At The New York Times, a Sudden Appreciation for Media Censorship with Greenwald

Being free to publish what the government approves is a type of free press, right?Credit: The Aspen Institute / photo on flickrMichael Kinsley, an editor known for his work at The New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, Crossfire, and for helping found Slate, was handed the high-profile task of penning the New York Times review of Glenn Greenwald's book about the Edward Snowden affair, No Place to Hide.

Kinsley does not appear to be a fan of Greenwald's somewhat grandiose personality and sense of self-importance, and there's certainly room to judge him for such flaws. But those traits are also fairly common in prominent media figures. Kinsley points out that for all of Greenwald's complaining about the media kowtowing to government requests to withhold information from Edward Snowden's documents, Greenwald certainly hasn't been prevented from providing this information and the public hasn't been denied the chance to hear about it.

But then Kinsley turns around and justifies all of Greenwald's fears, arguing that some sort of authority figure should have some sort of control or oversight over what sort of leaks the press should be allowed to publish. In some analysis that is getting a bit of attention (and not of the positive kind), Kinsley writes:

The question is who decides. It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government. No doubt the government will usually be overprotective of its secrets, and so the process of decision-making—whatever it turns out to be—should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay. But ultimately you can't square this circle. Someone gets to decide, and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald.

In a democracy, the decision on whether to release secret information showing illegal or corrupt behavior by the government should ultimately be made by the government? What does that even mean? Several paragraphs before, Kinsley acknowledged that Snowden's leaks were a valid exposure of bad behavior by the National Security Agency (NSA). He even calls the NSA's actions "lawbreaking."

And it wasn't actually Glenn Greenwald who decided. The first person to decide that the information should be published was Edward Snowden, and the United States government is trying to put him in prison for providing information Kinsley himself thinks should have been made public. Snowden chose Greenwald to receive the information.

Kinsley seems to think there's a piece missing in the checks and balances of revealing government misbehavior. He concludes his review:

As the news media struggles to expose government secrets and the government struggles to keep them secret, there is no invisible hand to assure that the right balance is struck. So what do we do about leaks of government information? Lock up the perpetrators or give them the Pulitzer Prize? (The Pulitzer people chose the second option.) This is not a straightforward or easy question. But I can't see how we can have a policy that authorizes newspapers and reporters to chase down and publish any national security leaks they can find. This isn't Easter and these are not eggs.

My response: The free press and freedom from government prior restraint is the check and balance here. We don't have a "policy" that authorizes the media to publish leaks. We have a constitutional right to do so, and it horrifies me to see an editor who thinks that the First Amendment is some sort of government "policy" and not a carefully worded restriction of government authority. Greenwald is the balance.The existence of a media able to publish whatever information it can get its ink-stained hands on is intended to discourage a secretive government.

If the government doesn't want people leaking what it's doing, the solution is actually pretty simple: Don't be the kind of government that secretly does the kind of things that horrify your own citizens to the point that they're willing to risk prison and flee to horrible countries to expose to the public what the government is doing. To believe that the lesson from the Snowden affair is more government authority over the media—even after agreeing that Snowden's fears were legitimate—is simply embarrassing.

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  • Sudden||

    a Sudden Appreciation for Media Censorship with Greenwald

    I feel like you're picking on me.

  • ||

    Looks like Kinsley's fixin' to get a T tattooed on his ass.

  • kinnath||

    The question is who decides. It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences

    P E N T A G O N P A P E R S

    Fuck Kinsley. If you don't want to do the job, get the fuck out of the way.

  • Knarf the Yenrabian||

    P E N T A G O N P A P E R S

    That was obviously a completely different circumstance, as in 1971 Obama wasn't even in high school.

  • Libertymike||

    But he was in a madrassa.

  • MWG||

    "The question is who decides. It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government."

    Could Kinsley possibly be H&R's own leftist commenter, Tony?

  • mr simple||

    Michael Kinsley, an editor known for his work at The New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, Crossfire, and for helping found Slate

    Stop right there.

