By Ben Cohen: In an incredibly long winded and monotonous rant on his Guardian blog Glenn Greenwald lambasts the progressive media for making hollow promises to hold President Obama more accountable after beating Mitt Romney in the general election. Greenwald makes some interesting and valid points, but the lecturing aggressiveness is unbelievably tiring to say the least.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Glenn Greenwald is an exceptional journalist who has done an enormous amount of good on issues pertaining to civil liberties in the US. His work is well substantiated, cogently argued and often powerfully written making his contribution to the national dialogue extremely important. But Greenwald makes himself completely inaccessible to the very people he should be trying to reach if he wants to have real impact, and confines himself to the self congratulating rantosphere alongside fellow ideologues like Jane Hamsher and the rest of the FireDogLake bloggers.
Here’s Greenwald on the progressive media that he argues blindly follows President Obama regardless of the ethical implications:
As for the vow that media progressives will now criticize Obama more and hold him more accountable, permit me to say that I simply do not believe this will happen. This is not because I think those who are taking this vow are being dishonest – they may very well have convinced themselves that they mean it – but because the rationalization they have explicitly adopted and vigorously advocated precludes any change in behavior.
Over the past four years, they have justified their supine, obsequious posture toward the nation’s most powerful political official by appealing to the imperatives of electoral politics: namely, it’s vital to support rather than undermine Obama so as to not help Republicans win elections. Why won’t that same mindset operate now to suppress criticisms of the Democratic leader?
I don’t necessarily find fault with Greewald’s argument here – he is provably right that the mainstream progressive media failed to draw attention to serious civil rights and foreign policy issues leading up to the election, but his relentless hounding of the left wing media and wild generalizations about their aims says more about him than anything else. Greenwald believes that the Left wing media is guilty by omission – they don’t overtly criticize Obama’s foreign policies or civil rights abuses, so therefore they must support them. The logic is completely ridiculous given Greenwald could be found guilty of supporting Republicans using the same line of thinking. Greenwald (very) occasionally writes about Republicans and the right wing media, but spends most of his time attacking the hypocrisy of the Democrats and the left wing media. All well and good. He has the right to do that, and I don’t think the lack of attention he pays to the Republicans means he supports their agenda. But the same goes for left leaning publications and media figures. Just because many of them choose to focus their attentions on the dangers posed by the Republican Party does not mean they explicitly support drone killings or Obama’s policies towards the Palestinians.
Generally speaking, I am supportive of President Obama and have written extensively on why it is crucial he remains in office. I believe the threat posed by the Republican Party is extreme, both from a domestic and foreign policy point of view. I won’t go into detail, but I think there is a strong argument to made that the Democratic Party is the only institution left protecting the country from complete capitulation to corporate interests and the military industrial complex, and must be kept in power in order to preserve what is left of functioning government. That does not mean that I support the President and the Democrats when it comes to their ties to Wall St, his acquiescence to the military chiefs, the use of drones, the signing of the NDAA or the unconditional support of Israel. I don’t specialize in civil rights issues or international law, so don’t spend massive amounts of time writing about them. I have particular interests that I like to cover, and I won’t try to pretend to my readers that I am an expert on issues I haven’t researched thoroughly. This doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions on those issues, I just don’t tend to cover them as much. I do regularly criticize Obama on Israel and the economy, because those are topics are have a particular interest in. That’s my business and I don’t expect everyone to share my interests or take on them.
The problem with Greenwald is that just because he believes Obama’s failings on civil liberties issues and the sorry state of the American media are the most important topics on the planet, everyone else has to agree with him.
Objectively speaking, both mine and Greenwald’s interests are small fry in comparison to environmental issues. Obama’s use of drones and the treatment of Bradley Manning in prison aren’t exactly pressing when compared to the wholesale destruction of vital life sustaining eco systems and the rapid heating of the planet. I’m sure Greenwald cares about these issues, as I do, but probably isn’t as interested in them as he is his own pet topics. And just because we don’t write about them doesn’t mean we don’t feel they are incredibly important.
Personally, I see Greenwald’s excessive ranting against the President and other progressives as counterproductive, not because he’s wrong, but because it gets harder and harder to listen to him.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.