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.