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The Grayzone

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of Spider-Man!
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Why did I leave The Grayzone? Well it's obviously run by an unstable megalomaniac with no coherent principles. ... Blumenthal and his wife are so close to racist reactionary Tucker Carlson, they invite him to their house for dinner. They have long abandoned any pretense of being on the left and are opportunist contrarians who believe in nothing other than self-aggrandizement.
—Ben Norton, formerly a major contributor to the site[1][2]

The Grayzone is a webshite founded by Max Blumenthal (1977–), who was formerly a journalist for mainstream news publications but later became an RT contributor. The website purports itself to be "a news and politics website dedicated to original investigative journalism on war and empire",[3] but it mostly promotes Assadist, Russian, Venezuelan, and Chinese propaganda. Especially after Blumenthal's trip to Moscow.[4][5] The Grayzone is known for using ad hominem attacks by calling critics neocon shills[6] or McCarthyites.[7] The website was formerly carried by Alternet, a liberal website that sometimes promotes pseudoscience about GMOs. In February 2018, The Grayzone became an "independent" news source.[note 1]

Major contributors to The Grayzone (including, as mentioned, Blumenthal) have worked in some capacity or another with Russia and/or its state-run media, like RT and Sputnik News. Blumenthal's wife, Anya Parampil, was previously a presenter for RT America,[8] and Kit Klarenberg has been credited in articles on RT and Sputnik.[9] Aaron Maté has previously worked as a briefer for Russia's mission to the United Nations.[10][11] Blumenthal, Parampil, Maté, Klarenberg, Ben Norton, Gareth Porter, Dan Cohen, Rania Khalek, Ajit Singh, Alan MacLeod, and The Grayzone itself have all received "Serena Shim Awards",[12] which come from the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees,Wikipedia a group supportive of Bashar al-Assad.[13][14] In Blumenthal's case, he received $20,000 alongside the award, and in Porter's case he received $10,000 alongside it.[15][16]

At least one of The Grayzone's editors received funding from Iran via state-sponsored Press TV, possibly violating sanctions against those countries as well as the United States' Foreign Agent Registration Act.[17]

General dishonesty[edit]

