"Clare's dogged (and to some, more that a little annoying) persistence and an incredible nose for the fishy stuff, uncovered the heist of the century. The explosive exposés rocked the nation, and precipitated the fall of the Malaysian government for the first time in 60 years."
Tony Pua, Member of Parliament for Damansara, Malaysia
Investigating the deforestation of Sarawak, Borneo, and the dispossession of its people, journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown followed a trail of corruption that led her to the heart of Malaysian politics and to Prime Minister Najib Razak himself. Determined that the public should know the truth, she started a blog, which became Malaysia's go-to news outlet for information that the government was trying to suppress – and whistleblowers wanted to get out. She was soon running a radio station too...
Full story in The Sarawak Report book to be launched on September 8, 2018
Sarawak Report can reveal that a key orchestrator behind the dirty tricks campaigns that have been waged against Anwar Ibrahim, Gordon Brown and Sarawak Report is a ginger-bearded American blogger named Josh Trevino.
Trevino claims he was a speech-writer for George Bush and he is a founder of the popular Republican blog, Red State. His outspoken, far-right views have provoked controversy in the US, where he has been striving to make a name for himself via the internet.
Those provocative views are, however, unlikely to appeal to his Malaysian clients in BN, who, nevertheless, have clearly being paying him and his associates to defame their political enemies and boost their own publicity.
“My red hair and pale skin IS my passport!”
For example, many people found Trevino’s tirade against being forced to go through standard border checks particularly obnoxious. In a series of outbursts on Twitter he proclaimed that the US Border Patrol were “fools” and “bureaucrats” for bothering to look at his papers, because he was white.
He expressed his views with such offensive arrogance that the story provoked nearly 900 angry comments when it was reported in the online Huffington Post.
In his original ‘Tweet’ Trevino pronounced:
“Dear Border Patrol: my red hair and pale skin IS my passport, bureaucrats.”
After criticism from other Twitterers, he later added:
“For the record, kids: that border should be open, open, open. But if you’re going to check documents, don’t be a fool about it.”
Rent a blogger ?
The question is are all Trevino’s outbursts his own considered views or are some of them paid for?
Trevino provides lengthy self-profiles on Linked In and other internet sites. We learn that after a period in the US Military, followed by a stint working in communications for the US Government’s Health and Human Affairs department, he decided to deploy his penchant for political invective onto the internet.
In 2004 he started the blog Red State, which describes itself as “the leading conservative news blog for right of center online activists”. Red State concentrates on core, anti-liberal ‘tea-party’ issues, but has also gone on to spawn other ‘opinion forming’ web-platforms, in particular New Ledger, which feeds virulent attacks on Anwar Ibrahim and Sarawak Report onto a series of Malaysian websites.
Trevino describes new media as one of his main interests besides political commentary and he promotes himself on twitter and blogs and facebook, as well as online radio and occasional tv shows. He also records himself making ‘diary items’ and interviewing commentators and then puts them up on You Tube or Vimeo.
Besides this, Trevino runs a company with the interesting name of Rogue Strategic Services. It claims to specialise in Political and Corporate Communications Strategies and to provide “cutting edge communications”.
However, strangely for a company specialising in communications and run by such a self-promoting character, Rogue Strategic Services provides just one page about itself on the internet, containing just 8 words and an email address (see right).
According to Act For Israel (where Trevino serves on the Advisory Board), Rogue Strategic Services has “assisted clients wishing to engage in strategic planning, organizational conversations, political outreach, communications, and new media”.
Trevino has recently achieved a position as Vice President of Communications at the right leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation, however, his involvement with the above organisations and activities are still clearly on-going.
Given Trevino’s Texas-based right-wing Republican focus, his frequent commenting on the subject of Malaysia and passionate support for the BN government against Anwar Ibrahim and the PR coalition seem unaccountable. People in Texas are not interested in such matters.
Furthermore, Trevino is a trenchant and single-minded supporter of the State of Israel, of which the Malaysian BN Government is one of the world’s most die hard critics.
So why, time and again, does Josh Trevino come to the defence of ‘moderate’ Malaysia?
