December 09, 2013

Yasha Levine and Pando take down Glenn Greenwald — it's delicious

First, came Pando Daily's questioning piece about Glen Greenwald's new partnership with libertarian billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

Then, Greenwald, as usual when his ox is gored, goes somewhat ape-shit over the top, with an interesting blunderbuss of a reply.

Pando then counters with a follow-up, thanking Greenwald for joining the conversation, but firing back. The piece also notes that Greenwald's more fanatic followers rank in the same cult-like level as do the Pharyngulac groupies of Gnu Atheist cult leader P.Z. Myers.

Tying in to this, Yasha Levine does a takedown of Glen Greenwald's new partnership.. I think, in this and the related back-and-forth between Pando and Greenwald, GG has modest, maybe moderate, room, to complain. 

Let's take this one by one.

In the first Pando piece, Mark Ames notes that Greenwald and collaborator Laura Poitras are the only two reporters with access to all the material leaked by Edward Snowden. He wonders about the propriety of them carting that off to a proprietary, perhaps even boutique news site funded by a billionaire, as well as the two of them possibly profiting in other ways.

Here's the nut graf of those worries:
News about Greenwald-Poitras’ decision to privatize the NSA cache came just days after the New York Times reported on Greenwald’s negotiations with major movie studios to sell a Snowden film. This past summer, Greenwald sold a book to Metropolitan Books for a reportedly hefty sum, promising that some of the most sensational revelations from Snowden’s leaks would be saved for the book.
Tres interessant. (And interesting that Poitras is apparently taking a free ride on this issue behind Greenwald's snapping jowls.)

In case you're wondering, Greenwald's former employer, the Guardian, doesn't have full access. And Snowden didn't just hand over copies. He says he handed over what he had. (Another reason he's continually struck me as, if not naive, then something very close to that. You NEVER, in today's world, hand over originals, certainly not without making back-up copies for yourself. NEVER.)

From there, Ames notes that Omidyar, as chairman of the board of eBay, which owns PayPal, surely knew something about PayPay blocking donations via it to Wikileaks; that's after other accusations about the business ethics, or "business ethics," of Omidyar. He adds that Omidyar was at that time eBay's single biggest shareholder, too. From here, the deliciousness factor increases.

Greenwald fires back on multiple fronts.

First, he claims Omidyar knew nothing about that. Really, Glenn? And someone so ignorant of a major news issue wants to own a newspaper?

Second, he attacks Pando for being funded by PayPal founder Peter Thiel, a known libertarian himself. Ames fesses up, but says Pando has never been sparing of Thiel. He adds that Thiel's venture capital is different than an ongoing ownership stake, let along a management oversight stake. For such a business-friendly libertarian, Glenn, ought you not know more about business management? Actually, maybe you're hard at work on your business ethics, for all I know.

I actually suspect any "newspaper" that  Greenwald/Poitras/Omidyar runs will be narrowly focused on civil liberties issues. Exploitation of workers, whether in the developing world or here in the US, will be ignored.

Actually, isn't Greenwald himself one of the elite types who's more a global citizen than an American? His boyfriend is from Brazil, though both of them seem to carefully avoid any attention to Rio's favelas.

More below the fold, starting with Greenwald firing back.

Here's Glenn's main response, so far.

His opening paragraph sets up straw men, to be charitable, or lying, to not be charitable, which I doubt I shall be.
The other day I referred to those who "evince zero interest in the substance of the revelations about NSA and GCHQ spying which we're reporting on around the world", but "are instead obsessed with spending their time personally attacking the journalists, whistleblowers and other messengers who enable the world to know about what is being done." 
The reality? As I Tweeted both him and Yasha Levine (more on and from him in a couple of minutes) Pando, over the last 30 days, not counting its original article and response to this, had a dozen or more Snowden-related articles. That's far from "zero interest."

Greenwald then accuses Ames of an error in an article in The Nation about the Transportation Security Administration, co-written with Levine. Ames/Levine/The Nation corrected the error. Actually, they over-corrected it, as it turned out. And, didn't retract it.

