Glenn Greenwald, Perpetually Wrong, But Allowed To Be So!

abc_tw_greenwald_nsaI frequently get asked why I write so much about Glenn Greenwald. I’ve looked at myself in the mirror many times and asked the same question.

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.

A few of my favorites from the last year.

“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.

7 thoughts on “Glenn Greenwald, Perpetually Wrong, But Allowed To Be So!

  1. Hello there!

    First off, nice blog! Your formatting, presentation, etc are all very well done.

    Secondly, I’m here to offer my two cents! I read your article and will first make an admission: I have never heard of Greenwald before this blog. I decided to look him up and have come to agree with you on your personal assessment of him on several areas. But that’s not why I have decided to comment. Ps… I’m warning you now, this is going to be long-winded.

    I’ve come to put down a bit of a challenge on your views of the NSA and Government spy programs/capabilities. While I agree that the statements youve highlighted are indeed a bit over the top, I have to say… they’re actually not that crazy. Please allow me to defend my argument…

    It is the big picture that is developing that makes the confirmed reports of mass data collection so disturbing.

    Questionable bit number 1 is the Patriot Act. Have you ever read major portions of it? The language is so broad as to allow the Government to do just about anything that they damn well please. No warrants necessary. Because who, after all, decides who or what a terrorist is? (You already know the answer is Homeland Security, but I am including this for the sake of other readers).

    Bush creates it (screw you for that, Bush) and then Obama expands upon it!? Am I the only one troubled by this similarity in behavior when it comes to expanding government power?

    Questionable bit number 2, the NDAA. This monstrosity of a law actually frightens me. Now I’m an Independant (make of that what you will, I suppose) and am not at all unreasonable or paranoid, but that law really needs to be looked at. Just a cursory look at that law revealed some VERY disturbing new Federal powers that have never existed before. Perhaps it is a mistake that the wording is so open, but whatever the reason, it’s not okay. Read it for yourself and you will find that the following situation is quite literally legal.

    You’re sitting at home typing away on your computer, fighting the good fight on your blog like a good citizen should. A Federal agent (from any agency) suddenly bursts into your home. He looks at you for a second, and says, “yep, definitely a terrorist.” He lifts his AR15 (actually I think the assault rifle version is an M4?, but you get the picture) and shoots you without even giving you a chance to speak for yourself. He leaves and your family and friends have NO legal recourse to have him arrested. You have no right to a trial, he does not need a warrant to enter your home, and he needs to prove to NO ONE that you are a terrorist. Don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself!

    The above scenario is outrageously unlikely, of course. But the fact that it is legally possible, I think, should really give us pause. In fact, a drone strike already killed two American citizens without any trial whatsoever! (They were pretty clearly terrorists, but they still had a right to a trial, and Rights should NEVER be ignored. That we can agree on, I’m sure.)

    Questionable bit number 3, the militarizing of DHS. Before I begin on this topic, I reassert that i am not a Conservative crazy. Or a conspiracy nut. In fact I’m a very positive, laid-back person in general. But, again, I found myself seriously questioning my Government’s rationale when I learned that the following tidbits were not lunatic dribble as I initially thought, but facts! No, really, they are factual, and I can provide credible sources if you so wish. (I admittedly am too lazy to fetch them right now :D )

    1: DHS purchases 1.6 billion rounds of jacketed hollowpoint ammunition. In my research I discovered that that type of ammo is specifically designed to kill unarmored people. It is illegal in warzones… why are they buying something so lethal?? But what is really bizarre is the amount of ammuntion. Apparently at the height of the Iraq war the army used something on the order of 180 million rounds per year. The DHS’s new ammo supply is nearly ten times that amount! Why is that much ammunition necessary??? They have enough ammo to last a decade long war. How much ammo have we used on terrorists in the last century? DHS is to fight crime and terrorism. The army fights wars.

    2: 2,700 top-of-the-line armored MRAP fighting vehicles. Really?? You can’t use the local PD’s armored personnel carrier if theres some looney with an assault weapon? What is DHS so worried about?

    3: Drones. Drones with the capability of accepting weapons… to be flown over US soil… by the thousands. Now look, I want to be safe from terrorists, just like you and every other reasonable person left in this country. But again, this level of firepower over our heads forced me to ask the question: why??

