Citizenfour’s Astonishing Revelation: Greenwald is a “useless” “careerist” “boob”

From Rich Jones, on the Cypherpunks mailing list:

The main revelation of [Citizenfour], however, is what an incredible boob Glenn Greenwald is. I had some idea of this after seeing him give an extremely disappointing talk earlier this year, but I don’t think I quite understood how useless this guy really is. He’s constantly asking the wrong questions, displays a technical ineptness (to the point of deliberate ignorance) that obviously hampers the journalism, and at very step shows a very clear desire to keep the document cache to himself for careerist purposes. At one point Ewen MacAskill brings up the idea of there being a Wikileaks-esque document explorer, and Ed says that this would be the best outcome for the documents, and Greenwald quickly dismisses the idea to talk about his publishing schedule. I still have immense respect for him, but I found it very frustrating and quite cringey to watch him treat the whole event in news-cycle terms, while everybody around him is obviously thinking in historical context. For instance, there is a moment when they are prepping for Ed’s first on-camera interview and he asks the reporters how much background he should give about himself, and they give different answers. Poitras asks for as much detail as possible, and Greenwald basically says that isn’t important, just be short so we get a good soundbite…

Truly mind-blowing. I had no idea.

Other commenters throw in, with John Young of Cryptome in a particularly scathing mood. Highly recommended.


Fair’s fair, so I am adding that I just found this comment from another cpunks member, which someone else on the list ratified:

I wasn’t watching the scene with the intention of being able to recall it fully afterwards, but I remember it rather differently. I recall Ed saying releasing all of the documents Wikileaks-style would an ideal outcome, but because it included information that should be legitimately redacted, he instead wanted to filter the material through journalists who would make that judgement call. Also, Greenwald said he was under a deadline, and I think you’ll agree it was in everyone’s best interests to start to get the information out as quickly as possible.

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33 Responses to Citizenfour’s Astonishing Revelation: Greenwald is a “useless” “careerist” “boob”

  1. Peter says:

    “More importantly, I think the film also misses an opportunity to talk about power.” – R

    NSA whistleblower William Binney made the specific point that the surveillance dragnet in operation creates a 3-D picture of everyone’s activities, time being the third dimension (what you were doing, where you did it and when). His clear implication was that with that info, anyone could be hung with a creative ex post facto reconstruction of events. This scenario has already occurred in the ‘war on drugs’ where, say, the DEA has constructed cases from illegal wire taps.

    Acknowledging human nature and the propensity to abuse unchecked power – which, ironically, the architecture of the Constitution specifically addresses – should be a core discussion, so I agree.

    A discussion about power would also naturally lead to GG’s personal hoarding of the people’s documents for his personal gain, which is just insane because, as we know, Glenn would just never do such a thing.

  2. PMB says:

    I’m confused. What film are they talking about. What was the name of it? Was there a link to be able to watch it?

    I clicked on CitizenFour link and only saw the comment, but no clue as to the film title or a link to it.



  3. Reilly says:

    I finally realized what a self-serving, stumblebum huckster Glenn Greenwald is. Of course I still believe the sun rises from the crack of his ass…

    Somebody please explain this psychological phenomenon to me. It isn’t a one-off, I’ve seen it expressed to varying degrees before. It’s fucking bizarre.

    • Tarzie says:

      A lot of people have remarked on that. It’s some mandatory genuflection. I think the idea is that shepherding the leaks is a great thing even if he’s been a self-serving schmuck about it.

      • Maybe they don’t want him to show up in the thread and talk about what a lying, cowardly, pseudo-radical they are for not understanding how important fireworks are.

        Or, less sarcastically, I read it as being less of a rational evaluation of the value of his service than an emotional posture to soften the blow on his own worldview, so he doesn’t have to abandon his admiration for GG all at once. Especially if he feels like he’s the only one who’s having second thoughts. I know when I find evidence that disproves something that 1) I’ve believed strongly and that 2) I think everyone around me believes in, I tend to voice my initial disagreement in somewhat tentative terms. Like: “I still totally think x as a general matter, but in this case don’t you think x is a little fucked up?”.

      • Tarzie says:

        I guess what makes it so odd is that there is no tempering of the criticism. He recites a litany of irredeemable qualities and then, but I still respect him immensely. It’s very unique to the Greenwald world.

      • Yeah that’s true. It is a pretty extreme disparity. It’s almost as if cognitive dissonance is such normal thought process that it can be explicitly laid out with no effort taken to soften it, let alone resolve it.

