Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Outrage Caucus Is Outraged

A physicist explains to an English professor how he time-traveled William Shakespeare into the present day.  So goes the plot of Isaac Asimov's short, sharp "The Immortal Bard" in which Bill Shakespeare has the following to say how much over-intellectualizing, masturbatory nonsense had been written about his plays in 500 years:
'God ha' mercy! What cannot be racked from words in five centuries? One could wring, methinks, a flood from a damp clout!'
That bit almost immediately popped to mind when I saw that Time Magazine's Michael Grunwald had written (and then apologized for) an amazingly ugly Tweet about someone dropping a drone on  Julian Assange  which, as Charles Pierce notes, Michael Grunwald managed:
...not only to disgrace almost 400 years of American journalism, but also to give Assange yet another reason to wax righteously paranoid. Neither of these is exactly a public service.
It came to mind once Mr. Grunwald's id-droppings hit the Twitter because that at that moment it became inevitable that we would be treated to another pants-shitting, hair-on-fire essay from David Sirota in which something small is immediately widened out into an all-encompassing indictment of the depravity of all journalists (with the exception of David Sirota and a couple of David Sirota's friends) dating back to Josephus.

Cue Mr. Sirota wringing a flood from a damp Tweet in 3...2...1...
Grunwald vs. Greenwald: Who’s the “activist” journalist, now? 
A "mainstream" reporter calls for the murder of a public figure, but somehow his "journalist" bona fides are intact
And so forth.
Likewise, it is yet more proof that the nonchalant blood lust that pervades the National Security State also exists inside the establishment media...
And so on.
But, then, journalists hating on journalism and political reporters worshiping state-sponsored violence is no big reveal anymore. In that sense, Grunwald’s morbid fantasy is notable primarily because...
And so forth.
What is more revelatory is what the context of the Grunwald episode says about the intensifying debate over who is and who is not a true “journalist,”  and...
After which Glenn Greenwald's most loyal Igor assembles a few comments and one stupid question into a broad-based conspiracy by "the most pro-establishment media voices" to drive Mr. Greenwald out of the profession, thus bringing us at last to the real subject of the article:
In response to Greenwald’s scoops, the most pro-establishment media voices have insinuated that because Greenwald has previously stated opinions on issues like government secrecy, militarism and surveillance, he should be treated as something less than a journalist — or even as a full-on criminal.
Golly!  That sounds pretty serious.  So serious, in fact that the casual reader might breeze right though Mr. Sirota's thin bill of particulars without ever realizing that when Mr. Sirota writes this -- 
Likewise, Carl Bernstein said of Greenwald that a “reporter has no business making” a “non-reportorial statement.”
-- Carl Bernstein is not, in fact, making some general statement of Mainstream Reporter Dogma about reporters and non-reportorial statements, bit is instead is referring to his reaction to this one, specific statement made by Glenn Greenwald:
"The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare."
Nor would the casual reader ever glean from Mr. Sirota's account that Carl Bernstein's full statement was this:
"With all my regard for The Guardian, which is considerable...  that's an awful statement, and the tone in which he made it," the former Washington Post reporter said. "It's one thing to say that Mr. Snowden possesses some information that could be harmful, and that could be part of the calculation that everybody makes here. It's another to make that kind of an aggressive, non-reportorial statement [that] a reporter has no business making." 
"There are, at the same time, precautions... that Snowden has taken in terms of secreting some information in various places that definitely would disclose more things -- some of which might or might not be inimical to the interests of the United States," he continued. "But that statement by that reporter is out of line."
Nor would  the casual reader ever divine from Mr. Sirota's account that Mr. Greenwald's response to Mr. Bernstein (after making sure to first personally insult him) was that he never said any such thing. That it was all "wildly distorted" (in the sense that it was a verbatim quote of what he actually said.)

But such fussy distinctions would interfere with Mr. Sirota gathering up one more Establishment Bad Guy to pile on top of his tirade, and so out they go.