    I could, of course, go on. But I’ll stop for the sake of brevity. So, don’t hold back on me, because i really want to know… is it just me, or are things getting questionable around here? Again, I’m an Independant, middle of the road average Joe with a run of the mill college degree in Liberal Studies. Not a conspiracy nut. But I’m also an objective thinker, and I have to say in all fairness… I think the crazies might not be so crazy to be worried!

  2. Let me help you on the analogy front…

    If I told the cops, “Sorry Officer. I was drunk and didn’t mean to run that nun over. I was just in a hurry to get home because I thought somebody was trying to break into my house. So you’ve got to let me off!” how far would that get me? Whether there was an actual break-in, or not, I’m still going to be arrested as a drunk driving, nun killer….because I am. The intent doesn’t change the facts and the ends don’t excuse the means.

    The spy agencies are drunk on power and are indiscriminately running over everyone’s rights. But there are no cops policing them. It’s up to them to report their misdeeds to the very people they’re victimizing. The foxes are running this hen-house and they insist the only hens they target are Enemy Hens. They could prove it, but that would only allow the Enemy Hens to evade capture. So, you’ll have to have blind faith in them.

  3. Apologies in advance for this inexcusably long rant.

    You’re as obsessed with Greenwald as your so-called “paranoids” are with the government, but not nearly as obsessed as the US government is with what everyone is doing. But why him? Other than your fellow Greenwald stalkers, who else has he tortured lately? Who has he drone-striked? Whose phones has he tapped? What Internet companies has he hacked into? Whose rights has he violated? What laws has he broken? Why does he deserve to be attacked more than the US government? Because he’s a bully? I was under the impression you had to be the bigger, stronger, entity to qualify as the bully.

    This is a case of shooting the messenger so you don’t have to hear the message. People are delving into Greenwald’s past, his politics and his perceived inaccuracy, in order to justify rejecting his message. Why? Because it’s a very uncomfortable one that poses real questions about the true nature of America and American “democracy”. We all know America has done a lot of truly evil shit, but the wrongs must be done with good intent. If the ends don’t justify the means, then America’s self-image starts to unravel. That’s why so few want to listen and why so many make excuses. They need the comic book fantasy of Truth, Justice & The American Way. They must believe they’re participating in something that is, on the whole, good. It’s much more comfortable to argue about Greenwald and “traitors” like Snowden than it is to question that American self-image.

    With regards to ends justifying means, I’m like Martin Luther King (Holy shit was that narcissistic!) He said you CAN’T split the ends from the means. The means are the seeds and the end is the tree. You can’t achieve a good end from evil means. The means demonstrate your true nature, not your intent or self-image. You can’t drone-strike or spy your way into world peace, trusting friendships and a properly functioning democracy. All you need to do is look at today’s America. It’s in a state of perpetual war. Its best friends are pissed and (when open) its legislature is really just an auction house. Using the means it’s been using, the ONLY possible end is a paranoid, Orwellian, nightmare, even if that wasn’t the intent.

    As I’ve said before, I know virtually nothing about Greenwald. But from what you’ve posted here, his past sounds in line with the mainstream media and most Americans. They were in the bag for both Bush wars and the Patriot Act We Don’t Need No Stinking Warrants Act. And, just like Greenwald, most folks now pretend they didn’t support it, or claim they were mislead. People are like that. They do whatever mental gymnastics it takes to preserve their positive self-image. That’s why government lies are so effective. They tell the public exactly what they need to hear to go along with it. (ie “We’re only after terrorists.”)

    But Greenwald’s hyperbole isn’t off-base. It’s common knowledge the US has invaded 2 nations that didn’t pose a threat. It‘s engaged in officially sanctioned torture. It renders people to secret prisons around the world to be tortured. The NDA Act declares the right of America to snatch ANYONE up and hold them indefinitely. It kills people -even its own citizens- without anything remotely resembling due process. It spies and/or collects data on EVERYONE it can. And it’s true that any terrorist with enough brain power to tie his shoes DOES know not to use electronic communications. I’ve known the risk associated for 20 years and (listen closely NSA contractors) I’d never do anything to harm the US Empire! The question is “What’s the true nature of these ultra-secret programs?”

