[Marxism] Shattered Glass

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 8 13:45:21 MST 2004

Although I missed the first 10 or 15 minutes or so, I have no problem 
recommending "Shattered Glass," a film I stumbled across on the always 
rewarding HBO network. This is a film based on a true story. Stephen Glass 
was a writer at the centrist New Republic magazine who was nailed by Forbes 
Magazine's online edition in 1998 for making up a story about a teenaged 
hacker being hired as a security expert by the Silicon Valley company whose 
site he had hacked. Although such things were going on the world in 1998, 
Glass's story was fabricated out of whole cloth. He was the Jayson Blair of 

This story and everything else that Glass wrote is still online at 
Lexis-Nexis. From time to time, Marxmailers will ask me to remove an 
incriminating post from the archives. Unlike me, Lexis-Nexis has no need to 
keep the likes of The New Republic happy, which will have egg on its face 
for all eternity. The story that got Glass fired would strain a normal 
person's credulity, but then again New Republic readers are not very normal:

The New Republic, May 18, 1998 Hack Heaven By Stephen Glass

Ian Restil, a 15-year-old computer hacker who looks like an even more 
adolescent version of Bill Gates, is throwing a tantrum. "I want more 
money. I want a Miata. I want a trip to Disney World. I want X-Man comic 
book number one. I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy, and throw in 
Penthouse. Show me the money! Show me the money!" Over and over again, the 
boy, who is wearing a frayed Cal Ripken Jr. t-shirt, is shouting his 
demands. Across the table, executives from a California software firm 
called Jukt Micronics are listening--and trying ever so delicately to 
oblige. "Excuse me, sir," one of the suits says, tentatively, to the pimply 
teenager. "Excuse me. Pardon me for interrupting you, sir. We can arrange 
more money for you. Then, you can buy the comic book, and then, when you're 
of more, say, appropriate age, you can buy the car and pornographic 
magazines on your own."

The Forbes article is still online:

Lies, damn lies and fiction Adam L. Penenberg, 05.11.98, 12:00 AM ET

It's tough proving a negative. It is even tougher proving that something or 
someone does not exist.

That was the challenge after The New Republic story, "Hack Heaven," which 
appeared in the May 18 issue, proved to be unverifiable. At first it 
appeared that Forbes Digital had been scooped by a weekly political 

"Hack Heaven" detailed the exploits of Ian Restil, a 15-year-old computer 
hacker who broke through the online security system of a "big-time software 
firm" called Jukt Micronics. Once inside, the cheeky youth posted every 
employee's salary on the company's web site alongside a bunch of nudie 
pictures, each bearing the caption "THE BIG BAD BIONIC BOY HAS BEEN HERE BABY."

But instead of calling in the Feds, Jukt executives, according to The New 
Republic, decided to hire the teenage hacker, who had obtained the services 
of an agent, Joe Hiert, described as a "super-agent to super-nerds." The 
magazine also claimed that such deals have thwarted efforts to prosecute 
hackers and that law enforcement officials in Nevada got so desperate that 
they ran radio advertisements: "Would you hire a shoplifter to watch the 
cash register? Please don't deal with hackers."

A frightening story. But not true.

The article was a complete and utter hoax perpetrated by one of the 
magazine's own associate editors, 25-year-old Stephen Glass.

Our first step was to plug Jukt Micronics into a bunch of search engines. 
We found no web site, odd for a "big-time software firm." Our next step was 
to contact the Software Publishers Association of America. Nothing. Next on 
our list was the California Franchise Tax Board. An official from the Tax 
Board confirmed that Jukt Micronics had never paid any taxes. Further 
investigations revealed that Jukt Micronics, if it existed at all, was not 
listed under any of California's 15 area codes. Sarah Gilmer from the 
office of the California Secretary of State said there was no record of the 
company, "as a corporation, a limited liability or limited partnership."

A search of Lexis-Nexis' extensive database turned up only one reference to 
Jukt Micronics: Glass's New Republic story.


Glass is played by Hayden Christensen as a needy, whining, wunderkind who 
desperately seeks approval from his editors. When the film starts, that 
editor is Michael Kelly who is depicted as a man of principle, fired for 
simply refusing to kowtow to owner Morty Peretz, the insufferable 
Democratic Party DLC'er and Zionist. Kelly is played by Hank Azaria, who 
has a regular gig as the voice of Apu the Kwik-E-Mart owner and Police 
Chief Wiggum on "The Simpsons".

Kelley is replaced by Charles "Chuck" Lane (Peter Sarsgaard), who is 
represented as a Morty Peretz sycophant at the start of the film. 
Gradually, he serves as a kind of hero uncovering Glass's lies shred by 
shred--with the prompting of Forbes Magazine, of course. Adam L. Penenberg 
is played by Steve Zahn.

