Glenn Greenwald thrives on being an asshole. Trolling the dreaded Establishment is how he's convinced millions of progressives that he's on their side even as he undermines everything they care about.
For the latest example of this, look to NYMag.com's profile of Greenwald in which he complains that because he refuses to acknowledge the growing mountain of evidence that Russia attacked the 2016 election, no one wants to talk to him anymore:
Thanks to this never-ending hot take, Greenwald has been excommunicated from the liberal salons that celebrated him in the Snowden era; anybody who questions the Russia consensus, he says, “becomes a blasphemer. Becomes a heretic. I think that’s what they see me as.” Greenwald is no longer invited on MSNBC, and he’s portrayed in the Twitter fever swamp as a leading villain of the self-styled Resistance.
This apparently deeply offends Greenwald who considers himself the cool and hip truthsayer disrupting the corporate news sheeple. Relegated to the right wing bubble of Fox News, the "progressive" Greenwald can't stop himself from bitterly lashing out at other journalists who continue to report on the avalanche of information flowing from the largest political scandal in American history:
“I used to be really good friends with Rachel Maddow,” he says. “And I’ve seen her devolution from this really interesting, really smart, independent thinker into this utterly scripted, intellectually dishonest, partisan hack.” His view of the liberal online media is equally charitable. “Think about one interesting, creative, like, intellectually novel thing that [Vox’s] Matt Yglesias or Ezra Klein have said in like ten years,” he says. “In general, they’re just churning out Democratic Party agitprop every single day of the most superficial type.”
This isn't the first time Greenwald and his disciples have attacked Maddow but this reeks of professional jealously. Vox is one of the top political sites in the country and Rachel Maddow is the number 1 cable news show. And while The Intercept is hardly failing, Glenn Greenwald's influence is clearly not what it once was:
Greenwald’s half-a-million-dollar Intercept salary reflects his role as the founder and figurehead of the organization. But since the Snowden revelations, Greenwald hasn’t done much original reporting, and he has lately repositioned himself as a bomb-throwing media critic.
In other words, Greenwald is an expensive troll, yelling at real journalists doing real journalism. Maybe Greenwald is a little too cozy with Russia after Snowden, maybe he's so isolated from living in Brazil that he's lost touch with reality. Here's the thing; Greenwald's motivations for dismissing the Russia story are deeply suspect no matter how you look at it.
Let's say that Greenwald is so suspicious of the American intelligence community that he won't believe a word they say. That's all fine and good but that also requires him to ignore the massive amount of investigative reporting done by the both the American and international press, including his own reporters at his own website:
In June, it [The Intercept] published an explosive story that Russia had attempted to infiltrate voter-registration systems days before the election by sending phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials. The information came from a leaked NSA report; shortly before the Intercept published its story, a Georgia NSA employee named Reality Winner was arrested on espionage charges.
Greenwald blew it off as, seriously, fake news:
“I never liked the story. I thought it was bullshit and knew it was going to be huge in a way that was totally unjustified in what it actually revealed,” he says. “I think it tried to overstate the importance of what that document was.”
Clearly, there are no facts that can persuade Greenwald. That's not being a journalist, that's being an "utterly scripted, intellectually dishonest, partisan hack." I guess he was just projecting when he attacked Maddow.
But it gets worse. As a leader of the Purity Left, Greenwald has a vested interest in maintaining the fiction that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election. First, as one of the people that spent the entire election savagely attacking Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, Greenwald helped put Trump where he is. In order to avoid taking responsibility for this, Greenwald and the rest of the Purity Left must keep up the narrative that the only reason Hillary Clinton lost was Hillary Clinton. Acknowledging that the election was tampered with in any way leaves open the possibility of admitting their culpability and Greenwald and his ilk will not do that. Ever.
An even more cynical reason for Greenwald to fabricate Russia's innocence is that it undermines the narrative that America and the Democratic Party are hopelessly corrupt and need to be destroyed:
Rather than see Trump as a product of a rotten power structure, as Greenwald does, and the 2016 election as a wild reaction against that power structure, as Greenwald also does, it was easier for most American liberals to frame his victory as an accident. And rather than look within to eradicate the conditions that wrought Trump, it was more comforting to pin his rise on an external foe.
