In my last post
I chided my cohorts on the left about the story making the rounds that the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia is the real power behind the Santa Cruz autonomy movement, with Phillip Goldberg having been sent here specifically for that task after pulling off the same fete in Kosovo. I suggested that, if the story is true, it might be handy if those writing it published the evidence – and offered to do so right here if they sent it along.
Well today we turn to the right for Episodes in Bad Journalism Part II. This is the magnificent tale of a new book about Bolivian politics entitled: Ciudadno X
(Citizen X) by transplanted Uruguayan Emilio Martinez. The book, excerpted on the Web
, begins with this daring journalistic declaration:In these recent turbulent times I had the opportunity to speak with politicians, intellectuals, industrialists and social leaders, on different aspects of the situation in the country. The most attractive part of those conversations was that they produced abundant and valuable ‘off the record’ information that could only be made public if their sources could remain in anonymity.
You know what else is really "attractive" about basing an entire book on “off-the-record” material? You can make up anything you want. Fiction after all, is more fun and a lot less work. To be sure, letting some sources stay anonymous is something many writers do, me included, but sparingly. When you make it your point of pride, you also invite a little scrutiny. And as it turns out, Mr. Martinez work doesn't hold up so well.
So it is the case that when I read in a newspaper this morning
that I earned a mention in the book, I thought I would check out what Mr. Martinez had to say. As it turns out, I had a whole new job I never even knew about!“Shultz,’ writes Martinez, “was also an advisor to MAS in the Constituent Assembly.”
Now, I knew I was really busy this last year, getting a book finished, doing some advocacy training for UNICEF in the Balkans, and reading copious amounts of Curious George to my daughter’s kindergarten class on Wednesday mornings. But I just can’t remember ever advising MAS on the Constituent Assembly. Is this early Alzheimer’s? Actually, truth be told, I haven’t been to Sucre since 1991 and I’ve never met any of the Assembly members, for MAS or any other party. Perhaps I did my advising telepathically. Wow, if that was the case then Mr. Martinez must have some really
amazing sources, no?
As a writer, I don’t take kindly to writers who make things up and peddle it as fact, be it for the service of the left, the right, or good dental hygiene. Ask any of the young writers who suffered through being edited by me as we wrote Dignity and Defiance
. “We write defensively,” I kept hammering away around the round table in our office. “We assume that our critics will pick away at everything we write, so everything we write has to be fact-based and impervious to those attacks.”
If any of them had pulled a stunt like Mr. Martinez’s, he or she would have been an ex-member
of The Democracy Center team.
Ahh, but in fairness, Mr. Martinez’ real point is not that I provided telepathic advice to MAS delegates to the Constituent Assembly. His point is that I am one of a handful of secret emissaries for the billionaire George Soros, situated with the aim of doing Soros’ bidding with the Morales government. The basis for this is that in June 2006 The Democracy Center received, along with several thousand other organizations worldwide, a grant from the Open Society Institute, a Soros-backed foundation. Only a real journalistic sleuth could have found this out, since we post all our donors on our Web site
.How I Became a Secret Agent for George Soros
So, having been outed in this way I am ready to come clean and explain exactly how George Soros used me to manipulate the Bolivia government. It went basically like this.
It was January 2006, my best friend Evo Morales had just been sworn in as President and revolution was in the air. Walking down the Prado in Cochabamba I was trying desperately not to spill saltena juice on my one clean shirt for the week. I failed. Suddenly my Nokia rang. I said, “Buenos Dias,”
and a deep voice in deeply accented Hungarian came through the line:Mr. Jim Shultz?
Is this a secure line?
Well, I think the saltena lady is listening, but she probably doesn’t speak English.
But you can never tell, can you? Speak low.
I have a proposition for you. I am prepared to provide you with one million dollars if you will agree to help me influence the Morales government to do my economic and political bidding.
Who is this? Aaron, geeze, cut this out, I’ve got saltena spilling all over me.
This is not anyone named Aaron. This is George Soros.
The rich guy? Really? How did you get my cell number?
Rich guys can do a lot of things Mr. Shultz.
Suddenly my antiquated Nokia was buzzing with a second call. I told George Soros that I would have to put him on hold.Hola
Jaime, hermano, es Evo, que pasa?
I told him in Spanish that I was spilling saltena juice all over myself and then told him George Soros was on the other line.“Well, if he is willing to give you a million dollars, I’d do it,”
Evo told me in perfectly accented English. Evo hides his English so his indigenous backers won’t become wise to his secret life as a George Soros agent.
And that is exactly how it happened. This is all off-the-record okay? You didn’t here it from me.Okay, How I Really Became a Pawn of George Soros
I wish it had gone that way. It is a way better story and The Democracy Center wouldn't be about to run out of money. But, actually, it went more like this.
