‘I Helped Standing Rock Go Viral. Now I Regret It.’ Plus. . .

What was Fauci hiding? Rashida Tlaib speaks alongside two with links to terrorist orgs. A payday for NCAA players. A $320 million pier in Gaza. And much more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: Joe Nocera on the landmark NCAA decision to pay college athletes; Francesca Block and Eli Lake report on Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s appearance at a conference tied to terrorist organizations; Anthony Fauci is hiding from scrutiny; and much more. 

But first, our lead story. 

In the months since October 7, you’ve probably seen banners with slogans that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Slogans like “Free Palestine Is a Climate Justice Issue.” Or “Reproductive Justice Means Free Palestine.” Or “Queers for Palestine.” All of these are examples of what the writer Alysia Ames dubbed the “omnicause” back in October. 

“It seems like where ‘intersectionality’ went wrong was assuming that anyone with any claim to oppression must be part of one omnicause + global warming for some reason,” she tweeted

In other words, either you back all our causes or you back none of them. 

If the omnicause has an avatar, it’s Greta Thunberg wearing a keffiyeh. These days, the 21-year-old ecowarrior now spends her time protesting Israel’s participation in Eurovision. Why? Because we can’t fight climate change until we have “crushed Zionism,” of course! 

My colleague Lucy Biggers admits she was once an enthusiastic supporter of the omnicause. In her job producing viral social media content for a progressive news outlet, she was convinced she was one of the good guys fighting global warming, racism, capitalism, and every other evil. But, as she writes in her Free Press essay today, “there was always a small pit of anxiety in my stomach—the thought that maybe this issue wasn’t as black and white as I framed it for our audience. I was always quick to suppress that thought, reminding myself that I was on the ‘right side of history.’ It was okay to make the story less complicated if that meant the protesters’ message reached more people.” 

But, seven years later, she’s finally coming clean. She writes: “While I have stayed silent for many years, I’m doing what I can now to speak out and take responsibility for the part I played in helping fuel the movement.

“Am I still afraid of speaking out? I am. But I’m also afraid of staying silent.”

Here’s Lucy’s bracingly honest account of that journey: 

Eight years ago, I was in my mid-20s, and like many of my colleagues at NowThis News, I was completely aligned with the company’s left-wing content. As a social video producer, each day I logged on and searched my newsfeed for stories and videos that would appeal to our millions of Facebook followers. I called myself a journalist but really, I was an early social media influencer, pushing a very specific point of view. 

The stories that got the most engagement were ones that elicited strong emotions, either happiness or anger. A “happy” story was one in which the good guys—LGBTQ activists, BLM protesters, climate change warriors, and the like—won some battle against greedy capitalists, cops, or (insert white authority figure here). An “angry” story was one in which those oppressors screwed over the good guys. When I came across a story I thought could go viral, I quickly edited the video and added subtitles and music. Then I’d sit back and wait for the reaction from our like-minded followers.

So, in October 2016, when the actress Shailene Woodley popped up on my computer screen, I knew she was going to generate a whole lot of views. Read on for the full story of Lucy’s journey from omnicause activist to free thinker.

  1. RFK Jr. is inching toward eligibility for June’s CNN presidential debate. The independent candidate appears to have met the polling requirements, and his campaign is now focused on the second requirement: being on the ballot in enough states to be able to win 270 electoral college votes. Both the Trump and Biden campaigns assumed this would be a head-to-head contest; RFK has a month to prove them wrong. (Axios

  2. Hillary Clinton has found a fresh scapegoat for her 2016 defeat: women. Clinton said in a recent interview that female voters abandoned her because she was “not perfect.” Room for a few more in the basket of deplorables? (The Hill

  3. People in Baltimore are dying of overdoses at a rate never before seen in a major American city. The city’s number of overdose fatalities has quadrupled since 2013, and its fatal overdose rate between 2018 and 2022 was more than double that of any other large city. (The Baltimore Banner)

  4. After a strike against two Hamas commanders in Rafah caused a fire in a tent encampment, the Israeli prime minister called the incident a “tragic mishap” and said Israel was investigating. The White House is investigating too, assessing whether the strike crosses a red line and might cause Biden to suspend arms shipments to Israel. (Times of Israel

  5. “I carried out the strike that killed Soleimani. America still doesn’t understand the lesson of his death,” writes Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the former commander of U.S. Central Command. That lesson? That Iran will respect American strength and exploit our weakness. (The Atlantic

  6. . . . not that Biden got the memo. His administration is pressing European allies not to confront Iran over its nuclear program. (WSJ)

  7. Have anti-Israel protests taken place disproportionately at elite colleges, with fewer students from lower-income households? Yes, according to a new study. “Out of the hundreds of private colleges where more than 25 percent of the students receive Pell Grants, only five colleges have had encampments.” Curious! (Washington Monthly

  8. The Blackstone CEO and billionaire Republican donor Stephen Schwarzman has said he will back Donald Trump. “The dramatic rise of antisemitism has led me to focus on the consequences of upcoming elections with greater urgency,” he said in a statement. Schwarzman had distanced himself from Trump in the aftermath of the 2020 election and January 6. (Politico
    Read Eli Lake’s recent Free Press report on the rise of the “Never Biden” donor. 

