Thursday, April 16, 2015

10 Years After: 2013 -- Droneglass!

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Snowden Year of 2013.  

Sure, a lot of other stuff happened, but The Story of the year was Edward Snowden blowing town with his magic bag of secrets, and Glenn Greenwald using Snowden's magic bag as 
  • Source material for important and consequential stories, 
  • A sledgehammer to beat the crap out of anyone who did not line up 100% with his political views, and 
  • A Willie Wonka Golden Ticket.
So let me 'splain,

Let me sum up.

In 2013 their were lots of different Glenn Greenwalds competing for our attention.

Greenwald the constant Twitterer who made nun-rape jokes about Obama supporters and  Greenwald the journalist who was trying to parse hundreds of thousands or millions of complex, unredacted documents.

There was the Greenwald who threatened the bring the US government to its knees.  The Greenwald who was invited onto MSNBC over and over again and given an open mic, and the Greenwald who constantly complained that MSNBC was an Obama tool-shed that refused to Tell the Truth.

There was the Greenwald who wanted to tell a great story...and the Greenwald who could not stop inserting himself into the story while simultaneously complained bitterly that other people kept making him part of the story.  The Greenwald of 2006, who the Greenwald of 2013 would have spat on..from his seat on Fox and Friends or on Chinese State teevee.  The Greenwald who held others to very high standards of accountability ...while telling some fairly hilarious lies himself. The Greenwald who longed for debate without personal rancor...and the Greenwald who -- along with his mighty Purity Horde -- regularly went apeshit on anyone and everyone who disagreed with them to even the smallest degree.

Mr. Greenwald is a helluva snapping-turtle attorney: once he clamps on, right or wrong, he never lets go, and the longer the argument goes on, the more Mr. Greenwald goes gleefully nuclear in his attempt to destroy whoever he sees as his opponent.  (From Charlie Pierce):
As we go into the second week, the Guardian -- and Greenwald -- simply have to do a better job defending themselves. The first major strategy would be to get Edward Snowden to stay the hell off television for a while because, every time he goes on there and drives the nails into his own palms, he loses his cause a few thousand more supporters. (I know I don't give a rat's ass that this government is "hacking" the Chinese, who I assume are hacking us right back. My outrage meter stays well in the green zone when it comes to the butchers of Tiananmen Square, thanks.) We know what you did. I, at least, am grateful for what you did, even if it turns out that Perlstein's right and you didn't do as much as we thought you did. But enough with the free-speech-martyr act, please. Your act already has done us all the ancillary favor of helping Congressman Peter King, and Speaker John Boehner, and Tom Friedman make fools of themselves. Your work here is done. Go away and quietly plan your legal defense. And Glenn Greenwald should become more sensitive at distinguishing support from blind idolatry and stop starting fights that remove him from the basic point of what's going on. If you're reduced to implying that Rick Fking Perlstein is overly solicitous of this administration, it's time to lose all the fanboys and come back to the pack a little.
My point, I think, was that all the Greenwalds in the public Greenwald chorus counted (I don't care what he says or does in private, or what he did as a litigator.)  And that every time Journalist Glenn decided to loan his newly embiggened public platform to Asshole Glenn or Drama Queen Glenn or Accountability-For-Thee-But-Not-For-Me Glenn or Just-Making-Shit-Up Glenn, the important and consequential story he was trying to tell suffered for it.

This was not a popular position to take and many of Mr. Greenwald's supporters profoundly disagreed with me right down the line, and would not suffer a single word to be said against him. Soon my usually spare comment section was overflowing with long screeds about what me a drooling cultist tool of jackbooted imperialism I had become.


As had always been my policy, I let the commentors come and have their say -- even the confusing multiplicity of anonymous ones -- until the trolls started to overrun the place and spill into the comment threads of virtually every other post with long, gibbering denunciations of horrible, horrible me.  Then I tightened the rules up a little and started deleting the umpteenth "You sellout fascist bastard" comment from the same, boring trolls who kept slamming the screen door and vowing Never To Return until they came back to tell me One More Thing.

