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 NewRepublic 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 Valleycompany 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 1998.
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 NewRepublic readers are not very
The New Republic, May 18,
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 NewRepublic 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 publication.
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
But instead of calling
in the Feds, Jukt executives, according to The NewRepublic, 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."
frightening story. But not
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
A search of Lexis-Nexis'
extensive database turned up only one reference to Jukt
Micronics: Glass's NewRepublic 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 MortyPeretz, 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 MortyPeretz 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 NewRepublic 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 NewRepublic,
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
(like Bush and Kerry) agree on practically everything else of economic
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
The New Republic, January
By Stephen Glass
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
"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 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.
now writes about legal affairs for the Washington Post. After Jack Kelley, the
virulently rightwing reporter for USA Today, was caught up in Stephen 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 NewRepublic'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 NewRepublic, 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
becomes a threat to the national security of the USA.
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.