  • They whine about how Wikipedia has "censored" them.[18] They try to paint Wikipedia editors as neocon shills because The Grayzone was deprecated as a usable source by the community for being a pro-Kremlin propaganda blog. The Grayzone claimed: "At no point has this cabal of editors pointed to a pattern of errors or fabrications by The Grayzone. Instead, they have argued for its blacklisting on the grounds of the political views of its writers". In fact, examples of false propaganda by The Grayzone were discussed (e.g. on the subjects of Syria and Nicaragua), along with its status as a kind of self-published blog rather than an established news organization with a serious editorial policy. The community discussion is publicly archived, meaning the thought process behind this decision can be openly verified by anybody.[19][20] They attack Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's co-founder, for being a libertarian and admiring Ayn Rand.[20] The Grayzone at all attempting to link Jimmy Wales to the community decision to deprecate their website as a source further demonstrates either their ignorance or propaganda regarding the decision, since Wales had no involvement in the discussion.[note 2]
    Here are points raised against The Grayzone by Wikipedia editors (none among the listed were substantially refuted in whole by the response article; most of the "response" simply attacked the individual editors and writers who mentioned these problems; some of these points were not addressed in The Grayzone's response whatsoever) aside from their status as a group-blog, and their association with AlterNet, MintPress News, RT, and Sputnik News:
    • In 2011, Max Blumenthal was accused of outright fabricating quotes by the very person he was supposedly quoting (Karen Greenberg). Confronted about this, Blumenthal speculated that she was "intimidated by [Jeffrey] Goldberg and the pro-Israel forces he represents" into claiming she never said it.[21]
    • In 2018, The Grayzone published an article claiming validity in Nicaraguan opposition protester Valeska Sandoval'sWikipedia "confession" which was possibly coerced or even tortured out of her by interrogators; the article also claimed she was "shown to be play-acting" in a viral livestream where pro-government militants were shown "attacking [a] church in the capital, Managua, where she and 200 other unarmed students had sought refuge." The human rights office for the United Nations contradicted The Grayzone, stating: "The church was subject to shootings by police and pro-Government armed elements for several hours, which led to the killing of two individuals and injured at least 16".[22]
    • Quoting from The New York Review of Books:Wikipedia Blumenthal "has attacked not only the White Helmets but also Bana al-Abed, a nine-year-old girl who lived in rebel-held Aleppo and ran a Twitter account with her mother. ... The man ... now accuses anti-Assad Syrians of belonging to al-Qaeda and has claimed that the White HelmetsWikipedia were affiliated with the Islamist group".[4]
    • The Grayzone attempts to smear the Democratic Socialists of America as being substantially backed by the US State Department,[23] as well as "millions of protestors, from Hong Kong to Xinjiang, as U.S.-backed fascists and imperialists."[24]
    • In an earlier Wikipedia discussion, one editor highlighted a Grayzone article that attempted to: "insinuate that the ISO's logo of a raised fist,Wikipedia a symbol historically associated with anticapitalist movements (as well as others), was somehow connected to Otpor, a Serbian protest organization which the Grayzone describes as being 'US government funded'".[25]
  • Unrelated to Wikipedia: in 2023, Alexey Kovalyov, a journalist with the Russian opposition outlet Meduza posted a screenshot apparently showing his email exchange with one writer for The Grayzone, Kit Klarenberg. In it, Klarenberg states: "my reporting has played a not insignificant role in Meduza getting foreign agented. There's more to come on you lot too." Kovalyov indicated that this was proof that Klarenberg was collaborating with Russian government agencies to label opposition media as foreign agents (see: Russian foreign agent law).Wikipedia He asked another Grayzone reporter, Aaron Maté, about this.[26] Maté said that both he and Klarenberg suspected the email was fabricated; he added that even if it were real it wouldn't be proof of collaboration.[27] Kovalyov then sent Maté the .eml file and posted the unredacted screenshot, in response to which, Maté retracted his belief that the email was fabricated but continued to claim that the email did not demonstrate that Klarenberg collaborated with the Russian government. He also said to Kovalyov: "You fabricate claims constantly so there's no reason to trust you."[28][29][30] Maté did not respond to a follow-up question about whether Klarenberg had misled him about the email being fabricated.[31]


Conspiracy theories[edit]



Eastern Europe[edit]


  • In a surprisingly stopped clock moment, albeit one resulting from pro-PRC bias, The Grayzone called Trump out for normalizing the lab conspiracy, comparing it to Saddam's WMDs.[56]
  • Unfortunately, this didn't last as they were still hoping that it came from the US instead.[57][note 6][note 7]
  • They claim that Taiwan didn't warn anyone about COVID-19, which was misleading.[58][note 8]
  • Blumenthal talked on RT about Bill Gates's COVID-19 simulation.[59] His claims were completely false.[60]

US politics[edit]

  • Max Blumenthal spent an hour badgering members of The SquadWikipedia[61] at a protest related to housing evictions, "questioning them" why they didn't force Medicare4All through to be voted onto the Senate ground. This is a view that's known as "Force the Vote", and is considered to be generally politically unviable. In spite of being faced with multiple explanations as to why they didn't do this (it made no strategic sense and would burn the Squads goodwill and their ability to enact further change within the Democrats, it's important to first gather votes, none of the members of The Squad have the ability to bring the M4A bill to the Senate anyway), Blumenthal kept repeatedly asking the same question, seemingly ignoring the explanation. In response, Ilhan Omar pulled up Blumenthal's Twitter feed where she discovered that he'd been retweeting offensive memes about the Squad. When questioned, Blumenthal dismissed it as "just memes" before being removed by staff of the Squad. Blumenthal then uploaded a video to his own Twitter account which only showed him being removed after a short discussion with a single member, removing all context of the previous badgering to paint the Squad as the people unwilling to advocate for change.[62]

Norton-Blumenthal split, or "The Worm Turns"[edit]

Ben Norton absconds with money from The Grayzone (colorized, 2022).

