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Leave Glenn Alone! A Twitter Fight with a Greenwald Fan Shows He's Above Criticism

Greenwald's most vocal supporters think he's somehow above criticism and fact-checking, and any critics who do so are merely obsessed and vindictive. But since his reporting about a topic that's both extraordinarily complicated as well as really important, shouldn't someone -- anyone -- keep an objective eye on what Greenwald is reporting?
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If you search Media Matters for "Rush Limbaugh," there are around 7,100 pages about the controversial right-wing radio talker. A search for "Glenn Beck" delivers over 8,000 pages. I've personally written hundreds of blog posts about those two characters. And yet because I've been covering Glenn Greenwald's serially misleading reporting on the Edward Snowden NSA story for the last year, not to mention his coverage of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) before it, I'm somehow obsessed or "infatuated" with Greenwald.

That's what Balloon Juice's John Cole told me yesterday via Twitter. He implied that I'm merely obsessed with Greenwald. This is evidently why I've written so much about him -- not because his reporting is bad or that he's been misinforming the public for at least a year now on arguably one of the biggest stories of the decade so far. Nope, it's because I just hate Greenwald so much.

If my Greenwald/Snowden coverage indicates a vindictive obsession, I can't imagine Media Matters' harrowing DSM-5 diagnosis based on its daily less-than-favorable reporting on Limbaugh and Beck, not to mention Hannity, Fox News and all of AM talk radio.

Before I continue, I should qualify that I consider Cole, for lack of a better term, an e-friend, and I read his blog daily, which is why I'm taking seriously his criticisms here, even though he's way, way off the rails.

So how did this get started?

Yesterday, I tweeted out a link to Oliver Green's fantastic article in The Daily Banter about the egregious human rights violations in Brazil ahead of the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics there. Oliver described how, among other things, Brazil's military police, known as "Pacification Units," have been responsible for killing 2,000 Brazilians every year.

As I've done on several occasionsin the past, I wondered out loud why we've heard nothing from civil liberties purist and U.S. expat living in Rio de Janeiro, Glenn Greenwald, about these and other trespasses occurring in his own back yard.

My point, which I later had to explain down to the tiniest detail for Greenwald's obtuse disciples, was that for someone whose mission it is to call out government oppression and violations of basic human liberties around the world, Greenwald has been entirely silent about Brazil's record. And since he lives there, perhaps he might have a special interest in what's happening all around him. The obvious conclusion is that Greenwald is only concerned with making it appear as if the U.S. and the U.K. are the world's biggest civil liberties violators -- the real monsters on the international stage. It would totally undermine Greenwald's narrative for him to cover how, unlike England and the United States, Brazil's military police are murdering citizens by the thousands, while its own version of NSA, the ABIN, has a rather spotty record on spying on its own people, as well as maintaining its very own PRISM-style operation. It would also undermine his reporting in the Brazilian press about the U.S.'s surveillance there. But almost immediately, Cole tweeted out a totally flagrant and obnoxious misrepresentation of my point.

And since he follows Cole on Twitter, Greenwald himself repeated the falsehood about what I had tweeted.

Of course, any rationally thinking adult could plainly see that I never blamed Greenwald for anything other than lopsided reporting which routinely indicts the U.S. while conspicuously ignoring Greenwald's nation of residence. What sort of crazy person would blame Greenwald for the actions of the Brazilian military police? I suppose that was the point: to fabricate such a thing in order to make me look absurd. So, naturally, I hit back:

Cole denied mischaracterizing my tweet, so, yeah, I had to post the link to his original specious post:

Unable to defend his deceptive tweet, Cole deflected to the tired old "Bob is Obsessed!" meme, posting this video on Twitter:

Funny. But knowing that his misrepresentation of my Greenwald criticism had been debunked, he posted a similar reaction on Balloon Juice.


Is it really any wonder why public misinterpretations have been circulating so furiously around the NSA story? Jesus. In the comments below the post, Cole and a few of his commenters (some commenters defended my point) continued to miraculously diagnose my inner motivations, suggesting that my criticism of Greenwald is based on a personal hatred for the guy. At the end of the day, I can absolutely see why they fall back to that crutch every time. It's a quick, cheap and too-easy means of dismissing Greenwald's critics and the problems we've uncovered with his reporting: the gaping holes, the mitigating circumstances that strangely emerge a day or two later, the click-bait headlines, the constant scrambling of capability and actual implementation, and so forth. The "infatuation" meme is a convenient, wafer-thin MacGuffin for ignoring all of it.

By the way, I checked my blog, which happens to include my articles for The Daily Banter, and the "Glenn Greenwald" tag only appears 53 times. That's approximately 53 posts, give or take, about Greenwald. Obsession! I'm also plainly obsessed with the following topics: Rick Scott, Rudy Giuliani, Hypocrisy and Campaign Finance, each of which also have 53 tagged articles. Now you can only imagine my obsession with the aforementioned Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, about whom there are a total of 628 posts. There are a whopping 1,405 posts about healthcare; 344 posts about Hillary Clinton; 215 posts about gun control; 115 about Michelle Malkin; 153 posts about Morning Joe. I'm totally obsessed with so many things.

Greenwald has spent the better part of the year trying to convince everyone that he's a legitimate journalist. I don't dispute that he is, but it's pathetic to go around believing that he should be the only journalist who's above criticism or fact-checking. Since when is it permissible to relentlessly criticize Rush Limbaugh or Chris Matthews or Erick Erickson or Megan McArdle or Maureen Dowd or Ezra Klein or David Brooks, but to do the same to Greenwald is merely a symptom of obsessive, spiteful behavior?

There are more than a few writers who are terrified to step into the Greenwald propeller, either because they'd love to get their hands on a couple of Snowden exclusives or because they're not as well-read on the NSA material as they should be (it's admittedly complex and murky) and so they're afraid to challenge Greenwald on any of his points. And since his reporting is about a topic that's both extraordinarily complicated as well as really important, shouldn't someone -- anyone -- keep an objective eye on what Greenwald is reporting, just as we would with any reporter or pundit covering an issue of similar importance? Of course not, I'm told.

Ah, screw it. Unlike everyone else in this field, Greenwald should be the only one who's allowed to report whatever the hell he wants without any scrutiny whatsoever. Because he's Glenn Greenwald. And the rest of us are just jealous.