The editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, a site known primarily for swiping content from reddit and harassing Christian TV personalities, melted down online Monday morning and demanded that James Mattis respond to his questions about a meme posted on a clickbait website.
Ben Smith, the BuzzFeed editor-in-chief, took to Twitter to demand that retired 4-star Marine general James Mattis–who has been selected as Secretary of Defense by President-elect Donald Trump–respond to a fake news meme at AllenBWest.com, a clickbait site run in the name of former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.).
Mattis is really going to remain silent on this? https://t.co/vmc0elgR1q
— Ben Smith (@benyt) December 12, 2016
According to BuzzFeed, a manager of the Facebook page for the AllenBWest.com website posted a meme that featured a picture of Mattis and the text “FIRED BY OBAMA TO PLEASE THE MUSLIMS” and “HIRED BY TRUMP TO EXTERMINATE THEM.” BuzzFeed provided zero evidence that Mattis posted the image, approved it, uttered any of the phrases in it, knew the fake news meme existed, or that he even knows what a fake news Internet meme is.
Smith nonetheless demanded that Mattis respond.
Smith’s demand that Mattis respond to fake news memes is especially interesting in light of his myriad complaints about fake news in 2016. Smith himself complained about fake news on Twitter more than a dozen times in 2016 alone. At one point he characterized fake news as a “global crisis.”
Earlier this year, BuzzFeed was punked by a fake lawsuit which Buzzfeed says was filed by controversial rancher Cliven Bundy.
“Cliven Bundy Claims Obama Threatened Donald Trump In Bizarre Hand-Written Lawsuit,” BuzzFeed’s original headline declared.
In fact, Bundy made no such claims and filed no such suit. The suit in question was filed by a mentally ill prisoner.
Despite his demand that Mattis respond to random, anonymous Internet memes, Smith himself has refused to adequately address questions about his own company’s potentially discriminatory employment practices.
Last February, a senior BuzzFeed editor advertised on Twitter that the company wanted to publish more content about Canada, but that the company would prefer if the content was not submitted by people who were white or male.
“BuzzFeed Canada would particularly like to hear from you if you are not white and not male,” senior editor Scaachi Koul wrote.
After she was criticized for discriminating based entirely on sex and race, Koul doubled down.
“If you’re a white man upset that we are looking mostly for non-white non-men,” she wrote, “I don’t care about you.”
Troubling questions about BuzzFeed’s personnel practices are not just limited to sex and race, however. Questions have also been raised about whether the company discriminates against those with certain religious beliefs by asking litmus test questions during the employment process, or by creating a workplace environment that is openly hostile to people of faith.
Smith famously declared in a separate 2015 company-wide memo that “there are not two sides” when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage.” Because Islam, Christianity, and Judaism each teach that sex outside male-female marriage is sinful and therefore prohibited, Smith’s comments were taken by many to be a declaration that people of faith were not welcome at BuzzFeed.
Despite the fact that BuzzFeed keeps meticulous track of the racial and ethnic makeup of its employees, Smith repeatedly refused to provide any data on the religious makeup of the company’s workforce. He also refused to disclose whether the company uses questions about hot-button political issues like same-sex marriage to screen out religious applicants.
Mattis previously criticized West after reviewing a report that West, who previously served in the Army, had fired a gun next to the ear of a terrorist detainee in order to extract information from him.
“This shows a commander who has lost his moral balance or watched too many Hollywood movies,” Mattis wrote.
BuzzFeed did not include Mattis’ pointed comments about West’s moral standing in its article alleging that Mattis refused to comment on West.