Ready To Rumble? Glenn Greenwald Takes on YouTube
by John Kendall Hawkins
Why is Glenn Greenwald turning on and biting the hand that once fed him Mighty Chow?
Has the woke dogmatist, always loudly chewing on the 2001 watering hole's bone of contention, finally bitten off more than he can misconstreudel?
In a recent piece on his new Substack platform, "Pierre Omidyar's Financing of the Facebook 'Whistleblower' Campaign Reveals a Great Deal," we're told, with eager upturned ears, that Omidyar, the billionaire owner of Ebay (and PayPal, by acquisition), with an Iranian heritage*, is the corpo lad behind the Facebook 'whistleblower' kerfuffle, starring Frances Haugen (a name that roughly translates from German -- and note the severe blonde hair and seductive blue eyes -- "intelligence": need I say more? he goes arms akimbo), and that Pierre is, essentially, payrolling the push in Congress to have legislation passed that would force Big Social, and all other social platforms, to hire armies of "moderators" to stop hate in its tracks.
Greenwald has previously argued on his Substack site with "Democrats and Media Do Not Want to Weaken Facebook, Just Commandeer its Power to Censor" that Jesse Eisenberg -- er, I mean, Marky Mark Zuckerberg -- was crypto-ly looking to assert more power by making legislators pass an onerous bill that only giants like Apple, Facebook and Twitter and Google could enforce and storm-weather. We've seen this before. Mom and Pop gas stations forced to close (check out the byline, wink) because of situations Big Oil forces on them.
Greenwald had previously observed that as a result of the Jan 6 Wagnerian opera known as Farcical (has he no pants? more arms akimbo), corpo bloviators had managed to take down the rising alternative. As Greenwald writes,
Apple, Google and Amazon united to remove Parler from the internet forty-eight hours after leading Democrats demanded that action, right as Parler became the most-downloaded app in the country.
Greenwald sees this as censorship, first, but, more importantly, as an anti-trust issue, as the giants collude to wipe away competition, like mafia turf dons, muscling in on the little guy, like Jack Nicholson in The Departed, where like some little caesar Whitey Bulger (aka, FBI informant, and MKULTRA experimentee) likeness handed out groceries that didn't belong to him in a small grocery in Southie he was leaning on. The Bulger reference is not, metaphorically, of course, far off. Check out this NPR reference to the Mighty Whitey Himself and see if you don't sniff some Marky Mark in this whole thing. Remember, they always come after your Twinkies.
Anyway, if Greenwald's right -- I mean, correct -- then we're in for a whole lot of mental looting ahead. The 3 Big Socials will just keep coming at us, with nothing to stop them but Christ-like Pale Riders such as the nameless Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter and Bob Dylan in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, a film starring the soundtrack hit "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," in which the Dylan character when asked his name says, "Alias-anything-you-please," which closely aligns, when you think about it, with his career oeuvre, you wondering what it all meant 50 years later. Probably, it was Bobby telling us, way ahead of time, of course, that to protect our privacy in the future we'd best go crypto -- which, interestingly enough, is what Assange tells us. And the Bard's warning in "It's Alright, Ma" (check out that now lost passion) about thought-dreams being seen leading to guillotines was no slouch on the road to Bethlehem either.
To get around this Take-Down circus created by the Big Corpos in conjunction with the Big Gov, Greenwald has begun producing a news program at a site called Rumble. It has audio renditions of his Substack articles, as well as a news program he calls System Update. His latest Update, "ANNOUNCEMENT: Joining a New Free Speech Podcast Platform" is a rationale for why he is using Rumble and contains his response to reactionaries who, if Greenwald were not producing here, would be inclined to go with the monkeyshine persuasion of mind controlled Big Social manipulation that says: Rumble Baaaaad for sheeple. By actively engaging the platform the way he does, he insists that if you go after Rumble, then you are going after his message, too. So, he is selling Rumble as part of his Substack work
This presents some "issues" for professed left-leaning and independent platforms who see Rumble as a rightwing start-up. It's a strange site, featuring in its early iteration, uploaded photos of pets and children and bizarre features, such as "People Who Fake Gluten Intolerance!" and "What If You Wore the Same Clothes for a Year?" (Same clothes: spoiler alert: the answer is: You're homeless, stupid.") One real worry, as if this early start weren't enough, is the largely anonymous owners and editors of the site. If you look at the names behind the curtain, you find: Chris Pavlovski, Wojciech Hlibowicki, Brandon Alexandroff. Claudio Ramolo. Only Pavloski, a Canadian citizen, has a Wiki entry, and that is largely PR dross. But from Money, Inc. magazine we learn a tiny bit more: that "He has a heart for the people of Macedonia" and that "He worked as a Director for a space exploration company" that had as a goal establishing a space station on the moon. Macedonia?
