Buzzfeed's Profile of David Miranda Will Make You Take Him A Lot More Seriously, Bitches

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Chez Pazienza
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There's a quote that came back to me in an instant this morning. It's from the dearly departed Fox series Firefly, one of the many great lines scripted by the show's creator, Joss Whedon. After seeming to threaten Captain Malcolm Reynolds by standing menacingly in front of him with a gun, tough guy Jayne Cobb suddenly demures and offers the gun as a trade -- a trade for a gorgeous young woman, played by Christina Hendricks, who's stowed away aboard the ship and has attached herself to Mal. Jayne wants to trade his gun for a girl. Mal stands there in stunned silence for a second, then quips, "Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle." It's one of my favorite quotes from the show.

What brought it back was an unintentionally funny and all-too-revealing piece running at Buzzfeed right now on David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald's 28-year-old Brazilian husband, penned by the current Tumblr-generation queen of Greenwald hagiography, Natasha Vargas-Cooper. Vargas-Cooper was responsible for the Advocate profile on Greenwald from a few weeks back, the one that came about after she spent several weeks in the very close company of her interview subject at the home he shares with Miranda in Rio and which reads like she spent several weeks in the very close company of her interview subject. It's endlessly amusing that Greenwald spends so much of his own time bitching about the perils of access and how it often creates chummy, toothless journalism, and yet here's the person interviewing him allowing herself to succumb to the siren's song of becoming chummy and enthralled with her subject and therefore creating toothless journalism. Vargas-Cooper is a fine writer, but her idol-worship of Greenwald becomes evident in the opening paragraphs of her piece and doesn't really let up.

But somebody apparently liked her first go-round and the tight relationship she'd obviously forged with Greenwald and Miranda, so now we get the same kind of ass-kissing applied specifically to Greenwald's other half. Actually, it's not the same -- this time is much worse. The end result is that, as a reader, you wind up considering both Miranda and Greenwald -- as well as most of those heavily involved in the Snowden NSA story -- to be a hell of a lot less dangerous. Merely dilettantes playing dress-up. If the point was to make it seem as if these people can't possibly be a threat to anyone's national security -- mission accomplished.

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Here's how the piece begins:

"David Miranda and I are debating whether or not to take off our shirts in the middle of a throbbing dance floor inside the heart of gay Rio de Janeiro. Silvery blue lights and men the size of sparrows swirl around us as we gauge the euphoria of the crowd. 'It’s not that kind of party, honey!' Miranda shouts hoarsely over the Brazilian dance mix of Ke$ha’s 'Die Young.'

We opt instead to gulp the night air. We pound our cocktails and bound out of the split-level nightclub to chat and smoke on the cracked Portuguese-style pavement. A thin white man in his mid-thirties with birdy lips, piss-water blonde hair, and uncool jeans follows us out the door. Miranda and I bullshit with some fellow revelers on the patio: a pudgy art dealer, a redhead, and a bespectacled line cook who has a 'thing' for Rhoda Morgenstern. The man with the bird lips lingers close by. Miranda, 28, dusky, pillow mouthed, chiseled, with dark wine eyes, is too fine a specimen not to be cruised tonight, but Bird Lips is standing a little too close and appears, by the jutting of his chin and the self-conscious tilt of his head, to be eavesdropping on our conversation.

Miranda and I shoot each other a wary glance and move back inside. Just as we are about to lose ourselves in a Cher dubstep-banger, Bird Lips perches behind us, unmoving, and begins to stare. We traverse the dance floor; he follows."

That tale ends with Miranda questioning Vargas-Cooper -- the author of the piece and the person he's spent the night giddily clubbing with -- about whether he's being paranoid. There's a lot of that from Miranda, which is admittedly somewhat understandable given that his husband is involved in the trafficking and publication of stolen classified documents from the U.S. government. But after a while Miranda's constant concerns that he's going to personally be "disappeared" start to sound like the cloak-and-dagger child's play and silly self-aggrandizement they are. Greenwald, Snowden, and everyone involved in this have thrived on making people believe their lives are in danger because of what they've done. They're not, precisely because of what they've done. Western governments only kill or otherwise extinguish journalists and whistleblowers in Bourne movies and Alex Jones fever dreams. Edward Snowden has a better chance of being "disappeared" by the Russian FSB right now than he does any American or British intelligence agency -- one of the many entertaining little ironies about Snowden's decision to adopt Moscow as his new home-base.