  • Raston Bot||

    ...or, in this case, not known for his work.

  • BoscoH||

    It was all the concussions he suffered battling Pat Buchanan back in the day. That in itself should disqualify Kinsley from the discussion.

  • Almanian!||

    The irony - it burns!

    Kinsley is so full of douche and self-important retard, he makes Greenwald look self-effacing.

    He's also one of the tightest-wound people I've ever seen. I keep waiting for his head to explode, "Scanners" style.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Agreed. When Scott wrote this:

    But those traits are also fairly common in prominent media figures.

    I thought it was a subtle way of referencing Kinsley himself.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Crap. Sorry if I bitched up your subtext, Scott.

  • ||

    All right. We're gonna do this the scanner way. I'm gonna suck your brain dry! Everything you are is gonna become me. You're gonna be with me, Alamanian, no matter what. After all, brothers should be close, don't you think?

  • Seamus||

    Given that the Times gave this its endorsement by publishing it, I presume they're sending back the Pulitzer they won for publishing the (leaked) Pentagon Papers.

  • Tonio||

    Zing!

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Michael Kinsley is a former Rhodes Scholar.

    What's more overrated: the Rhodes Scholarship or the Nobel Peace Prize?

  • reality||

    Yes.

  • ||

    Rachael Maddow, Bobby Jindal, Cory Booker, Peter Beinart, George Stephanopoulos. You decide.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Bobby Jindal is a Rhodes Scholar?

    Man. I should have tried out for it back in undergrad. I might've been accepted.

  • Sudden||

    Sweet merciful Jebuz. That's fucking murderer's row of burning teh stoopid

  • Juice||

    Bill Clinton

  • John C. Randolph||

    Clinton's not stupid, he's evil. Big difference.

    -jcr

  • Raston Bot||

    What is a "rhodes scholar?"

  • Tonio||

    The kids have this thing called a "google", RB.

  • Libertymike||

    One who knows how to genuflect to Cecil's legacy.

  • ||

  • kinnath||

    Herbie the Love Bug?

  • Gene||

    +1 Headhunter.

  • Lorenzo||

    Dr. Frasier Crane: [about Dr. Simon Finch-Royce] We were students together when I was a Rhodes scholar.

    Woody Boyd: Wow, you were a Rhodes scholar?

    [Frasier nods affirmatively]

    Woody Boyd: Tell me this, how come the stuff they fill in the potholes with is darker than the rest of the road?

    Dr. Frasier Crane: I don't know Woody. I missed that day.

    Woody Boyd: And now it's come back to haunt you.

  • Libertymike||

    How about a Pulitzer?

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    The best part about this was when David Gregory retweeted it with the added thought the Times was adding "an important viewpoint into the discussion".

    Because Gregory is just fine and dandy with giving the political elite a tongue bath every Sunday.

  • Seamus||

    I notice that Gregory isn't asking why he shouldn't be prosecuted for his illegal possession of a high-capacity magazine in the District of Columbia.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    No doubt the government will usually be overprotective of its secrets, and so the process of decision-making—whatever it turns out to be—should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay. But ultimately you can't square this circle. Someone gets to decide, and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald.

    So- State Secrets, FTW!

  • Bobarian||

    Well, it's all a matter of what team your on, and whose team is making the decision on what gets published.

  • Jordan||

    In the comments at the TPM piece, joe from lol can be found sucking the State's cock:

    joefromLowell
    2h
    Christ, what an asshole.

    I hope Glenn Greenwald never takes up a cause that I care about.
  • Heroic Mulatto||

    It bothers me that it would only take me a 45 minutes drive to punch (in a downward direction) joe in his face. However, I have no clue as to his address.

  • ||

    I used to wonder about this, then just gave up on it when he disappeared.

  • ||

    There's no one in Lowell that doesn't deserve a punch in the face. So just start punching.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Hey, I've met many a cute Laotian girl in Lowell! Making a good tam som deserves a kiss, not a punch!

