New York, New York: Clearly, there’s an officially sanctioned, if not supported, backlash underway to cast doubt on those who are disseminating the information that Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers are exposing to the global public.
What better way to respond to the evidence of government overreach and criminality in the spying by the NSA and other agencies than to try to change the subject by smearing the people who are funding the reporting on it to us.
This latest round of the media battle should not be surprising. In fact, it’s all too predictable.
In the latest round, Lawyer and journalist Glenn Greenwald, the point person/interpreter for the majority of the Snowden disclosures, came under attack by indirection with a high profile smear on Pierre Omidyar, the E-Bay billionaire funding his new venture, First Look Media.
Leading the charge publicly is one Patrick Ames, who writes for Pando News, a rival news agency funded by another Silicon Valley tech moneyman. He has gone after Greenwald before charging that he is profiting by selling state secrets.
His latest is a high-profile “expose” of Greenwald’s publisher “revealing,” this time, that he had given several hundred thousand dollars to a Ukrainian “pro-democracy” organization.
No sooner had this hit job hit the web, then the pack of media assassins who live for food fights like this went to work demanding an immediate response from Greenwald, as if this “gotcha” story was at the top of the news pile requiring urgent attention?
Poor Greenwald was not even online when it “broke” but soon had a media swarm in his inbox.
As anyone who has followed his battles with lame stream media pundits knows, he rarely avoids a fight, and tends to win the dust-ups he engages in, just because he is usually so much smarter, more articulate and a better writer than his adversaries who have yet to land a punch that stung.
This particular angle was clever because it was about perceptions, trying to discredit him with a guilt by association smear that would or could discredit him with his base of readers critical of US policy, They, one would think, would not be sympathetic to funders of the opposition in a country rebelling, in part, against a country that is hosting his principal source, Mr. Snowden.
Implied, but not detailed is the suggestion that Greenwald’s “boss” is doing what the CIA is allegedly doing in the Ukraine and hence he is tainted, in bed with the very forces Greenwald would detest, making him and his funder capital “H” hypocrites to boot.
The convoluted expose, with all the makings of covert operation itself, might have also been designed to piss off Putin who they likely fantasized might eject Snowden as a friend of their enemies, an outcome that the highest pasha of Pando would most likely like because he is apparently a Romney supporter and NSA booster.
So, to quote the old canard, “what a web we weave when first practice to deceive.” In this case, exposing alleged deception was actually a way of promoting more deception.
When Greenwald woke up to what was going on, he was at first incredulous and then snarky writing on his 20 day old publication Intercept, “This, apparently, is some sort of scandal that must be immediately addressed not only by Omidyar, but also by every journalist who works at First Look. That several whole hours elapsed since the article was published on late Friday afternoon without my commenting is, for some, indicative of disturbing stonewalling.“
He was just warming up before exposing that there was nothing new here because Omidyar’s network disclosed the relationship on September 11, 2011 –on 9/11 no less—and discussed it, not as a covert payoff, but as an “investment.”
Here’s how the beneficiary organization described itself; “New Citizen is a coalition of more than 50 civil society organizations that mobilizes civic participation in Ukraine and serves as the country’s primary forum for government transparency and accountability.” (Sounds conspiratorial to me!)
Omidyar’s investment in First Look Media is also justified in terms of supporting democracy under threat, but not in faraway Kiev but in the US of A.
It all sounds pretty consistent. Significantly, journalists in The Ukraine have also brought secret documents to light exposing corruption in their non-democratic democracy. Those journalists didn’t get their documents from the Internet, but by diving to the bottom of a lake to find incriminating evidence that had been tossed there. (See the story on Mediachannel.org.)
Greenwald expressed sympathy for Ukrainians fighting for democracy before effectively, deconstructing and challenging the smear against him.
The whole incident prompted him to put on his Journalism Professor’s cap for a well expressed lecture on the importance of journalistic independence, and a defense of taking the devil’s money to do the lawd’s work.
He writes: “That journalistic outlets fail to hold accountable large governmental and corporate entities is a common complaint. It’s one I share. It’s possible to do great journalism in discrete, isolated cases without much funding and by working alone, but it’s virtually impossible to do sustained, broad-scale investigative journalism aimed at large and powerful entities without such funding. As I’ve learned quite well over the last eight months, you need teams of journalists, and editors, and lawyers, and experts, and travel and technology budgets, and a whole slew of other tools that require serious funding. The same is true for large-scale activism.”
One can only hope that his benefactor will not be intimidated. My own experience with wealthy media funders is that they can be flaky, quick to defect when there is heat with ‘been there, done that’ cop-out before going on to whatever the next flavor of the week is.
I should also acknowledge that I tried to interest Omidyar in supporting the MediaChanel.org, the website I edit, in part because the battle we face is not just with government agencies, but the media writ large that routinely does its bidding, as well as whoring for advertisers while serving the high and mighty.
We are all in a media war, not just a political battle.
Try as I did, I couldn’t hook up with Pierre & Co. even in his native Hawaii through a friend who knows him, much less get a second look from First look even though I respect and know many members of their team. The chemistry might be there but the connection hasn’t been.
Raising money can be problematic. In the past, I was able to get a grant from George Soros for a human rights TV series with one consequence being that I had to later fend off ‘lefter than us investigative journalists’ out to prove we had sold out or worse.
Their logic has been recycled in this latest punch up by the pugilists at Pando.
‘So and so backs X. You took one of his grants…Therefore you are him’.
End of story!
Guilty as inferred! Don’t let the facts get in the way of paranoia and delusion.
If you are looking for logic, don’t. The sad news in all this is that Snowden is still in exile and at risk. The Congress has not even acted on Obama’s pathetic intelligence reforms. And, agencies that claim to be in the know continue to play arrogant spy games.
The Brits with whom we are in a “special relationship” most recently went after personal images from webcams. A former member of the Yahoo board told me this past week that most of what they were after were sex scenes. I guess ingesting all that metadata can be boring.
Every time you think this sewer of surveillance can’t get worse, it does.
So, go Glenn, push it as long as you can, but recognize, you can’t make half of this shit up and watch your back (although I am told you have lots of dogs at your place in Brazil.)
News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at Newsdissector.net and edits Mediachannel.org. His latest book is Madiba A to Z: the many faces of Nelson Mandela. (Madibabook.com.) Comments to email@example.com.