Anonymous sends to cryptome / mirror from here: http://cryptome.org/2013/12/ogr.htm
The fact that Pierre Omidyar chose Glenn Greenwald as a collaborator told me all I needed to know about his new media project. Now Jay Rosen has signed on, promoting the business that Bill Keller called the New Thing.
Whether Keller meant this or not, I read it as a nod to the concept of “new and improved” used to sell products.
So far, the New Thing (a k a NewCo) appears to have a left/libertarian bent. It sounds like it will compete with the Nation, the Guardian, Mother Jones, etc., but with lots more money and the vision of one man.
O/G/R have been touting transparency, with a righteousness that I find laughable, considering how Greenwald plays with facts and attacks anyone who criticizes him.
The New Thing will be transparent in the sense that writers will reveal their background, perspective and opinions, instead of pretending that they don’t have any, Rosen says. In other words, they will behave like many columnists, editorial writers, commentators and mainstream bloggers do today, and as many journalists did before they struggled to be objective.
A bit of history: The concept of objectivity that arose in social sciences in the 19th century influenced journalism as well. Later, as corporations increased their ownership of newspapers and cannibalized competitors, it made business sense to promote journalists as objective. You didn’t need competing media if you could get all the news from one impartial source.
My career started when a metro daily could still devote many column inches to in-depth pieces. This practice diminished as corporations strove for increasing profits. My hopes reawakened with the discussion of unlimited space on the Internet. But the Internet also brought more information than most people wanted to handle. Many sought simple analyses, and blogs were ideal for this. Most posts were relatively short with a distinct viewpoint.
After I left corporate journalism in disgust, I blogged for a few years. But it was disappointing to see bloggers develop a pack mentality similar to those of mainstream political journalists. Few bloggers did original reporting. Posts that were inaccurate or incomplete bothered me, especially when the bloggers went for sensationalism that would attract more followers. Righteous anger felt liberating at first, but seemed to devolve into: “Fuck you!” “No, fuck you!”
Mainstream media competed by adding more columnists as well as their own bloggers. More writers made their opinions clear.
That’s why I find it disingenuous when G/R complain that people have lost trust in mainstream media because news reporters pretend they have no opinions. In more than 18 years in newspaper journalism, I never encountered anyone in the public who thought journalists lacked opinions. The question was whether we tried to be fair when interpreting facts and seeking different views from others.
The New Thing will have the same problem, and O/G/R seem to be selling it in the same way. Omidyar says the New Thing will not be a niche publication, but will have business, sports and entertainment. That seems to suggest readers can get all the news from one source, and this source will be trustworthy.
We already know that people are more likely to trust journalists who have the same opinions that they do. Does Rosen really think that people will have greater trust in writers with whom they disagree, as long as the writers acknowledge their opinions?
Would liberals trust Fox if it declared upfront that it favors conservative views? If I tell you that I’m an anti-porn feminist who first took notice of Greenwald when he was defending Max Hardcore, or that I’m biased against people with little or no journalism experience who become journalism professors, would that make you more trusting of what I write about G/R? Do you think that people who believe that surveillance is crucial to American security trust Greenwald because he has stated his opinion?
In the 1990s, Rosen spoke at my newspaper. I talked to him afterward and came away with the impression that he agreed that objectivity was a myth, but was too invested in paid speeches to confront publishers and executive editors. I’ve been surprised to learn that he thinks people can be objective in their analysis and presentation of facts.
Even if a writer gives you his perspective, he’s not necessarily revealing all of his biases. In studies, for example, people often trust taller, more attractive people even though they may believe those factors don’t influence them. If Julian Assange looked like Wallace Shawn or Coco, do you think he would have the same following?
We can never catalog everything that has influenced us. The opinions of our boss, praise, raises, awards, etc., can influence our thinking on particular issues, even if we don’t realize it. Who do you think Greenwald would trust more: a government employee or someone who leaks information to him?
(This is a trick question because many government leakers/whistleblowers are government employees, as was Chelsea Manning, who may have continued in the military if she had not been caught. Mark Felt had a high rank in the FBI.)