Describing himself as “a long-time observer of Malaysian affairs” and editor of the recently defunct blog Malaysia Matters, Trevino is on a mission to portray Malaysia as a Muslim democracy under threat, not from Islamic extremism or the corruption resulting from 50 years of BN rule, but from the PKR liberal opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, whom he paints as terrorist.
Trevino has posted recent pro-BN articles attacking Anwar in the Washington Times, the UK’s Guardian newspaper, and the on-line Huffington Post . He has also placed articles on the same topic in Red State and New Ledger. Based on scant evidence, Josh’s constant claim is that Anwar is a Muslim extremist and a Jew-hater, who would turn Malaysia into an Anti-American hotbed of radical islamic terrorism if he won the election!
“It is of paramount importance that both Malaysians and Americans understand the dangerous implications of a Malaysia ruled by Anwar Ibrahim”
[Malaysia Matters, published in Red State 21/08/2010]
Josh Trevino’s campaign in the mainstream media has likewise focused on a clear attempt to portray Anwar as a man who has changed from a well-known liberal, with many friends in the West and a reputation for religious tolerance, into a dangerous threat to freedom and democracy!
The barrage of sex accusations that BN have unleashed on Anwar since his near election win in 2008 has also given Trevino and his colleagues plenty of material to accuse Anwar of both deviant homosexuality and deviant behaviour towards women. However, the only connection between these myriad and contradictory claims is that they seek to discredit the leader of the Malaysian opposition.
Sarawak Report therefore puts the question, are any Malaysian BN politicians or their paid agents, clients of Josh Trevino’s Rogue Strategic Services and the political communications strategies that he provides?
There is plenty of compelling evidence that the answer is yes. Trevino’s blog, Red State, claims that its “day to day efforts are led by.. a talented and largely volunteer team of front page contributors”. Yet Sarawak Report notes that its links with the paid for site New Ledger (hired to run numerous dirty tricks articles about Malaysia) are very extensive.
New Ledger was set up in 2009 by Trevino’s founding partner on Red State and former speechwriter colleague in the Department of Health and Human Services, Ben Domenech ( Domenech had lasted 3 days at the Washington Post before he was fired for plagiarism in 2006).
The other founder of New Ledger is a blogger called Brad Jackson. Brad Jackson also acts as a ‘senior executive’ at Rogue Strategic Services, the company set up by Trevino to provide “political and corporate communications strategies” focused on ‘New Media’ expertise.
The writers on the two blogs, Christopher Badeaux, Brad Jackson, Leon H Wolf, Pejman Yousefzadeh, Ben Domenech and Josh Trevino himself, appear on both sites and they have all written articles about Malaysia supporting BN and attacking Anwar in the period following 2008.
These articles have then been ‘bounced’ back into Malaysia via online portals, like Malaysia Watcher or Sarawak Report(s), Bernama and BN supporting newspapers in order to circulate the impression that Anwar is thought badly of in the US and to give credence to the accusations being made.
These connections and the clear agenda being followed by Red State and New Ledger raise serious questions about the integrity of these online sites, which are seeking to be treated as alternative sources of news and opinion for members of the public. Trevino has successfully used his online platforms in order to gain credibility and access as an ‘opinion former’ to mainstream newspapers and television, where he has carried on promoting these agendas.
However, at no point has Trevino, Red State, New Ledger or any of the writers concerned declared any financial interest or sponsorship behind their otherwise unaccountable internet campaign on Malaysia. Do they seriously expect us to believe they are doing it for free?
Indeed, Mr Trevino refers to his ‘clients’ in his own twitter chats. Readers of Red State, New Ledger and other Trevino-related blogs have a right to know who those clients are and whether the activities of Rogue Strategic Services relate to any of his copy.
Likewise, supporters of the non-profit Texas Public Policy Foundation and readers of the mainstream media outlets he has targeted on the subject of Malaysia have a right to know too!
Uncomfortable allies or just a clash of clientele?
As we have already pointed out, Josh Trevino is by no means an obvious supporter of the Malaysian world viewpoint. In particular Trevino is actively and aggressively pro-Israel, a country that the Malaysian BN government bans its citizens from even visiting! To be exposed as the client of Trevino, given all his other activities and pronouncements, would only be highly embarrassing for BN.
