Friday, December 20, 2013

Calling out Glenn Greenwald.

Wait, what was that?  Calling out Glenn Greenwald?

Yes.  You read that right.  And I'm talking about a legitimate calling-out, too--not the playbook-regurgitated tripe that you'd expect from the various flavors of American Exceptionalism.

I've been following, with some interest, Arthur Silber's recent work on this topic (which seemed to start back in June, here and here), and as much admiration as I have for Greenwald's work (and I do), Silber's core point cannot be denied.  He articulated it in October, this way (emphasis in original):

...Greenwald, together with the other journalists to whom he has granted access to the Snowden documents and who abide by his ground rules, is engaged in precisely the same exercise of power that the State employs. Yet Greenwald continues to vehemently condemn the State's exercise of such power, just as he condemns those who obey the State's edicts, while he and his enthusiastic fans view his identical exercise of power in glowing terms, offering endless praise for the "bravery," "courage" and "independence" demonstrated by those who bring us these carefully selected, sanitized, edited, and redacted tidbits from the documentation of the State's actions and crimes.

Silber makes this case by illustrating the substantive differences between WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden (emphasis in original), of which this is just an excerpt:

...WikiLeaks' methodology stands in stark contrast to that used by the journalists to whom Edward Snowden gave his document trove. These journalists insist that filtering of the "raw" documents is indispensable to understanding by the otherwise untutored (and, presumably, unwashed) public. These journalists will first select which documents we will be permitted to see, and which we won't (which is most of them). But that is far from sufficient in the view of these journalists, who are gifted with powers of understanding and judgment far exceeding the abilities of us ordinary schmucks. We are told that the Snowden documents are "difficult" and "complex." Therefore, when we are allowed an occasional glimpse of carefully selected documents, these journalists will explain to us what we should think of them, and what conclusions we are entitled to reach. These self-appointed authorities are genuinely dedicated to the role they have granted themselves: they will guide us in every step we take. Our "protectors" will guard from all the dangers that might unleash chaos resulting in the immediate implosion of the rigid structures that narrowly circumscribe our lives: an original thought, a unique perspective, an unexpected insight.

You can see where he's going with this.  And while it's not that I want him to be right about it--Greenwald seems to make for a truly excellent hero in many respects--I sure can't see where he's wrong.  (As with so much of Silber's work, you don't so much read it as confront it--which is what makes it some of the most useful writing available today.)

And if I'm understanding events properly, Greenwald just seems to be serving himself up perfectly according to the very script he seems to have spent so long railing against.  For anyone who does bother to look beyond his past laurels and view his current actions critically, it ain't lookin' so good for Glenn Greenwald.  (Emphasis and links in original.)

If there is a single general theme to Glenn Greenwald's career as a journalist, it is that he constantly confronts and challenges power and those who exercise power, primarily in the political sphere. Greenwald himself has often proclaimed this to be his major concern, and he repeated this conviction in a recent interview: "I came to believe if you’re smart, skilled, and have the resources, you should use those things to fuck with the powerful.”

So challenging power and those individuals who exercise power is a positive good, one of critical significance. Indeed, if you are able to do so, you should "fuck with the powerful."

Pierre Omidyar is a multibillionaire. On Fortune magazine's list of "The World's Billionaires," Omidyar appears as number 123. Fortune describes that article as follows: "The names, numbers and stories behind the 1,426 people who control the world economy." At 123, Omidyar is very high on the list of people who control the world economy.

Look, I'm hardly against the idea of wealth honestly earned, but even if Omidyar is just exactly, precisely that, still:  that's painfully ironic and Greenwald has got to know that.  (For anyone who isn't yet up on the Omidyar connection, see here and here.  The short story is that he seems to want to make GG into some sort of large-scale franchise.)

Nor does it help that the State seems to have found a perfect comfort with Greenwald's "filtered leaks" strategy.  Rather than offer a quote from the article, I'll just use Silber's title, which says it all:  The Establishment Makes Big, Sloppy Love to the Snowden Leaks.  Again, more than worth a RTWT.

As much as I hate to admit it, as a whole this stinks pretty big.   I wanted to believe better, but with Master so content, chaos replaced with subjective "management", and what leaking there actually is backseated for books and branding deals...

...well, it'll take something pretty spectacular to recover from that.  I don't think I have that much more breath left to hold.

1 comment:

MamaLiberty said...

Indeed... I've been quite disappointed with Wikileaks, actually. Seemed to be going well at first, but nothing much from them lately and they've shown feet of clay as well. Never did expect much from Snowden... seemed like a nice enough geek, but rather clueless. Probably was manipulated into most of what he's done, rather than being the instigator of it.

Don't trust "journalists" much... never did. I suspect that lies and propaganda came with the very first run of the press, and I don't think the average "town crier" was immune.

So... what did we expect?