Generally speaking, I regard my approach to unravelling the vast complexities of reality (if there even is such a thing - I keep an open mind) as intrepid and, for the most part, fearless. But there are two ideological holy lands that I enter clutching my commentary with some degree of fear and trembling.
The first is Israel, the sense of bracing for the worst reactionary outbursts whenever I gather the largely pointless courage to criticize Israeli policies, especially those designed and implemented by the radical Zionists who dominate decision-making there, such as with the relentless and merciless settlement expansions and the genocidal war criminality. You quickly learn that the IDF does not merely physically invade other states, but also has Minuteman-like cyber reactionaries at the ready who pounce on any and all criticism of their ways and means. Suddenly, it's like you're Charlie Hebdo and you've mocked Muhammed. Damn, these days they can use their gizmo, Pegasus, to listen in on; they might be listening in right now, rogue muscle toughs of the IDF. Or worse.
That is, if an article about Israel's latest arrogance even has its commentary section turned on; often, the Guardian, say, decides to publish a piece without reader response. After years of comments, without problems, one day I was put on probation by, say, a Guardian moderator for acerbic observations of Israeli anti-semitism toward Palestinians, as if some Israelis loathed the idea of sharing a semitic heritage with Arabs. I was so insulted at such a response to my well-intentioned abuse that I almost wrote to the Hollywood studio where I made my film debut as an Israeli commando (goyim, extra), risking my career in Raid on Entebbe going up against that man-eating monster, Idi Amin on one of the backlots. Why, I quit commenting at publications after that.
The second tread-lightly zone is in the Untamed Territory that is the commentary section of any Glenn Greenwald communication zone. Dissenters from the orthodoxy know all too well what will happen if they too tightly question a claim or fail to exhibit the appropriate level of hagiographical devotion. (Years later, I can almost remember some avatar coming at me with, "Listen, grasshopper," as if I'd been devoured by a Kung Fu episode. The trauma still hurts.) Like some of the skeptical animals with questions for Napoleon in Orwell's Animal Farm, you find you have to get through the dogs first, always mindful of what happened to that working class hero, Boxer, who, you might say, was, in the end, recognized as the glue of the community. O, don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
The irony is, and the cult of Greenwald sure does like its chumly irony feeds, you can look left at the righty wingnuts of Zion, and then right at the lefty flywheels of Sion, and totally not know the difference. I couldn't handle his acolytes abusing me for questioning some of his conclusions, so I went on the wagon and have not touched the transparency Kool Aid since. Greenwald is certainly no Right Winger, his support of GW Bush's Iraq War excepted, but he's certainly no 60s Lefty either.
Still, other than Jonathan Cook and Patrick Cockburn, over the years, few American journalists have been as courageously and as vocally opposed to Israel's fascist policies in the Occupied Territories, and its more nefarious state-sponsored doings, than Glenn Greenwald. Being a Jew, he can partially get away with it, by laughing off charges that he is "self-loathing," if he criticizes. As for many liberalized American Jews, Israeli policies over the years have created psychical conflicts between Never Again commitments and Let's Get On With It freedom of mind.
Over the years, Greenwald has been way out in front of other media hounds chasing down the hoodoo of swamp politics in DC. While at Salon, he was one of the first to note signs of corruption in Congress, even among Democrats, such as "the worthless" Dianne Feinstein, whose husband, Richard Blum, he noted was a wealthy defense contractor, and this situation more than likely seriously affected her Senate work. Feinstein was more recently implicated in insider trading on coronavirus-related stocks before a crash (Feinstein was "exonerated" because, she said, her stocks were sold by her husband, not her.) You know, like most couples, they keep separate accounts and don't share - until divorce or death. (Snark)
Greenwald did some of his best work in the last decade pointing out the Obama administration's myriad abuses of power, including his secret drone war that set a precedent by killing American citizens, expansion of the security state, pursuing journalists with the Espionage Act (including, for a while, former NYT's James Risen, Greenwald's Intercept colleague), and executive orders that challenged Congressional authority. Greenwald, way before everybody else, was using his constitutional law background to analyze how potentially evil some of Obama's precedent-making decisions were, leaving open the possibility of abuse by future presidents (ahem) not as 'morally righteous.'