For example, Trevino is on the Advisory Board of Act For Israel, which describes itself as the “preeminent online activism group for Israel”. In its ‘Manifesto’ Act for Israel states:
“Israel’s fights are no longer just on the battlefield. They are on the internet. Every day, tens of thousands of anti-Zionists take their messages of hate and delegitimization to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, You Tube and more.. polarizing the media and the world against Israel. Act for Israel will turn the tide in Israel’s favour..
…… Our team is comprised of some of the most influential, knowledgeable and passionate pro-Israel forces on the web today. ……. We come together for Israel for one purpose only: to capture the hearts and minds of the world through the power of the web”
Josh’s web of connections to dirty tricks websites
Equating Muslims with terrorism certainly gains support in US right-wing quarters, but Trevino goes further than most. At a time when the Malaysian BN Prime Minister Najib Razak was condemning the treatment of the Palestinian mercy flotillas by Israel, Trevino shocked readers of his new media outpourings by suggesting that the Israeli forces were welcome to shoot dead any of the humanitarians involved, including Americans.
This was at a time when Najib was giving a hero’s welcome home to the Malaysians who had taken part in the flotilla and come under attack from Israel:
“It was a blatant act of aggression and terrorism, and I would not want to say anything less. I want to say that this can be interpreted as a state form of terrorism. This is an example of what has been done by the Israeli regime.
……..it was a cold-blooded act of killing committed by the commandos on the instruction of the Tel Aviv regime,” [Najib Razak]
Trevino found his way round this clash of alliances by writing a contorted commentary in the Washington Times , which was then widely circulated in Malaysia. In it he carefully excused Najib’s remarks by saying that helpful action in Afghanistan and Iran “arguably offsets and supersedes harsh rhetoric”! On the other hand he lambasted Anwar Ibrahim, saying that his very similar statements were by contrast not excusable and that Americans should start to regard him as an enemy!
The muddled arguments of such articles become far clearer when the reader is aware that the author has a long history of ‘strategic communications’ directed against Anwar and promoting BN’s political leaders.
As we have reported, former US Ambassador to Malaysia John Malott, himself a target of these writers (see previous Sarawak Report), has told us:
“Why do these people, who are unknown and not experts on Malaysia suddenly become so interested in one issue, not other countries only Malaysia? It seems obvious to me they are being paid”[John Malott]
The attack on CNN
Trevino’s agenda became even more blatant when he marshalled his guns against the news group CNN, who had invited Anwar Ibrahim to be interviewed last July.
Positive PR for the Malaysian opposition leader in the United States could clearly not go unchallenged. Wading onto New Ledger with an outpouring of vintage vituperation, Trevino accused Anwar of buying his airtime on CNN!
“the entire reason Anwar Ibrahim is making this media appearance is that he’s spent all of 2010 attacking Jews. Count the number of times CNN mentions this, that right: zero. The interview in its entirety mentioned the major news about Anwar Ibrahim exactly zero times.
I’ll be blunt: this is what a good rolling of a major media outlet looks like. Whomever Anwar has hired to do his U.S. public relations clearly has solid media contacts, particularly in CNN proper. The charade doesn’t just extend to omitting Anwar’s excursion into Jew-baiting — it permeates the entire piece..”[josh Trevino, New Ledger July 2010]
The scandalous accusation was taken up widely in the Malaysian media, as had been the intention. However, Trevino may have been less comfortable with some of the commentary the story provoked from BN politicians, whom he so studiously avoids attacking for the anti-semitism he alleges against Anwar.
UMNO Vice-president Mohd Shafie Apdal’s response was, for example:
“If it is true that Anwar paid for the CNN interview, it shows that he stoop so low to the United States and the Jews… he will do anything to achieve his ambition of becoming the prime minister,”
Trevino could have written a whole diatribe against the anti-semitism and dangerous anti-Americanism contained in such remarks by a senior Malaysian Government figure. But he chose to remain silent.
The President of Rogue Strategic Services should be wary of making accusations against others over accepting payment to produce comment and media platforms. While CNN convincingly and categorically denied that Anwar had paid them, Trevino is closely associated with just these sorts of dubious activities himself.