Attempts at objectivity or fairness sometimes lead to writers publishing “both sides” of the story even when they know that one perspective is factually incorrect. G/R abhor this – as do many mainstream journalists. But this isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. A reporter might think that chemical companies have proven their products are harmless, but include quotes from that nut Rachel Carson, just to be fair. Facts are tricky because they can change. What is fact to one person may be opinion to another.
Journalists rarely think that all the facts they know are relevant to the story they are writing. In other words, they decide which facts the readers get, as well as what stories to pursue, which sources to trust, what angle to take, etc. That’s why my friends have joked about working for the Truth Factory. The New Thing will be no different.
According to O/R, the New Thing will hire journalists with great expertise on the topics they cover. You know, like the best beat reporters.
Beat reporters are in danger of becoming less adversarial as they identify with the people and institutions they cover and fear losing access to sources. Rosen has bemoaned this process – as have many editors, who occasionally move people into different beats or put more than one person on a story to get “fresh eyes.”
Doesn’t Greenwald have to protect access to his sources? Would he have written something negative about Snowden before he had gotten all the files? Once all journalists start expressing their opinions fiercely, access won’t be an issue. People with information can choose the journalists most likely to support them.
Greenwald built his writing career on expressing opinions, not digging up facts not yet known to the public. Has he become famous enough that he can now wait for people to give him information, as Snowden did, without ever initiating a conversation with someone in government? Will he never chat up someone in government to get a lay of the land or figure out who might be ready to spill secrets? Does this make him more honest or more biased?
He has said that he doesn’t have to curry favor with sources.
Maybe not government sources. But I’m sure his worship of Assange had some bearing on WikiLeaks’ decision to help Edward Snowden get to Russia.
Because of Greenwald’s attitude on encryption, he might never have gotten the NSA documents, if it had not been for Laura Poitras. She says Snowden contacted her after seeing an article about her in the New York Times. The Washington Post might have had the story if it had accepted Snowden’s requirements for publication.
He differentiates himself from mainstream media who sometimes sit on stories, which he thinks shows “a fundamental sickness of the Western press.”
I’ve both held stories and argued that they should run. Stories are generally held to check information, get more information or debate whether personal information is newsworthy. Is Greenwald holding back any information from Snowden for his book?
Is the Guardian not part of the Western press? Has he not sold stories to the New York Times and others? If the NYT had offered to replace Bill Keller with Greenwald, would Greenwald have declined, for fear of being infected? Are there no problems with journalists in non-Western countries? In Brazil, Greenwald can curry favor for blasting the Western press. Get back to me when he starts writing about how evil the Brazilian government and media are.
Omidyar says he wants to hire writers who already have a lot of online followers. Sounds like a good business model to me, but not the best way to get at the truth. Mainstream media already clings to commentators and columnists who have become self-promoters and whose fans will defend them no matter what. How does this differ from Greenwald?
Omidyar says he wants independent journalists, but they stop being independent as soon as he gives them a paycheck. At least Rosen understands that he is no longer an independent media critic now that he works for the New Thing. “I had relationships and consultancies, which I disclosed, but that still left me independent in some way.”
What does independence mean in a journalist? Is it someone who has no employer, or someone who has free rein to write whatever he wants, with little editing? Is it someone who doesn’t support any political party (but must secretly have an idea of what he wants in an elected official)?
Did Omidyar hire Rosen because he was an independent media critic, or did it have something to do with Rosen’s praise for Greenwald and the New Thing? If Omidyar wanted to support investigative reporting, why does he need to create his own media entity, as opposed to a fund? I’m guessing the reason was control.
One model might be the Fund for Investigative Journalism, which helped Seymour Hersh uncover the massacre of civilians during the Vietnam war.
By the way, Greenwald has changed his opinion about Hersh since he included him among “the preening, hubristic, status-obsessed Washington media elite” in 2005. Greenwald was an outsider; now he needs to identify with Hersh and others.
If Omidyar wanted to support Greenwald’s reporting specifically, why didn’t he help the nonprofit Guardian, which is struggling to survive financially and is now left to fight legal battles on its own? After all, the Guardian gave Greenwald a bigger audience as well as colleagues who had much more experience in investigative journalism. But when he got a better offer, he jumped ship, taking Snowden’s files with him.
Greenwald has tweeted: “If Laura Poitras or Jeremy Scahill or I were ever told ‘you can’t write about this’: how many seconds would elapse before we quit?”