The error, as documented in a Pando response to Greenwald, accused someone at the heart of early complaints about TSA agents groping too many people too often of being a libertarian tool. Here's the details of what went down:
 What’s certainly true is that Greenwald pressured the Nation to apologize to one of the people mentioned in the story: a man called John Tyner who was presenting himself as a concerned citizen standing up to TSA oppression (Pando readers might remember him as the “don’t touch my junk” guy). Following pressure by Greenwald, the Nation did indeed post an apology to Tyner, who it was later revealed works for a private defense contractor, clarifying there was no evidence he was acting as anything other than a regular Joe Libertarian when he took his hidden video camera to the TSA checkpoint. As for the “grassroots” anti-TSA movement which Tyner helped promote — well, you can read Yasha Levine’s follow-up to see how that turned out.
Yasha Levine (time for his appearance) showed last month just how much in the libertarian tank this movement was. He notes the shooter at LAX last month as possibly being led to his conspiratorial thoughts by a movement like this.

I'm going to do a long pull quote, because I think it's needed:
Progressives like to smugly ridicule dumb red-state voters who go against their own interests by joining political movements and by voting in politicians who end up screwing them.  But as smug as they are, progressives have shown themselves no better. By joining the anti-TSA hysteria, they became unwitting tools in a campaign that promoted everything progressives are supposed to be against: demonizing workers, busting unions, privatizing government services, replacing unionized government employees with exploited minimum-wage-slaves and enriching corporate security contractors.

How did this happen? How did the left get duped into joining an anti-labor and pro-privatization campaign? To understand that, you have to go back to 2010.

That year, on November 12, the Federal Labor Relations Board issued a surprise ruling granting TSA's 50,000 employees the right to unionize. The decision was a major victory — the culmination of a brutal decade-long struggle for collective bargaining — and paved the way for the largest unionization in decades. 

But rank-and-file TSA employees didn't get much of a chance to celebrate. The very next day, an anti-TSA campaign exploded on a national level and proceeded to monopolize the news cycle for weeks on end.

In its opening stages, the PR campaign was driven by a grand alliance of right-wing media outlets, Koch-funded advocacy groups, libertarian operatives, warmongering neocons, neo-Confederates and Christian homophobes.

They seized on the TSA's new full-body scanners and "enhanced" pat-down procedures to portray TSA screeners as the biggest threat to liberty and freedom in the history of the United States.
Levine can be over the top at times; I'll admit that myself. But, even if you discount this 50 percent, it's still strong, and strongly real, stuff.

And, you don't have to discount him that much, because of this:
Without a doubt, there was a lot to criticize about the TSA's full-body scanners and invasive pat-down procedures, which are offensive and intrusive. Criticism of the TSA was not only valid, but also necessary. But there was a huge distance between criticizing TSA policy and the vicious smearing of poorly paid federal employees as "rapists" and "fascists," especially when these employees were in the middle of a historic unionization drive.

Indeed. TSA is a very problematic industry. But, it's not the antichrist, or fasicist, or anything close.

But, there's that word, that dirty word for libertarians.


Greenwald himself has tried to claim that he's a liberal because he regularly speaks to socialist youth groups and such.

Nice try, Glenn. When you do speak to them, you ALWAYS speak about civil liberties issues. Show me a speech, on a website, preferably with YouTube, that proves otherwise.

And, folks, THAT is why Greenwald didn't like the original Nation piece, why he distorted the truth about what it got wrong, and why he's lied about what corrections were and were not made, ever since.

Glenn Greenwald is not telling the truth, period, when he claims to be a liberal. Any fellow liberals who claim he is? I'll punch you in the nads if I hear such a claim.

I said he wasn't a liberal 18 months ago.  I said this was part of why he continued to be a staunch defender of the ACLU, in spite of the hypocrisy of then-president Nadine Strossen and director Anthony Romero over the Patriot Act, because the ACLU has a history of being weak on union rights.

His extended back and forth with Bill Keller, retired editorial poohbah of the New York Times, underscores this again. Greenwald more than once says the Omidyar venture is all about "adversarial journalism," regardless of the political stripes of the individual journalists. But, he makes clear that this adversarial journalism is ONLY adversarial against the government, not other organizations, including NOT being adversarial against big business. Since Greenwald defended the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, one should not be surprised.

He's been a hypocrite in his libertarianism, namely with his second home country of Brazil, to add to my observation about the favalas. He's also been a hypocrite, or something, on capital-L Libertarian Party issues, especially his man-crush on Ron Paul to the exclusion of Gary Johnson, or of looking at Paul's racist past. That second link also documents that Greenwald has a past history of going in the tank for billionaires.

