The (Supposed) Dangers of Advocacy Journalism, NSA/Greenwald Division

Willard Foxton at the British Telegraph is mighty disturbed by things about Glenn Greenwald (who Foxton admits does, at least on occasion, important journalism) and his "creepy cult" (he has lots of people who admire him for his important journalism, and yes, for the passion for civil liberties and against state power that clearly triggers it). 

Why? Because actually caring about the topics on which you report in an ideological way (that is, openly striving to be a champion of civil liberties...) mean you might get something wrong on occasion, blinded by your ideology. (Or neglect to report something that doesn't fit your worldview, another thing that might be very worth a handwringing Telegraph column if he were the only journalist on Earth.)

I did consider stinging him with a too-good-to-be-true single source story, to see if he'd run with it. I can't help but wonder if someone else has had the same idea....you can be a great activist or a great journalist, but not both. I think Mr Greenwald should pick, before something goes wrong.

Not that we can't be quite sure in this highly contentious wired media world we live in -- especially one in which lots of people like you are suspicious of (and jealous of, as Foxton manfully admits) Greenwald -- that he wouldn't be loudly and publicly corrected if he gets things wrong, and even (especially!) when he gets things right. It's just that passion in a journalist that might lead you to be tough on government is just untoward.

See Matt Welch and J.D. Tuccille earlier on all the fine journalism, blissfully free of any "activist" desire to champion liberty, that results from objective journalists who just recognize that the state's gotta do what it's gotta do.

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  • ||

    We've barely even seen the start of the authority worshiping that is going to be gushing out of 90% of the media. Get your HAZMAT suits on, because it's going to be toxic.

  • ||

    I was going to say, possibly the best thing to come out of the last month or two of nonstop scandals has been the clarification of just who the pure statists are. Left and right are realigning. Hopefully more people will begin to question such blind devotion to power.

  • ||

    Hopefully. Most will turn back to their lives and not notice. The best possible result will probably be further marginalizing of the "mainstream media" as they consistently expose themselves for the bootlickers they are.

  • Tman||

    That Brooks column was the filthiest thing I've seen in print in a long long time.

    It's bad even by Krugnuts/Yglesias standards.

    Way to set the bar Dave!

  • RBS||

    Race to the bottom.

  • sarcasmic||

    blinded by your ideology

    Best to have an open mind. By open mind they mean your brain has fallen out of your head.

  • ||

    you might get something wrong on occasion, blinded by your ideology

    I'll start worrying about this as soon as mainstream journalists ditch the default assumption that anyone consented to the existence of the state.

  • ||

    So you won't be worrying about this, then.

  • ||

    I wasn't planning on it.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It counts as consent if you benefit from the state. Like when a guy tosses a hundred bucks at the girl he just finished raping.

  • ||

    I might feel differently about all of this if they ever finished raping you.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Look nicole, you used the roads, so you were basically asking for it.

  • Almanian!||

    Shouldn't have worn those fender skirts on the '5 Chevy...

  • Almanian!||

    FUCK my keyboard - '57

  • ||

    I thought she was asking for it by wearing that slutty outfit. On the side of the public road.

  • ||

    Look, I bought that slutty outfit with my very own after-tax dollars, so you can fuck right off about that.

  • ||

    (picks up phone, dials the IRS tax evasion hotline)

  • JW||

    Where did you manage to get a hundred bucks, Hugh?

  • UnCivilServant||

    Farm subsidies

  • CatoTheElder||

    It also counts as consent if you "voluntarily" pay taxes to the state.

    Like when a guy rifles the purse of a girl he just raped.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's just that passion in a journalist that might lead you to be tough on government is just untoward.

    Matt, don't you know that withholding judgement on politicians is the height of journalistic sophistication? You're the kind of guy who, instead of sharing a few drinks and good-natured laughs at the Press Corps dinner, would call the President out on all the people whose deaths he is responsible for. How gauche.

  • Juice||

    There's no such thing as unbiased journalism so why even try to pretend?

  • Almanian!||

    No, ABC, NYT, Daily Kos, CBS, HuffPo, Salon, NBC (and derivatives), Politico, some others ae ALL unbiased.

    Fox and Glenn Greenwald are biased - vast-right-wing-conspiracy biased. EVIL biased.

