Defining Glenn Greenwald
posted at 6:49 pm on August 19, 2013 by Jazz Shaw
Today, Ed provided some in-depth coverage of the UK detainment of Glenn Greenwald’s civil union partner, David Miranda. I have to take exception with something from Ed’s write-up, and it’s found right in the opening paragraph.
The UK can detain anyone crossing its borders for nine hours without charges under Schedule 7 of its Terrorism Act, using that time to determine whether a suspect constitutes a terrorist threat. They used almost every minute of that time to detain David Miranda, the civil-union partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist reporting on the NSA scandal, and confiscated all of the computer equipment Miranda carried.
The particular bone I have to pick with Ed really has nothing to do with the detainment in question. It may have been valid and could yet produce nutritious fruit in the ongoing investigations or it might have been a fit of pique by the UK authorities. It’s too soon to tell, in my never very humble opinion. But today, I challenge one phrase which Ed innocently slipped into the introduction. Here it is again, just in case you missed it. (Emphasis mine.)
the civil-union partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist reporting on the NSA scandal,
This is a complaint which may stick in the craw of a lot of folks who have long enjoyed the work of bloggers (read: Greenwald’s roots) and defended their place at the table along with everyone else wearing the cap of “journalists” in the modern era. (Though given the track record of many doing “reporting” for the mainstream media, I’m less sure how much we want to flaunt that particular title.) But even after shedding his blogging roots and moving to better quarters on the media campus at the Guardian, is Greenwald living up to the name of journalist in this affair?
I would argue that Greenwald has sacrificed any claim to that formerly noble title in the handling of this entire Snowden affair. This conclusion is reached primarily by his own words and actions. If Greenwald was actually engaged in the Commission of Acts of Journalism, it would be focused on serving the public good by releasing information of value and interest to the world while not endangering critical national security issues. I would argue that he has failed this test spectacularly on both counts.
First of all, if Journalist Greenwald had come across a trove of information which was of vital importance to the public interest, you’d think he would put it out there so everyone could get to work on it and begin righting any perceived wrongs, wouldn’t you? But he didn’t. It had to be released in dribs and drabs with “more to come” right from the beginning of this story arc on June 10th.
Greenwald also appeared to suggest that more disclosures are imminent. Greenwald wrote on Friday that more revelations were “coming shortly” and, later that day, broke a story on a tool wielded by the NSA to track surveillance data worldwide.
“Well, there are several programs that we’ve reported on so far and there’s a lot more coming,” Greenwald said on MSNBC.
And when the White House indicated that they would be pursuing Snowden, Greenwald immediately resorted to threats, indicated that if “anything happens” to him, he would open the floodgates. Really? If the information is worthy of coverage and important, why hold it hostage against something happening to Snowden?
And finally, as Ed reported, once his partner was detained – rightly or wrongly – his immediate response was that everyone was going to be sorry.
“I will be more aggressive in my reporting from now,” he told reporters in Portuguese at Rio de Janeiro’s airport, where he met his boyfriend, David Miranda, who had flown from London to Brazil.
Greenwald told reporters he has many more documents to report on, including ones about the UK. He said he thinks British authorities would come to regret their actions.
There we see the clearest admission yet from Greenwald that he’s been sitting on information to which he sees no impediment to releasing, but he might do it now because Miranda was detained. It’s “reporting” as a fit of pique rather than delivering what he believes should be in the public purview. From the beginning this has never been about reporting, informing the public or bettering the world. This has been about what it’s always about with this author. It’s about Glenn Greenwald. Glenn is in the business of promoting Glenn, and nothing else. Getting all of the vital information out to the public takes a back seat to, “if you think this is hot stuff, wait until you click back on my links and buy more of our papers next week!”
As to the second part of the formula, there is at least some modest argument to be made that Greenwald has already released too many specifics about particular government programs which could have been addressed to friendly members of Congress or through other avenues, rendering them useless before we even had the chance to investigate. There are legendary stories of reporters in England who knew the precise date and location of the D-Day invasion, but patiently waited and sat on the information until the boys were on shore to prevent the Germans from catching wind of the plans. Greenwald has no such scruples. He has a rich teat with his friend Julian Assange and his Wikileaks bretheren to suckle on, and it feeds his ego. What he releases will be guided by either what will serve his quest for fame the best or what delivers revenge for the indignities he perceives as being visited on his partner.
Journalist? Perhaps this is what journalism has become today. But if so, we shouldn’t be flocking to that particular banner.