  • Knarf the Yenrabian||

    Maybe you could just invite him to your place, punch him, then send him home. Maybe give him some gas money if you're a nice guy.

  • ||

    You guys should point out that Joe threatened to punch people in the face here at reason in the past.

    Without that context you guys seem like a bunch of face punching loons.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Even within the context, I must admit an almost, almost, irrational desire to punch faces like joe's.

  • ||

    "Backpfeiffengesicht" seems more civilized.

  • antisocial-ist||

    Why don't you invite him over for dinner. Turn him from an enemy into a friend. Then when he least expects it, BAM, the ole fork in the eye.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I like how you think.

  • Christophe||

    Lives up to the username.

  • ||

    http://forums.talkingpointsmem.....l/activity

    Discussion: These 5 Democrats Will Serve On The Benghazi Committee
    joefromLowell replied to the topic
    Those Republicans are so in over their heads. Nancy Pelosi sent a rifle squad to a knife fight.
    ultraviolet_uk chammy bmcchgo Austin_Dave
    Discussion: Harry Reid Threatens To Further Weaken the Filibuster
    joefromLowell replied to #4
    I just don't think that's true. The filibuster has always been so much more useful to the faction that wants to block progress than to the faction trying to make progress. The Republicans would really be shooting themselves in the foot if they got rid of it.
    Discussion: McCain: Redskins Owner Is No Sterling, But He Should Change Team Name
    joefromLowell replied to the topic
    I saw, for the first time ever, someone in Lowell (MA) wearing a Redskins jacket yesterday. It was a nice jacket, except for the racial slur.
  • John||

    How did Joe see the racial slur? Was he standing on a chair or something?

  • ||

  • Knarf the Yenrabian||

    You can put it on the booooooooard...

    If anyone needs convincing that the justice system is broken, simply consider that Hawk Harrelson has roamed the streets unmolested for seven decades while Charles Manson serves life in prison.

  • Libertymike||

    Hey - I love me sum Hawk.

    Let us not forget that he was the 1968 American League home run champ who also played some professional golf before his broadcasting career began with Dick Stockton in 1975.

  • Knarf the Yenrabian||

    If I had a gun with two bullets and was in a room with Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Hawk Harrelson, I'd shoot Hawk twice.

  • Aloysious||

    A man after my own heart.

  • ||

    The Republicans would really be shooting themselves in the foot if they got rid of it.

    Sooo...

    Joe's solution to the dems and Obama turning into full on fascists over the past 5 years is to go bat shit insane and simply claim Reid is a Republican?

    How the fuck are Republicans to blame for getting rid of filibusters?

  • Christophe||

    Just like a wife beater blames the wife: You're making me do this!

  • JWatts||

    Yep..

    Harry Reid was forced to remove the filibuster because the Republicans kept on insisting on using it!

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    Last week, I saw a Zuni guy I know wearing a Redskins T-shirt. I asked him about it and he told me he really loves their logo. He sees it as an Indian Pride kind of thing.

  • Sudden||

    Oh please, dear? For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint.

    I'm finishing my coffee

  • MJGreen||

    Calmer than you are.

  • poloniusium||

    Fucking Quintana.

  • BakedPenguin||

    It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy...that decision must ultimately be made by the government.

    Got some remedial reading for you, Mr. Kinsley.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    WHY HASN'T SNOWDEN TURNED HIMSELF IN, LIKE A REAL PATRIOT?

  • Idle Hands||

    That was a serious question asked on npr, when they had Greenwald on. I would have paid money to see the luck on his face at having to answer that.

  • Jordan||

    I didn't know Lyle was a caller on NPR.

  • Sudden||

    I seriously hope that if Rand Paul should manage to actually get elected POTUS that his first act is to issue a presidental pardon for Snowden and invite him back to the states to accept a Medal of Honor.

    Also, when I make my trip to Russia next year, should I be fortunate enough to run across Mr. Snowden at some point, I'm shaking that man's hand and thanking him for his heroism.