    I hope that clarifies reality for you.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    To be fair, Greenwald has written plenty of stupid, uninformed shit and tends to attract the kind of dipshits who can't separate wheat from chaff... but somehow I doubt that the integrity of reporting is terribly important to Willard Foxton. (BTW, who the hell would saddle their kid with a name like that?!)

  • Zeb||

    That's an awesome name. What are you thinking?

  • Irish||

    To be fair, Greenwald has written plenty of stupid, uninformed shit and tends to attract the kind of dipshits who can't separate wheat from chaff...

    He also has a history of running sockpuppets to tell people how great he is. His various moral lapses would matter a bit more if he weren't still one of the best active journalists.

    A hyper-ideological sock-puppeteer is among our best journalists. Let that sink in.

  • ||

    Greenwald's various indiscretions are mitigated by the fact that he has intellectual integrity and spits in the face of his supposed ideological allies when they go FULL TEAM.

  • Irish||

    I actually don't think he'd be as effective if he wasn't the sort of guy who turns into an asshole in the face of criticism and runs sock puppets.

    Great journalists are often extremely narcissistic and think they're the smartest guy in the room. Mencken wouldn't have been as good at attacking the bullshit of the 20's and 30's if he weren't an arrogant elitist who despised everybody.

  • Fluffy||

    So what you're saying is that you have never posted to the internet using anything other than your real name?

    Wow, neat, man.

    Irish is almost as cool a name to have on your driver's license as McLovin'.

  • John||

    If I ever change my name and have to go underground, I am definitely changing it to Irish McLovin.

  • Duke||

    I like MC Irish Lovin.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Using a blog handle isn't the same thing as creating a raft of Tonys and Shreeeeks to suck your cock in the comments section of your own blog.

  • Fluffy||

    He didn't post on his own blog.

    He flamed the comments section of people he hates.

    That's how it was uncovered. Because his enemies did IP matching.

  • Irish||

    Uh...there is a difference between posting on the internet under a fake name when you aren't a public figure and posting under fake names on articles about you to talk about how great you are.

    Greenwald will respond to articles about himself under fake handles with the express goal of making it seem like he is infallible and awesome. I don't understand how you can compare anonymous internet commenting for non-public figures with public figures Astroturfing support for themselves.

  • JW||

    Greenwald will respond to articles about himself under fake handles with the express goal of making it seem like he is infallible and awesome.

    Not doubting you, but linky? I hadn't heard of this.

    Greenwald is fantastic on civil liberties, but way off-base on just about everything else. So, that makes him no better than the rest on the 'everything else' bit.

    Still, he manages to rise above the TEAM herd mentality on civil liberties and that's why the rest of the old school journalistic herd dislikes him so.

  • Irish||

  • Fluffy||

    It's not like he was posting fake Amazon reviews to his books.

    He was showing up at other blog sites to argue with people.

    In other words, he was doing pretty much just what we're doing here now. And he probably did it because he's a last word freak who argues for fun (again, like many of us here), but didn't always want to sign his byline to every last word he put out there.

    If I was "a public figure", there's no way I'd be able to resist trolling and flaming. Because the siren call of trolling and flaming cannot be resisted. Trolling and flaming are among the best things in life. And I'd almost certainly call myself "Fluffy" or, perhaps, "FluffyUnbound" while doing it.

    For all you guys know, I am a public figure.

  • Irish||

    This is what he wrote about himself, under the name 'Ellison':

    Greenwald only has a New York Times Best Selling Book on the Bush Administration and its abuses of power. And he has one of the most-read blogs on the Interent, after 9 months of blogging. And Senators read from his blog at Senate hearings and his posts lead to front-page news stories in major newspapers.
    Why would anyone think what he has to say matters? It's not like anyone listens to him. It's not like he's Ace, or Jeff Goldstein, or Patterico, or Sister Toldjah or Glenn Reynolds, or someone who really matters.

    Great advice, you super-important bloggers should only to each other and about each other. Don't bother with anyone in the Left because if you ignore them, they'll just go away.

    Posted by: Ellison on July 13, 2006 08:14 AM

    He wasn't arguing with people. He was talking about how great he is and insulting political opponents while behind a mask. If he had a point to make, he could have used his real name and argued with people.

