Glenn Greenwald’s Journalism

Greenwald seeks the sacrosanct trappings of neutrality with none of the fetters.
Greenwald seeks the sacrosanct trappings of neutrality with none of the fetters.

INTERNET –  The Snowden case has raged so far out of control that it has many on the Internet scrambling to redefine journalism. In large part, this is because Snowden has been working primarily with Glenn Greenwald, a popular opinion columnist, to publish his leaks.

But that’s OK, writes Benjamin Cosman of Policymic, in an opinion called “Glenn Greenwald: The Made-Up Divide Between Journalists and Activists.”

. . . This sacrosanct sort of objective journalism doesn’t exist. Whether written by activists or journalists, agendas are always present — even if a journalist’s agenda is to sell themselves and copies of the publications for which they write. To think otherwise is naivete that misses the fundamental goals of media.

I would be the first to admit that the ideal of unbiased reporting is merely an ideal, but does this mean it should be discarded altogether? Should we give up eating better because the perfect diet is an ideal that doesn’t exist? Well, maybe there’s a fundamental goal in media that is missing from this picture.

Greenwald himself posits what journalism should be: “to serve as a check on power.” He has certainly played this part well in recent weeks, but he too misses something. Trying to pigeonhole journalism into one packaged definition is useless. For the journalism that pits itself against the empowered establishment, there is also the journalism that seeks to forward and expand that power.

Any long-time listener to Rush Limbaugh would find this view of media’s fundamental goal, a teleology that instantly generates a binary, very familiar. Limbaugh is really the only journalist ready to bring truth to power – much unlike the mainstream media, which through its many attempts at the namby pamby objective ideal (and political correctness) acts as a servile and pathetic institution of the tyrannical other, Liberals.

When Cosman divides journalism into the good kind that decreases established power and the bad kind that solidifies it, he is perhaps a bit like a Limbaugh supporter whining about the Liberal agenda of mainstream media. One might argue that Limbaugh clearly aims to increase the established power of Republicans, but that’s ignoring his entire shtick.

The Liberal agenda is the one of establishment tyranny, and Limbaugh, of course, acts as a check on that power. Greenwald’s analogous narrative pits him against an other which is more ambiguous, “established power.” Compared to Limbaugh, Greenwald’s agenda is much more difficult to make out.

Unbiased pieces should breed more suspicion than clearly opinionated ones, a matter of overt versus covert agendas. At least with slanted journalism there is no pretense of neutrality, it doesn’t try to pretend it’s anything but an argument for what is right. Any journalist is going to have an agenda, so they might as well get it out in the open.

An argument for what is right is something that is of great importance, but why is there such a desperate rush to brand Greenwald’s opinion as
“journalism?” A journalist, at least traditionally, has the privilege of that sacrosanct title because of a commitment to truth and an abandonment of agenda. They write the first draft of history, and even though the project is flawed, it can’t be thrown out with the dirty bath water.

Greenwald supporters, like Cosman, want to place him in the very sacrosanct space they reject as real by inverting or demolishing its boundaries. Thucydides, one of the first historians known to attempt something resembling a scientific and objective narrative of human events, once said:

Civil war ran through the cities; those it struck later heard what the first cities had done and far exceeded them in inventing artful means for attack and bizarre forms of revenge. And they reversed the usual way of using words to evaluate activities. Ill-considered boldness was counted as loyal manliness; prudent hesitation was held to be cowardice in disguise, and moderation merely the cloak of an unmanly nature. A mind that could grasp the good of the whole was considered wholly lazy.

No one but Greenwald had the bravery to rush the story to print within Snowden’s 72-hour deadline. Attempts at unbiased reports on Snowden are suspicious, and any kind of neutrality is often worse than pretentious or cowardly. It’s inhuman not to side with Greenwald.

One reply on “Glenn Greenwald’s Journalism”

Glenn Greenwald is yet to deny that he conducts all of his interviews naked from the waist down. Which isn’t a criticism.

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