Sometime around 2021 – early 2022, a schism emerged between Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton,[64] who was formerly The Grayzone's top writer. There is a dispute as to the facts of what happened. Norton's Geopolitical Economy Report (formerly Multipolarista) still exists as a splinter site from The Grayzone as a result of this schism.

On October 4, 2023,[note 9] Blumenthal made a "tl;dr"-worthy Twitter post proclaiming (edited for relative brevity):[66]

Enough silence. The criminal schemes of Ben "Bait-and-Switch" Norton must be known. In January 2022, Ben Norton lied to the public about the circumstances of his departure from The Grayzone, creating the false impression that he left voluntarily in protest of our critical coverage of the mass surveillance, repression and penury imposed on citizens across the world under the guise of pandemic controls. In fact, I fired Ben for publicly attacking his colleagues - and particularly me - over our opposition to perpetual lockdowns and jab mandates. He thus violated an employment contract he signed, which explicitly forbade Grayzone contractors from attacking one another in public. This behavior followed a string of bizarre ethical breaches and came during a lengthy period in which Ben refused to work or communicate with me.

After being fired, Ben unilaterally seized control of numerous social media accounts belonging to The Grayzone. He also seized the YouTube and Patreon accounts dedicated to our shared Moderate Rebels podcast. Ben then initiated a shocking bait-and-switch scheme, attempting to reappropriate these accounts to establish a new outlet, “Multipolarista,” which was exclusively under his control. (That outlet was rebranded this January as the “Geopolitics and Economy Report.”) In doing so, he deceived the public, stole intellectual property belonging to the organization which had employed him for over three years, defrauded supporters of Moderate Rebels, and violated a written agreement with me to share earnings from our podcast.

According to our original written agreement to split earnings from Moderate Rebels, Ben and I each received approximately $3000 per month. Since absconding with our podcast’s Patreon account in January 2022, I estimate that Ben has received $70,000 I would have been entitled to. I was only able to re-establish control of The Grayzone’s social media properties by delivering Ben a cease and desist letter[.] ... Ben was so determined to avoid legal and public accountability for his actions - and I was so averse to public drama - that we began a mediation process. This ultimately resulted in him agreeing to relinquish control of all social media accounts except for the Patreon belonging to Moderate Rebels. Following the conclusion of the moderation process, Ben deployed yet another cynical deception, suggesting in a final message to YouTube subscribers of Moderate Rebels that he had somehow been censored. ... [A]nother broken contract amid a string of criminal schemes. When I terminated Ben’s position at The Grayzone, I emphasized to him that if he had been so indignant about his colleagues’ views on the pandemic, he could have resigned on respectful terms and retained our support for his future ventures. (I never once demanded he take my line on the issue as a condition for collaborating with me). I also reminded him how I found him work at AlterNet after he was let go by Salon dot com, [sic] then arranged another job for him after our positions ended there. And I recalled how I arranged legal support for Ben after we were hit with a malicious SLAPP suit relating to his work.[66]

Norton wrote in response:

After I left The Grayzone over his opportunist right-wing turn, he hired a corporate lawyer to threaten to sue me. Note: Later, WE SIGNED LEGAL TERMS OF RESOLUTION, overseen by his attorney. Why did he threaten such an absurd lawsuit? I had created social media accounts for a podcast that we co-hosted but which I singlehandedly produced, edited, and promoted; I always ran those accounts, and he never had access.[67] Why did I leave The Grayzone? Well it's obviously run by an unstable megalomaniac with no coherent principles. ... Blumenthal and his wife are so close to racist reactionary Tucker Carlson, they invite him to their house for dinner. They have long abandoned any pretense of being on the left and are opportunist contrarians who believe in nothing other than self-aggrandizement.[1] ... Before the 2022 US midterm elections, The Grayzone promoted far-right 'MAGA' candidates such as the shady Trump-endorsed Republican Joe Kent, a former Green Beret who joined the CIA. Talk about losing the plot. It's beyond parody.[68]

