The Ideological Failure Of The Young Turks

Robbie Jaeger
10 min readAug 18, 2019


How Corporate Money and Hypocrisy turned TYT into MSM

Information is the most valuable commodity on Earth. This has been, and continues to be, proven time and time again. The elites of the world are where they are because somewhere along the line, they gained control over the flow of information; they dictated what to tell, who to tell, and most frighteningly, if they should tell at all. The “Haves” keep the “Have Nots” in the dark — so, naturally, they search for a light switch. People are constantly searching for a source of news that hasn’t been contaminated by the influence of those who would want us to remain ignorant, an outlet where advertising revenue takes a back burner to the virtue of the message. For 17 years, millions of people have tuned in to The Young Turks because they thought they had found just that. Cenk Uygur’s creation appeared like a beacon of hope for “Independent Media” that shone it’s light on all the ugliness that hides in the shadows on both sides of the aisle. They tore down Republicans and took centrist Democrats to task on a regular basis. They rallied against lobbyists and corporations that have bought their way into the halls of Congress. “The Home of Progressives” — that’s what they call themselves. But what happens when the well of independence runs dry? Do you drink from the overflowing cups of the establishment that you’ve spent a lifetime rallying against? If you’re Uygur, the answer was disappointingly “yes”, and it begs another question: Is it possible to do so without compromising your fundamentals?

In August of 2017, Cenk Uygur struck a deal for $20 million in funding, partly from big time Clinton backer Jeffrey Katzenberg, but it wasn’t the first time he had done so. Three years earlier, Uygur received a $4 million investment from former Republican Governor of Louisiana Buddy Roemer. People scratched their heads. How could a conservative be funding a progressive network? It didn’t appear to change the message however, and TYT continued to rage against the machine. What largely went unnoticed at the time is that another member was added to the TYT board: Kenan Turnacioglu, a limited partner at venture capitalist firm Pointstate Capital. By the time the 2016 election rolled around, Turnacioglu and his firm were throwing money behind their interests, and they were anything but progressive. Turnacioglu himself donated $3,000 to Hillary Clinton — in the primary. He also donated $2,700 to John Kasich, and $10,000 to Cenk Uygur’s WolfPAC. Interestingly enough, Turnacioglu’s boss — Pointstate’s chairman — donated $36,000 to Clinton in 2016, $25,000 to then-Speaker Richard Boehner, and even $2,700 to Chris Christie. Think about that. A member of The Young Turks’ board was actively donating to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Primary, a time when Bernie Sanders needed all the help he could get against a media and party that rigged the game against him. As it turns out, TYT is connected and financed by the very people who they claim to oppose, and it permeates throughout the network.

Before Turnacioglu came along, Uygur had been joined on the board by Jam City founder Josh Yguado. Prior to founding the startup, Yguado served as the Vice President of FOX Networks Group from ’04 to ’09. His wife was head of FOX International Studios, eventually leaving to lead the Event Series department at Amazon Studios. The more you examine the power structure, the more obviously corporate it appears to become. TYT has fought agianst Mainstream Media for years — but is there really anything that sets them apart on a fundamental level? The Young Turks’ senior and upper level staff has become a revolving door of corporate media lifers, such as Managing Editor and Executive Producer Jonathan Larsen. Larsen was an Executive Producer at Al-Jazeera, and prior to that worked in the same role for some pretty big names at some of the most prominent news outlets in the country. His credits include being producer for Anderson Cooper 360, Rachel Maddow’s Air America radio show, “Up” with Chris Hayes and “Countdown” with Keith Olbermann. The man who has the most control over the editorial process at The Young Turks spent almost two decades working for CNN and MSNBC, and now they want viewers to trust his judgment when it comes to promoting the Progressive platform. It’s a tough pill to swallow. Almost every major network, including Walt Disney Studios, is represented in the backgrounds of the ones who work behind the scenes. For an “independent” institution, their management would fit right in at just about any corporate media company.

When The Young Turks got their $20 million dollars in August of 2017, all the buzz was about Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg — for good reason. Katzenberg himself donated almost $1,000,000 to Hillary Clinton and related PACs, and another $1,000,000 to Priorities USA in 2016. That same cycle, Dreamworks employees donated almost $400,000 to establishment Democrats — Clinton ($30,000), Chuck Schumer ($21,600), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz ($21,600) and Kamala Harris ($16,350) took home the most that year. Bernie Sanders managed to grab $1,197 — for his Senate run. That number went up during the 2018 midterms, with Dreamworks employees upping the ante to $550,000 donated with the top recipients being Elizabeth Warren ($19,000), Tim Kaine ($18,200) and Amy Kobluchar ($16,200). Wasserman-Schultz ($5,400) and Mitt Romney ($2,700) even got some love. Two cycles, almost $1,000,000 in donations; and the most progressive among the ranks, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard, got nothing. People were right to be concerned. This guy was going to fund the biggest outlet for the Progressive agenda? And while Katzenberg was eating up the headlines, smaller details of the investment seemingly flew under the radar, namely the fact that while Katzenberg is listed as a “Partner” on the deal, he is not listed as the “Primary Investor” according to CrunchBase. That honor belonged to a brand new investment firm, 3L Capital. In the deal, their founder Shawn Colo added his seat to the TYT board. Colo is a career equity investor and venture capitalist who got $100 million in funding from Goldman Sachs and started his own company, Demand Media (Leaf Group) in 2006. In 2016, Demand Media employees donated a meager $3,700 to campaigns, with less than $370 going to Bernie Sanders. Colo himself seems to favor establishment politicians, as indicated by a picture posted on social media of his significant other posing with Chuck Schumer. The caption read: “Our favorite Senator”. The hypocrisy of The Young Turks railing against Wall St. for years and then taking millions of dollars from a man who made all of his money from Goldman Sachs is palpable; and it should bother you.