Also, by late-2013/early-2014 my "social experiment" motive for some of these posts had been satisfied.  There are elements on the Left just as rigid, purity-obsessed and single-issue focused as any teabagger.  They never seem to show up for discussions about race or poverty or guns or health care or the dying middle class or US energy policy or anything else, but they will spring into immediate, keening action and burn you at the stake as a heretic the minute you say a discouraging word about Glenn Greenwald.

As one of the last single-shingle, ad-free, solo Liberal bloggers in the world, in 2013 I continued doing exactly what I have done since Day One: write about about what was interesting and important to me, exactly as I saw fit.

In the process, I lost about 1/3 of my readership and changed nothing, which is a fair bargain.

After all, being able to write to suit myself and be read by even a small handful of others is a great privilege and one which I don't take for granted.

And being on the wrong side of lost causes is my jam.

If you missed the pie-fight, here's a sample.

This Week In "Do As I Say, Not As I Do", Ctd.

Mr. Greenwald continues his tireless campaign to keep the narrative focused tightly on NSA surveillance and the FISA court (and NOT on distracting side-issues) by continuing to do the exact opposite:

Because in Greenworld...
Every leaker is a noble whistleblower and every whistleblower is the Man in the Iron Mask.

Every journalist who agrees with me is Edward R. Murrow.  

Every  journalist who doesn't is a fascist dupe.

Every President is Bush.   Or worse.

Every trial is a fraud.

Every sentence is a crucifixion.

Every court is a conspiracy.

Every judge is in on it.

Every law is a joke.

Every country is vastly less evil than this one and no other country spies.

Every other issue is a deliberate distraction.

Every other concern is trivial

And everyone who thinks otherwise is a jackbootlicking stooge of Empire.
Unfortunately once you zoom down the off-ramp from the cartoonishly Manichean poppy fields of Greenworld, you run smack into a lot of complicating facts, such as the case of John Kiriakou; one of the seven actual whistleblowers who have been prosecuted by the Obama DOJ:
John Kiriakou is waiting for a phone call. When it comes, he'll pack – say goodbye to his wife and five children. And then he'll go to jail for the next two and a half years.

The sentence was already agreed even before he made his final appearance in court. It was part of a plea deal. He said he was guilty and in return the government would propose a 30 month jail term.
Yet in the US, he's best known as one of the first former or current CIA officers to acknowledge that so called enhanced interrogation techniques were being used against "terror suspects". In one interview in 2007, he detailed the use of 'waterboarding'; essentially restraining a suspect, turning him upside down and pouring water over his face to simulate drowning.

Initially it appeared he was backing the use of such methods as a way to gain valuable information, particularly in the troubling months after the September 2001 attacks on the US. But then he became a more vocal critic of the practice. He made it clear he had never participated in such interviews. Sitting in his rented him[home?] in Northern Virginia, feeding his infant son lunch, he told me:
"Ever since I first heard the CIA had begun torturing prisoners I had a problem with it. I had a moral problem, an ethical problem with it. It's not something we were ever trained in. It's not something we were ever asked to do before September 11, indeed before we started capturing prisoners in 2002. I didn't think it was necessary".
But his high public profile was enough to make him a magnet for journalists who looked for his insight and advice, particularly on the work of the CIA.

One journalist asked him if he knew a man, Deuce Martinez, who had worked as an interrogator. John Kiriakou had worked with him, but was sure he'd retired, had never worked under cover and had placed a lot of his past on a public website. He passed on his details.

And then is when he broke the law. He told me: "Did I commit that crime? Yes, I did. I didn't have any intent to commit a crime. I didn't have any intent to harm this individual".
John Kiriakou knows he'll miss some important events over the next 30 months, christenings, birthdays, graduations. And he'll miss his wife and children. He's likely to spend time in a low security prison. He's not looking forward to jail, but he doesn't fear the phone call that will come summoning him to begin his sentence.

"I'm adaptable. The CIA taught me to be adaptable and I've lived in a lot worse places."
It is a fact that Mr. Kiriakou broke the law.  A fact which Mr. Kiriakou readily admits.

