I think back to when I first read one of his posts at Salon during the end of the Bush administration. He was railing against Bush at that time and I was certainly sympathetic to that sentiment. But as I read his pieces, I noticed that he exaggerated an awful lot and took leaps with his conclusions and that didn’t sit well with me. I was all for attacking Bush, but because I am a political junky and was pretty informed on things, I noticed the exaggerations and in some cases, blatant lies. I didn’t join in with others in praising his “journalism”.
It was many years later that I learned that Glenn Greenwald hadn’t always railed against President Bush. In fact, he supported Bush and the many horrible things he did in the wake of 9/11 including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as supporting Bush during the time when the Patriot Act was passed. In light of what he is saying now, it should speak volumes about his integrity. Glenn has written about those of us who point this out and his attempt to dismiss his support for Bush is pretty lame. Ben Cohen from The Daily Banter wrote about this, go read it and have a laugh at Greenwald’s expense. Ben gives Glenn way too much credit, in my opinion.
Like Ben, I’m happy that Glenn finally opened up his eyes and realized the error of his ways. A little context though, Glenn wasn’t exactly a young, naive lad when he “had not abandoned my trust in the Bush administration”, or “gave the administration the benefit of the doubt” or felt that President Bush was “entitled to have his national security judgment deferred to”. No, Glenn was 36 years old in 2003, when the bombs started falling on innocent people in Iraq, a war that I marched against.
So Glenn’s dishonesty and tendency to exaggerate and mislead his readers turned me off immediately. But that isn’t the main reason I write about Glenn Greenwald so frequently.
Glenn Greenwald is a bully. I hate bullies!
If you want to read more about his journalistic brutality, go read this post, or this one, or this one. Or just go to Google and search, there are many examples out there besides the ones I’ve written about.
How Can Greenwald Be So Wrong, So Much Of The Time
Glenn Greenwald loves hyperbole. Decades from now when scholars write about The Age Of Hyperbole that we are currently living in, Glenn Greenwald’s picture will surely be accompanying the journal articles.
“The objective of this is to enable the NSA to monitor EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION AND EVERY SINGLE FORM OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR!”
“The National Security Agency is currently devoted to the objective of creating a worldwide surveillance net that allows it to monitor what all human beings are doing and how they’re behaving and interacting with one another.”
I know there are a lot of paranoid people in this world who love that kind of talk, it feeds their paranoia and makes them feel like they are not alone. Any thinking, reasonable person who isn’t consumed with hatred or paranoia can read those words and realize they are completely over the top and can not possibly be true.
How many NSA employees do you think it would take to “MONITOR every single conversation and every single form of human behavior”? You see, Glenn doesn’t just think that the NSA is gathering meta data on who is calling who, after getting a warrant from a the FISA court (as dysfunctional as it is) because of intelligence on a suspected terrorist. No, Glenn thinks that there are people monitoring “every single conversation and every single form of human behavior”.
Bob Cesca has been keeping track of Glenn’s NSA “journalism” better than anyone and has coined the term “the 24 hour rule”, which basically says we should wait for the other shoe to drop before believing what ole Glenn Greenwald says.
Last week, Glenn made several statements to Christine Amanpour in an interview. Here are two of his long-winded, never stopping for a breath, answers. (My transcription and emphasis)
Answer 1: Let’s just use our common sense when analyzing the claims of political officials when they say that. Ever since 9/11, British and American officials have screamed terrorism over and over and over every time they get caught doing bad things they shouldn’t do – from lying to the public about invading Iraq to setting up a worldwide torture regime to kidnapping people and taking them around the world to be tortured – they just want to put the population in fear by saying the terrorists will get you if you don’t submit to whatever authority it is that we want to do. And that is all they are doing here, it’s the same tactic they always use. Let’s just use common sense, every terrorist who is capable of tying their own shoes, has long known that the U.S. government and U.K. government is trying to monitor their communications in every way that they can. That isn’t new, we didn’t reveal anything new to the terrorists they didn’t already know. What we revealed is that the spying system is largely devoted not to terrorists but is directed at innocent people around the world. That is what was not previously known and that is why American and British officials are so angry because they wanted to hide what the true purpose of the spying system is from the people at whom it’s directed and that is the only thing that is new in what we reported.