Where were we?

Oh yes, I remember.  Transforming molehills into the front range of the Rocky Mountains and then setting them on fire:
So which is it? Does having an opinion disqualify one from being a journalist? Or can you have an opinion and still retain the coveted “journalist” status and protections?
And so forth:
WikiLeaks and Greenwald hold pro-transparency opinions. Because those kind of opinions do not serve the corporate and government establishment, those establishments work to marginalize them by treating them and those connected to them as non-journalists...
And of course the Mulligatawny wouldn't taste like mama used to make without at least a dollop of !Bradley!Manning!:
Consider how the legal wrangling in the Bradley Manning case shows a government that is trying to narrow the definition of journalist on ideological grounds.

And this, our life, 
exempt from public haunt, 
finds tongues in trees, 
books in the running brooks, 
sermons in stones, 
and Salon article fodder in everything.


Hap said...

Why is any of this important? Let's assume that everyone reporting these stories is an irresponsible dick. Let's assume that Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have unpure motives. Now can we actually discuss the stories? Please? I would really like to know what you think on these important issues and why, DG. I no longer care what you think of Greenwald, Manning, and Snowden -- if I ever did.

BlindRobin said...

He who steals my purse...

Anonymous said...

Even the WSJ has become alarmed at NSA spying--when are you going to wake up?bettpsi

Carmelo Clandestine said...

Bettpsi brings up what may be THE most interesting thing about this whole security-agencies-run-amok foofaraw: How the old political coalitions in the USA are dissolving, and reforming into new ones.

Many people I would have thought were staunch liberals are now revealing themselves to be elitist and authoritarian. I am still trying to puzzle out how and why this has happened.

Jack said...


Hate to break it to you, but Driftglass *is* talking nearly every day about the issues connected to this story that really matter. If you want to hear him talk more specifically about the merits of the police state, Bradley Manning, the Patriot Act, and Obama's role in all of it, go back and listen to some of the episodes from the Professional Left Podcast archive. Driftglass and Blue Gal talked about all of these things in depth on numerous occasions -- and prior to the podcast, they blogged about them. Their positions on these issues are well known to anyone who has followed them, and easy to discover for newbies.

The thing is that the story has now taken on a new, sick form: it has been captured by an absolutely deranged camp of libertarian enemies of government and enemies of the American people (and, let's face it, enemies of most of the people in the West).

Driftglass and Blue Gal have spent over a decade talking about the dangerous turn towards fascism represented by Bush/Cheney encroachments on civil rights. And you know how your pals responded? By calling us traitors and enemies of the state for daring to question the brilliance of the GOP. (Greenwald being an exception; we all, I think, admired him before he started compulsively lying, compulsively attacking anyone who disagreed with him 1% of the time, and compulsively using these stories to market himself and get rich doing so.)

Let me be real honest: The vast majority of us love our country and don't want it or its people to be harmed. It upsets us when Snowden and Greenwald and their hordes of libertarian followers gleefully promise to do as much damage to America as they can, to do as much damage to our security as they can. I may be outraged about the surveillance state (the details of which have been completely obscured by the endless lies and exaggerations of Greenwald and his ilk), but I'm a patriot, too, and hearing assholes from the far right threaten my country does get my back up.

That asshole Snowden is running around the world with four laptops loaded with incredibly sensitive national security secrets; he has foolishly and carelessly let those secrets fall into the hands of the Chinese and the Russians. He openly admits his stolen secrets can do terrible damage to America if released to the wrong people, and he has openly confessed to trading those secrets to China for a few days' accommodation and their willingness to consider his asylum application. (Whoops! They rejected it; can we have our sensitive national security secrets back?)