The latter bit bears more looking into, as it suggests a possible link-up with CIA-Amazon's Jeff Bezos, who, as the reader well knows, recently shot up in a shlong-shaped rocket and touched the surly face of god and expressed a brief borrowed epiphany about the delicate blue lady below him. Bezos has publicized similar plans about setting up a fulfillment center on the moon. Fuckin' aliens are already putting in orders for flying saucer throw pillows for their space divans (akimbo).
More importantly, though, is the fact that Greenwald signed on to Rumble with a fat wallet deal described as:
The company declined to provide financial details but Greenwald said the top creators' year-long contracts will pay in the "midrange six figures."
So, yet again, would-be Greenwald fans are presented with what appears to be a conflict of interest, such as he himself has so often decried in the past. Before I employ my tsk-tsk tongue, however, I feel obliged to point out that the man is allowed to make a buck. Which, stay with me, means, you know, from a legal point of view, if Big Social fucks with Rumble, Greenwald could claim serious damages were wrought to his brand and seek, not "midrange six figures," but, dare I predict midrange seven figures?
On the other hand, and having said "yet again" above, the deal does smell of something I just don't like to smell in a thing that exudes aroma: greed and hypocrisy. GG has often been described as "hypocrite" by his eager detractors, often citing his early pro-Bush, pro-Invasion rhetoric in his 2006 book, How Would A Patriot Act? This paragraph is often cited; here's the beginning:
Despite these doubts, concerns, and grounds for ambivalence, 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, [his emphasis] 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.
Yada, yada. The complete paragraph and book can be found here. A hat tip goes to Brian Dean, author of Lazy Person's Guide to Framing, who provides an excellent analysis of the Greenwald phenomenon at his blogsite. See "The strange case of Glenn Greenwald - part 1."
In the post-mod relativist era, we can more or less disregard the hypocrisy we see in the mirror as trivially universal, but greed still needs a good spanking. I recall how I recoiled (and wrote about it) when I went to the Amazon site, shortly after Greenwald's Pulitzer-winning book, No Place To Hide, came out. (The title is taken from Senator Frank Church who described on Meet the Press, back in 1975, the potential for a tyrannical surveillance state to develop in the US that nobody could stop, if efforts weren't made to curtail their power.) Aside from the irritation of having to purchase a book at the Amazon site, which I has stopped doing after I learned the hard way that books "purchased" there are actually leases-to-read that can expire, and are DRM-protected so that they can't be shared, I noticed a SPECIAL OFFER for Greenwald's book. Amazon was telling readers that if they applied for an Amazon credit card, and got approved, they would receive the book for free. Check it out:
Not really "for free" then. In fact, some of them might lose their freedom.
As I pointed out in a previous piece, the application info would be sent to J P Morgan, who Greenwald excoriated in the past. More importantly, Greenwald's deal potentially exposed his readership to data processing by not only JP Morgan but Amazon, who have a known and well-publicized relationship with the Intelligence Community. You could see how every application for a free-book VISA card would go into a folder and fusion database. All I accuse Greenwald of here is a kind of arrogant negligence that is frustrating -- the same way his failure to respond to Ed Snowden right away and to adopt encryption for his communications was 'lazy' and raises character questions.
But with Rumble, it's a bit more complicated. As noted above, Greenwald seems to have found himself a new sugar daddy in the "midrange six figures," which begs the question of where the money comes from, and who is financially supporting Rumble. One name that comes up is Peter Thiel -- PayPal's CEO (PayPal is owned by Ebay billionaire Pierre Omidyar).- who is part of a venture capitalist group that has just invested upwards of $500 million in Rumble, according to the Wall Street Journal. "Mr. Thiel's financial backing of Rumble marks his first social-media investment since his famous early investment in Facebook, where he sits on the board," writes Keach Haggy. Could Rumble turn into a Facebook more exclusively for the Conservative-Libertarian set? It came to prominence most recently during the Jan 6 farce in DC, when Twitter alternative, Parler, referred people to Rumble for video feeds. Parler, Greenwald has shown, was shut down by a swelter of Democrats who claimed the platform was used by Trump's MAGA mob to incite rioting.
