Glenn Greenwald on the Deep State, Capitalism, and Identity Politics

"One of the things that the left and right have in common is an awareness that our government has essentially been co-opted by corporate power," says the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist.


Lawyer-turned-journalist Glenn Greenwald's work with whistleblower Edward Snowden to reveal illegal government surveillance won a Pulitzer Prize in 2014. That same year he helped launch The Intercept, but he abruptly resigned six years later after a disagreement over editorial policy. In July, Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke with Greenwald at FreedomFest 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Q: You regularly inveigh against corporate media—including places you have worked, such as Salon and The Guardian. Have you changed or has the world changed?

A: I think it's mostly the latter. The main reason Edward Snowden has said that he was drawn to me wasn't so much because of my views about privacy and surveillance, although those aligned with his. But he saw that I looked at journalism in a radically different way than most of the media. I've always had a very prominent component of my work be media criticism. The views that I've always espoused are heard more on Fox than CNN and MSNBC, where they're not welcome.

Q: Fifteen years ago, Fox News was the national security network and CNN was the critic. What has changed that?

A: I think the primary impetus was the reliance on "Russiagate" as the principal theme of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Once you start positing that there's some evil foreign villain bent upon wreaking havoc inside the U.S. and that the political opponent domestically is aligned with that foreign power, that's a very jingoistic way of looking at the world. On top of which, Russiagate itself emanated from the bowels of the CIA, the bowels of the U.S. security state, which was feeding leaks to The Washington Post and The New York Times. Liberals began viewing those security state agencies, the hatred of which has been fundamental to left-wing politics for decades, as not just their allies, but as guardians of all that was good and decent in the world, and that began this radical transformation about these kinds of questions.

Q: What is the link between corporatism in America and the CIA or the deep state?

A: One of the things that the left and right have in common is an awareness that our government has essentially been co-opted by corporate power. The richer you are, the more powerful you are within the corporate world, the more power you exert in Washington, which isn't how a democracy should function. There is a union between state power on the one hand and corporate power on the other.

Q: Is it possible to have a capitalism that is not a crony capitalism?

A: I think one of the ways that people on the right and left can unite—I'm always looking for those opportunities—is by viewing whatever passes for capitalism in the United States as something that ought to be objected to, either because you're against capitalism in theory, as people on the left are, or because you want capitalism that's functioning and healthy and free of corruption, as people on the right do. But what we have is crony capitalism, which serves none of those interests.

Q: How can we make sense of the political shift we are experiencing in the U.S.?

A: The thing that makes no sense is that anybody would twice vote for Obama and then vote for Trump. How do you make sense of that if you see the world through conservatism versus liberalism? It makes perfect sense, though, if your driving ideology is not conservatism or liberalism, but contempt for the status quo and the ruling elites that safeguard it. Because that is what Obama channeled more than anything, right? "I'm an outsider. I have this funny name. I haven't been in Washington very long. I want to change the way Washington works." That's exactly the message Trump nestled within his work in his own different style.

This interview has been condensed and edited for style and clarity. A video version is below.