On Tuesday, the American journalist Abby Martin seemed to commit premeditated professional suicide on Russia’s RT TV channel – her employer – by criticising the Russian invasion of Crimea, part of the Ukraine.
On Wednesday, her colleague Liz Wahl did resign live on air.
I asked RT’s American financial guru Max Keiser about this when I chatted to him in London’s Soho yesterday.
“Journalists report on the news,” said Max, “and, at RT, they’re free to report anything they want to report. There’s no editorial restrictions. The young woman who resigned didn’t have to resign. After giving her thoughts, she could have easily stayed on just like Abby Martin stayed. Abby had comments regarding Russian policy on Ukraine and these comments were – eh – widely talked about and that’s what a journalist does. They either report the news or they give their opinion. But to then resign on air… That’s not journalism. That’s being a drama queen.”
Max, of course, is not shy of expressing his own opinions. Nor of unexpected actions.
Max himself, as I mentioned in a previous blog, is a former Wall Street stockbroker and still occasional stand-up comedian. But launching your own crypto currency is no joke.
“The Mt Gox bitcoin exchange has now collapsed,” I said. “Doesn’t that mean all these crypto currencies are vulnerable?”
“That one exchange collapsed,” said Max, “but it has nothing to do with Bitcoin. It’s like saying the London Bullion Market Association might collapse one day – but that wouldn’t really affect gold.
“We launched Maxcoin and it very quickly got up to $7 million in value and now it’s trading at around $2 million and it’s still one of the most actively-traded currencies out there. The miners who are mining it are profiting from their mining activities. Maxcoin launched successfully. And, based on the success of Maxcoin, we may soon see Stacycoin.”
“Based on Stacy Herbert?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Max.
“Your TV co-presenter on The Keiser Report?”
“And my wife,” added Max. “She used to be a comedy script doctor. She worked on lots of TV shows here in the UK, including an animated sitcom called Popetown, commissioned by the BBC. But it was never aired here because the Catholic Church found it highly offensive. It had the voices of McKenzie Crook, Kevin Eldon, Matt Lucas, Bob Mortimer and Ruby Wax. Before that, Stacy was in Los Angeles doing TV and mostly film.”
“Roseanne Barr is trying to finance a new film via your StartJOIN crowdfunding site,” I prompted.
“Yes,” said Max. “It’s called Bailout 2. It’s a sequel to a film called Bailout.”
“Now there’s a thing,” I said.
Bailout 2 is described on the StartJOIN site as “a hard-hitting, mud-slinging, social and political documentary exploring the Eurozone Crisis”.
“So what is your new StartJOIN site?” I tried.
“It’s crowdfunding – proper crowdfunding,” replied Max.
“Anyone. Any thing. I’m particularly interested in the Edinburgh Fringe.”
“But there’s no money in the Edinburgh Fringe,” I said.
“Well,” said Max. “I went to the Fringe for the first time last year and fell in love with it. But you hear over-and-over again about performers going up there and losing money. Crowdfunding seems perfect as a way to solve that problem: to get money up-front so you don’t have that economic risk. All the shows: comedy, theatre, music, lectures, whatever.
“The economics of the Fringe are terrible because the performers lose money for the most part. They have to come up with money ahead-of-time, then they have to go there and try to make it back and, for the most part, they don’t. So crowdfunding is perfect for this; it allows performers to raise money before they go and, when they get to the Fringe, they can concentrate on just doing their show.
“I’m going to make it a personal goal with StartJOIN to try to get as many acts as possible financed and up there. It’s an example of where alternative economics can step in and solve what I perceive to be a problem.”
“You see yourself as a modern-day Medici helping artists?” I asked.
“My hope with the Fringe is that, if it works this year, next year we can get even more active by actually putting as much additional financial resources as we can behind acts. We wanna make it the crowdfunding home for Fringe in the UK. We’re going to promote it as aggressively as we can. My intention is to throw as much money as I can at good acts.”
“Isn’t launching a crowdfunding site and your own crypto currency dodgy?” I asked.
“I’ve already launched successful businesses before,” said Max. “The Hollywood Stock Exchange in Los Angeles which is now a $200 million business that was sold eventually to (the bank) Cantor Fitzgerald. And KarmaBanque (a hedge fund) was a big project. I did that with Zac Goldsmith here in the UK. Plus my TV show is very successful. RT has a huge global presence. It’s in 150 countries. We do three Keiser Report shows each week, each show broadcast three or four times. We figure my show gets about 20 million viewers a week.”
“And, as for the Edinburgh Fringe…?” I said.
“I want to go up there this year myself with my own stand-up show Rage.”
“What are you going to rage about?” I asked.
“Isn’t that yesterday’s news?”
“I don’t think so, because the scandals are continuing and they will continue because there’s no reform. The regulations are getting weaker not stronger, so the criminality will get more intense.”
“Criminality is rather a harsh word.”
“It’s an apt word because they break laws. They break laws and they pay civil fines to avoid criminal trials. They should not be allowed to simply pay civil fines for an amount of money that is less than the money they made breaking the law. These banks in the UK have a profit centre called Law Breaking.”
“Surely that’s a world-wide thing, not just in the UK,” I suggested.
“The UK is uniquely positioned,” argued Max, “because it has the weakest regulations in the world. That’s why so many other banks in other countries outsource their banking fraud to the UK.”
“The UK is possibly going to recognise Bitcoins, isn’t it?” I said.
“This is what could be the saving grace for the UK. They could become the Bitcoin capital of the world, which could save them from destruction. I’m all for that.”
“And the Bitcoin Foundation is moving to London isn’t it?”
“Yes. This is potentially going to save Britain from economic destruction. It will replace Mark Carney, the Chairman of the Bank of England.”
“You’re just averse to him because he’s a Canadian and you’re a Yank,” I said.
“He’s a Canadian and he’s a shifty fellah,” replied Max. “When he played hockey in college, he played as a goalie. If you’ve ever played hockey, you know that goalies almost universally suffer brain damage because they get hit in the head so many times with the puck. Mark Carney’s a perfect example of that… and that’s an example of what I’m going to rage about.”
“That’s it then,” I said. “Thanks for the chat.”
“What about Charlie Brooker? asked Max.
“What about him?” I asked
“He does a show called Newswipe,” said Max.
“Yes,” I had to agree.
“And,” said Max, “he takes the piss out of TV shows and commercials. He hasn’t had a clip from my show on his show yet.”
“Am I to be blamed for this?” I asked.
“I want the people to know I’m not happy,” said Max.
“Why are you not happy?”
“Because, by all rights, he should have a clip of my show on his Newswipe show. He’s the only guy I like in UK media. Charlie Brooker’s got the best show in the UK right now. It’s the funniest and it’s very biting satire. He’s a very talented guy.
“We were going to do a show together – It was going to be Charlie Brooker and myself and Alec Baldwin. We were going to do a show here in London. A writer friend of ours put it together. It was going to be shot over at the Gherkin building and we were going to try to sell it to an American distributor. We were talking to Charlie Brooker’s ‘people’. Alec Baldwin was going to be the executive producer, because he’s been a friend of mine for 30 years. He’s thinking about moving to London and doing theatre.”
“It was based on that BBC World News series I did called The Oracle. We’re trying to bring it back for another season, but I keep Tweeting about how the BBC is full of drunks, so it’s gonna be a tough sell.”
“If you can’t sell it, no-one can,” I said.
Max Keiser is such a good salesman he could even, in my dreams, sell laissez-faire rather than blindfolded pragmatism to the Russians.