The other major player in the $20 million investment was Greycroft, a very large and influential investment firm founded by none other that Alan Patricof, one of the most connected men in political finance sphere. He stayed at the White House while Bill Clinton was President. He was Hillary Clinton’s national finance chairman for both her ’08 and ’16 Presidential runs. His firm handles $1,250,000 of California Senator Dianna Feinstein’s wealth. Just how connected is Alan Patricof? Well, he even made it into Jeffrey Epstein’s “Black Book”. In 2016, Greycroft employees donated almost $68,000 to political campaigns; the vast majority to Clinton. Patricof himself donated almost $63,000 to Hillary and PACs that supported her. In both cases, Sanders got zero. 4 months after the massive investment, in December of 2016, TYT hired 30 year media veteran and executive Deanna Brown to a newly created President position. Brown had been VP of Yahoo and President of Scripps, to name just a few of her many upper level and executive positions at numerous major media companies. One such company was Lorne Michael’s Broadway Video, who hired Brown in April of 2017 to head up a ‘stealth project’ named “Sanctuary”. Sanctuary is/was an subscription based service that combines elements of astrology and social media, or at least is marketed as such. Sanctuary had one investment made of $1.5 million to fund it’s development. That investor? Greycroft. Deanna Brown left TYT last year, but it’s still kind of funny how things work out, isn’t it?

The Young Turks’ establishment infiltration may not be exclusive to the members of the board and the senior level staff, however; it also may be infecting the on-air talent. That brings us to Emma Vigeland. Vigeland is the daughter of two former US Attorneys, who were also both head of the Major Crimes division in a very major district. After prosecuting Wall St. for years, both parents found their way into defending Fortune 500 corporations against white collar crimes for very large and successful private firms. When 180 former federal prosecutors petitioned Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for a Special Counsel to oversee the Russia Investigation, both her parents were amongst their ranks. One of Vigeland’s parents in particular donated $20,000 in 2016, with $6,000 going to the Hillary Victory Fund during the primaries. She also donated $3,000 to Off the Sidelines PAC (listed recipient is Kamala Harris) and $2,700 to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Speaking of Gillibrand, in 2010, the same parent was a “Host” for a Gillibrand fundraising committee, meaning they either raised $2,500 or donated $2,400. The next year, Emma Vigeland was interning at the Offices of Senator Gillibrand. A few more years, and a few more summer internships followed, retail, law offices, and then as if it was magic — intern for TYT. When Vigeland says she was raised in an “establishment Democrat family”, she isn’t exaggerating. In fact, she’s probably understating it, and it seems to give way to hypocrisy and even cripples her ability to fully grasp the mindset she claims to embrace. This has become more and more apparent, especially through her recent commentary on Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, Congresswoman from Hawaii. Vigeland’s assertions that Gabbard is anti-LGBT (although her voting record tells a different story) because of her upbringing in an ultra-conservative household, and the ideological brainwashing that comes with being raised by an extremist. Her entire argument boils down to the premise that someone can’t rise above their upbringing. If that were true, then how can Emma Vigeland be trusted to stand up for Progressives? So, while it was nice for Vigeland to applaud her former boss for talking about privilege at the last Democratic Debates, one can’t help but wonder why she hasn’t addressed the subject more herself. It seems she would have a lot to teach us on the subject.

The Young Turks have a philosophical problem that cannot be ignored. For years, they’ve screamed about the dangers of money in politics, only to turn around and accept funding from the people throwing the money into politics. The whole premise stinks of hypocrisy. In a video meant to quell fears about the investments, Cenk Uygur brazenly says “Corporations aren’t people” as he glances up and down from a que-card with a look of feigned sincerity. This is a fallacy, and a patronizing one at that. Corporations do not start themselves. They do not employ themselves. They don’t develop their own business strategies, nor do they invest in themselves. People do all that. Corporations do, in fact, take on the persona and push the ideologies of their founders, executives, and their employees to an extent. Information is a big business, and money can and does by access and influence over it. We have seen it to be true. It’s the exact reason why campaign finance laws exist. Are we supposed to believe that money only has a corrosive effect on politics? Do they expect us to be as naive as to believe that business, and the people who control them, cannot be bought and sold? That’s ridiculous. As a society, we should be supremely skeptical of news media outlets who take funding from billionaires and venture capitalists, especially those whose money is thrown behind candidates that pose a threat to your ideology. Make no mistake, small donations from average people are a sign of support. Large donations from the elite and the coporations they inhabit are a sign of trying to buy favor and influence. This cannot be denied. The questions we should be asking ourselves is why would a bunch of establishment millionaires want to invest millions in an online news network that caters to Progressives, more specifically millennials? Sanders did win that vote over Clinton by a significant margin, and the divisiveness among the two sets of voters still lingers to this day. It would stand to reason that the political and information influence machine would want to get their hands on that demographic. There are hundreds of logical excuses for them to attempt to do so. TYT, from the ground up, is full of people who spent years working at senior and executive level positions in Morgan Stanley, Kaiser Permanente, Disney, MSNBC, Yahoo, CNN, and FOX. They’ve taken millions of dollars from the people who’ve propped up their movement’s greatest enemies, and told you that there’s nothing to see. One thing is clear: The Young Turks are not Independent.

The cost of selling out is going bankrupt in your principles.



Robbie Jaeger

Independent Investigative Journalist. Sociopolitical Critic. Following The Money Down The Rabbit Hole And Back Again.