There's something else simpletons should understand: The United States *really does* have enemies. There *really are* people trying to hurt us, and to kill our citizens. For every tea-bagging fundamentalist Christian dreaming of killing Arabs and atheists and gays and liberals, there are fundamentalist Muslims trying to do the same: kill gays and liberals and women and Americans. I don't know what *you* think, but I expect my government to do everything it can to protect me from both of these camps: Your allies on the far right, and your friends who are trying to kill us from overseas.

And I don't need you or Greenwald to tell us that the United States brought a lot of this on itself because of the horrific policies of Bush/Cheney, and to a significantly less degree, Obama. We know that. But no, sorry, we're *not* going to just drop our guard and cease all efforts to intercept and prevent terrorism just because there has been a terrible record of abuses -- abuses we have long condemned at the top of our lungs, to little notice or effect. If you believe we should just fold up the tent and stop efforts to prevent terrorism, why don't you blow *yourself* up as a symbolic sacrifice instead of trying to endanger the lives of everyone else in America?

Jack said...

One of the key points Driftglass and Blue Gal have made -- in the past and recently -- is that Obama made a terrible mistake not prosecuting Bush/Cheney and their henchmen for what they have done. Instead Obama tried what he always tries: to gently ease us back from the brink Bush/Cheney pushed us to, calculated to arose the least possible opposition. That was working for a while; we have made slow, gradual, but significant strides in untangling the mess Bush and Cheney left. But it wasn't enough, and it gave compulsive liars like Snowden and Greenwald and the assembled hordes of internet libertarians the opening they needed to falsely paint Obama as an out of control tyrant who is "worse than Bush" and personally responsible for everything that never actually happened because it was just made up out of whole cloth (like "NSA admits it is listening to all our phone calls.")

blader said...

Whatever sparks of truth that exist in the Snowden files become lost in the GG smokescreen of lies and hyperbole.

The Guardian has a rogue 'reporter' on its hands, and has far more to lose than GG.

Credibility matters in a reality-based world.

Anonymous said...

A righteous rant, Jack.

I understand why it is tempting for some to believe that the world would be disarmed if the US were to demilitarize -- the US is *that* powerful -- but it simply isn't true. It would be a unilateral disarmament not a multilateral one.

The fact that I believe intelligence gathering and state violence both have a valid role to play in checking foreign threats, symmetrical and asymmetrical, is apparently where I part company with the people you are castigating.

-- Nonny Mouse

marindenver said...

Yes, very good points. There are people in the world who believe the United States is inherently evil and want to hurt us. Who have, in fact, hurt us. And for which *we*, by which I mean George Bush and his puppet masters, attempted to retaliate in the most inappropriate way possible by starting 2 wars that could not be brought to a good conclusion and just succeeded in ramping up the "hate the USA" factor.

Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are not, by any definition, "whistleblowers". Arguably they're traitors. But they both seem to be young and naive and susceptible to performing Quixotic gestures without thinking through the consequences. I think this was reflected in Manning's sentencing under which he could possibly be free in about 10 years. (This also significantly dilutes GG's argument that if Snowden does turn himself in he will automatically be disappeared into a cage for decades until he rots and everybody forgets about him. Oops.)

But to get to the subject of the post, I loved this:

"Oh yes, I remember. Transforming molehills into the front range of the Rocky Mountains and then setting them on fire"

so much that I would like to take that comment on a personal guided tour of the Rockies and a drive-by of David Sirota's house. Where we can moon him and give him the razzberry.

As far as picks from the piece, "A "mainstream" reporter calls for the murder of a public figure" was beautifully hyperbolic. Fortunately Grunwald didn't go so far as to wish Assange would DIAF. Imagine the hysteria that would evoke.

Carmelo Clandestine said...

We could stop all the terrorism--without signing our souls over to the Warfare State--by ceasing our support of kings and dictators in the Middle East, and by cutting off our subsidies to the Holy Israeli Empire.

Or rather, we could do that if this country were actually the democratic republic it boasts of being.

