Sunday, December 20, 2015

Can We Take Greenwald Seriously?


For John, BLUFMr Glenn Greenwald is a prig.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



This is a post about good old Glenn Greenwald, lawyer and reporter.  "Glenn Greenwald:  Fascism’s Fellow Traveller".  The writer is Jamie Palmer and the source is the web presence Quillette.

Here is the first part of the article—a little long to provide context.

“When Glenn Greenwald castigates the dead Charlie Hebdo cartoonists for racism,” the writer Sam Harris observed recently, “he’s not only proving that he’s a moral imbecile; he’s participating in a global war of ideas over free speech – and he’s on the wrong side of it.”

Back in April, the short story writer Deborah Eisenberg took a rather different view.  In her letter to PEN’s executive director Suzanne Nossel, Eisenberg included Greenwald on a shortlist of people she considered worthier of PEN’s annual Freedom of Expression Award for Courage than the dead and surviving Charlie Hebdo staff.  Unlike the slain cartoonists, she wrote of her recommendations, “their courage has been fastidiously exercised for the good of humanity.”

All things considered, this was an extravagant claim to make on behalf of Greenwald’s valour and integrity, particularly at Charlie Hebdo’s expense.  Greenwald – formerly of Salon and the Guardian and now co-founding editor at Pierre Omidyar’s campaigning blog, the Intercept – is most famous as the journalist to whom rogue NSA employee Edward Snowden leaked a vast cache of national security information before finding sanctuary in Putin’s Russia.  Eisenberg stated that it was for his work on this story that she was recommending him as an honoree.

But Greenwald’s reputation as an unbending defender of free expression stretches back a good deal further than this.  Before becoming a writer, he had worked as a litigator defending clients in a number of controversial First Amendment suits, and has since written several trenchant polemics defending the right to unconditional free speech.  In January 2013, for example, Greenwald wrote the following for the Guardian as part of a response to a French government proposal to censor online hate speech:

The history of human knowledge is nothing more than the realization that yesterday’s pieties are actually shameful errors.  It is constantly the case that human beings of the prior generation enshrined a belief as objectively, unchallengably [sic] true which the current generation came to see as wildly irrational or worse.  All of the most cherished human dogmas – deemed so true and undeniable that dissent should be barred by the force of law – have been subsequently debunked, or at least discredited.  How do you get yourself to believe that you’re exempt from this evolutionary process, that you reside so far above it that your ideas are entitled to be shielded from contradiction upon pain of imprisonment?  The amount of self-regard required for that is staggering to me.
Reading this, it would seem logical to suppose that Greenwald’s solidarity with the staff of Charlie Hebdo could be taken for granted.  The magazine has, after all, dedicated itself to mocking religious and political pieties, and its attackers, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, were surely guilty of the self-regard for which Greenwald expresses such vehement contempt.  They considered themselves to be emissaries of God, no less (or – more directly – His fanatical, self-appointed earthbound representatives in Yemen), and sought to shield their beliefs from precisely the kind of criticism and ridicule which eventually cause such cherished dogmas to collapse.

Instead, as Sam Harris noted, the blood had scarcely dried on the walls of Charlie Hebdo‘s offices before Greenwald published a furious article at the Intercept, reviling the magazine for its alleged racism and pouring scorn on its defenders.  That hismisreading of Charlie Hebdo demonstrated a profound ignorance of their material and a dismal inability to parse satire ought to have been beside the point.  After all, as Greenwald was at pains to remind his readers, he has spent much of his life defending the freedom of people to express views he abhors.

I think that in this area Mr Greenwald has lost his bearings.  He has left the Western Culture for some other culture.

And it isn't just Free Speech.  Mr Glenn Greenwald is happy to pick on US intelligence gathering, but not that of Russia.  He is without balance.  He dislikes the West and continuously condemns it, but he seems to like all those other groups, including those who would lock him up for execute him or his own lifestyle.  Hard to figure.

Regards  —  Cliff

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