Photo: The Intercept
“Glenn has his way of approaching journalism. He’s very upfront and transparent, and people who follow his work do so because they really appreciate that and admire it… What’s interesting about this is there has been almost no responsible criticism of Glenn’s journalism as journalism. He’s gotten it right. He’s broken one of the biggest stories of our time under tremendous pressure. People might have issues with his politics and questions about whether they would have preferred that some of that information had been kept secret, or about the style in which people feel Glenn conducts himself, but the journalism has stood up. He’s not coming under criticism for that.”
— First Look Media Editorial Strategist Eric Bates, speaking to The Daily Beast
Glenn Greenwald’s journalism has never come under criticism. It’s never come under responsible criticism. Right.
Eric Bates either suffers from the same delusions of grandeur and unassailable integrity that his First Look counterpart does — which allows him to believe that any criticism can only be the product of corruption and should therefore be dismissed out of hand as irresponsible — or he lives in a bathysphere at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. There have been plenty of people who’ve taken Greenwald’s journalism to task and have done so in very strong terms but also in good faith. What those people typically get in return is a fusillade of snide tweets labeling them “cultists” or otherwise impugning their credibility and motives, followed by an unrelenting attack by Greenwald’s online acolytes. The reason Greenwald does this is simple: as far as he’s concerned, he’s never wrong. And believing that he’s never wrong, in and of itself, makes him a lousy journalist.
What Bates has done here is pretty clever. He’s tried to separate Greenwald’s politics from his journalism, saying that people may have issues with the former but they never seem to have a problem with the latter (the implication being that any negative critique of Greenwald’s material must be the work of political adversaries). But the reality is that Greenwald has inextricably tied his politics to his journalism, and that’s part of what’s ruined it in such a thorough manner. He so badly wants to ensure that the conclusion he reaches is the conclusion he needs to reach, because he believes it so strongly, that he applies a narrative template to each item he reports on and then jams the facts into it to make them fit. When he absolutely can’t do this, he simply uses double-speak,demagoguery,hyperbole and deceptive lede-burying to create the illusion of solidity.
There’s something that’s been said before at this site but it deserves to be said again and again, particularly in the face of those who assert that Glenn Greenwald is not only a journalist of the highest caliber but potentially the most incorruptible journalist working today. It basically breaks down like this: Being a good journalist is a little like being a scientist. You should constantly be testing your theory and findings for signs of confirmation bias or an agenda that’s getting the better of your commitment to the truth. In other words, you should be trying to prove yourself wrong as often as you’re trying to prove yourself right. This kind of philosophy is not only unfathomable to Greenwald, he considers it inferior to what he practices.
Greenwald, for all his sanctimonious journalistic posturing, is driven by an unwavering agenda and determined to obsessively propagate a singular narrative, and that determination — that bias — will always infect his journalism, calling into question its integrity. He approaches journalism as a litigator, which means that, as Jonathan Chait perfectly said in New York magazine back in June of last year, he offers only the facts, details, and spin that confirm his biases and he leaves it to others to present opposing arguments. There’s nothing wrong with advocacy journalism, but when you advocate at the expense of contradictory facts that would shoot holes in the case you’re trying to make, you’re trafficking in dishonesty.
Yes, many people have criticized Glenn Greenwald’s journalism, particularly with regard to the NSA story that’s now his bread-and-butter. People at this very site have done it. Like Greenwald himself, Bates, it appears, simply chooses to ignore or dismiss that criticism as invalid.