Omidyar has helped avoid that problem by hiring reporters who reflect his views.
Greenwald says the New Thing will hire people whose views differ, including conservatives. But if they focus on the ills of big government, what’s the difference? Would the New Thing hire a conservative who opposes same-sex marriage?
In addition to winding up in bed with government sources, Rosen once criticized adversarial journalists for priding themselves on their ability to attack and anger people; who are relentlessly negative; and who consider themselves outsiders, separate from their communities. Sound like anyone you know?
Now he sees Greenwald as the face of the new-and-improved adversarial journalism. Or, as Greenwald says, he will be “truly adversarial” to powerful people, which I assume means the government and people who disagree with him. G/R sound like politicians who sell themselves as the new-and-improved public servants who will go to Washington as outsiders to truly fight special interests.
Omidyar has released information on the New Thing when it suits him, just as you would expect from a businessman. How would he view someone who leaked more information about it? Would this person be an independent, adversarial journalist challenging power?
Perhaps Greenwald thinks the U.S. government has been the most restrictive force in his life. Not everyone sees government that way. Male harassment, violence and its threat have restricted my freedom much more than the government has, although I recognize that men predominate in the top government positions, as they do in the media (including the New Thing), business, religion, etc. How will the New Thing fight a diffused power?
A decade or so ago, there was a push for newspapers to hire ombudsmen and publish corrections and clarifications prominently, in hopes that this form of transparency would build more trust among readers. Some, like the NYT and Guardian, still do this. But media critics assume, and rightly so, that ombudsmen aren’t truly independent. Sadly, admitting mistakes does not seem to build trust. Instead it gives fodder to those who already believe you are untrustworthy.
Greenwald has learned this lesson well. Instead of welcoming people who speak truth to his power, he is notoriously nasty to anyone who criticizes him, and he will go to ridiculous lengths to deny he did anything wrong. This is brand protection, not a search for truth. My favorite example is his Twitter exchange with Imani Gandy about her supporting Obama even if he raped a nun. When criticized for joking about rape, he said he was simply replying to someone else’s statement. Then he says he wasn’t joking, and it wasn’t a metaphor. Apparently, the king of hyperbole really does believe that Gandy and others would defend Obama if he raped a nun on TV.
Greenwald is willing to give inaccurate information to the public to hype his stories. A recent example is what he initially said about his husband’s detention in London before flying to Brazil.
Some years ago, in his defense against sock puppetry, Greenwald said he couldn’t control someone in his household praising him anonymously. Does that mean David Miranda had not yet joined the family business?
If he and Greenwald had a nasty break-up, wouldn’t he be in the same position as a wife who works in her husband’s business without credit? The husband still has his business and brand loyalty from customers. The wife can only make unsubstantiated claims to her skills and experience.
This has long been a feminist issue, but it also pertains to journalists gaining pay and prestige from the unpaid and uncredited work of others.
When Greenwald publishes a sensational story, it helps his brand, because many readers never see follow-up stories that explain what was wrong initially. This has nothing to do with transparency or truth.
He can also put an incredible spin on facts. Take his claim that he has to live in Brazil because the U.S. doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage for the purposes of immigration.
Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians live in the U.S. Long before the NSA stories, was it impossible for Miranda to come to the U.S.?
In her Greenwald profile for the Rolling Stone, Janet Reitman writes:
Politics … had a powerful hold on him from an early age. … Greenwald’s childhood role model was his paternal grandfather, Louis “L.L.” Greenwald, a local city councilman, and “sort of this standard 1930s Jewish socialist type,” who crusaded on behalf of the poor against the voracious “condo bosses” who controlled the city. In high school, Greenwald ran a quixotic campaign for a city-council seat, which he lost, but not before scoring a “moral victory” by simply challenging his entrenched opponents. “The most important thing my grandfather taught me was that the most noble way to use your skills, intellect and energy is to defend the marginalized against those with the greatest power – and that the resulting animosity from those in power is a badge of honor.”
So, why did he choose corporate law?
He then left to start his own firm, where he was “a constitutional law and civil rights litigator,” according to his blog, Unclaimed Territory. The only case that’s ever mentioned is this one: “He spent five years defending the First Amendment rights of neo-Nazis. It was one of Greenwald’s prouder accomplishments as an attorney.”