It's becoming clear that with Greenwald aboard as a star video producer (System Update) and Thiel and company bringing in big capital that Rumble intends to make a go as a viable alternative to YouTube. Recently, they filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google. As Haggy puts it:
Rumble hasn't been shy about confronting large tech companies head-on. In January, it filed a lawsuit accusing Google of abusing the power of its search engine and mobile operating system to boost its YouTube service over competitors in search rankings.
But, frankly, given Thiel's past relationship with Facebook and current business partnership with Greenwald's new enema, Pierre Omidyar, there's a sense of the incestuous to the doings, in-fighting among the in-breeds. In fact, despite Greenwald's latter day protestations, if he owns Paypal, and Paypal's Thiel is a heavy investor in Rumble, then how is Greenwald out of the Omidyar zone? And how does this Thiel-Omidyar relationship affect Greenwald's charges that Omidyar is behind the "whistleblower" Haugen's attempts to stern-face Congress into taking action. And further, if Thiel is behind the Rumble growth, and it becomes another YouTube, then, it, too, will be one of the few players that can afford moderators. Confusing stuff.
An extended reason for worrying about Thiel is his long-standing relationship with the government (CIA, NSA), especially in data collection, through his company Palantir. Anna Wiener, writing for New Yorker, recently offered up an attempt to weigh up what Thiel represents, in "What Is It About Peter Thiel?" She Cites Bloomberg's Max Chafkin, who argues that
Thiel has been responsible for creating the ideology that has come to define Silicon Valley: that technological progress should be pursued relentlessly--with little, if any, regard for potential costs or dangers to society." Thiel's devotees see him differently--as a techno-libertarian who associates advancement with personal freedom, scientific progress, and even salvation.
But, there's more. Thiel was also an investor in Abcellera, a synthetic biology lab in Vancouver that was the first to receive an American's survivor antibodies for Covid-19 as part of a privileged relationship it had with DARPA's P3 program. He now sits on the board there. You might want to invest in Rumble. Maybe Nancy Pelosi will.
Despite Thiel's dabbling in all manner of affairs, corporate and intelligence community, it is not a new adventure in conflict for Greenwald. Pierre Omidyar was shown to be involved in the 2014 overthrow of the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych's government (as a cash cow "force multiplier"). He was working with the US government to do so, specifically in conjunction with USAID, often described as CIA-soft. An article jn Pando Daily around that time summed up the conflict of Greenwald working for a regime-changer:
What all this adds up to is a journalistic conflict-of-interest of the worst kind: Omidyar working hand-in-glove with US foreign policy agencies to interfere in foreign governments, co-financing regime change with well-known arms of the American empire - while at the same time hiring a growing team of soi-disant "independent journalists" which vows to investigate the behavior of the US government at home and overseas, and boasts of its uniquely "adversarial" relationship towards these government institutions.
It's almost like deja vu all over again , as Yogi Berra would say, except, this time, Greenwald is not salaried by a left-leaner, but a right paw in Thiel.
And, finally, it's worth noting that PayPal was instrumental in starving Julian Assange of crucial operating funds in 2010, when the US State Department called on a freeze of banking transactions to Wikileaks, after the release of State Department cables. See Wired magazine's "PayPal Freezes WikiLeaks Account" So, to learn that Greenwald's six figure salary from Rumble derives, in part, from funds provided by Thiel, is uncomfortable and needs 'unpacking', as they say.
But, the thing is, I feel the same kind of frustration with Bob Dylan (a lot of fans do), and I still love the Bard from Duluth's music. Greenwald's a slightly different case, but, like Dylan who comes through with lyrics that still astound with their clarity of vision -- that almost against your will make you instantly forget hearsay reports of how he might have punched Sara ("Isis") in the face -- Greenwald often gets right to it on the political front, and that's what I generally concentrate on. Maybe he'll write a Pulitzer Prize-winning account of these up-and-down machinations with men of money and their relationship to his message-making.
It will be interesting to see how the Rumble thing works out. I have just started there myself, reading my much-beloved sonnets there so that the kind and gentle reader can hear me read them. Check it out. But I haven't yet "assessed" whether the site is a honeypot to lure in crazies and or dissidents (and other "extremists" who want off YouTube and its data-sharing with Google, and probably the IC). Maybe we'll end up calling the Spearing Rumblefish -- you know people who fit the bill of Mickey Rourke in Rumble Fish, causeless rebel types, who might feel like Abbie did -- that revolution for the hell of it's not such a bad thing. I don't mind a revolution once in a while.
(Article changed on Nov 13, 2021 at 8:56 PM EST)