The Democracy Center was trying to write a book. Now I am sure that John Grisham makes a lot of money from his books, but not the books we write. I think our fat royalty check this year from Rutgers University Press for The Democracy Owners’ Manual
was $356. If a book we write sells retail for $20, The Center generally gets $1. Multiply that times sales of 5,000 books, not 500,000, and you get the picture.
And so, as executive director of a nonprofit organization I do what nonprofit directors do, I troll the foundation world and grovel for grant support. This is a task roughly as enjoyable as a root canal, and it takes longer. Ninety percent of the time, if we actually get far enough to talk to someone who works at a foundation, we hear:Bolivia really isn’t an interest of ours.
We’re getting out of supporting research.
All our funds are allocated until the middle of next year.
We don’t see an angle related to global climate change.
But always followed by:We wish you well in your work.
The nice ones tell you this before you invest a week of work writing a 25-page funding proposal. The others are going to hell, I am sure of it.
The Open Society Institute (OSI) was one of the foundations where we had long-tried to get into the door. Its politics were left-of-center (like ours), they funded other groups we worked with, and I had once written a citizens guide on gas and oil
issues that OSI published. But my entreaties to OSI’s Latin America program were always rebuffed with some variation on the rejections described above.
But it January 2006, while I was on a visit to Washington on other matters (my covert work for the CIA) the head of OSI’s projects south of the border agreed to meet me for bagels. It seemed that George Soros himself had called my bagel partner after having been wowed by watching Evo’s inaugural on CNN. The Latin America Program went searching for grants to make in Bolivia and The Democracy Center, by fluke, ended up in the right place at the right time.
I will leave it to conspiracy theorists to determine whether Soros was aiming to cozy up to Evo to protect his mining interests in Bolivia, or if he was just caught up in the Evo-mania of the time along with many others. In either case, the mood swing at the top of the Soros Empire translated into a one year grant to The Democracy Center, which we used to pay researchers, writers, painters, photographers and a few airlines and bus companies toward the end of researching, writing and publishing our new book: Dignity and Defiance, Stories from Bolivia’s Challenge to Globalization.
If the Soros people thought that financing us was a way to get to Evo, they certainly didn’t bet that one too well.
So, the natural follow-up question is: Did George Soros tell us what to write?
It is not an unreasonable question to ask.
First, lets be clear that the chances that George Soros has ever actually heard of The Democracy Center or Jim Shultz are about as likely as George Bush putting on a ballet tutu at the Democratic National Convention this summer and asking Hillary Clinton to marry him. It’s a nice image, but unlikely. The Soros Empire is huge, giving out thousands of grants each year in every region of the world. Grants to organizations like The Democracy Center don’t exactly rise up too far on the radar screen of a man who spends his time with heads of state, not big-footed gringos living in Cochabamba.
But did Soros underlings try to tell The Democracy Center what to write? Well, sort of, once. But it didn’t work.
We had also tried courting another wing of the Soros Empire for funding, an outfit called Revenue Watch. We pitched staff there the idea of funding our research on the oil and gas issue, a key chapter in our new book and a pivotal issue in Bolivia. The staff liked the idea a lot, but came back with a caveat. Any writing we were going to publish with support from Revenue Watch would have to be run by them first. It took us all of 30 seconds to tell them no. The Democracy Center’s credibility relies on our independence, and no one, especially funders, is ever given review and approval power over what we write or say. We turned down the money, which we really could have used, by the way.
The Latin American Program, on the other hand, never asked to see any of our writings in advance, and never did. In fact, we have yet to send them the English manuscript of the book, but I promise, if they are reading this, we will.Epilogue
We had a lot to show for our work backed by the OSI grant. Our book manuscript was done and accepted by a prestigious academic publisher, the University of California Press. We had produced a set of well-received and well-done briefing papers. The Blog from Bolivia
was booming with nearly 3,000 readers a day. The Center had helped support a number of important journalists with their coverage of Bolivia. For an amount that many U.S. groups drop on a single salary in Washington or New York, we’d supported a whole organization.
But when we asked for another year of support, OSI turned us down.Bolivia really isn’t an interest of ours.
We’re getting out of supporting research.
All our funds are allocated until the middle of next year.
Or in other words, George Soros had lost interest in Bolivia and gone on to other things. That’s how it with some funders. Something captures their interest for a nanosecond, and then it is on to the next new thing. We spent our last OSI funds a year ago and haven’t seen a dime from them since.
So, if all that spells c-o-n-s-p-i-r-a-c-y
to you, well gosh, you’ll just have to go on and believe it.
As for Mr. Martinez and his active imagination, I wish he would at least have attacked our book
, you know the one we actually
researched. We could use the attention.
Oh yeah, I am going to sends this to the staff at the Open Society Institute and tell them that if we are going to get attacked as Soros pawns, they at least ought to give us a new grant. Only seems fair, no?