Show notes – Vice Media, normalizing US empire under hipster guise – with Robbie Martin

Moderate Rebels episode 13 (Part 1 of 2) – Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton are joined by filmmaker Robbie Martin to discuss how VICE has transformed from a nihilistic hipster magazine into an enormous media empire that propagandizes on behalf of the US empire, dutifully promoting hawkish American foreign policy with an edgy aesthetic.

We address the hundreds of millions of dollars of investment Vice Media has received from the world’s largest corporate media conglomerates, including 21st Century Fox and Disney, along with the coterie of regime change trolls who have emerged from the Vice universe.

We also talk about Alyssa Mastromonaco, a top Obama administration official who became Vice Media’s COO; CEO Shane Smith, who has become an influential billionaire; and co-founder Gavin McInnes, a promoter of far-right white supremacist politics.

Show Notes

Robbie Martin’s “A Very Heavy Agenda”

Robbie Martin’s A Very Heavy Agenda website

White supremacist Gavin McInnes and the racist Proud Boys

Jonathan Goldsbie, “We Watched Gavin McInnes’s Full Anti-Semitic Rant So You Don’t Have To“: The Rebel personality has a lot of thoughts about Jews — and they’re even worse in context”, Canadaland, 14 March 2017

Daniel J. Solomon, “Vice Co-Founder Makes ’10 Things I Hate About Jews’ Video“, The Forward, 15 March 2017

Simon Houpt, “Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes’s path to the far-right frontier“, The Globe and Mail, 18 August 2017

Do You Want Bigots, Gavin? Because This Is How You Get Bigots“, SPLC, 10 August 2017

Rupert Murdoch, 21st Century Fox, and VICE

Ravi Somaiya, “James Murdoch Joins Board of Media Company Vice“, The New York Times, 21 November 2013

James Murdoch, a 21st Century Fox executive and the son of the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has joined Vice Media as a director, two people with knowledge of the appointment said on Thursday.

Over the summer Fox acquired a 5 percent stake in Vice, whose brand of video and print journalism has spread from scrappy start-up to establishment outlets like HBO. Fox paid $70 million for its investment.

James Murdoch joined as a director as part of that deal, said one person with knowledge of the arrangement.

HBO and VICE

VICE and HBO Enter Major Deal to Expand News Programming“, VICE News, 26 March 2015

VICE investment from A&E Networks, venture capital firm Technology Crossover Ventures, Disney

Sydney Ember, “Vice Gets Cable Channel in Deal With A&E Networks“, The New York Times, 3 November 2015

Vice Media, whose brashness has made it one of the hottest media companies, is getting its own cable channel. On Tuesday, Vice and A&E Networks said they had put the final touches on a long-awaited deal for Vice to take over H2, an A&E Networks channel.

Vice will fill the cable channel, which will be called Viceland, with lifestyle and entertainment programming, including shows about music, sports, food and travel.

The cable channel represents another step in Vice’s transformation into a mainstream media company. Founded in Montreal in 1994 as a free punk magazine, Vice has spun its rebel image into gold, attracting investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars from media giants that see value in its core audience of young men.

Most recently, Disney invested $200 million in Vice, according to another person with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the terms of the deal were private.

Vice has coveted a cable channel as another outlet for its original shows and as a way to lure more advertising dollars.

A&E and Vice said they would work together to sell ads on Viceland, which is to be distributed initially to roughly 70 million homes in the United States.

As part of the new deal, A&E will increase its ownership stake in Vice to more than 15 percent from roughly 10 percent, and Vice will own nearly 50 percent of H2, according to one of the people briefed on the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Last year, A&E Networks and Technology Crossover Ventures, a venture capital firm, invested a total of $500 million in Vice. In 2013, 21st Century Fox took a 5 percent stake for $70 million.

This year, Vice signed a multiyear deal with HBO to broadcast a daily half-hour newscast, which is expected to begin next year. It already has a weekly documentary series on the cable network.

Vice is now valued in a range of $4.2 billion to $4.5 billion, according to people briefed on the recent deals.

Disney and VICE

Keach Hagey, “Disney Invests Another $200 Million in Vice Media: Total of $400 million in funding comes at $4 billion-$4.5 billion valuation“, The Wall Street Journal, 8 December 2015

Walt Disney Co. is doubling down on Vice Media, investing another $200 million as the youth-focused media company prepares to launch its first cable television channel, according to people familiar with the matter.

The funding round is in on top of the $200 million Disney already invested last month.

VICE investment from private equity firm TPG Capital

Michelle Castillo, “Vice just scored $450 million to make the ‘largest millennial video library in the world’: Vice Media raised an additional $450 million in funding from TPG, which is now a minority investor. The company is now valued $5.7 billion”, CNBC, 19 June 2017

VICE CEO Shane Smith is a billionaire

Natalie Robehmed, “Vice Media’s Shane Smith Is Now A Billionaire“, Forbes, 20 June 2017

Vice Media cofounder and CEO Shane Smith is now a billionaire, thanks to his stake in the New York-based media company. Following a $450 million investment round, reported Monday, the company is valued at approximately $5.7 billion, with Smith’s holding worth some $1 billion.

Private equity firm TPG led the latest $450 million investment, which pegs Vice’s valuation at double the New York Times’ current market cap. Its pricetag is up 128% since 2014.

FORBES estimates Smith, 47, currently owns roughly 20% of Vice. After applying a 10% private company discount to its valuation and adding Smith’s spread of some $33 million in real estate, his net worth totals an estimated $1 billion. Vice did not respond to requests for comment.