The film entertains in a sort of morbid way, giving you an experience not 
unlike watching a highway accident.

Glass is a sniveling creep and a typical Ivy League hustler who gets 
high-paying jobs at a place like New Republic or the Washington Post for 
knowing whose ass to kiss. The film does not mention this, but Glass's 
first job was with the neoconservative Heritage Foundation, where he first 
sharpened his skills as rightwing writer. The film pays scant attention to 
the politics of the New Republic, but Glass was an avid purveyor of the 
sort of neoliberal poison found there. Leaving aside their differences on 
abortion, etc., the Heritage Foundation and the New Republic (like Bush and 
Kerry) agree on practically everything else of economic importance.

Here's a typical Stephen Glass screed on social security. One imagines that 
Nancy "Let's put everything on the table" Pelosi must have absorbed the 
lessons of this article well:

The New Republic, January 27, 1997 Holy Trinity

By Stephen Glass

The gospel of Saints Paul, Warren and Pete.

Susan is an 80-year-old widow. She had hip surgery five years ago, and 
since then she has spent most of her time indoors. Until two years ago, she 
had never shown much interest in politics and government. She subscribed to 
The Chicago Tribune to read Ann Landers and the "Tempo" section. She had 
voted for president only once, in 1960; she can't remember if she picked 
Kennedy or Nixon. Each morning, she woke up early, spent most of her day 
watching soap operas and talking to her three cats--Larry, Moe and Curley. 
Each night, after cleaning the dishes, she read romance novels in bed until 
she fell asleep. But on March 1, 1994, all that changed. Intrigued that " 
Larry King Live" was promising to talk about the British royal family's new 
mail-order catalog, Susan decided to stay awake past 8 p.m. "But Larry took 
forever to get to Prince Michael," she recalls. "Beforehand, he had Paul 
Tsongas and Warren Rudman talking about their group, the Concord Coalition. 
All of a sudden I saw what was happening. Both parties working together. It 
must be on target. These men were going to save my children."

Susan became, at once, a convert, a deficit-hawk of unmatched zeal. She has 
written, by her own estimate, more than 900 letters to congressmen asking 
for Social Security and other entitlements to be curtailed. In her wallet 
next to photos of her grandchildren, she has a picture of Warren Rudman. 
She can tell you what the deficit will be at noon on all major holidays. 
She even renamed her cats: Paul, Warren and Pete (the last one named after 
Pete Peterson, the Concord Coalition's president). What does she do when 
she's bored? She tries to convert others. "I trick my friends into giving 
me the phone lists of their senior citizen homes and then I call everyone 
on the list," she says. (She adds a request that her last name not be used 
so she doesn't lose these friends.)

We can assume that there was no such person as Susan, although to be sure 
Warren Rudman did exist.

Michael Kelly died last year in Iraq, when his Humvee accidentally 
overturned into a ditch. Although he is depicted as a saintly figure in 
"Shattered Glass," in life he was a typical flatterer of the national 
security state.

Chuck Lane now writes about legal affairs for the Washington Post. After 
Jack Kelley, the virulently rightwing reporter for USA Today, was caught up 
in Charles Glass type fabrications, Lane wrote a piece for the Washington 
Post trying to explain why such things happen:

"When the first indications of Kelley's fabrications emerged last fall, the 
reaction of many at USA Today was to accept his claim that he was being 
singled out for unjust punishment. When I started investigating Glass in 
response to a call from Forbes Digital Tool, a now-defunct online magazine 
that had found it impossible to verify one of Glass's stories, I didn't 
know exactly what I was dealing with. The Forbes journalists thought that, 
perhaps, Glass had simply swallowed phony information supplied to him by 
devious sources. Meanwhile, Glass was circulating among the New Republic's 
staff, exploiting the due process that he was being given, spreading the 
lie that he was being persecuted.

"Thus does the charming sociopath, through his instinctive grasp of human 
motivations and how to manipulate them, build up an illegitimate fund of 
political capital, then draw on it in extremis. For the charmer, there are 
no human beings in the world -- only marks. We thought Glass was interested 
in our personal lives, or our struggles with work, and we thought it was 
because he cared. Actually, it was all about sizing us up and searching for 
vulnerabilities. What we saw as concern was actually contempt."

Of course, what Lane does not address is the other kind of lie that can be 
found routinely at the New Republic, the Washington Post and the New York 
Times and for which nobody will ever be fired. I speak here of the lies 
surrounding US foreign policy, which have little to do with whether 
characters like "Ian Restil" or "Susan" exist. These are the Orwellian lies 
in which Grenada or Nicaragua becomes a threat to the national security of 
the USA. The New Republic, the Washington Post and the NY Times all happily 
joined in together to spread these Pinocchio type tales, but nobody ever 
got fired. Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass will never have jobs as reporters 
again, but Judith Miller certainly will.



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