  9. The journalist Jimmy Breslin represented the era of the big-city columnist, writes Ross Barkan in this tribute to the great chronicler of New York. “There is really no such thing as a big-city newspaper columnist anymore, but Breslin was big—he would literally call reporters on the phone to tell them, ‘I’m big.’ He did beer commercials. He hosted a television show. He was assaulted by the Mafia.” (The Point

  10. Bruce Springsteen was in London to collect a prestigious prize at the Ivor Novello Awards last week. Presenting him with a fellowship of the songwriting academy was none other than Paul McCartney, who proceeded to roast his fellow rock legend. McCartney said he “couldn’t think of a more fitting” recipient. . . “except maybe Bob Dylan. Or Paul Simon, or Billy Joel, or Beyoncé, or Taylor Swift.” (BBC)

We’ve published a few stories since our last edition of The Front Page.

Yesterday, Francesca Block and Eli Lake reported on Rashida Tlaib’s surprise appearance at a conference tied to a terrorist group. Over the weekend, while most Americans were barbecuing and honoring our fallen soldiers, U.S. Congresswoman Tlaib was in Detroit, speaking at an event alongside two people with links to a U.S. designated terrorist organization. Minutes before she took the stage Saturday at the three-day “People’s Conference For Palestine,” hundreds of attendees, many dressed in keffiyehs, danced and sang along to music, which one of the organizers told the crowd was a “medley of songs from the first Intifada.” Then he introduced Tlaib, who walked up to the podium and lifted her fist in the air as the audience stood and cheered. Continue reading for more about the company Congresswoman Tlaib keeps.

Also published recently: Olivia Reingold’s dispatch from Donald Trump’s Bronx rally, Suzy Weiss on the trouble with “raising awareness,” Rupa Subramanya on why climate change likely isn’t to blame for bad airplane turbulence, Joe Nocera’s Memorial Day tribute to America’s heroes, and Douglas Murray on Margaret Thatcher’s independent streak.

And check out the latest episode of Honestly, a fiery live debate, part of the recent Dissident Dialogues festival in Brooklyn, on the question: Is Israel’s war just? Free Pressers Eli Lake and Michael Moynihan take on Briahna Joy Gray and Jake Klein.

Click below to listen: 

Many thanks to our friend Winston Marshall, who organized the inaugural festival. Stay tuned for more.

→ What was Anthony Fauci hiding?: The emails of David Morens, a former senior adviser to Anthony Fauci, were released by a U.S. House committee last week, and they suggest the NIH chief and face of America’s Covid response used his private email to avoid public scrutiny. 

In one message, from April 2021, Morens emailed Peter Daszak, the head of EcoHealth Alliance, now being debarred from taxpayer funding because of his relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It read: “PS i forgot to say there is no worry about FOIAs. I can either send stuff to Tony on his private gmail, or hand it to him at work or at his house. He is too smart to let colleagues send him stuff that could cause trouble.” 

In a post on his Substack, Vinay Prasad runs through the emails and calls them damning, concluding: “Fauci, Collins, Morens, and others appear to have colluded to hide public communications from Congress.” Read his post here. 

→ Sonny Vaccaro’s “long journey” to get college athletes paid: When I read the news late last week that the NCAA was going to settle a handful of antitrust cases for a staggering $2.8 billion—and that the association and the major college conferences were finally going to be sharing some of their revenue with the athletes who made them all rich—the first thing I did was call Sonny Vaccaro. 

“It’s been a long journey,” said the 86-year-old Vaccaro. “I always thought the day would come when the players got paid, but I wasn’t sure I would be around to see it.” It’s only right that he is. Because Vaccaro, more than anyone, made this moment possible.

Before he decided to take on the NCAA, Vaccaro marketed basketball shoes; most famously, he convinced Michael Jordan to sign with Nike. (In Air, the movie about that signing, he was played by Matt Damon, an actor the short, bald Vaccaro in no way resembles.)