Answer 2: Well first of all a lot of people like to ask why is there so much anti-American sentiment around the world all you have to do is listen to that tape of Mike Rogers to understand it. He basically is going around telling the world that they ought to be grateful that without their knowledge, we are stealing ALL THEIR COMMUNICATIONS data and invading their privacy (Amanpour nods in agreement) None of this has anything to do with terrorism. Is Angela Merkel a terrorist? Are sixty or seventy million Spanish or French citizens terrorists? Are there terrorists at Petrobras? This is clearly about political power and economic espionage, and the claim that this is all about terrorism is seen around the world as what it is, which is pure deceit.”
I’ll get to the latest “24 hour rule” moment in a bit, but first let’s take a look at his penchant for hyperbole.
As with most of Glenn Greenwald’s rants, it isn’t necessarily the broad, populist, quotable punch line that is the problem, but what he says leading up to it. Make no mistake, Glenn is probably a great trial lawyer, although I’m sure a good opposing lawyer would be screaming “I object” an awful lot.
What stood out to me in Glenn’s response to Christine was the tainting of the jury along the way. I laughed out loud when I heard him say “Let’s just use our common sense” as he started. See the above part about how many NSA people it would take to monitor “every single conversation and every single form of human behavior” as you listen to Glenn talk about common sense.
Glenn starts his twisted reasoning by appealing to common, shared perceptions to get people nodding…like Amanpour herself…by, among other things, saying that U.S. and British officials always “scream” terrorism when they get caught doing “bad things”. He lists some of these bad things, starting with “from lying to the public about invading Iraq”…whoa, whoa, whoa…Glenn was supporting that group that was lying at the time and I know he is oh so sorry about that, but he fell for the bullshit none-the-less. There were a lot of us who didn’t. It speaks to his judgement at the tender age of 36.
Greenwald then gets bold and says “to setting up a worldwide torture regime”, which is clearly directed at his paranoid, conspiratorial readers. Because it isn’t just a few places where our government and allies take prisoners to be held and questioned, and yes, sometimes tortured too…which of course, I don’t approve of, but to Glenn, it’s labeled a “worldwide torture regime”. Oh, that hyperbole must make him tingle.
A little bit further on in his rant, he uses a pretty slick tactic when he says that “Every terrorist…has long known that the U.S. government and U.K. government is trying to monitor their communications in every way that they can” and then claims that this is “nothing new”. Except, uh, Glenn…you told the terrorists “how” they are being monitored and that IS new.
Glenn then proceeds to his real thesis that the “spies” aren’t out to get terrorists, they are out to get innocent, little ole YOU! This thesis occurs frequently in his writings and is much more pronounced in his TV appearances, because he can’t go back and edit his words once they’ve flown out of his mouth and he can’t add “updates” to Christine Amanpour’s program like he is known for in his hyperbolic writing. This is what he said, “the spying system is largely devoted not to terrorists but is directed at innocent people around the world.” He really believes that the target of all this spying is innocent people. He has strayed from what most people probably think – that in the effort to get terrorists, innocent people are being “monitored” and having their rights trampled on. Glenn sees it as a fiendish plot to go after YOU, run hide, build a bunker, buy some guns…they are coming for you. A little later he claims that it is “because they wanted to hide what the true purpose of the spying system is”, once again, referring to “innocent” people, just like you.
In the final sentence of his interview, Greenwald says “This is clearly about political power and economic espionage…” in reference to the accusations of the NSA spying on Germany and France. Well the “24 hour rule” destroys Glenn’s hyperbolic proclamation. Turns out the intelligence agencies in each of those countries shared that information with the U.S. government and the cooperation was geared towards tracking down terrorists. From of all places, the Guardian…
The German, French and Spanish governments have reacted angrily to reports based on National Security Agency (NSA) files leaked by Snowden since June, revealing the interception of communications by tens of millions of their citizens each month. US intelligence officials have insisted the mass monitoring was carried out by the security agencies in the countries involved and shared with the US.
I’m sure all of that is appealing to the paranoid, conspiracists and the narcissists who think the whole damn world revolves around them and don’t have any problem thinking they are so damn important that the U.S. government is paying someone lots of money to monitor them and steal “ALL YOUR COMMUNICATIONS DATA”. Cue the Twilight Zone music!
