Anatomy of a Glenn Greenwald Smear Job (updated)
(This is a repost of an article I published on September 15, 2011, with a shocking update! I’m reposting it because he is currently attacking other bloggers — including me — in the same style.)
I’m not a huge fan of Glenn Greenwald. There are many reasons why I dislike the man and his writings, but the main ones are his dishonesty and hyperbolic rhetoric. I only read him when I’m tipped off to something particularly crazy.
I’ll be honest and say that when he was assaulting the Bush administration, I was cheering him on. But even then, I noticed that Greenwald played loose with the facts and exaggerated things beyond recognition (Warning, right-wing link). So even though it was aimed at Bush, it still left a bad taste in my mouth. Lying and misleading is a Republican thing, but of course, anyone who knows about Greenwald, knows that he is a libertarian (civil, LOL) and doesn’t vote.
I was searching Google one day and came across an article in The Nation titled “A Response to Glenn Greenwald“, written by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine. Of course, I had to click on it. In recent years, Greenwald has become an example of how — with the growth of the internet — people have been given platforms who don’t deserve it and don’t have enough integrity to wield such power. Glenn Greenwald has shown time and time again that he is vicious in his attacks on people and uses every sleazy rhetorical technique known to humans to push his narrative. He is completely anti-Obama, anti-government and anti-Democratic Party. He used to be anti-Republican Party during the Bush years and that is when he established some false credibility with the left.
I did a study of his posts on Salon.com for a period of just over a month. What I found was — out of 43 posts, 38 of them were anti-Obama and the remaining 5 were about something non political. There were zero posts that attacked Republicans. ZERO! I guess the GOP hasn’t done anything recently that has upset Glenn.
If you want to experience the full impact of Glenn Greenwald’s hyperbole and over-the-top rhetoric, I suggest you read things in the order that I did. None of the articles are extremely long, with the exception of Glenn’s and his many updates, so it shouldn’t take that long. But you can certainly just keep reading here, too.
I first read the response to Glenn Greenwald from Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, the subjects of Glenn’s scorn. I then went and read the original piece they had written that upset Greenwald so much. And finally, I read Greenwald’s wild-eyed screed, laying into the two people who wrote the offending piece.
The first article linked above was a “self defense” piece by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, who wrote about the TSA body scanners and the “If you touch my junk” guy, John Tyner. Remember, he was the one who recorded himself going through security and telling the TSA agent “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” The article was about how the Koch brothers and people connected to them are behind a campaign against the TSA procedures. The piece starts with John Tyner, and explores whether he may be connected in some way to the Koch brothers crusade. They made implications, for sure, but they also printed Tyner’s denial of any connection to the Koch brothers and even some of his philosophy and left it at that. To me, that automatically makes the article NOT a smear job. I mean really, how good of a smear job is it if you let the target respond. They never actually accused him of anything.
Glenn Greenwald shows us all how to really smear someone.
After using Tyner as a lead in, Ames and Levine went on to detail the connections of other TSA protesters to the Koch brothers. As I read it, I didn’t perceive it as a hit piece on Tyner. Like I said, they let him defend himself. You can certainly judge for yourself. I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever read anything where Glenn Greenwald let someone defend themselves. Greenwald, as you will see, goes completely nuts on the authors.
Now whether you agree with what the TSA is doing or not, the article was interesting in that it showed quite a lot of evidence to suggest that the Koch brothers are behind some of the “grassroots” uprising about the TSA. The authors of the article are familiar with the Koch brothers, having exposed their funding and promoting of another grassroots uprising — the Tea Party.
The title of Greenwald’s piece is just dripping with irony, IMO — “Anatomy of a journalistic smear job“. I imagine my piece will be considered a smear job, of a smear job, of a smear job. Lots of smearing happening here.
I’ll get into the details of Glenn’s over-the-top piece below, but I want to remind you that the bulk of the article, which he completely ignored, was about the Koch-brother-connected astroturf activities with regards to the TSA. Glenn doesn’t even mention that part of the article, but I guess that wasn’t the goal of his piece. I can only speculate about what it was that set Glenn off and caused him to reveal his extreme pettiness and vindictiveness.
I recently read that Greenwald was fine with the Citizen’s United decision that gave corporations citizenship and free reign to wreak havoc on our political system. When you think about it, it makes sense, since Greenwald is more interested in bringing down our system than improving it or working within it. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Greenwald is associated with the CATO Institute, which is partially funded by the Koch brothers.
Ames and Levine wrote a pretty fair piece, an example of good journalism in my eyes. Greenwald’s characterization of the article as a “smear job” on John Tyner was way over the top. If you’ve read the above linked articles, I’m sure most people would agree. In their response to Glenn, the authors were big enough to admit that they did imply that Tyner set up the whole TSA incident, but they didn’t imply that he was connected to the Koch brothers. The thing they did mention was the timing of his protest, coming so close to another incident that WAS connected to the Koch’s and the fact that Tyner runs a blog that preaches libertarian ideas. They really leave it to the reader to decide, which is about the most you can ask of any journalist these days. But Glenn did not see it that way at all. Holy shit.