Blumenthal also posted a video, apparently from July 2023, from an incident in which he (with Anya Parampil) accosts Ben Norton on a random bus in Nicaragua. He yelled at Norton about the above-mentioned disputes for at least two minutes.[69] Blumenthal was supported in the split by Caleb Maupin (who claimed Norton's "eyes look possessed"),[70] Maram Susli (who mentions Norton's opposition to the Russian fascist Aleksandr Dugin),[71] Jackson Hinkle (no comment necessary),[72] and perhaps most strangely, conservative Twitter influencer Ian Miles Cheong.[73] Norton was supported by Marxist-Leninist pundit BadEmpanada,[74] as well as much of r/socialism.[75]

In a nutshell[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. As Max Blumenthal has ties to RT and the Kremlin, and The Grayzone is rather opaque about its sources of funding, some believe that the Russian government funds it.
  2. Further, Wales's personal political views have trended more centrist in recent years. He described himself as a centrist in 2017, was a staffer on Lawrence Lessig's brief 2016 presidential campaign, and in 2011 even expressed sympathy for Occupy Wall Street. If they were aware of these facts, The Grayzone has evidently chosen to omit them when describing Wales's ideology because it does not fit their narrative.
  3. While indeed there are numerous alt-right opportunists hijacking a popular cause for their own ends, their mostly only online support is used invalidate and distract from the fact that millions of Hongkongers protested.
  4. The Grayzone thinks it's a Chinese sounding name.
  5. They are not exactly wrong though. Wikileaks claims that CANVAS has US government funding.
  6. Note that the top comment cites Globalresearch. A reminder of the average intelligence of Grayzone readers.
  7. The reason why the Wuhan lab theory was stupid was because it had natural DNA. The US lab theory is just as stupid.
  8. While the Taiwanese government technically didn't warn anyone from the onset, and rather asked WHO for confirmation of human to human transmissionWikipedia but was ignored, it is used in a way to dismiss Taiwan's successful containment of the virus.
  9. The timing was likely due to the fact that Norton had a friendly interview with a mainland Chinese reporter that was published the day before, and it was mentioned that Norton was himself moving to China.[65]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ben Norton (October 5, 2023). "Why did I leave The Grayzone? ..." Twitter, via the Wayback Machine.
  2. "Contributors to The Grayzone". The Grayzone. Lists amount of articles written per name (Norton is listed under two versions of his name, and wrote the most of any).
  4. 4.0 4.1 Di Giovanni, Janine (October 16, 2018). "Why Assad and Russia Target the White Helmets". The New York Review of Books. "Blumenthal went to Moscow on a junket to celebrate RT’s tenth anniversary. We don’t know what happened during that visit, but afterward, Blumenthal’s views completely flipped." 
  5. Joshua Collins (February 10, 2020). "Grayzone, Grifters and the Cult of Tank". Muros Invisibles, via Medium.
  8. Justin Baragona (January 19th, 2017). Jake Tapper Delivers Knockout in Response to RT America Anchor Criticizing CNN’s Coverage. Mediaite.
  9. Emilio Casalicchio (August 28, 2022). "How a retired MI6 boss, his Brexiteer friends and a celebrity Marxist became targets in Russia’s war on Ukraine". Politico.
  10. Nicolas Camut (July 20, 2023). "Scoop! Why Ben from Ben & Jerry's Blames America for War in Ukraine". Politico. Quote: "I spoke to Aaron Maté, the Canadian-born journalist who won the award for 'defense reporting and analysis' that Cohen was instrumental in funding. ... His reports suggest the Syrian government may not have been responsible for a 2018 chemical weapon attack on civilians, and he has briefed the U.N. Security Council at Moscow’s invitation."
  11. (March 24, 2023). "Remarks by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at 'Arria-formula' meeting of UNSC members on risks stemming from politicization of the activities of the OPCW". Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations. Quote: "In this connection, we highly appreciate the activities of our second briefer for today, Mr.Aaron Maté..."