Part of the problem with the current state of our politics and media is that it is loaded with narcissists, nihilists and conspiracy loons. Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Greenwald all know who their target audience is and Glenn has just sliced off a piece from the left flank of that crowd.
I wish more of the national media would listen more carefully to Glenn Greenwald or wait for the other shoe to drop before running with one of his stories, but I’m sure many of them just don’t want to deal with the other thing Glenn is good at…the bullying.
Guest post by Smartypants
What’s frustrating in reading all this nonsense is that it seems that very few people pay any attention to history these days – even the more recent variety. Because if they did, they’d know that the Democrats had their own populist movement not that long ago. And the real question is whether or not we can sustain it on a national level going in to the 2016 presidential election.
To set the stage, we have to go back to what led up to the Reagan/Bush years. For the best description of how that happened, I’d suggest that folks read what Peter Beinart wrote about it a couple of years ago. To summarize, coming out of the left-wing hey-day of the 60’s, Democrats got their butts kicked for 20 years in presidential elections – with the one exception being the Carter years that were a direct result of Nixon’s Watergate. Here’s what the Republicans did:
1972 – 520 electoral votes (49 states)
1980 – 489 electoral votes (44 states)
1984 – 525 electoral votes (49 states)
1988 – 426 electoral votes (40 states)
As you might imagine, Democrats were scared shitless that their future as a national party was over (things looked even worse for them than they currently do for Republicans these days). And so, a group of mostly Southern Democrats got together and formed the Democratic Leadership Council in 1985. Their goal was to shift the Democratic Party more towards “centrist” policies. But perhaps more importantly, they felt the need to attract more big money donors to the Democratic Party in order to compete with Republicans.
The result of these efforts was the election of Clinton/Gore (both founders of the DLC) in 1992. Perhaps since the Democrats were still fairly new to this whole business of big money donors, Clinton/Gore got off to a rocky start that resulted in a whole string of scandals about campaign finance. In case you’re forgotten about all that, just think “Lincoln bedroom.”
To connect this with the current race for VA governor, it was during Clinton’s presidency that he installed Terry McAulliffe (big donor fundraiser extraordinaire) as the head of the Democratic Party. That’s why you see the Clinton’s campaigning so hard in his election – their connection to McAuliffe is deep.
One of the first Democrats to speak out against this capture of the party by the DLC was Paul Wellstone; it was the context for the line that was eventually adopted by Howard Dean: “I represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”
And then came Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004. Anyone who actually paid attention knows that – other than his anti Iraq war position – Dean was no flaming liberal. But his bottom-up anti-establishment campaign was a direct challenge to what the DLC and the Clinton’s had built – especially in their reliance on big money.
As a full-blown Deaniac at the time, I watched the Clinton machine go after Howard Dean – as ferociously (perhaps moreso) than the Republicans did. And that became even more evident after Dean lost the presidential primary to John Kerry and went on to out-maneuver them to become Chair of the Democratic Party following Kerry’s loss to Bush.
As you probably know, Dean instituted a 50-state strategy, which was an attempt to build up the party to be competitive in all 50 states. Rather than the party elites picking candidates, Dean wanted them to come from the grassroots. And even after his success in the 2006 elections, the Clinton machine brought out the knives against him. You can read about some of that here. But perhaps the crux of it came when James Carville said that Dean should be fired and replaced with…get this…Harold Ford (then DLC Chair).
All of that is what set the stage for a lot of the acrimony that surfaced between the Obama and Clinton campaigns in 2008. From the beginning, Barack Obama made it clear that he was not a member of the DLC and instead built his campaign on a new and improved version of Howard Dean’s bottom-up grassroots model. While Clinton continued to rely on big money donors, Obama showed that the presidency could be won by harnessing the power of millions of small donors – shattering the whole DLC model.
Via that primary and a win in November 2008, President Obama offered a way out of establishment big money politics. That is why I’ll be watching what happens in 2016. Can we find a way to preserve what Obama has done after he’s gone? Has Hillary Clinton learned anything from her defeat and her time with the President in the White House? Or will her candidacy take us back to the top-down big money model of the (now-defunct) DLC? And finally, if Clinton demonstrates that she hasn’t changed, is there someone who can pick up the mantle from Obama and continue his legacy?
If people really paid attention to our not-too-distant past, those are the questions we’d be asking.