“I don’t give a shit about money,” the Canadian-born Smith told FORBES in 2014, when his net worth was estimated at $400 million. “I’m worth more money than I can ever spend.”

Still, Smith is already living large: He owns an eight bedroom, $23.5 million mansion in Santa Monica, Calif., in addition to a $3.8 million home in Pacific Palisades, Calif. and apartments in Manhattan’s tony Tribeca neighborhood.

“I want to be the next CNN and the next ESPN and the next MTV, digitally, and I know that sounds grandiose, but… we’re going to be one of the largest networks in the world,” Smith told FORBES in 2012.

For now, he will have to make do with being one of the world’s richest.

Alyssa Mastromonaco, the Obama administration, and VICE

Emily Steel, “Vice Hires Alyssa Mastromonaco, Former Official in Obama White House, as a Top Executive“, 16 November 2014

Vice Media, the news and entertainment group, is expected to announce Monday that it has hired Alyssa Mastromonaco, a former Obama administration official, as its chief operating officer.

Ms. Mastromonaco, 38, stepped down from her White House post this year. She started working for Barack Obama in 2005 after his election as senator, helping him set up his Senate office and assisting during both of his presidential campaigns. She worked as deputy chief of staff for operations at the White House from 2011 until this year and served as President Obama’s scheduling director before that.

After she left the White House, Ms. Mastromonaco said, a mutual friend, Anne M. Finucane, the chief marketing officer at Bank of America, introduced her to Shane Smith, Vice’s chief executive. Ms. Mastromonaco said that she already had been a fan of Vice’s HBO series as well as its news reports, which she described as being “made for those things that you write down that you kind of understand but really want to understand more.”

Ms. Mastromonaco said that she “completely clicked” with Mr. Smith’s passion and vision to expand Vice. She said that she was reminded of the beginning of the Obama campaign during a visit to Vice’s Brooklyn headquarters, with Vice’s hundreds of young employees and bureaus across the world.

Nellie Andreeva, “Vice Media COO Alyssa Mastromanco Joins A+E Networks As President Of Global Communications Strategy & Talent“, Deadline, 21 December 2016

A+E Networks has appointed Vice Media COO Alyssa Mastromanco as President of Global Communications Strategy & Talent.

In the newly created role, Mastromonaco, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, will oversee human resources, communications between the different divisions of the global media company and interactions with outside government and private entities. Reporting to Nancy Dubuc, President and CEO of A+E Networks, Mastromanco also will remain involved with Vice Media. She will serve as a liaison with Viceland, A+E Networks’ cable network venture with Vice, helping drive its business and expansion from the A+E side. She also will help manage Viceland’s marketing, communications and employee development alongside the Vice team.

Mastromanco joins A+E Networks from Vice, where she’d served as COO since January 2015. She was a key member of the Vice leadership team that spearheaded the company’s major expansion that included the launch of its 24-hour television network, Viceland, in multiple territories, as well as Vice News Tonight, its daily news show on HBO.

“Since coming to us from the White House, Alyssa has been instrumental in smoothing the chaos that is the day in, day out of Vice’s rapid growth curve,” said Shane Smith, Co-Founder and CEO of Vice Media. “From helping us build our new hive/campus for all our busy bees, to guiding the launch of our new global 24 hour TV network, to being an ombudsman/sounding board to all our staff, she has been simultaneously a shoulder to cry on, valued consigliere and steadfast general. Like all superstars, Alyssa is moving herself up the media ladder and not only overseeing the joint venture between A+E and Vice (Viceland) but also using her unique talents to aid A+E going forward. That she will still be part of the Vice family gives me comfort.”

Mastromanco served as Assistant to the President Obama and Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations at the White House from 2011-14 and as Assistant to the President and Director of Scheduling and Advance at the White House from 2009-11. She shares her experiences in her upcoming book Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House.

Mastromanco, who also is a contributing editor at Marie Claire. worked for then-Senator Obama on his campaign and in his Senate office and was political director of his political action committee, HopeFund, since 2005. Earlier in her career she was Director of Scheduling for Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004 and before that was Press Secretary for Congressman Rick Boucher.

Obama specials with VICE

Watch VICE’s Historic Conversation with President Obama: In this comprehensive special report, VICE founder and correspondent Shane Smith accompanies Obama on his visit as he speaks with inmates at a federal prison”, VICE, 20 September 2015

Shane Smith, “Fixing the System: An Interview with President Obama on Prison Reform: VICE accompanied President Obama to a federal prison in Oklahoma to film a special episode about the US criminal justice system for our show on HBO“, 5 October 2015

Maane Khatchatourian, “Obama to Make First Presidential Visit to Prison for ‘Vice’ Special on HBO“, Variety, 10 July 2015

Nardine Saad, “In historic move, President Obama to visit federal prison for Vice documentary“, Los Angeles Times, 10 July 2015

Vice President Biden visits VICE office

Damon Marx, “The Vice President Meets Vice Media: Vice President Joe Biden took some time today to stop by the Vice Media global headquarters in Brooklyn — meeting with CEO and co-founder Shane Smith, among others”, Adweek, 4 February 2015

Kayla Ruble, “Joe Biden Visits VICE Media’s Brooklyn Headquarters“, VICE News, 4 February 2015

VICE joking about NATO killing Muammar Qadhafi and its rebel “buddies”

The Rebels of Libya: VICE founder Shane Smith crosses into rebel-controlled eastern Libya“, VICE, 23 September 2011

Listen to Moderate Rebels episode 13