Glenn Greenwald Dismantles the Press

A 2008 essay here by the controversial journalist ripped the media for living in a bubble of its own creation.

Glenn Greenwald, as his article from the National Interest from 2008 shows, has never been a shrinking violet. In this piece, which was commissioned by then-editor Justine Rosenthal, Greenwald took a hard look at the record of American reporters during the 2008 election campaign. It is clear in rereading it that one trait in particular irked, even outraged, Greenwald: their predilection for behaving like lemmings. The press corps, he suggested, was susceptible to group-think. No less than the candidates they purported to cover, journalists were living in a bubble. He instances not only the campaign, but also the Iraq War as a prominent example of the detachment of the press from reality.

Of what relevance are Greenwald's remarks? They echo his latest observation in the Guardian about the importance of a vigorous and independent press corps. Here is what Greenwald says about the detention of his partner David Miranda at Heathrow airport and the attempt of the British government to exercise blatant intimidation:

The U.S. and the UK governments go around the world threatening people all the time. It's their modus operandi. They imprison whistleblowers. They try to criminalize journalism. They threatened the Guardian with prior restraint and then forced the paper to physically smash their hard drives in a basement. They detained my partner under a terrorism law, repeatedly threatened to arrest him, and forced him to give them his passwords to all sorts of invasive personal information - behavior that even one of the authors of that terrorism law says is illegal, which the Committee for the Protection of Journalists said yesterday is just "the latest example in a disturbing record of official harassment of the Guardian over its coverage of the Snowden leaks", and which Human Rights Watch says was "intended to intimidate Greenwald and other journalists who report on surveillance abuses." And that's just their recent behavior with regard to press freedoms: it's to say nothing of all the invasions, bombings, renderings, torture and secrecy abuses for which that bullying, vengeful duo is responsible over the last decade.”

But the minute anyone refuses to meekly submit to that, or stands up to it, hordes of authoritarians - led by state-loyal journalists - immediately start objecting: how dare you raise your voice to the empire? How dare you not politely curtsey to the Queen and thank the UK government for what they have done. The US and UK governments are apparently entitled to run around and try to bully and intimidate anyone, including journalists - "to send a message to recipients of Snowden's materials, including the Guardian", as Reuters put it - but nobody is allowed to send a message back to them. That's a double standard that nobody should accept.

Greenwald's essay should thus prove enlightening for anyone interested not only in his own intellectual journey, but also the preservation of a free and searching press.

Glenn Greenwald: The Perilous Punditocracy

Image Flickr/Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA-2.0