    I like the guy a lot, and my initial post wasn't even really insulting him. I just said that he's made some moral lapses and is still one of our best journalists. I wasn't expecting it to turn into this weird argument over the ethics of sock puppetry.

  • Brett L||

    I imagine that finding out he had no real friends on his "team" after getting caught sockpuppeting his own pieces probably led him to his position of not making excuses for anyone's side. And good on him. Young professionals make mistakes like sockpuppeting themselves. It is whether or not they take the lesson that is important.

  • Irish||

    Young professionals make mistakes like sockpuppeting themselves.

    He was 40.

  • Brett L||

    I just can't get my irish up about it.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    40 is the new 19.

  • BakedPenguin||

    ...who the hell would saddle their kid with a name like that?

    Willard, Sr.

  • JW||

    If a man is judged by the enemies he makes, then Greenwald is just this side of pretty fucking awesome.

  • Goldwyn Smith||

    This is pretty much exactly what Raimondo said about Chavez.

    Hitler had some pretty nasty enemies too. Just saying...

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I suppose one difference, to take one at random, would be that Hitler and Chavez didn't defend civil liberties even from members of their own political Team. So there's that.

  • Fluffy||

    A lot of journalists have pre-positivist, pre-scientific-method outlooks on the entire process of writing.

    They're terrified at the notion that they might ever have to correct a previous story - like they're making illuminated manuscripts or something, and if you smudge the ink or crinkle the gold leaf you have to throw the vellum away and start over and the peasants can't eat for the rest of the year.

    If a journalist publishes a story and later discovers additional information, they can publish a new story. This is no different from Stephen Hawking changing his mind about black holes when new information is revealed by observation and experimentation.

    If Greenwald publishes the best story he can, and other journalists find errors or find new information, and Greenwald publishes a correction or publishes a new story including the new information, that's empiricism doing its work.

  • John||

    Greenwald is generally a fucking moron and a socialist of the worst ilk. But that has no bearing whatsoever on the importance or veracity of this story. If we thought maybe this wasn't true, then Greenwald's credibility in other areas might matter. But we know it is true so the qualifications of the messenger are irrelevant. This whole episode has shown that no one in the media or public life on either side is capable of making a reasoned argument about an issue or doing much of anything beyond ad homonym attacks.

  • Almanian!||

    no one in the media or public life on either side is capable of making a reasoned argument about an issue or doing much of anything beyond ad homonym attacks

    And I blame? Yeah - Bush.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "ad homonym attacks."

    Oh, John, don't ever change!

  • Fluffy||

    BTW, would those of you not using ad blockers agree with me that the State Farm financial expert is the new Lobster Girl?

    Yikes.

  • John||

    I don't have that ad. Is it the one with the woman with the short bleach blond hair? And I always really liked Jessica DeClerk the real life agent they had in their commercials for a bit. She was adorable.

  • Fluffy||

    Naturally now I can't get it to come up again, even though I just refreshed about 50 times.

    You're welcome for all the extra hits, Reason!

  • Almanian!||

    now I can't get it to come up again

    There's an app little blue pill for that

  • Ted S.||

    Naturally now I can't get it to come up again, even though I just refreshed about 50 times.

    Don't give them ideas about splitting articles up into 50 pages. :-(

  • Ted S.||

    I have plugins turned off, and only see cached images on Reason. So I don't get any of the ads.

  • Brandon||

    Do some google searches for vacation resorts in Mexico, then come back and thank me.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    And here I thought the Brits were the ones who'd never picked up the pretense of journalistic objectivity (Funny thing is that the entire "journalistic value" was the creation of the the 19th century press barons to differentiate their product from the party-aligned papers they sought to replace.).

  • ChrisO||

    It's far less disturbing to me that someone would engage in occasionally reckless advocacy journalism than it is that 90 percent of the press corp. in the Land of the Free are government toadies of one ilk or another.

    At least in the USSR, the threat of imprisonment or worse ensured journalistic compliance. The WashPo and the NYT have no excuse.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I seem to recall a government affidavit saying that a Fox journalist committed a crime punishable by imprisonment. (Not to worry, though, they would never go through with it).

  • Matthew Brown||

    Greenwald makes some mistakes, and has his ideological blinders just like anyone, but I admire him for not kowtowing to authority.

    The world needs egotistical assholes. They have their uses, as here.

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