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Homage to the Tabloids

Are you ready for some football?  Big story in the LA Times this week: “Will the NFL allow players to use marijuana? League wants Science to determine drug policy. ” It should come as no surprise that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell  is taking refuge behind “More Research is Needed.”

The NFL commissioner serves the interests of the owners (just like the President of the United States).  We know where these gentlemen are at politically because they  have blacklisted Colin Kaepernick for three years, the prime of his career. Their mutual class interest obviously takes precedence over their separate  teams’ interests.  Which means zero tolerance for truly uppity workers.  At upcoming contract talks, when the players’ demand access to marijuana  —a non-opioid analgesic that might protect against traumatic brain injuries— the owner’ game plan will be to stall in the name of Science.

The convergence in one story of two major issues of our day —marijuana and NFL football— brought to mind an old joke about the ultimate newspaper-selling headline: “Queen’s Dog Cured of Polio in Church.” At Walgreen’s that evening I couldn’t help admiring the latest Globe headline:

I thought Attorney General Barr might have authorized Epstein’s exit because ongoing publicity would inform the tabloid-loving masses that the AG’s father, Donald Barr, had set Epstein on the road to riches in the 1970s by hiring him to teach math at the elite Dalton School. (Donald Barr was the principal at Dalton.) My guess and the Enquirer’s exposé are not mutually exclusive.

Around 1995 the missus and I were driving on Highway 1 in Lantana, Florida, when  I noticed a sign in the distance identifying the site as the home of The National Enquirer.  I took the next exit and found it, a large, modern one-story office building fronting on a park with baseball diamonds. I told the receptionist that I was a journalist from California there to pay my respects to “the leading newspaper in America.” She suspected that I was putting her on. I said I meant it:  “Aren’t they all adopting your approach, little by little?”  She recognized my sincerity and we were given a tour of the editorial office. As we were leaving, so was a tall, sleek man in a finely tailored suit who wore wraparound shades and carried an attache case. He looked more like a banker than an editor, and his car was a Mercedes.

A surprising fact we learned on our tour: four of America’s five best-selling tabloids were then headquartered  in Lantana! Somehow, economy of scale even applies to lowbrow gossip production.

Here’s some relevant background  as recounted by Wikipedia:

“In 1926, William Griffin, a protégé of William Randolph Hearst, founded the paper as The New York Evening Enquirer, a Sunday afternoon broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout New York City, using money lent to Griffin by Hearst. It made its debut on September 19, 1926. As partial payment of his loan, Hearst asked Griffin to use the Enquireras a proving ground for new ideas. Hearst took the ideas that worked in his successful publications; the less successful ideas stayed with the Enquirer, and as a result the Enquirer’s sales never soared. During the 1930s and 1940s, it became a voice for isolationism and pro-fascist propaganda. The paper was indicted along with Griffin under the Smith Act for sedition by a grand jury in 1942 for subverting the morale of US troops through Griffin’s editorials against US military involvement in World War II. The charges were later dropped.

“By 1952, when the paper’s circulation had fallen to 17,000 copies a week, it was purchased by Generoso Pope Jr., the son of Generoso Pope, the founder of Il Progresso, New York’s Italian language daily newspaper.[12]It has been alleged that Mafia boss Frank Costelloprovided Pope the money for the purchase in exchange for the Enquirer’s promise to list lottery numbers and to refrain from any mention of Mafia activities.[13]

In 1953, Pope revamped the format from a broadsheet to a sensationalist tabloid… Pope pioneered the idea of selling magazines at supermarket checkouts. In order to get into the supermarkets, Pope completely changed the format of the paper in late 1967 by dropping all the gore and violence and instead focusing on more benign topics like celebrities, the occult and UFOs.”

In recent years the most visible owner of the Enquirer has been David Pecker, a bag man for Donald Trump. This spring a sale to Ron Burkle, a billionaire friend of the Clintons, was supposedly imminent. Burkle would have shielded his friends from front-page stories predicting their imminent deaths (with super-unflattering photos). But he pulled out and the Enquirer was picked up for $100 mill by James Cohen, heir to the Hudson News stores, which will provide distribution at 1,000 airports.