Greenwald begins his smear job with a reference to how liberals are usually subjected to the kind of treatment a 12 year old girl received from Michelle Malkin. It’s a great set up for someone who loves to pretend he is a liberal. It lays the foundation for the piece and sets up the outrage in the readers mind – that he then goes on to exploit. Glenn follows that up with this characterization of the article.
Today, The Nation — a magazine which generally offers very good journalism — subjects John Tyner to similar treatment, with such a shoddy, fact-free, and reckless hit piece (by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine) that I’m genuinely surprised its editors published it.
In typical Greenwald fashion, he projects ideas and opinions onto the targets of his assault that have nothing to do with what was actually said. He is a master at that. Check out this characterization…
…is devoted to the claim that those objecting to the new TSA procedures — such as Tyner — are not what they claim to be. Rather, they are Koch-controlled plants deliberately provoking and manufacturing a scandal — because, after all, what real American in their right mind would do anything other than meekly submit with gratitude and appreciation to these procedures?
The authors didn’t say anything even close to what Greenwald characterized, that was simply red meat to his readers. In fact, in the second paragraph, the article says the opposite of what Glenn projected onto them.
While this issue is certainly important—and offensive—to Americans, we are nonetheless skeptical about how and why this story turned into a national movement.
After making that outrageous claim, Greenwald then uses the author’s first paragraph to justify his bold statement. He refers to the quotation marks around “ordinary guy” as scare quotes. Shit, I thought they were “air” quotes. If I had the time, I’m sure I could go through Greenwald’s writing and find many instances when he himself uses “scare quotes”. I personally use them to emphasize things. It is “very” common to use them. Pretty scary, huh?
Greenwald, a little later in the piece, says this…(emphasis mine)
They follow up their evidence-free innuendo in the opening paragraph with even stronger accusatory claims in the second: Tyner, they strongly imply without directly accusing him, is a “Koch-related libertarian” and a “Washington lobbyist and PR operative posing as [an] ‘ordinary citizen’,” and his outrage over what was done to him is “fake.” The implicit accusations and innuendo are piling up while the evidence remains non-existent.
If you read the piece, you know that they never accused Tyner of being a “Koch-related libertarian” or a “Washington lobbyist and PR operative…”….Glenn tries to make that connection for us. As I said, the authors printed John Tyner’s denial of it. If that isn’t being fair, I don’t know what is. I propose that Greenwald’s words smear John Tyner much more than Ames and Levine.
Glenn then takes issue with the following paragraph.
So far, all we know about “ordinary guy” John Tyner III, the freedom fighter who took on the TSA agents, is that, according to a friendly hometown profile in the San Diego Union-Tribune, “he leans strongly libertarian and doesn’t believe in voting. TSA security policy, he asserts ‘isn’t Republican and it isn’t Democratic’.” [emphasis added]
Tyner attended private Christian schools in Southern California and lives in Oceanside, a Republican stronghold next to Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps base on the West Coast.
The above two paragraphs were about the extent to which they talked about Tyner personally. The majority of the piece was about others with direct ties to the Koch brothers and lots of evidence of it. Notice how the authors quote the San Diego Union-Tribune, which Ames and Levine get lambasted for, as if they had written it. Glenn, you should at least attack the right people if you are going to act a fool about background information. And it is described as a friendly hometown profile, those “insidious” friendly hometown profilers. This is how Greenwald characterizes that background info from the friendly hometown paper.
These two paragraphs — the heart of the case against Tyner — are insidious. By their own admission, this is “all [they] know” about Tyner: he has failed to swear his loyalty to one of the two major political parties, a grievous sin worthy of deep suspicion.
“By their own admission”….Greenwald loves to use that phrase, it carries it’s own set of implications. In this case, the authors are being straightforward with the reader, but that of course it is used against them by Greenwald. He then goes on to extrapolate from the newspaper quote – that what the authors were saying, not the actual writer of the quote, but the people who reprinted it — is that Tyner “has failed to swear his loyalty to one of the two major political parties, a grievous sin worthy of deep suspicion.” Now that’s some serious projecting of Glenn’s own warped interpretations onto others. Merely mentioning that he is a libertarian is tantamount to calling him pure evil, in Glenn’s mind, anyway. Victim mentality for 200, Alex.
Oh, there’s more. Glenn Greenwald continues his rant based on the newspaper quote and it’s here that he goes completely over the edge. It gives us a peek at his mentality. More over-the-top projection from the master…
He refuses — correctly — to view TSA extremism as the by-product of either party. Worse, he doesn’t believe in voting — a fringe and radical position in which he’s joined by merely half of the entire American citizenry (65% in midterm years), 130 million voting-age Americans who — surveying the choices — also apparently see no reason to bother voting. What kind of strange person would fail to find great inspiration from one of America’s two Great Political Parties or refuse to see the world exclusively through a Democrat v. GOP prism? More suspiciously still, he went to “private Christian schools” as a child and resides in a community that has a lot of Republicans in it; why, his neighborhood is even near a Marine base! This is clearly no “ordinary guy.”