Meanwhile, Levine's piece on Omidyar, speaking of billionaires, refutes the claims that Greenwald makes about Omidyar being ignorant of PayPal tactics.

Omidyar got big into microfinance in India, via third parties. He claimed that his company knew nothing about some Indians being driven to suicide by onerous loan terms. However, Levine quotes from an AP story disproving that:
"More than 200 poor, debt-ridden residents of Andhra Pradesh killed themselves in late 2010, according to media reports compiled by the government of the south Indian state. The state blamed microfinance companies - which give small loans intended to lift up the very poor - for fueling a frenzy of overindebtedness and then pressuring borrowers so relentlessly that some took their own lives.

"The companies, including market leader SKS Microfinance, denied it.

"However, internal documents obtained by The Associated Press, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, independent researchers and videotaped testimony from the families of the dead, show top SKS officials had information implicating company employees in some of the suicides."
Well, there's the reality, Glenn.

And, the plot thickens.
Curiously, in the aftermath of the SKS micro-lending scandal, Omidyar Network was dragged into another political scandal in India when it was revealed that Omidyar and the Ford Foundation were placing their own paid researchers onto the staffs of India’s MPs.
See, per what I said earlier about Greenwald and the ACLU, at the same time the ACLU was publicly fighting the Patriot Act, Executive Director Anthony Romero was teaching ... wait for it ... the Ford Foundation how to comply with the Patriot Act.

Levine goes on to show that Omidyar is a big funder of the "school reform" movement and other things.
Overseas, the Omidyar Network is embarking on a school privatization program that will make DonorsChoose look like Mother Theresa’s handiwork. Omidyar provided seed capital for a new Africa-based for-profit private school enterprise for the poor called Bridge International. ...

Bridge’s strategic partner is the for-profit education giant, Pearson. ...

Bridge is only a few years old, but criticism of its educational model is already piling up—even from centrist pro-business thinktanks like the Brookings Institution. Even at $4 or $5 a month, Bridge's "low cost" education is too expensive for many in the developing world.
There's a LOT more beyond this.

Let me go back a bit to Greenwald's post.

He's right that "dump it all" is not the best thing to do with Snowden's material. But, given the option of that, or of Greenwald kowtowing, and presumably willingly, noting all of his past history that I've documented, maybe that would be better. Sorry, Glenn, but you've opened this can of worms, not Pando.

I will note that, per this CNET article, most of Glenn's co-workers to be at NewCo don't appear to have a NSA focus, or be ardent libertarians. But, who knows how many will stay, and for how long? Who knows how long of an editorial whip Glenn will crack? I suspect it will be humongous, from what I know of him.

And, given what Scahill said about Greenwald's distorted comments on that Nation piece, I'm really, really surprised to see him signed up to work with Glenn. And a bit disturbed, to be honest. I'll look at Scahill a touch more skeptically in the future.

It's also interesting that Jay Rosen is joining this shop. Per the worries of Ames and Levine, he, if anybody, would be the person to put a check on Greenwald's potential desire to become a John Stossel on any non-civil liberties reporting, it would be him.

The additional facts are that Greenwald doesn't address all the criticisms from the original Pando article, and that he certainly doesn't provide his readers, whether the more cultish ones or the more occasional ones, the full backstory about why Ames and Levine "took him down" in the first place.

Suffice it to say that Greenwald has made his bed with a worker-hating, union-hating hypercapitalist. And, that any Socialist group that invites him to address them about anything, even civil liberties, should be shunned, totally shunned.

And, this partnership? Maybe Omidyar wants all the Snowden leaks to learn ways to spy on people as a big-business billionaire? Or trade secrets against other businesses? Or something even more nefarious?

I think Pando overstates some of the Snowden concerns. Besides, there was enough other Omidyar rope with which to hang both Omidyar and Greenwald. That said, in any case, I'm pretty sure we won't have full-service journalism. If it goes beyond a narrow focus on civil liberties issues, Omidyar's shop could indeed have Glenn becoming John Stossel, for all we know.

And, we do need Glenn Greenwalds. We also need them to be less sanctimonious. Fat chance of that with the real Glenn, though. He'd sooner become an actual liberal.

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