  12. "Laureates". Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism. (Archived).
  13. Julie Carr Smyth (April 25, 2018). "Ohio governor's race feud grows over Kucinich's Syria work". The Associated Press. Quote: "...the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees, the parent group to the pro-Assad Syrian Solidarity Movement."
  14. Charles Davis (September 30, 2019). "Pro-Assad Lobby Group Rewards Bloggers On Both The Left And The Right". Bellingcat.
  15. Brian Whitaker (July 3, 2021). "Prizes galore! Assad supporters win awards for 'integrity' – with help from a piano tuner in California".
  16. (2019). "ASSOCIATION FOR INVESTMENT IN POPULAR ACTION COMMITTEES: 2019 Form 990 Filing", p. 30. Internal Revenue Service.
  17. News site editor’s ties to Iran, Russia show misinformation’s complexity: Experts say an overlap in funding underscores concern that the spread of falsehoods and propaganda online is entering a more complicated stage as the November election draws closer. by Joseph Menn (June 2, 2024 at 9:05 a.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
  18. Ben Norton (June 10, 2020). "Wikipedia formally censors The Grayzone as regime-change advocates monopolize editing". The Grayzone. Article written by an author who later left The Grayzone.
  19. (December 2019). "RfC: Grayzone". Wikipedia.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal (June 11, 2020). "Meet Wikipedia’s Ayn Rand-loving founder and Wikimedia Foundation’s regime-change operative CEO". The Grayzone.
  21. Jeffrey Goldberg (December 7, 2011). "Did Israel Train American Interrogators in Torture? (UPDATED)". The Atlantic.
  22. Charles Davis (October 4, 2018). "In Nicaragua, Torture Is Used to Feed 'Fake News'". The Daily Beast.
  23. Dan La Botz (July 12, 2019). "Against the GrayZone Slanders". New Politics.
  24. Promise Li (January 20, 2020). "No to Chinese Authoritarianism, No to 'Yellow Peril'". Democratic Left, Democratic Socialists of America.
  25. (August 2019). "On the reliability of The Grayzone". Wikipedia.
  26. Alexey Kovalyov (November 16, 2023). "Hey @aaronjmate, I'll give you another chance to respond. You can confirm the authenticity of this exchange with @kitklarenberg. Is it standard practice for @TheGrayzoneNews contributors to collaborate with the Russian Ministry of Justice and other federal agencies?" Twitter, via
  27. Aaron Maté (November 17, 2023). "I asked Kit and he has no record of this email and can't remember writing it, which leads us to suspect that it's fabricated. ..." Twitter, via
  28. Alexey Kovalyov (November 17, 2023). "Oh, that's how you want to play this? Here's an unredacted screenshot of my inbox with both mine and Kit's emails clearly seen (they're in both our Twitter profiles). You want the .eml file or shall we consider this particular matter settled?" Twitter, via
  29. Aaron Maté (November 17, 2023). "Yes, send me the .eml file. You fabricate claims constantly so there's no reason to trust you. ..." Twitter, via
  30. Aaron Maté (November 17, 2023). "Ok thanks for sending. I withdraw my suspicion that you fabricated it. You lie so much about GZ that it was plausible. ..." Twitter, via
  31. Alexey Kovalyov (November 20, 2023). "At this point I'm going assume you agree with me on this, so let's move on @aaronjmate. Can we also establish that @KitKlarenberg misled you when he claimed in response to your inquiry that he had no recollection of that email? Because it's not the first time I raised this issue." Twitter.
  33. [1] by Matthew Dimitri (11:16 PM · May 17, 2020) Twitter (archived from April 9, 2021).
  37. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian (August 11, 2020). "The American blog pushing Xinjiang denialism". Axios.