It is also a fact that his motives were honorable and that his 30 month sentence in no way detracts from his bravery or from the importance of the public service he performed.

Furthermore, it is also a fact that the people who authorized and ran the torture program he exposed are criminals who should have been tried and convicted and tossed into a hole long ago.  The evidence of their crimes is overwhelming
The 577-page report was two years in the making and found the highest officials in the George W. Bush administration were responsible. It was conducted by the Task Force on Detainee Treatment, an 11-member panel convened by The Constitution Project after President Obama chose not to support a national commission to investigate the counterterrorism programs. The authors of the report wrote that never before in U.S. history had there been, quote, "the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody."
and the fact that they walk around free is an obscenity and a tragedy.

It is also a fact that Mr. Kiriakou is serving the longest sentence the courts have meted out for whistle-blowing -- 30  months.  And that he will likely serve that sentence in a "low security prison".

It is also a fact that half of the whistleblowing cases referenced in the article are carried over from the Bush Administration.


It is also a fact that Mr. Kiriakou -- who was tried in a civilian court because, y'know, he's a civilian -- did not disappear into a "super-max hellhole" as Mr. Greenwald recklessly implies is the inexorable destiny of all whistleblowers.

It is also a fact that Mr. Kiriakou has not been sentenced to "life-long solitary confinement" as Mr. Greenwald malignantly infers is the mandatory sentence for all whistleblowers.

It is also a fact that Mr. Kiriakou is quite able to participate in the debate he began and to interact with the outside world and is not being held incommunicado as  Mr. Greenwald has repeatedly and fraudulently implied is the inescapable fate of whistleblowers.  Such as he does here, on Friday, August 2, 2013 on MSNBC (h/t to Mr. Bob Cesca for locating the quotes I was looking for and writing a very good post in the same theme):
“[Snowden is] doing very well, he’s obviously very happy for the obvious reason that he’s not going to be subjected to the standard whistleblower treatment that the United States government gives to people, which is to put them in a cage for decades and render them incommunicado.”
 And again, Mr. Greenwald lying while a guest at the Sunday Gasbag Conclave on ABC on August 4, 2013 here:
“Well I think the concern is that whistle blowers in the United States have become the number one public enemy of the United States government, which is incredibly disturbing. McClatchy has been reporting great things about how the Obama administration equates whistleblowing with treason, with all kinds of programs. [...] Whistleblowers in the United States are put into prison for decades and basically disappeared, as we just saw with Bradley Manning…”
I understand how Mr. Greenwald's incessant and often hilariously apocalyptic conflations, exaggerations and character assassinations feed his gargantuan ego and titillate the ganglia of the Spleenwald horde.

What I do not understand is how it in any way advances his stated goal of ignoring all extraneous issues and maintaining a laser-like focus on stimulating open, rancor-free public debate on the important and consequential subjects of NSA surveillance and the FISA court.


A reminder that the word for what Mr. Greenwald is doing isn't "exaggerating".  It is "lying".  Mr. Greenwald is lying.  Repeatedly. About big, important, life-or-death things that can be easily fact-checked.

On another topic entirely, remember Mr Greenwald's righteous delight over Howie Kurtz's well-deserved thumping when he fucked up on a much smaller scale about a much less important story?

Remember him cheering on the brutal, week-long filleting Mr. Kurtz's got from fellow journalists?
Accountability bitches!

Hey, remember how Tina Brown held Howie Kurtz accountable for his fuck-up by burning his career at Newsweek to the ground?

I supposed its just lucky for Glenn Greenwald circa August, 2013 that the Guardian's standards of journalistic integrity appear to be so much lower than Glenn Greenwald's circa May, 2013.

UPDATE the Second:

Welcome Esquire readers
Welcome First Draft readers


trgahan said...

I still can’t tell whether Greenwald just decided he hated practicing law and is taking a crack at jet setting, activist journalist or a dark money backed wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing who set out to peel off Democratic voters from the one demographic Republicans can still find resonance: white male privileged tech dudebros and their white middle aged faux-libertarian bosses.

