One special bane connected with modern liberal society’s regime of excessive tolerance is the ease with which the sexually inverted neurotic can rise from his knees on the public lavatory floor to ascend his own personal pulpit in order to impersonate the post-menopausal female moral authority figure and social reformer.
Glenn Greenwald, for instance, is a particularly resilient example. Greenwald succesfully survived a scandal which resulted from his exposure for having persistently used “sock puppet” false identities to lavish praise on his own blog postings. He more recently attached himself to the cause of “whistle blowers” like Edward Snowden and acted as go-between between the latter and Establishment newspapers. Pimping US Intelligence secrets to the Guardian and the Times is the kind of thing which, in today’s world, makes one a hero in certain circles, and the next thing you knew Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar was writing a check for $250 million to buy Greenwald his own media organization. Who better to manage such a thing than the man renowned as “the left’s most dishonest blogger?”
Even Michael Kinsley cannot abide Greenwald’s abrasive sanctimony, and Kinsley took the occasion of the publication of Green wald’s recent Snowden book, No Place to Hide, to carpet bomb the scoundrel with a scathing review published, amusingly enough, in the same New York Times.
â€œMy position was straightforward,â€ Glenn Greenwald writes. â€œBy ordering illegal eavesdropping, the president had committed crimes and should be held accountable for them.â€ You break the law, you pay the price: Itâ€™s that simple.
But itâ€™s not that simple, as Greenwald must know. There are laws against government eavesdropping on American citizens, and there are laws against leaking official government documents. You canâ€™t just choose the laws you like and ignore the ones you donâ€™t like. Or perhaps you can, but you canâ€™t then claim that itâ€™s all very straightforward.
Greenwald was the go-between for Edward Snowden and some of the newspapers that reported on Snowdenâ€™s collection of classified documents exposing huge eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, among other scandals. His story is full of journalistic derring-do, mostly set in exotic Hong Kong. Itâ€™s a great yarn, which might be more entertaining if Greenwald himself didnâ€™t come across as so unpleasant. Maybe heâ€™s charming and generous in real life. But in â€œNo Place to Hide,â€ Greenwald seems like a self-righteous sourpuss, convinced that every issue is â€œstraightforward,â€ and if you donâ€™t agree with him, youâ€™re part of something he calls â€œthe authorities,â€ who control everything for their own nefarious but never explained purposes.
Reformers tend to be difficult people. But they come in different flavors. There are ascetics, like Henry Jamesâ€™s Miss Birdseye (from â€œThe Bostoniansâ€), â€œwho knew less about her fellow creatures, if possible, after 50 years of humanitary zeal, than on the day she had gone into the field to testify against the iniquity of most arrangements.â€
There are narcissists like Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. These are self-canonized men who feel that, as saints, they are entitled to ignore the rules that constrain ordinary mortals. Greenwald notes indignantly that Assange was being criticized along these lines â€œwell before he was accused of sex crimes by two women in Sweden.â€ (Two decades ago the British writer Michael Frayn wrote a wonderful novel and play called â€œNow You Know,â€ about a character similar to Assange.)
Then there are political romantics, played in this eveningâ€™s performance by Edward Snowden, almost 31 years old, with the sweet, innocently conspiratorial worldview of a precocious teenager. He appears to yearn for martyrdom and, according to Greenwald, â€œexuded an extraordinary equanimityâ€ at the prospect of â€œspending decades, or life, in a supermax prison.â€
And Greenwald? In his mind, he is not a reformer but a ruthless revolutionary â€” Robespierre, or Trotsky. The ancien rÃ©gime is corrupt through and through, and he is the man who will topple it. Sounding now like Herbert Marcuse with his once fashionable theory of â€œrepressive tolerance,â€ Greenwald writes about â€œthe implicit bargain that is offered to citizens: Pose no challenge and you have nothing to worry about. Mind your own business, and support or at least tolerate what we do, and youâ€™ll be fine. Put differently, you must refrain from provoking the authority that wields surveillance powers if you wish to be deemed free of wrongdoing. This is a deal that invites passivity, obedience and conformity.â€
Continue reading the main story
Throughout â€œNo Place to Hide,â€ Greenwald quotes any person or publication taking his side in any argument. If an article or editorial in The Washington Post or The New York Times (which he says â€œtakes direction from the U.S. government about what it should and shouldnâ€™t publishâ€) endorses his view on some issue, he is sure to cite it as evidence that he is right. If Margaret Sullivan, the public editor (ombudsman, or reader representative) of The Times, agrees with him on some controversy, he is in heaven. He cites at length the results of a poll showing that more people are coming around to his notion that the governmentâ€™s response to terrorism after 9/11 is more dangerous than the threat it is designed to meet.
Greenwald doesnâ€™t seem to realize that every piece of evidence he musters demonstrating that people agree with him undermines his own argument that â€œthe authoritiesâ€ brook no dissent. No one is stopping people from criticizing the government or supporting Greenwald in any way. Nobody is preventing the nationâ€™s leading newspaper from publishing a regular column in its own pages dissenting from company or government orthodoxy. If a majority of citizens now agree with Greenwald that dissent is being crushed in this country, and will say so openly to a stranger who rings their doorbell or their phone and says sheâ€™s a pollster, how can anyone say that dissent is being crushed? What kind of poor excuse for an authoritarian society are we building in which a Glenn Greenwald, proud enemy of conformity and government oppression, can freely promote this book in all media and sell thousands of copies at airport bookstores surrounded by Homeland Security officers?
Read the whole thing.