Category Archive 'Michael Kinsley'

23 May 2014

Quis Custodiet?

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GlennGreenwald

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.

“My position was straightforward,” Glenn Greenwald writes. “By ordering illegal eavesdropping, the president had committed crimes and should be held accountable for them.” You break the law, you pay the price: It’s that simple.

But it’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 can’t just choose the laws you like and ignore the ones you don’t like. Or perhaps you can, but you can’t then claim that it’s all very straightforward.

Greenwald was the go-between for Edward Snowden and some of the newspapers that reported on Snowden’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. It’s a great yarn, which might be more entertaining if Greenwald himself didn’t come across as so unpleasant. Maybe he’s charming and generous in real life. But in “No Place to Hide,” Greenwald seems like a self-righteous sourpuss, convinced that every issue is “straightforward,” and if you don’t agree with him, you’re part of something he calls “the authorities,” 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 James’s Miss Birdseye (from “The Bostonians”), “who 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.”

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 “well before he was accused of sex crimes by two women in Sweden.” (Two decades ago the British writer Michael Frayn wrote a wonderful novel and play called “Now You Know,” about a character similar to Assange.)

Then there are political romantics, played in this evening’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, “exuded an extraordinary equanimity” at the prospect of “spending decades, or life, in a supermax prison.”

And Greenwald? In his mind, he is not a reformer but a ruthless revolutionary — Robespierre, or Trotsky. The ancien régime 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 “repressive tolerance,” Greenwald writes about “the 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 you’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.”
Continue reading the main story

Throughout “No Place to Hide,” 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 “takes direction from the U.S. government about what it should and shouldn’t publish”) 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 government’s response to terrorism after 9/11 is more dangerous than the threat it is designed to meet.

Greenwald doesn’t seem to realize that every piece of evidence he musters demonstrating that people agree with him undermines his own argument that “the authorities” brook no dissent. No one is stopping people from criticizing the government or supporting Greenwald in any way. Nobody is preventing the nation’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 she’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.

07 Jun 2010

Tea Party Patriotism

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Michael Kinsley sneered at participants in the Tea Party Movement, in the Atlantic, dismissing them as people only interested in a tax cut, and challenging their patriotism. Kinsley admires instead the 1960s anti-war movement, which he describes as “selfless and idealistic.”

Bah, humbug! I was there. Whom does Kinsley think he’s kidding? The 1960s anti-war movement was pure selfishness. The student revolution gave people our age the chance to throw their weight around and they took it. Adolescent hormones, excess energy, and self-importance found expression in opportunistic rebellion against authority powered by the disproportionate weight of an unusually large age group sept. A lot of people back then went out to the demonstration motivated by nothing nobler than the desire to see themselves on the six o’clock news.

The antiwar movement had no problem recruiting. Opposition to the war was morally crucial to justify one’s being at home in college, smoking pot and chasing girls, not on the other side of the world with the less fortunate male members of our generation, marching through the jungle getting shot at. If the war was right and a good cause, then we were a sleazy bunch of self indulgent louses taking shameful advantage of our student deferments while the blue collar crowd went to war in our place. If the war was wrong, we were wiser, better people, too noble to support an imperialist war. How surprising that so many people our age found the second theory so attractive.

But an even better reply to Mr. Kinsley came this weekend at a Tea Party gathering of residents of Douglas and Carroll Counties held at Clinton Preserve in Villa Rica, Georgia. The syndicated columnist and talk show host Herman Cain addressed the crowd, then there was a magical moment:

(Examiner):

The most memorable part of the tea party occurred near the end. A white-haired gentleman let a young woman go ahead of him in the rapid fire line so he could be last. When he reached the microphone, he introduced himself as Louis, a former Marine, and announced that he had recently heard the second, seldom played, verse of the Star Spangled Banner and then began to sing:

    Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand
    Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
    Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
    Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto, “In God is our trust”
    And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

As Louis sang (actually the fourth and last verse; find the complete lyrics here), the surprised crowd began to stand to their feet, remove their hats, and cover their hearts with their hands. As he reached the more familiar last lines, members of the crowd joined in, and the entire crowd erupted into cheers at the finale. Upon completion of the song, Louis turned and hurried away, shaking a few hands that were thrust toward him as he walked. He quickly blended into the crowd, not to be seen again, but a photographer from http://secularstupidest.com recorded his performance and posted it on youtube for posterity.

2:56 video

Hat tip to David Larkin, Karen L. Myers, and Bruce Kesler.


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