The NSA Leaks spectacle continues through the Looking Glass of remaking compliance and profiteering as glamorously dangerous defiance, on its way to becoming the Obama ’08 of mass surveillance reform. It continually vindicates everything I write on this blog, while posing no credible threat to the Intelligence Community and its corporate satellites.
And what of those corporate satellites, anyway, many of which are situated in Silicon Valley, where the new patron of improved journalism, Pierre Omidyar, made his $8.5 billion fortune? Does it matter there is but a half-degree of separation between Omidyar and, say, Palantir, the company that aims to be the super-sophisticated Google of the surveillance apparatus, and which at one time co-conspired against Glenn Greenwald, Omidyar’s new partner in rescuing journalism? What does it mean that the Omidyar Network and the CIA’s investment arm, In-Q-Tel (which started Palantir) have investments in common?
What does it mean that new hire Greenwald sits on a trove of secrets that, if they still matter at all, must surely implicate many of Omidyar’s associates and friends, and whose upcoming book based on those secrets promises “new revelations exposing the extraordinary cooperation of private industry”? Well perhaps Twitter, that most excellent human ant farm for students of power and status, has provided a hint of how this auspicious partnership between the savior of journalism and The 123rd Richest Person in the World might work.
Some people recently expressed concerns to Greenwald about his new partner, on grounds that Omidyar’s Ebay is the parent of PayPal, a company that froze Wikileaks’ account in 2010, under government pressure, for ‘activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.’
To which Greenwald replied,
“he wasnt running the company & i believe spoke out against it, but tell me which mefia [sic] company is ok to work with?”
This is stock Greenwald: the now habitual contempt for anyone asking a question of this kind; an ‘I believe’ which provides weasel room if it turns out what he’s saying is untrue; and an assertion that is technically true but largely meaningless for those who dig a little deeper, which Greenwald knows most people won’t do.
In actual fact, Omidyar was, as he remains, chair of Ebay at the time of the incident, so, no, not running PayPal, but certainly in a position to influence it. And yes, he did ‘speak out’ if by speaking out you mean taking to the pages of his little Honolulu paper under the auspices of his ‘editorial board’– wringing his hands a bit over government interference, while fully endorsing PayPal’s acquiescence to that interference, without even a court order having been issued. From the editorial:
The executives [of PayPal and other companies] have a fiduciary duty to do what’s best for their shareholders. And if they didn’t respond to government warnings, they very well could risk their own business being shut down.
As speaking out goes, this is the very bare, ass-covering, having-it-both-ways minimum, not least because the 123rd richest person in the world can get his largely symbolic hand-wringing published anywhere, and elected not to.
So what have we learned that might either feed or temper our hopes for the ‘momentous’ new journalism venture we breathlessly await alongside a book, a movie and maybe an HBO series:
1. When it truly mattered, Omidyar, for all his handwringing — as a board chair and advocate of company shareholders — sided with the State against what the State perceived as a threat.
2. Greenwald is showing the same loyalty to Omidyar he showed to the Guardian, a loyalty that endorsed every withheld document and every redaction, and too frequently manifests as evasion and sneering contempt for people asking questions. Here he is once again casting compliance as defiance, the alchemy he embodies lately.
3. Greenwald’s evasions on behalf of his new boss continue the trend of objectively distancing himself from the less mediated, genuinely disruptive whistleblowing Wikileaks symbolizes, a tendency that started when he and Snowden almost certainly lied about Snowden’s better-than-Manning meticulousness, and continues each time he invokes the ‘dumping’ straw man for various ends.
Sorry folks, but I don’t think this bodes well for the promised renaissance in afflicting the comfortable, but then I’ve never been persuaded to the revolutionary potential of either billionaires or self-serving liberaltarian reformists. I do hope, however, that when Omidyar seeks access to Greenwald’s precious trove — as he no doubt will — Greenwald’s tendency to hoard at last intersects with the public good.
Whatever the case, viva the new journalism. It’s gonna change everything.
(A hat tip to Arthur Silber, who planted the seeds for this post)
I guess Glenn didn’t like this post. Here he is today (10/19/13), keeping it classy by hee-lariously replying to a parody account. My my — singling out obscure bloggers for abuse via sycophant-provided straw men. Anti-authoritarian heroes ain’t what they used to be. But having remade leaking as not leaking, he now reinvents anti-authoritarianism along similar lines. It’s fair to see this as a harbinger too. Imagine what Glenn can do with obscure radicals when he’s working for Omidyar. Fight the Brooklyn blogger power, Glenn! Free the Billionaires!
For the record, I still respect Scahill, who, from what I can tell, isn’t a liar, or a bully, does not claim to be saving journalism or toppling the government, does not grossly exaggerate his own risks, and probably would never stoop as low as Greenwald and his idiotic acolytes do now, though Glenn, in his peerlessly shitty way, clearly wishes to drag him in. This is how thin-skinned authoritarians behave when they’re out of arguments.
GG must be overjoyed to have finally found a Tarzie he can win an argument with.