I literally do not know a single person on the left that consider the Trump presidency an "accident". Every single one of them considers it either a stolen election (the majority) or one lost by Hillary Clinton (the minority). All of them acknowledge that Trump is the end product of 50 years of right wing rhetoric; that he would not be in the White house if the conservative movement weren't already ripe for the plucking.
In other words, the left could not be manipulated into electing a monster like Trump no matter how hard "the elites" tried because the core-deep corruption Greenwald insists is on both sides doesn't actually exist on both sides. Is the left perfect? Are the Democrats saints? Don't be stupid. Of course not. But not being perfect is not the same as being endemically corrupt and desperately in need of someone to blame for their failings.
Yet, Greenwald persists in this myth:
The Russian scandal proved ideal. “Across the political aisle, American elites are preoccupied with rejuvenating a Cold War in the name of believing that all of our problems are traceable to the Kremlin,” Greenwald argued. The notion that “Putin is not some fumbling dictator but some kind of an omnipotent mastermind,” he went on, “stems very much from this human desire to believe that when things go wrong, it can’t be our fault.”
Here, you see Greenwald mimicking what is essentially a right wing talking point the Purity Left has glommed onto. Employing the reductionist rhetoric so beloved by the right, Greenwald attempts to reframe the left's beliefs to fit his own narrative. But no one thinks only Russia is responsible for Trump being in the Oval Office. There's also mass voter suppression (Voter I.D. laws, felon disenfranchisement, voter registration purges, polling location closures, "accidentally" deleted votes, etc.), the FBI letter about a "renewed" Clinton investigation (and not-at-all suspicious refusal of the FBI to discuss the Trump investigation happening at the same), and the media's astonishing role in normalizing Trump's abnormal behavior while turning Hillary's slightest misstep into world-shattering scandals. Add to that the relentless smear job of the GOP and the Purity Left fueled by Russian propaganda and money, then you have all the pieces necessary to steal an election for Donald Trump by 75,000 votes.
But that doesn't fit Greenwald's narrative. It's true the Democrats and the press are loudly focused on Russia but that's only because of the immediacy and uniqueness of the threat. It also presents the very real and existential danger of a president under the direct control of a hostile foreign government. Trump's completely uncharacteristically submissive attitude towards Russia should be setting off klaxons for even a mindless contrarian like Greenwald.
But it doesn't which means that Greenwald continues to cling to his "burn it all to the ground" mentality. After all, when you consider the United States to be the greatest evil in the world, Trump is the best thing that could possibly happen to it; a potentially fatal fire starter. And, as always, the people most invested in watching it all burn are the ones that won't be caught in the flames. Demanding sacrifice is always easy when you're not the one doing the sacrificing. That's why Greenwald is more than happy to go on Fox to keep up his attacks on the evil Democrats. It doesn't matter that they're right wing propagandists promoting white nationalism and paranoia, Fox gives him a place to push his agenda:
He is miked up and fitted with an earpiece, then forced to wait 20 minutes as his segment keeps getting bumped. The experience of actually listening to Carlson’s show seems to get to him.“
He’s on a huge anti-gun-control, anti-disarmament rant,” Greenwald tells me the first time I ask him what Carlson’s talking about. “Bullshit,” he says the second time I ask, rolling his eyes. By the time he goes live, it is 11:50 p.m., and Carlson asks just two questions.“
So I only had like three minutes,” he says, un-miking himself. “But it’s fine. It was worth it. It was cathartic.”
Yeah, that seems like someone who's interested in actual journalism and not at all in his own personal gratification.
It's too bad that Greenwald continues to lead the Purity Left deeper into the wilderness. He's not entirely wrong that the United States needs a course correction but his willingness to throw it all away is marginalizing his voice; a danger the entire Purity Left is exposed to now. They've been needlessly antagonistic to the rest of the left and now a blue wave is coming without their needed input. By insisting that the Democrats can't win without them, what happens when it they win anyway and win big? Anyone in power inclined to listen to them will stop and they will lose their shot at affecting change.
Meanwhile, if progressive "heroes" like Greenwald have decided that Rachel Maddow, one of the smartest, strongest progressive voices of our generation is not pure enough, maybe it's time to find some new heroes. Maybe ones that care more about progress and the truth than their own ego.
There are 287 days left to the 2018 elections.
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