  42. P.P.S.: CGTN chides the @CHRDnet study for estimating 1 million detainees based on only 8 interviews. Indeed a tiny sample size. But ironically, the internment shares estimated by those 8 locals are not far off from the internment shares reported by 3 townships, also from Kashgar by Adrian Zenz (3:43 PM · Dec 30, 2019) Twitter (archived from January 1, 2020).
  43. Zenz is quite forthcoming about how he comes to his conclusions. His writing is standard for peer-reviewed academic work, which it doesn't seem like either Grayzone author has read much of. Most of his (dozens or hundreds of) references are gov. reports and state journalism. by Ben Mauk (6:09 AM - 27 Jul 2020) Twitter (archived from July 27, 2020).
  44. ウイグル絶望収容所の収監者数は89万人以上 by 水谷尚子 (Naoko Mizutani) (March 3, 2018) Newsweek Japan.
  46. Actual swastika tattoos, just in case you were left in any doubt these are actual neo-nazis. by Hong Kong Hermit (6:31 AM · Dec 2, 2019) Twitter (archived from November 22, 2020).
  48. what is it with blumao and a general lack of knowledge? Kern's alias sounds Tibetan, not Chinese. by @OldChinaBland (6:46 AM - 13 Aug 2020) Twitter (archived from August 13, 2020).
  53. Anyone falling for this extremely stupid Belarus coup propaganda probably still thinks Saddam Hussein was hiding "WMDs" Because protesters often just "spontaneously" chant the name of CIA-backed US govt propaganda outlets. That's totally normal and organic. Nothing to see here! by Benjamin Norton (6:57 AM · Aug 16, 2020) Twitter (archived from August 16, 2020).
  54. That’s not what they are chanting.. they are chanting “give us freedom!”.. you might want to ask someone who speaks Russian to translate by Igor Sshatz (7:34 AM - 16 Aug 2020) Twitter (archived from August 16, 2020).
  57. The spokesperson from China's Foreign Ministry is publicly saying the US army might have brought coronavirus to Wuhan, which held the 2019 Military World Games in October, just before the outbreak began by Benjamin Norton (11:10 AM · Mar 12, 2020) Twitter (archived from March 12, 2020).
  59. On the Zero Hour with RJ Eskow, Max Blumenthal pushes conspiracy theory that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation predicted the novel coronavirus. by Matthew Dimitri (1:33 AM - 31 May 2020) Twitter (archived from May 31, 2020).
  63. "Monty Python - Life of Brian - PFJ Splitters". YouTube.
  64. (January 27, 2022). "Ben Norton left The GrayZone". Empire Media.
  65. Li Jingjing (October 3, 2023). "China's rise and the changing global order | Ben Norton & Li Jingjing". YouTube.
  66. 66.0 66.1 Max Blumenthal (October 4, 2023). "Enough silence. The criminal schemes of Ben "Bait-and-Switch" Norton must be known. ..." Twitter, via the Wayback Machine.
  67. Ben Norton (October 5, 2023). "Max Blumenthal constantly lies. ..." Twitter, via the Wayback Machine.
  68. Ben Norton (October 5, 2023). "Here's just one of many shameful examples..." Twitter, via the Wayback Machine.
  69. Max Blumenthal (October 4, 2023). "After Ben violated the terms of our mediation agreement, I decided to break my silence about his deceptions and financial crimes. ..." Twitter (mirrored here).
  70. Caleb Maupin (October 5, 2023). "I was on a bus with Ben Norton in Nicaragua for many hours and he never acknowledged or even spoke to me or any of our CPI members, including a Transwoman. ..." Twitter, via
  71. Maram Susli (October 6, 2023). "Max actually cares about ending wars. Ben Norton purity spirals over ideology, lest we forget his statements after Dugina’s murder. In the end he had liberal tendencies." Twitter, via
  72. Jackson Hinkle (October 4, 2023). "So happy the truth finally came out about the criminal Ben Norton. He stole from you and The Grayzone after you gave him so much when he really needed support. This dude is a total asshole!" Twitter, via
  73. Ian Miles Cheong (October 5, 2023). "Same thing happened to me some years ago, with someone with a serious drug problem that he hid from me for months. ..." Twitter, via
  74. BadEmpanada Live (February 16, 2022). "The Grayzone BREAKS UP! Ben Norton Leaves, Regains Sanity - The Sino-Soviet Split of Our Age". YouTube.
  75. "Thoughts on the Ben Norton vs Max Blumenthal fiasco happening on Twitter right now?". r/socialism, on Reddit.