  • John||

    I would love that. It would totally rob liberals of their "we are the ones who fight the man" smugness for generations.

  • Knarf the Yenrabian||

    Psych literature indicates that serial rapists and murderers almost always have extraordinary degrees of self esteem, which is a big part of why they're serial rapists and murderers to begin with.

    In the same vein, nothing will ever rob the Ayers-esque proggies of their smugness, as their smugness is the reason that they're progressives in the first place.

  • Dixon_Sider||

    Ha. And Grizzly Adams had a beard.

  • ||

    Now you're giving me ideas. I would like to visit Russia and shaking hands with Edward Snowden would be an extra incentive.

  • John||

    I generally like Kinsley and think of him as one of the few liberals who hasn't gone full retard in the last 14 years. This is idiotic. It is just saying "sure we can trust the government, we just need another layer of top man oversight".

  • TheZeitgeist||

    I generally like Kinsley and think of him as one of the few liberals who hasn't gone full retard in the last 14 years.

    Yeah, I thought the exact same thing. Always liked Kinsley as a pseudo-rational progtard (at least), and watched him once on Crossfire deal with clown David Duke about as well as one could.

    Guess I overestimated him.

  • wareagle||

    Kinsley reviewing this book is like George Will reviewing a book about a Greenwald type having acted during a Repub administration - each is going to be clouded by Team. The Pulitzer people didn't get their thongs in a knot, as I recall. Perhaps they thought less of a govt spying on its citizens than does Kinsley.

  • Not a Libertarian||

    That seems a harsh assessment of Mr Will, no?

  • ||

    Kinsley does not appear to be a fan of Greenwald's somewhat grandiose personality and sense of self-importance, and there's certainly room to judge him for such flaws.

    What the fucking fuck fuck?!?!

    Scott what the hell is this? Kinsley wrote that he thinks the constitutional guarantees to free speech need to be pulled back and called a fellow Journalist an arrogant poo poo head in an obvious fit of jealousy....Why the fuck would you cede Kinsley's small point?

    Kinsley needs to be mocked for even mentioning it in article of this import and letting his seething jealousy poke through, not granted a wave through and a nod.

  • Scott S.||

    Eh, sometimes I think Greenwald can be a bit of a pill. He might well agree. I am not a "concede nothing" sort of critic.

  • Paul.||

    But then Kinsley turns around and justifies all of Greenwald's fears, arguing that some sort of authority figure should have some sort of control or oversight over what sort of leaks the press should be allowed to publish

    Kinsley is like your favorite supreme court justice. He'll surprise you and infuriate you all within a matter of minutes.

  • Paul.||

    In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government

    Paul promises that he will not engage in debauchery unless Paul has a compelling interest. Only Paul can and will decide if Paul has a compelling interest.

  • WDATPDIM?!||

    Damn those private companies! Can't trust 'em!

  • ||

    Fucking establishment lapdogs are just pissed off that THEY for once, didn't get to control the flow of information.

  • FYTW||

    Nah. The reason they're pissed is that while the NSA's surveillance programs date back to the administration of Bush the Lesser, the Chocolate Jesus -- despite various campaign promises to the contrary -- continued them rather than ending them.

    In other words, people like Kinsley are pissed because Snowden and Greenwald committed the cardinal sin of embarrassing the Precious. It's just Team bullshit, nothing more.

  • MJGreen||

    No doubt the government will usually be overprotective of its secrets, and so the process of decision-making—whatever it turns out to be—should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay.

    Oh sure, there will be some shenanigans, but we can make it so that the government is often willing to declare what it's doing. Yep. This is Serious Thinking.

    I love that he clearly sees the naivety of this with:

    As the news media struggles to expose government secrets and the government struggles to keep them secret

    The government is struggling to keep its secrets? So why would it ever reveal them?

  • Greg F||

    Typical lib ... the solution to government with to much power is more government.

  • Firstname||

    WTF is going on at the NYT? First they replace their CEO with a pro-government "yes man" and then they release obviously spun government crap. Loss of their credibility is mounting.