I understand supporting the First Amendment, but why don’t we hear about other civil-rights cases in which the people didn’t deserve to be marginalized?
This is how the Southern Poverty Law Center describes Matthew Hale, a neo-Nazi and leader of a white-supremacist church: “His beliefs inspired a killing spree by his follower and friend Ben Smith and led him to solicit the murder of a federal judge, which landed him a sentence of 40 years in prison in 2003.”
Hale described Smith as “a loyal church member, a friend and a comrade.” He hunted Jews and people of color, killing two and wounding nine in 1999. Survivors filed a wrongful-death claiming Hale had incited Smith to violence. The Center for Constitutional Rights and Anti-Defamation League supported the suit.
Greenwald defended Hale pro bono. It was in this civil case that a U.S. district court found that Greenwald “recorded telephone conversations with various third party witnesses, without disclosing to those witnesses that they were being recorded.”
Apparently, he didn’t think secret surveillance was bad back then.
In 2004, he wrote in the Chicago Tribune: “The vast majority of people find Hale’s racist beliefs to be odious and evil. Far more odious, and far more dangerous, is the belief that criminalizing certain viewpoints by calling them ‘hate speech’ is something that can be done while still retaining our 1st Amendment freedoms.”
He was responding to this ADL piece:
Greenwald’s best friend is the straw man. The ADL and Center for Constitutional Rights were not advocating that the government criminalize hate speech. Instead, they were trying to accomplish what Morris Dees of the SPLC did in the case of Michael Donald, killed by Klan members in 1981. A wrongful-death case against the United Klans of America resulted in a $7-million judgment that bankrupted them.
Greenwald became disillusioned with the law, which he thought was full of “unjust rules,” Reitman writes. By the 1990s, she says, he was arguing with social conservatives on the site Town Hall. Reading her article, you might think that Greenwald never held any conservative views and went to Town Hall only to argue. (Coincidentally, Omidyar has hired a prominent editor from Rolling Stone.)
Reitman’s article seems to contradict what Greenwald wrote last January about the preface to his book “How Would a Patriot Act?”:
The whole point of the Preface was that, before 2004, I had been politically apathetic and indifferent – except for the work I was doing on constitutional law. That’s because, while I had no interest in the fights between Democrats and Republicans, I had a basic trust in the American political system and its institutions, such that I devoted my attention and energies to preventing constitutional violations rather than political debates. … When the Iraq War was debated and then commenced … I was not politically engaged or active.
In the preface, he writes that he had faith in “our democratic system of government.” After 9/11 “… my confidence in the Bush administration grew as the president gave a series of serious, substantive, coherent, and eloquent speeches that struck the right balance between aggression and restraint. I was fully supportive of both the president’s ultimatum to the Taliban and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan when our demands were not met.”
He said his faith in the administration was first shaken in 2002, with the indefinite detention of Jose Padilla.
In the run-up to the Iraq war, he writes that he had “doubts, concerns, and grounds for ambivalence.” Nevertheless, “I had not abandoned my trust in the Bush administration. Between the president’s performance in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the swift removal of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the fact that I wanted the president to succeed, because my loyalty is to my country and he was the leader of my country, I still gave the administration the benefit of the doubt. I believed then that the president was entitled to have his national security judgment deferred to, and to the extent that I was able to develop a definitive view, I accepted his judgment that American security really would be enhanced by the invasion of this sovereign country.” He said he changed his mind only after the invasion started and no weapons of mass destruction were found.
Perhaps that’s not quoted more often because Greenwald copyrighted his book.
But he used passages from his preface in January to claim that he never supported Bush or the Iraq war.
So, which version of Greenwald’s life is correct? Was he a political naïf who always supported the leader of his country, until revelations after the Iraq invasion? Or has he enjoyed debating politics since he was a kid and never supported Bush or the war? Where’s an investigative reporter when you need one?
In the preface, he also wrote: “Throughout our history, we have vanquished numerous enemies at least as strong and as threatening as a group of jihadist terrorists without having the president seize the power to break the law.” Say what? As Nancy Kassop wrote in 2003: “Throughout history, presidents have taken actions during wartime that were later deemed either unconstitutional or excessive, such as Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War.” How could someone who studied constitutional law not know these things? Or, did he omit them to make a stronger case against Bush?
