Ok, I'm about to get a little "inside baseball," sorry. And it's long. (Sarah, might as well stop reading now.) Glenn Greenwald is a journalist at Salon. He's a constitutional lawyer and a really smart guy. He does great work and is good at needling establishment journalists. See a great post he recently did on nepotism in American media and politics here. Glenn Greenwald (hereafter GG) relentlessly tries to hold public officials' feet to the fire and, you know, more power to him. He is also really great at updating his blog posts constantly, giving his readers the opportunity to do nothing all day but READ F**KING GLENN GREENWALD. (I imagine hanging out with GG is exhausting. "Ok, update, you guys," he says every five minutes before heading to the bar and sending constant text updates after ordering a drink. "update: w8tng 4 wsky sr." "update viii: "wsky sr almst re-D." "update xvi: jst xd 4 xtra chry.")
Glenn Greenwald is also, sadly, a tiresome, needlessly bitchy queerbag sometimes. I can say this because my boyfriend Jimmy is also often needlessly bitchy and queer.
One of GG's hobby horses (and rightly so) is the whole torture thing. GG is a true believer; he thinks that investigations of and prosecutions for torture should happen and should target anyone involved, top to bottom. And that would be so great if it were possible. If only we all lived in a vacuum, where there were no political realities and the former vice president hadn't successfully started turning torture into just another partisan issue that the right and the left can fight over. A few months ago, GG took issue with NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd (full disclosure: I'm a big fan of the Chuck) asserting in an interview on Morning Joe that the topic of torture investigations was "cable catnip" and that what Obama really wants to focus on is getting the public's trust on the economy and health care.
In my humble opinion, that's not a controversial statement. Chuck was simply letting everyone know, perhaps inartfully, where the president's priorities are. And remember, this has never really been in doubt--how many times has Obama said he wants to look forward? But leave it to GG to take Chuck's words and blow them up into something they did not mean. Sayethed Glenn in response:
Our media class literally believes that high executive branch officials have the right to break the law. For that reason, they cannot even recognize illegality as an issue worth anyone's attention. Thus, all this "torture" and "lying to Congress" and violating oversight laws is just "cable catnip," political posturing that obscures what truly matters. So sayeth NBC News' White House correspondent.
Yes! That exactly what Chuck was saying. It's so clear and not ginned up at all. Good God, Glenn, calm the f*ck down. In response to this brouhaha (GG's readers are pretty much in lockstep with him, kind of like Rush's dittoheads), which was picked up by HuffPo and all the other usual suspects, Chuck, who seems like an eminently decent guy, agreed to talk to Glenn on a podcast to be uploaded to Salon's site. They had a good discussion, and it was great to hear them both argue their points, which can be simplified down to INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE GODDAMMIT vs. WELL, THAT'S JUST NOT POLITICALLY REALISTIC. I agreed with both of them, because I'm a Libra. But one thing was certain: You would be hard pressed to take from that interview any feeling that Chuck believes the executive branch is allowed to break the law and that he doesn't take the issue seriously. That was a hyperbolic and useless charge to fling at Chuck, and Glenn knows it.
But it didn't end there. Do you guys know Jeremy Scahill? He's the guy that wrote that book on Blackwater, a self-described "rebel reporter" (what is this, middle school?) who's hobby horse is, duh, Blackwater (an uber-creepy Christian mercenary army devoted to wiping out Muslims and that is also a contractor in the War on Terror, yikes), but also torture (again, rightly so). Again, Scahill is a smart guy, he's got balls of steel, and, like Glenn, he is relentless in pressing his points. (Full disclosure: he's also hawt, so he's obviously worth listening to.) Anyway, another one of Scahill's hobby horses is the awfulness of the mainstream media; he appeared on Bill Maher a few weeks ago on a panel that also included the Chuck, and he went after Chuck, as the lone representative of the mainstream media, for being unwilling to investigate and report on the awful acts perpetrated by Blackwater (acts that include murder). He again brought up the "cable catnip" comment as proof that Chuck is a gutless reporter.
Ok, yes, the media needs to grow a pair and press our leaders (even Obama!) about this organization and what they are doing in Afghanistan and why their contracts keep getting renewed. Sure. But Chuck shouldn't have to answer for the entirety of the mainstream media. (The mainstream media includes CNN's "Just Sayin'" girl, for God's sake.) And Chuck was sandbagged. Scahill went on that show with the intent to go after Chuck, it was dead obvious. It almost made one think, hmmm, I wonder if Scahill is friends with Glenn Greenwald.
Ta-da! Two days later Glenn embeds a video of the Scahill-Todd exchange with a few bitchy comments (ex: "While Todd was fiddling around with pretty colored maps and fun polling games, Scahill was courageously investigating one of the most corrupt, dangerous and lethal private corporations in the world"). Then he publishes verbatim an email he got from Scahill detailing a backstage exchange Scahill had with Chuck that made Chuck look kind of bad (and, surprise! It made Scahill look good.)
Cut to: this week. Glenn Greenwald is now in a slapping contest with Time's Joe Klein, who is pissed at GG for publishing disparaging comments Klein had made about GG on a private listserv for journalists called Journolist. GG was called out by Mediaite.com's Tommy Christopher (I love guys with two first names) for doing that, saying that it broke a rule of journalism ethics (in the same article, Christopher took Klein to task for some of his ethical lapses--i.e., printing private email exchanges with the emailer's info clearly visible). GG responded:
Speaking of “journalistic ethics,” you just wrote a piece accusing me of violating journalistic ethics. Have you ever heard of the ethical rule about including the side of the story of the person you’re accusing? I have a long, detailed post today responding to this accusation that you not only failed to link to, but even failed to summarize or acknowledge at all — to say nothing of your failure to seek my comment. That’s what is called a failure of journalistic ethics.
Wow. Ok, three words for GG: pot, kettle, black. As my friend and fellow chuck maniac Hilary commented at the Media-ite site,
Oh, really, GG? Like when you credulously published the email Scahill sent you about his private conversation with Chuck Todd? I take it you worked day and night to track down Todd’s version of that conversation, yes?
Zing! And that is why Glenn Greenwald and his friends make me tired and irritable.
By the way, Hilary has an interesting theory about some lefty media folks' reflexive tendency to freak out, and I think this theory deserves a wider audience, so I'm sharing it with all three of my readers, with Hilary's permission:
New theory I'm working on, see what you think. When soldiers are on the battlefield, they tend to kind of keep their heads down and just push forward... The trouble usually starts when they get back home to safety... THEN they freak the fuck out, reacting in ways that are totally out of line with their current reality. Remind you of anyone?
Does the leftie media have post-traumatic stress disorder?
Exhibit A: Greenwald, Scahill, Jason Linkins, Cenk Ugyur etc have all gone bananas at one time or another over this idea that Chuck doesn't think torture is "worth" prosecuting--it's even been extended, since the Bill Maher appearance, to saying he doesn't think Blackwater is worth investigating, which is completely mental. None of it has anything to do with Chuck's original argument. BUT. The phrase "torture investigations" is a PTSD trigger... after all those years of the Orwellian stylings of Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo and so on, they hear that phrase and the red mist descends and they can't think straight.
I totally agree. But I would need to do a thorough physical examination of Jeremy Scahill (cupping his balls as he turns and coughs, for example) in order to prove this theory.