A New York Times piece April 18  reporting the sale informed us: “As part of the deal, American Media, led by David J. Pecker, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, has also agreed to sell two of its other tabloids: the Globe and the National Examiner.”

We infer from the Times’s brief bio of Cohen that he and Ms. Fayne Cohen will put out a cooler, classier Enquirer.

“In 2016 he started a quarterly publication called Galerie with his wife, Lisa Fayne Cohen. Earlier this year, the magazine published a feature titled ‘Discover a Hamptons Dream House Filled With Modern Art.; Its subject was the Cohens’ East Hampton, N.Y., home. Ms. Fayne Cohen serves as the magazine’s editorial director.

“Mr. Cohen and Ms. Fayne Cohen started a serious art collection in 2009. Their condominium at the Plaza Hotel has included works by the artists Willem de Kooning, Jean Dubuffet, Hans Hofmann, Joan Mitchell, George Condo and Mark Grotjahn.

“In 2015 they threw a bat mitzvah for their daughter Jaclyn at a reported cost of over $1 million. The event, which took place under a tent at their home in northern New Jersey, featured the singer Nick Jonas, who performed six of his hits for a reported $300,000.

“Mr. Cohen, who did not respond to requests for comment, has a tabloid connection. His late sister, Claudia Cohen, was a gossip writer for both The Daily News and The New York Post. She was married to the Revlon billionaire Ronald O. Perelman.”

So, are you ready for some highbrow Epstein gossip?

The  business of scientific publishing  was made “startlingly profitable” by a British  entrepreneur named Robert Maxwell, according to a brilliant, thorough analysis that ran in the Guardian two years ago. “With total global revenues of more than £19bn,” Stephen Buranyi reported, “it weighs in somewhere between the recording and the film industries in size, but it is far more profitable.”

Reviewing the Guardian exposé today, we are aware of another dubious achievement of Maxwell’s: his daughter Ghislaine would  become Jeffrey Epstein’s partner in crime.

Robert Maxwell, who was born in Czechoslovakia, died in 1991 after intentionally plunging, accidentally falling, or being pushed off his yacht, The Lady Ghislaine (which was named after his youngest daughter).  Ghislaine, the flesh-and-blood lady, then moved to New York City where she soon hooked up with Epstein. You  don’t have to be a Freudian to wonder: did she see her father in the Brooklyn-born financier or did she coach him to recreate dear old dad? Probably both.

The parallels between Maxwell’s  “apparent suicide” (he had stolen millions from a pension fund and was facing public humiliation and prison) and Epstein’s death in a Manhattan jail cell are obvious and eerie. And so are the similarities between Maxwell’s and Epstein’s courting  of  scientists and other standard operating procedures. As explained by Buranyi in the Guardian:

“Scientific conferences tended to be drab, low-ceilinged affairs, but when Maxwell returned to the Geneva conference that year, he rented a house in nearby Collonge-Bellerive, a picturesque town on the lakeshore, where he entertained guests at parties with booze, cigars and sailboat trips. Scientists had never seen anything like him…

By 1959, Pergamon was publishing 40 journals; six years later it would publish 150. This put Maxwell well ahead of the competition. (In 1959, Pergamon’s rival, Elsevier, had just 10 English-language journals, and it would take the company another decade to reach 50.) By 1960, Maxwell had taken to being driven in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce, and moved his home and the Pergamon operation from London to the palatial Headington Hill Hall estate in Oxford…

“Occasionally, Maxwell would call Noble to his house for a meeting. “Often there would be a party going on, a nice musical ensemble, there was no barrier between his work and personal life,” Noble says. Maxwell would then proceed to alternately browbeat and charm him into splitting the biannual journal into a monthly or bimonthly publication, which would lead to an attendant increase in subscription payments.

Maxwell doted on his relationships with famous scientists…”

The New Yorker has just published a piece by scandal specialist Ronan Farrow: “New documents show that the M.I.T. Media Lab was aware of Epstein’s status as a convicted sex offender, and that Epstein directed contributions to the lab far exceeding the amounts M.I.T. has publicly admitted.”

More articles by:

Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

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