Where’s the evidence that Greenwald has always wanted to help the marginalized? It wasn’t in his 2005 post that decried illegal immigration: The parade of evils caused by illegal immigration is widely known, and it gets worse every day. In short, illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone. Few people dispute this, and yet nothing is done.”
You might not know this post existed at all because the archives at
contain only the posts from the end of each month. This is a change from last year, when I read all of his 2005 and 2006 posts. I assume this is a problem with Blogger.
He has attached a disclaimer to the immigration post saying he hasn’t believed what he wrote back then for a long time. He blames “Obama cultists” for digging it up. For the record, I’ve been a critic of Obama since the 2008 primary. I’m delighted when people with abhorrent views change their minds, but not when they try to weasel out of their past.
Greenwald started blogging with his criticism of Scooter Libby in October 2005. “It is illegal to disclose classified information to individuals who are not cleared to receive it. Period.”
He criticized the administration, but he also commented on hyperbolic praise of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald: “Much of this is overblown, and is plainly motivated by an aching desire on the Left to believe that the Great Savior has finally arrived, in the person of a U.S. Attorney from Chicago, to slay the evil-doers in the Bush Administration and rescue the captive nation from its 5-year nightmare.”
In November 2005, he wrote Bush’s “steadfastness and refusal to play by the long-standing rules of the Washington establishment is almost certainly the attribute which most accounts for the increasingly intense dislike of the Bush Administration by the Washington press corps. … So Hersh thinks it’s ‘alarming’ that he’s been writing anti-war articles for several years now and Bush still hasn’t caved in his support for the war. We’re supposed to be scared and outraged because Bush doesn’t watch Wolf Blitzer interviews and then change his mind afterwards, or that Bush still supports the war even after Hersh writes another article based on anonymous officials who have come to him in order to attack Bush’s policies.”
Greenwald accused Hersh of caricaturing Bush to the delight of some Leftists, such as The Talent Show blog.
At this time, he disliked the “soulless” Clintons.
Also in November, he said the “increasingly populous group which supported this war but now
wants to pretend that Iraq is ready for us to leave
— all because they want to minimize political damage to Republicans and to Bush — are really acting reprehensibly.”
A 2006 post with a disclaimer that can no longer be found is this one:
These early posts criticize Bush for betraying true conservatism. “It has long been clear that there is nothing remotely ‘conservative’ about this Administration, at least in the sense that conservative ideology has stood for a restrained Federal Government which was to be distrusted.”
In the name of transparency, will he ever clarify whether he believed that Harry Blackmun was one of the 10 worst Americans, who “with a single, intellectually flimsy judicial opinion, did more than anyone else to inflame and render irresolvable America’s paralyzing and internally destructive culture war”? Or was some anonymous woman to blame?
He accuses anyone who discusses his past as committing a smear job, even if what they say is true. He seems to belong to the FOI wing that believes that people with power and influence are fair game if they work for the government or attack him, but not if they are promoting themselves or their institution (See Assange).
He was outraged over the New York Daily News revealing that he once invested in a porn business. Here’s why it’s relevant: Not only has he been an absolutist in his free-speech defense of men who create hard-core porn, but he also believes that if a woman says she was happy to swallow vomit, then, by god, any feminist who questions her is “drowning in misogyny and contempt for women.”
Here’s what transparency might look like: “I once invested in pornography, and I firmly believe that all the participants in my business did so willingly and were never hurt in any way. Perhaps that colors my views on the women who worked for Max Hardcore.
“By the way, I may not like it if a poor person sells his kidney in order to keep his children from starving, but I’ll absolutely defend his right to enter into such a contract, and anyone who criticizes that practice must have contempt for the free will of poor people.
“In fact, I don’t believe in the coercive nature of money. That’s why I think a well-off American can go to a poorer country and find a poor, less educated lover who happens to be much younger, more attractive and devoted, and it has nothing to do with privilege.”
I’ve criticized Greenwald anonymously before, and I’ve asked John Young for anonymity this time because I don’t want Greenwald fans to harass me. I’m not looking for a job, and I’m not selling myself as unbiased. Young and I have different views, but I enjoy reading him because he skewers hypocrites in the freedom-of-information business.