent your assumption that I was.” This is kind of like it being disclosed that a nanny had been previously convicted of child endangerment. The main difference is that such a nanny would never work in the field again. In Trevino’s case, this complete ethical failure will be at most a blip in his career. The worst you could say is that he probably won’t be asked back on Up with Chris Hayes.
Another part of this story that is remarkable is Trevino’s claim that he didn’t know about the Foreign Agents Registration Unit (FARA) and that he had to file with it. Most people seem to be accepting him at his word. The problem is that even I knew about this (although I didn’t know the name of the agency). He said, “I asked a lawyer friend, my counsel. I said, hey, is there anything I need to comply with? He came back and said no.” A “lawyer friend”? What, over drinks, at one o’clock in the morning? He mumbles out, “Ya thin I’d a fila sumtin wit da gobment?” And his “lawyer friend” replied, “No! What?” If Trevino were a liberal, Fox News would be asking why the government isn’t prosecuting him. And they’d be right to ask.
There is a broader issue here. Why is it that conservatives are so much more likely to be caught doing this kind of thing? I think the reason is clear: there is not really an ideological base for modern conservatism. The movement has turned into a kind of cult that worships money and power, and in a very literal way, those people who have money and power. So to someone like Trevino, opinions are just commodities to be exchanged for money and power. As I’ve written about before, there is an amazing amount of affirmative action for conservatives in the media. I think someone like Trevino would turn liberal if he thought he could sell it. Unfortunately, the field is heavy with talent. But apart from that, the conservative agenda that he shills for is more in keeping with his beliefs. A liberal who got caught doing what Trevino has done would take a big hit on this because other liberals would know that it went against everything that liberalism stands for. There is no such problem with conservatism, as I said.
Joshua Travino is now the Vice President of Communications at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. I’m sure his days are numbered there. If he stays more than five years, I’ll be surprised. Let’s face it, with all this great press, I’m sure that Breitbart.com will be eager to get him.