Miranda goes on to confirm the worst kept secret in journalism, namely that Greenwald's journalism sucks and he therefore butted heads with the managers and editors at The Guardian who wanted to, you know, vet claims and otherwise make the story as airtight as possible before going to print. Greenwald and Miranda, as you can imagine, would have none of that.

"'For a while we considered starting our own website to publish the NSA documents; when Glenn thought The Guardian was taking too long to publish the first NSA story, I told him he had to make them know he would go somewhere else to publish if they delayed too much.'

'I was in Hong Kong,' Greenwald says, referring to his first meeting with Snowden in early June. 'We were eager to have the world learn about this spying as soon as possible. And we didn’t want any fear-driven institutional constraints getting in the way.' Greenwald credits Miranda with pushing him to hold The Guardian’s feet to the fire and not delay on this bombshell publication.

'I had my chat box open on my laptop while talking to Guardian editors, and I had David on the phone in my ear, and he’s dictating what to write to them word by word. It was something like, ‘Please consider this my resignation if the article is not published by 5 p.m. today,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my god, David, I cannot say that!’' But Miranda kept pushing. Greenwald sent a more compromising, though still firm message. Before 5 p.m. that day, the first NSA story was published on The Guardian’s website."

I love that. "Fear-driven institutional constraints." That's what you and I would call "good journalism," an unwillingness to simply knee-jerk rage into the ether without checking facts, sealing up sources, providing context, or having a necessary debate over any potential impact. Keep in mind, this is why Greenwald left The Guardian and he's already promised that his new journalistic venture will have "no preexisting institutional strictures on what you can do." In other words, as Bob Cesca said here last month, no more being tied to the unwritten rules of ethical journalism; he can now pursue his pet issues with all the pettiness, venom, and intellectual dishonesty we've come to expect and not worry about anybody firing him.

But if you think this whole thing is about journalism, truth, and defying fealty to authority, and there's nothing in it for Snowden's 11, think again. Here's the part of the piece that deals with Miranda's initial trip to Europe, the one he wound up being stopped in London on the way home from:

"Miranda started making arrangements to fly to Berlin and stay with Poitras. The simplest reason, Miranda explains: 'Laura doesn’t like to talk on the phone.' And there was plenty to talk about — primarily movie rights. Studios started courting Miranda, Greenwald, and Poitras for rights to their story since Poitras’ first images of an unshaven Snowden began to saturate the news cycle. (All signs point to a Sony-helmed production with Ed Norton perhaps playing Greenwald; Greenwald says he doesn’t care much which actor is chosen, but half-jokingly adds that only David Miranda could play David Miranda — 'Who else could be so smoldering and broody?') He planned to go Berlin to meet with Poitras and her editors to strategize on getting the best and 'most serious' version of their story made into a movie, Miranda says.

'Plus,' Miranda adds playfully, 'I needed a vacation!'

The inevitable movie deal comes up again two paragraphs down:

Because Miranda was performing a service to support articles that were to be written for The Guardian, the newspaper paid for his trip and made his travel arrangements through London. Miranda flew to Berlin on Aug. 18 and did the typical club and upscale restaurant scene with Poitras and some of her friends in and around Alexanderplatz. Poitras and Miranda hashed out some details about movie rights — she was skeptical of signing anything that gives big studios access to her film archive or work.

The tale of what happened to Miranda while at Heathrow is mildly interesting, but most of it we've heard already and the piece concedes the obvious: Miranda's is the only account we have, which means that you have to take him at his word. And considering the number of times he dramatically hypes the potential for his own "disappeared"-ness, his tendency to exaggerate probably needs to be taken into consideration.

The whole thing ends, though, with this -- what could be the best possible quote to sum up and put a final point on Miranda's story of geopolitics and covert espionage.

“'We know we are probably under constant surveillance,' Miranda says, as we pile into the couple’s cherry red Jeep, 'but we don’t give a fuck. We’re not going to be stupid.'

'But we’re not going to live our lives in fear,' he adds as the car pulls away. 'Now everyone in the world is watching, bitches!'"

Yup. That's some America's Most Wanted, enemy of the state realness right there.

My days of not taking him and Greenwald seriously are certainly coming to a middle.