  • Winston||

    First they replace their CEO with a pro-government "yes man" and then they release obviously spun government crap.

    Um, business as usual at the NYT?

  • ||

    Kinsley is just jonesing to be appointed head of the Ministry of Truth.

    Hey Mikey, go fuck yourself.

  • Marktaylor||

    Okay but I think every bodies tackling straw men here. What about the plans for D-day, nuclear codes, technological information of a military nature. To just assume every government secret is a nefarious underhanded plot makes your position easy. What about when they're not, what about when they could cost innocent lives. Like it or not, secrets still have to be kept, decisions still need to be made about what and when to release them, and decisions must be made regarding people that release them illegally because there are secrets that can cost lives.

  • Christophe||

    The leaker (the person on the inside who swore an oath), is going to be held responsible. In fact they usually get punished *unless* there's a huge groundswell of support for their actions (the fact that the government still wants to jail Snowden is a great example).

    The media (who aren't part of the government) get to decide if and when they'll redact/withold/delay reporting. They usually even ask the government for their input! The only thing is that ultimately they get to make the decision.

    And as flawed as that model may seem to you, it has worked ok. Leakers don't do it willy-nilly, they know they'll incurr huge personal costs. Journalists don't have to worry about punishment, but they get to exercise independent judgment of what does or doesn't get released. And governments get to hold someone accountable for the leak, except when the backlash would be too big.

    If anything, recent history has seen governments having a much easier time punishing even legitimate whistleblowing. If you have examples of the opposite trend, share them.

  • JWatts||

    I think that's a very good response.

    Anyone leaking items that would actually compromise US security should be held accountable. But most of the Snowden leaks are just thing that are embarrassing and while it might compromise US political power, it's not what most reasonable people would consider a threat to national security.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government."

    ----Michael Kinsley

    If liberal-progressive were a psychiatric disorder listed in DSM-IV, its primary diagnostic criteria would include an inability to differentiate between the government and the people.

    No, Mr. Kinsley, democracy does not mean people being ruled by the government.

  • widget||

    Kinsley does not appear to be a fan of Greenwald's somewhat grandiose personality and sense of self-importance...

    Well isn't that just precious.

  • John C. Randolph||

    So, Kinsley's still a boot-licking leftard twat? Thanks for confirming it, but I really wasn't in any doubt.

    -jcr

  • Yet another Kevin||

    It's been a few years since I've bothered reading/hearing anything that human chihuahua has to say. I clearly haven't missed anything. Somebody should roll up a newspaper and smack his little yappy head for soiling everyone with his inane opinions.

  • chmercier||

    So, Kinsley is the worst kind of bootlicker there is - he's not employed directly by the government so he has no direct link to protecting himself. This coming from some bureaucrat would make sense, as it's their direct interest. Unless this idiot is trying to pony up some media regulator, lobby, or cabinet position in the future. "Slate" and the "NY Times" may as well change their names to "Pravda" at some point now.

    This also reminds me of that Taibbi genius who works at "The New Yorker" where he thought that the First Amendment was what allowed the government to regulate and dissemble free speech. I'll look to find the article, but it was, of course, either ignorance or sophistry.

  • Eric T||

    Does anyone else get creeped-out whenever they see Michael Kinsley on t.v.?

    There is just something preternaturally disturbing about him.

    And I'm not at all surprised by his willingness to throw press freedom under the American bus. And it is nothing short of amazing how many other "journalists" and "legal experts" such as Jeffrey Toobin are falling all over themselves to do just that.

  • Eric T||

    Greenwald may well be a real prick. Touchy, egotistical, aggressive, combative. But, you know, that is EXACTLY what is NEEDED right now to represent the interests of civil liberties!

    Because none of the polite and clubby t.v. pundits are going to do it. Not even Bob Woodward. Not even Sy Hersh seems to have that in him!

    A really great confrontation between Greenwald and NPRs Dina Temple-Raston can be seen on YouTube. He takes absolutely no shit off of ANYONE. How rare is that?

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