His war on the NCAA began in 2007. As he tells it, he was fed up seeing underprivileged black basketball players “get shafted” (his words) by the NCAA. He had developed close relationships with many of these players, and far too often he’d also seen careers damaged—and even destroyed—by the NCAA. Its essential view was that if a college athlete received anything of value, even a bag of groceries, it was a violation of “amateurism.” And the NCAA was ruthless in punishing even the tiniest infraction. Vaccaro saw amateurism as a sham, disguising the truth that college sports was a multibillion-dollar enterprise built on the backs of an unpaid, mostly black labor force.

At first, Vaccaro mostly spoke to college audiences. It was difficult to persuade people of his point of view because the NCAA had convinced the world that it was the sheriff of college sports, rooting out the rule-breakers. But as more and more money poured into college football and basketball—as coaches made millions and TV contracts got richer—the fact that the athletes who generated all that money were unpaid became too glaring to ignore. Slowly, Vaccaro gained converts—myself very much included. The tide was turning.

The key moment came in 2009 when Vaccaro convinced an attorney named Michael Hausfeld to file an antitrust suit against the NCAA. He also found the plaintiff, Ed O’Bannon, a former UCLA star who was upset that his image was being used in a video game without his permission. The image rights were controlled by the NCAA. Five years later, a judge in California ruled that the NCAA was indeed violating the nation’s antitrust laws. Then, in 2021, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA in a second big antitrust case. The dam had broken.

The current settlement will pay damages to former and current players who were deprived of their chance to make money on their name, image, and likeness—something college athletes have been able to do since that Supreme Court victory.

There is still one last step, though: tossing out the last vestiges of amateurism and paying the players real salaries. For Vaccaro, that’s always been the holy grail. I hope he’s around to see it. —Joe Nocera

→ Biden’s $320-million pier to nowhere: Vessels supporting the $320-million pier installed by the U.S. military to distribute aid in Gaza have washed up on the beach in Israel. The rollout of the pier had already been bumpy, with its installation delayed and its distribution of aid limited, with much of it stolen by Hamas. 

→ Aryeh Neier’s careless charge of “genocide”: Aryeh Neier is a lion of the human rights movement. He ran the ACLU and George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and he co-founded Helsinki Watch (later renamed Human Rights Watch). He teaches classes and writes books about human rights.

On top of that, Neier, as a two-year-old, fled Nazi Germany, lending him a veneer of suffering and wisdom.

On Sunday, Neier appeared on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show GPS to announce that, after a great deal of deliberation, he had come to the conclusion that Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza. (This came on the heels of an essay he wrote for The New York Review of Books.)

The reason, he explained, is that “Israel has obstructed the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.” He added that it is not Hamas terrorists who are suffering—“men with guns ordinarily find a way to get food”—but young children. 

Neier is right that Gaza’s children are suffering the most, and his awareness of as much underscores the speciousness of his attack: those children’s suffering cannot be blamed squarely on Israel but on Hamas, which has hoarded much of the aid flowing into it. (In 2022, long before this war, Hamas was hoarding international aid, with 64 percent of Gazans classified as moderately or severely “food insecure.”)

Zakaria didn’t bother to ask Neier about any of this.

Nor did he ask him how he knows how much food is getting to anyone. Neier’s information appears to come from the same source legacy media relies on: the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which has shown itself to be little more than an arm of Hamas. (The United States, among others, recently cut off UNRWA support.)

Nor does Neier acknowledge that it’s a little odd to accuse Israel of genocide in light of the remarkably low number of noncombatant deaths in Gaza. (The UN recently slashed the number of women and children thought to have died in the Strip since the war began, making the ratio of combatant-to-noncombatant deaths roughly 1:1.) If Israel is deliberately trying to end the Palestinian people, which has grown in population over the last several decades, it is doing an awful job.

Nor does he explain why Israel is guilty of genocide, but China, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Russia are not. (Vladimir Putin has made it clear he means to eliminate all traces of Ukrainian nationhood.)

Nor does he address a recent study that showed that, in fact, enough aid is getting into Gaza—as The Free Press reported last week.

It’s impossible not to wonder whether Neier is simply trying to shore up his reputation with all the right people in New York or D.C. or Paris or wherever. After all, he is a Jew, and all Jews, as the new progressive identitarian politics would have us believe, are members of a suspect class. One cannot protest the Jewish state loudly enough. —Peter Savodnik 

Rachel recommends South Park’s special Joining the Panderverse: It dropped last October, which I missed due to world events, though time has only made it funnier. 

And for the latest in our ongoing series on the ways Free Pressers relax, Toni recommends quilting: Nothing beats picking out beautiful fabrics, selecting complicated patterns, then cutting and sewing a fine quarter-inch seam to create beautiful blocks and, in the end, a comfy blanket in which to snuggle. 

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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