By Ben Cohen: I've received quite a few emails and comments about my piece on Glenn Greenwald's rant on the progressive media last week. Some readers took exception to my position that Greenwald's rhetoric is unhelpful and counter productive, claiming my attack on him was pointless and without substance. The most concise criticism came reader Steve Rice who wrote:
The progressive blogosphere is already bursting at the seams with people who do nothing but rant about Republicans all day. Greenwald has different priorities. Yes, his focus is somewhat narrow, but that's always been the case. If you read him, you know what you're getting into. Given that, I fail to see the point of this article, aside from getting easy page-views from the anti-Greenwald brigade. It's the same vague pseudo-criticism you've leveled at him before and you admit yourself that it has little to do with the substance of his work. So why write about Glenn Greenwald?
I'm unsure how my piece on Monday consists of 'vague pseudo-criticism' given I was quite explicit about what I was attacking Greenwald on. As the reader says, I don't have a problem with the substance of Greenwald's work, I have a problem with the tone of it and his relentless attacks on other media outlets and writers who do not follow Greenwald's specific editorial agenda. Perhaps Bob Cesca does a better job of what I was trying to articulate. He wrote about Greenwald's attack on MSNBC and other progressive outlets:
This new Greenwald rant is a continuation of his ongoing crusade to badger progressives who don’t make it part of their daily routine to screech at the president regarding Greenwald’s preordained three or four pet issues. Greenwald operates under the mandate that because drones are his primary concern and the prism through which he evaluates the president, so it should be with everyone else. The slightest deviation from that narrative in lieu of delivering news of a presidential success is a punishment-worthy trespass.
Greenwald has a long and storied history of extreme pettiness when it comes to dealing with other progressives, going as far as claiming Obama supporters would stand by him if he raped a nun on live television. When a blogger named “DrDawg” tweeted about Imani Gandy: “Obama could rape a nun live on NBC and you’d say we weren’t seeing what we were seeing,” Greenwald felt the need to add: “No – she’d say it was justified and noble – that he only did it to teach us about the evils of rape.” (pic of the exchange below):
Greenwald was probably being sarcastic (and trying to be funny), but the exchange was spiteful and unnecessary - particularly given it was directed towards a woman. Rape isn't exactly a topic you make jokes about. And instead of apologize when lambasted by much of the blogosphere, Greenwald tweeted that Obama supporters would defend him in the face of “ANY evil: assassinations, child-killings: EVEN rape violent crime like rape.” Of course in Greenwald's world, he can never be wrong, so an apology was completely out of the question.
This type of rhetoric is extremely counterproductive for a number of reasons. Firstly, you can be a supporter of any political figure, Republican or Democrat, without explicitly endorsing everything they do. I have many Republican friends who voted for both George Bush and Mitt Romney and I would never level that type of hostility towards them. Yes, I think Bush and Romney are backwards thinking dinosaurs who have spent their entire careers lining the pockets of the wealthy and cheer leading wars in the Middle East, but I don't hold my friends accountable for their actions. Going after political leaders is one thing, but relentlessly attacking their supporters is something completely different. You can have a civilized debate with those who disagree with you without insinuating they support rape and child murder.
Secondly, Greenwald's vindictiveness and tone detracts from the often excellent points he makes. I wrote about this in my article on Monday, but it's worth repeating: Greenwald is a very good journalist and he does important work. He's just limiting himself by behaving like a smug spelling bee champion.
I wrote a story on Greenwald's excessive smugness and pettiness a few months back on these pages, and I'm guessing as a result, I have been blocked from following Glenn on Twitter (and I'm sure if he reads this, he'll respond with something even smugger like "I don't know who Ben Cohen is...."). My twitter account is open for anyone to follow, and as long as they are not abusive towards me, I don't mind debating them. Greenwald apparently sees the twittersphere as a playground where he gets to pick on people he doesn't like and block those who politely disagree with him.
Going after Glenn Greenwald isn't an 'easy-page views' endeavor either. As the reader rightly points out, ranting about Republicans is quite the rage these days and people do tend to tune into scathing pieces about the latest Republican insanity more than debates between left wing political commentators. I'm going after Greenwald because he's behaving like a spoiled child and should stop hurling bombs at people who don't believe he is the be all and end all of progressive politics.
And just to show you this is nothing personal, I'm going to end this piece with a link to Greenwald's excellent piece on massive US and Israeli hypocrisy in the Middle East. It's well worth a read, regardless of what you might think of him.