Victor said...

Oh, THIS will be a fun post to watch, I'm sure.

Mike Lumish said...

Ah, the good old days...

By some mysterious coincidence, I first washed up on the shores of Driftyworld at about the same time as the whole Snowden fiasco was breaking. Was he a calculating operator who intended to split the liberal/left coalition upon previously unremarked fault lines, or was he a waif who blundered into something bigger than he understood, or was he all of this and more?

Personally, I maintain that Greenwald was many things but never once a journalist. Sure he sat in a chair at the Guardian for a couple of months, but he never troubled himself to imbibe the disciplines and the habits of mind that elevate the journalist over the spitballing blogger.

And it makes a huge difference. Think of how much better off everyone would be - you, me, Snowden, America - had Snowden not been so doggedly persistent about handing the documents specifically to Greenwald and had instead made them available to an actual professional journalist. Treated by a team with the education and experience to deal with such an explosive trove, all this drama might have been avoided and we might today be looking back upon epochal advances in the legislation governing the intelligence community.

Kathleen O'Neill said...

What I find interesting but not surprising is how by and large the mainslime media and the so called "progressive left" including some bloggers who are actual journalists jumped on the story without questioning Snowald's story as to how and why documents were obtained and what information was really contained. Since when do the mainslimers embrace stories from "leftist" or "progressive"? They don't. Cue the Troll Parade in 3, 2, 1.....

Neo Tuxedo said...

Think of how much better off everyone would be [...] had Snowden not been so doggedly persistent about handing the documents specifically to Greenwald and had instead made them available to an actual professional journalist.

...where would he find one? There are actual journalists still doing journalism, and professional journalists working in the mainscream media, but very few people who meet both of those qualifications.

"The business of a New York journalist is to distort the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to villify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread, or for what is about the same — his salary."
-- John Swinton, 1883

n1ck said...


We have to let the Republicans win, that way something something mass social uprising. Then, something something utopian Social Democracy! Or something.

Also: Droneglass.

Keep on keepin' on DG. Keep pissin' off the PurityBrigade™. They deserve it.

Owl said...

The thing that's always bothered me about the Driftglass approach to Greenwald and Snowden is his oft-repeated note about how Greenwald is trying to tell an "important and consequential story," but there is nary a key press uttered by Driftglass explaining just how he thinks that's so. Search this blog for "PRISM" or "XKEYSCORE." You won't find it. He prefers to obsess about Glenzilla. (Yes, he's not called that for nothing. Congratulations, Driftglass, for an excellent job of working that mine.) The critique does fail, however, when the treatment of Kiriakou is held up as proof of Greenwald's "lying." Here again the "important and consequential story" of Ms. Manning's treatment is not seen as worthy of Driftglass keystrokes, except the ones required to cut and paste the pertinent Greenwald quote.

Neo Tuxedo said...

@Owl: I found only one mention of Xkeyscore with a Google search of "", but several pages of hits for PRISM. Judging from the text surrounding the words, he takes it less seriously than you do, but more seriously than Andrew Sullivan does.

On the subject of Chelsea Manning, however, I consider that you've nailed it. Personally, I think it possible that, if Edward Snowden came back from Russia to stand trial, his whiteness and cisgenderism could outweigh the embarrassment he's caused the all-too-human, but curiously error-prone, heroes of the [DEL: Secret Police Machine :DEL] National Security State, in terms of determining whether he should meet the same public tiger-caging as Pvt. Manning, just as I believe Julian Assange should be able to answer Sweden's charges against him without worrying that he'll immediately be extradited to a US black-site. But neither "could" nor "should" is the same as "would", and in the disinformation matrix of a nation playing the secret police game, "every player has rational (not neurotic) reasons for suspecting that each and all may be trying to deceive him, gull him, con him, dupe him and generally misinform him." (Robert Anton Wilson, Prometheus Rising, p.226 of the Falcon Press edition [Phoenix, 1983, 7th printing 1992])

Victor said...

0 to OMG OBSESSING OVER GREENWALD!!1 in seven comments.