However, the global Malefactors Of Great Wealth need the Warfare State (by which I mean not only the overt military forces but also the intelligence and covert-action agencies) to force what used to be called "Third World" countries to submit to perpetual exploitation, when bribes to native elites fail to accomplish that purpose, or rebellions which threaten to be effective arise against such native elites.

Terrorism is simply the violent resistance to such exploitation.

It does not work very well, since the terrorists never can kill their true enemies, the MOGW--they can only kill the slaves of their enemies. The MOGW do not care, since they have millions, even billions, more slaves to replace those who are killed.

The global MOGW own the US govt. as well, so the Warfare State and its Empire will continue.

As I noted on another thread, I don't think any of the Empire's human enemies can destroy it.

Rather, it will perish of its own folly, as did its late, unlamented adversary, the USSR.

However, the USSR died of economic inefficiency, which I do not think will slay the MOGW's Empire.

This Empire of Capital, to maintain itself, must extract vast amounts of non-renewable resources, and use those resources in massively polluting fashion.

These follies bring consequences.

The Empire will die of ecological inefficiency, or more poetically, the Wrath of Gaia.


Carmelo Clandestine said...

I was wondering earlier why so many staunch liberals morphed into elitists and authoritarians, but now three of them have reminded me.

Maybe I am the fool they think I am, for I overlooked the most glaringly obvious reason--FEAR.

I, too, was fearful and angry after the attacks of 9-11-01. If a nation-state had sponsored them, I was ready to turn its capital into a glass crater which glowed in the dark. It took about a year before I started re-individuating my mind out of tribal loyalty and becoming my old self again.

Any of us have a better chance of dying in a traffic accident than a terrorist attack, even if one lives in a major city (which I do not).

Shall we sell our souls to ward off such a small risk?

Carmelo Clandestine said...

*sigh* "Any of us has..."

I wish I could afford to buy Drifty a deluxe forum, in which I could edit my grammatical and spelling errors when I spot them after posting, and copy-and-paste links and pix, like on the anime forum which I frequent.

Anonymous said...

That's nice, Carmelo, but as has been pointed out many times before refusing to swallow the distortions, exaggerations, and lies of non-state actors is not authoritarianism no matter how anti-authority those actors happen to be.

I appreciate that you've been working on your little thesis for awhile now but it only holds up if certain things are true: there is only one rational side to the security debate (there is more than one), there is no reason to fact-check Glenn Greenwald (there demonstrably is), and there is no function of the US government worth defending (there is).

So you're making up a little narrative, reading some people's minds, hand-waving away a few arguments, and of course projecting like a mother fucker, all as a fancy way to justify slapping offensive labels on people who don't see things the same way as you. Cute but transparent.

Well, I have a counter thesis: Some of us don't trust Glenn Greenwald because he has a long history of being dishonest; we are not comfortable placing the task of correcting the US security state in the hands of people with a demonstrated tendency towards unapologetic extremism; we are not interested in sacrificing the legitimate functions of the government just because the caucus of perpetual outrage has lost all sense of proportion.

The best part of *my* thesis is that you don't need to be telepathic or super creative to come up with it, you just need to read what your opponents have been saying since the outset. You don't have to agree, just acknowledge. Not hard at all. No? Ok, well think about it, because an argument from you Glennwaldos that is not based on the worst possible assumptions of other people's motives would be pretty fucking novel.

-- Nonny Mouse

Anonymous said...

Carmelo, have you thought about frequenting that anime forum more frequently? God you're tedious. On the other hand, being an anime fan certainly does help explain your worldview.

Phil Perspective said...

And your comment about this:


is what?

kfreed said...

The problem is not that someone made a dumbass joke about droning Assange. The problem is that people actually cringe before Greenwald the same way they cringe before Fox "News"... allowing shysters posing as journalists to mold the national discourse, which has essentially become a giant joke laden with RW anti-government conspiracy theories. Interesting that it tends to boil over whenever there's a democrat in the White House. What Greenald is doing is no different than what Fox does. I consider it entertainment for the feeble minded.