Greenwald also came at journalists who essentially employed the Kathy Scruggs Voice-of-God method of delivering news, either going without any real sources or relying on "highly placed anonymous" sources without corroboration, making them little more than "stenographers" for authority figures. One recalls Greenwald's dismantling of NPR's Dina Raston-Temple back in 2014 after she used the talking points of a CIA company, Recorded Future, to slam Edward Snowden's recently released revelations about the extraordinary suffusion of the surveillance state, unbeknownst to ordinary citizens. D R-T told drive time commuters that "just months after the Snowden documents were released, al-Qaeda dramatically changed the way its operatives interacted online." Bullshit.
This attempt to smear Snowden as a traitor, rather than acknowledging him as a whistleblower, so rankled Greenwald, who had a run-in with her previously, that he savaged her at The Intercept. "NPR Is Laundering CIA Talking Points To Make You Scared of NSA Reporting," co-written with Andrew Fishman, it's a piece well worth reading, as the case Greenwald makes of D R-T's inauthenticity and lack of journalistic integrity is an industry-wide scandal (and not unrelated to why he quit The Intercept recently). It's a POV well-argued by Greenwald's bud, Matt Taibbi in Hate Inc. Another good read.
So here he was again nailing Raston-Temple, who was once again barking for her master, Obama and the national security circus. The silly 5-minute chicken nugget news bite all dipped in Dina's honeyed voice made its debut on the NPR drive-time drive-through menu on August 1, and, as Greenwald rightly pointed out, it was essentially the passive regurgitation of an unchallenged allegation made by the CEO of a company not far from Harvard Square called Recorded Future. Says D R-T, "[Recorded Future's CEO and co-founder Christopher Ahlberg] had heard the Obama administration say that terrorists had changed the way they behave because of the Snowden leaks. He wanted to see if it was really true."
She then spends most of the segment seemingly vocalizing a company press release detailing how they confirmed Obama's suspicion that the Snowden leaks had aided the enemy. As with her previous al-Awlaki hit piece, she was casually setting Snowden up for a death sentence. After all, if al-Awlaki (and later his innocent son) could be droned by executive order for expressing sympathy for the plight of jihadists, then surely a man who actually provided information to the enemy that caused them to alter their tactics, consequently putting US lives at risk, was certainly eminently drone-able, right? So Greenwald pounced.
But the time this piece ran, I'd skedaddled out of Greenwaldistan. The last straw that stuck in my craw had come when Greenwald had struck a deal with Amazon during his marketing of No Place to Hide, his Pulitzer prize-winning non-fiction account of his developmental relationship with Edward Snowden during the period he published articles drawn from the former NSA contractor's revelations about Big Brother. In October 2013, the Washington Post was for sale and was being pursued by two main billionaires -- Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Pierre Omidyar (eBay). We now know that Bezos got WaPo and, less remembered, Omidyar established, with Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept.
We soon discovered that Amazon was building a special database for the CIA, which, among other things, suggested a conflict of interest for reporting anyway. At the time, Greenwald didn't find this worthy of mention in his D R-T slap down. Why not? Could it be (I'm being cynical) because he had his prize-winning Snowden book listed with Amazon? But Greenwald was not merely selling his book on Amazon, he had entered into a special arrangement. Just under his book listing on the site was a special offer to readers: If they apply and are accepted for an Amazon.com Rewards Visa they could get his book on the surveillance state for free (!).
When you delve further, you discover that the card was issued by one AGI gift cards, which Amazon, in typical deceitful fashion, describes merely as "a Washington corporation," totally neglecting to mention that AGI is in fact a subsidiary of Amazon. Nor do you discover before beginning the application process for the Rewards Visa that your information will be processed by JP Morgan's Chase bank, with them clearly receiving data from a very specific group of readers (dissident types) that certain collectors would love to know more about. And it's because they would be specially filtered through this deal with a Greenwald purchase that a certain question of integrity arises. One notes rather quickly, by searching, that Thomas Piketty has no such special come-on associated with his Capitalism in the 21st Century.
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