I don’t know where to start with that part of the diatribe. I think the majority of people who don’t vote are just plain fucking lazy and don’t want to drag their asses down to the voting booth and stand in line. Or they just don’t bother paying attention to politics, we all know people like that. I’m sure some believe like Greenwald and Tyner, but to characterize them all as believing what Glenn says…is, well, fucking crazy.
Being called a libertarian is apparently not cool with Greenwald. The mere mention of the word means the author is implying they are a “strange person…who would fail to find great inspiration from….Great Political Parties (ed. note: why he capitalizes that, I don’t know)…”. How does pointing out that Tyner went to private christian schools, lived in a Republican area and near a military base prove that he ISN’T an “ordinary guy”? That sounds pretty ordinary to me. Only in the mind of Glenn Greenwald can “scare quotes” and giving innocuous background on a person be the end of the fucking world and proof that the authors were doing a smear job. Greenwald clearly has some issues. I took the ordinary guy “scare quotes” to mean that — because he was a libertarian blogger, he may not be that ordinary. And when you add the fact that he turned on his recording device before entering the TSA screening area, that he may not have just been an “ordinary” passenger, but someone who had an agenda. I think that’s a fair implication. But Greenwald, of course, doesn’t quite see it that way.
Now if you thought Glenn had gone far enough with his exaggeration of the friendly profile quote, you’d be wrong. The next paragraph starts with this line, taking it even further…
As for his standing accused by The Nation of suspicion on the grounds of his avowed libertarianism
Just to recap, Ames and Levine directly quote the hometown newspaper and say he is a libertarian, doesn’t believe in voting, and says he doesn’t think the TSA issue is a Democratic or Republican issue. And then they go on to reprint that he went to Christian schools and lived in a predominantly Republican area, near a military base. Oh, and they “admitted” that they didn’t know much more about him.
Greenwald interprets all of that as “innuendo”, “accusatory”, “smearing” and that the respected authors implied that Tyner is a “Koch-related libertarian”, a “Washington lobbyist and PR operative posing as [an] ‘ordinary citizen’,” and that his outrage over what was done to him was fake. All of that from the background info and the “scare quotes” around the word ordinary. Wow!
But then Glenn takes it even further. He accuses the The Nation of accusing the guy of “suspicion on the grounds of his avowed libertarianism.” To which I would say, suspicion based on the fact that he recorded himself going through the TSA screening, posted it on the internet, runs a libertarian blog and it was two days after another incident that was Koch connected. There is reason to be suspicious of the guy, but the authors did a more than fair job of giving him a rebuttal. This is clearly an appeal to Katrina vanden Heuval who ended up publishing an apology and kissing Greenwald’s ass, for some reason. I might have to forward my article to her, maybe she won’t be so quick to throw her writers under the bus the next time Glenn goes nuts on one of them.
Who is doing the smear job here, Glenn, or the people he is accusing. Because Glenn made much worse accusations against Tyner than Ames and Levine.
It’s clear that they were questioning whether John Tyner was another of the Koch-brother-connected protesters, but were very fair with him. My sense, considering what Greenwald put in his updates, is that he is more concerned with the attack on libertarians than he is with John Tyner, who put the video up on Youtube for the world to see. If you are going to record yourself and put it out there for the world, you better be prepared to be questioned about your motives. And merely questioning someones motives shouldn’t prompt such a horrible attack (smear job) like the one that Greenwald levied on Mark Ames and Yasha Levine.
So it turns out Glenn Greenwald wasn’t revealing all the facts when he wrote that screed attacking Ames and Levine. Check this out, the emphasis is mine…
The Nation apologized to Tyner (but did not retract the piece), and the only reason why the Nation apologized was because it was forced to by a hysterical campaign led by Glenn Greenwald and his libertarian comrades. The Nation apologized without knowing that Greenwald was privately coaching Tyner at the time that Greenwald attacked Ames and Levine’s article in The Nation. We repeat: Greenwald was coaching Tyner, according to email threads leaked to The eXiled, and Greenwald did not disclose this. Why didn’t Glenn Greenwald disclose his relationship to John Tyner?
Moreover, Tyner has since admitted that he deceived the public and that he had in fact planned his “Don’t Touch My Junk” stunt–the Nation apology was based on believing Tyner hadn’t planned his “Don’t Touch My Junk” stunt. Did Glenn Greenwald know that Tyner was deceiving the public when he claimed he hadn’t planned his “Don’t Touch My Junk” stunt? If so, why didn’t Greenwald disclose this? Why didn’t Glenn Greenwald disclose his own deep libertarian ties, and ties to the Koch-founded Cato Institute, going back several years, when Greenwald attacked our article exposing the Koch-funded libertarians leading and fronting the anti-TSA media hysteria? Why hasn’t Glenn Greenwald apologized for not disclosing his conflict-of-interest? Also, John Tyner has come out in favor of privatizing the TSA, against unions, against gay marriage, against drug legalization and as a follower of racist libertarian Murray Rothbard, promoter of David Duke’s candidacy, contradicting the progressive Jimmy Stewart image that Greenwald painted in his article defending the Koch-linked libertarians behind the anti-TSA media hysteria.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.