    Let’s take drones. Put aside the guilt, or innocence, of those on Kill Lists. From the next to nothing we’re allowed to see, the vast majority killed aren’t specifically targeted individuals, but people standing nearby. Moreover, a large percentage of strikes (perhaps a majority) are “signature strikes” on complete unknowns for engaging in “suspicious behaviour” (Trayvon Martin???). Now consider that every male over age 16 killed is automatically declared an “enemy militant” no matter who they were, or what they were doing. Statistically speaking, the nature of the drone strike program ranges from random mass murder to downright genocide. It’s a scene of madness right out of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. An Empire raining random death from above on enemy savages, mostly because it can.

    Now for the spying. Under Bush, a US official admitted they intercept 2.7 billion communications a day. The NSA employs about a million spooks, people just like the much-hated Edward Snowden. The FBI claims to have 15,000 paid informants. Peace groups have been infiltrated and Quakers’ phones tapped. A leaked internal NSA document declares it violates the law thousands of times a year. One Utah facility will have 1.5 million sq ft facility to store intercepted communications of… “We’re not telling.” If the US actually had 1% of the enemies that justified this level of spying, the whole country would be on fire like Detroit is.

    Statistically speaking, the overall nature of the spy program IS the monitoring of everyone everywhere. The storage of data says it all. How long does your e-mail about last weekend’s kegger need to be stored to “keep America safe”? If your goal isn’t to know everything about everyone, why store everyone’s communications? I bet I could probably store every single snippet of REAL terrorist “chatter” captured over the last 10 years on 3-4 hard drives. And most of that data became irrelevant years ago.

    The truth is that, intentionally targeted or not, EVERYONE IS BEING TREATED AS IF THEY WERE BEING INTENTIONALLY TARGETED. Nobody can tell the difference and the only people who could aren’t going to tell us anything. What are the spies afraid of? Do they have something to hide? Yes they do! It’s the fact that 99.9% of what they do is a useless make-work project that makes them rich, makes them feel powerful and allows for tremendous abuses of that unchecked power.

    The only thing up for debate is the purpose, the ends. One can either choose to believe a bunch of angry tent-dwellers on the other side of the world pose a serious enough threat to justify bombing their tents and listening to Angela Merkel ordering pizza, or you can choose to believe The Powers That Be ultimately want to know everything about everyone. You claim that’s illogical and would require unlimited resources. And you’re right! That’s why this Security State behemoth continues to grow like the cancer it is. You can’t apply logic to an insane, self-justifying, process like this. It’s a Red Pill vs Blue Pill thing, Neo. The available stats support the Red Pill choice. Only the evidence-free promises of those doing the spying support the Blue Pill choice. Both choices suck.

    Me, I keep going back to the ends being little more than a continuation of the means. NOTHING good can come from this level of killing and spying. Meanwhile, the unchecked power of the Military-Industrial-Spy Complex continues to grow and remain secret. I hope I’m not coming across a loon or a dick, but I just don’t see how somebody who protested the Patriot Act can be so accepting, and/or in denial of, the world it helped ensure. And it’s only going to get worse.

  4. Elections matter. Our government has had incredible might and the ability to justify almost anything it does for many decades. That is why I am passionate about electing liberals, Democrats and Independents. No, we Democrats aren’t perfect, but the Republicans are batshit nuts. It matters.

    I don’t see any links or proof of the many claims you are making and I don’t have the time to go looking for them. Some of them remind me of right-wing talking points I’ve read, check your sources, give links and please refrain from just throwing out conspiracy theories…

  5. With all due respect… the notion of trusting a human being with that much power is not just foolish, it is downright dangerous. I implore you to ignore any party-line thinking here (easy for me to say, I pay homage to logic alone, hence my independent status) and examine history. Bad things happen when power is too concentrated!

    Well, thanks for at least hearing me out, but with all due respect, it seems to me that you wouldnt be impressed by even the most indeniable proof of these figures. You have an unwaivering trust in… politicians. People that lie all day every day. I think I’ll hang onto my healthy distrust of government and vote for a libertarian asap to erase these dangerous new powers.

    One last point… what happens when all these new unlimited powers fall into the hands of… the Republicans? Have you thought of that?

    Just giving you a healthy jostling. Cheers!

  6. I only read this posting now, but I am glad there are more people noticing the almost absurd exaggerations of Greenwald, which are hardly different from the claims Edward Snowden makes.

    Since the Snowden-leaks started, I am closely following them and taking a close and careful look at the documents he disclosed – that also revealed that they are often misinterpreted. The research about the Snowden-docs can be found at my weblog

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