      • babaganusz says:

        ” It’s almost as if cognitive dissonance is such normal thought process that it can be explicitly laid out with no effort taken to soften it, let alone resolve it.”

        Haven’t yet seen substantial optimism-fodder that we (as a society or species) tend towards honest reflection, most especially if The Question is never/rarely Put. rational actors? more like rationalizing acts.

  4. Joe says:

    Heroes die hard; people hate to let them go.

    • RUKidding says:

      I wouldn’t say I ever saw GG as a “hero,” but I confess that my bs detector was broken for a while vis GG. Think I’m just discouraged that there seems to be no one trustworthy, albeit I’ve always been skeptical. While I have no time for GG anymore, plus ditto Snowden, I think that may be why some still wish to see GG/Snowden in a “good” light… just to feel that there’s someone “out there” who’s telling the truth. Eh? Get over it. Rip off the band aid.

  5. Lorenzo says:

    Now, I have great respect for Laura Poitras. I think she’s a talented, brave filmmaker who’s performing a public service. I think her criticism that Snowden should give as much detail as possible is valid, as was her repeated suggestion that Greenwald should have gotten off his ass to download PGP so Snowden could actually contact him in the first place.

    However, there is a vital point that is often overlooked in these critiques. Greenwald had a deal with his ass, that 1) he would not have to get off of it, and later, that 2) it should be the subject of a lot of kissing. In the latter case, details are a pain in the all-important ass, as soundbites are sufficient to buffet the turning of the news cycle.

    Surely Laura Poitras is jealous of Glenn’s bravery, because while she was sitting in the comfort of her editing suite in Berlin, she was burgling precisely zero FBI offices in Pennsylvania. Her temerity in depicting the arrangement between GeeGee’s head and his ass is utterly despicable. It’s indistinguishable, really, from the evil cowardice of Iraq War-cheering Bush-supporters, which Glenn definitely wasn’t even though he sounded identical to one at the time.

  6. wendyedavis says:

    Questions: As to the lively discussion at Cryptome, it may be that I just don’t know how to navigate there, but are there more comments than Young’s and Jones’? Do you or others know what Snowden said about power? I’m especially curious after reading Julian Assange’s excerpts from his new book in ‘Google is not what it seems’. His larger point is not only Google much like the NSA, but works hand-in-hand with the Empire to provide them with information as to who we are, what we do, but also helps to shape our perceptions, and suggests what we should believe, as in: a shadow diplomacy. His take-down exposés of Jared Cohen and Schmidt are scathing but deftly humorous.

    He broadened my understanding of the Silicon Valley Libertarian creed, and a footnote in that section (#47) was long, but sincerely informative as twined fact/opinion goes. It concerns the zeal with which privacy campaigners rail against the state doing so, but essentially give free passes to private for-profit corporations doing similar surveillance, ‘Silicon Valley as antagonist to the state’, yada, yada. This stuck out:
    “Many privacy advocates justify a predominant focus on abuses by the state on the basis that the state enjoys a monopoly on coercive force. For example, Edward Snowden was reported to have said that tech companies do not “put warheads on foreheads.” See Barton Gellman, “Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission’s accomplished,” Washington Post, 23 December 2013,
    This view downplays the fact that powerful corporations are part of the nexus of power around the state, and that they enjoy the ability to deploy its coercive power, just as the state often exerts its influence through the agency of powerful corporations. The movement to abolish privacy is twin-horned. Privacy advocates who focus exclusively on one of those horns will find themselves gored on the other.”

    (The comment in your Update seems to be missing a few words, no? ‘I recall Ed saying releasing all of the documents Wikileaks-style would [x] an ideal outcome…’)

    As to GG fans, after reading this piece this morning, and discussing a few of my recent experiences, I’d told Mr. wd that he is almost like a creepy religion now, and if one is a critic, it’s apostasy or heresy or something. At my home website, at least half of the small commentariat has departed due to my GG/Snowden critiques, and I do find it baffling that they can’t see their many inconsistencies and skewed principles. And yes, I am still a fan of the ‘bad whistle-blower’, and am glad folks are still leaking to his organization.

    • Tarzie says:

      Hi Wendy:

      Thanks for this. That quote from Assange is interesting, a definite departure from corporations will save us line increasingly favored by Team Snowden. As to what Snowden said about power, I am not aware of anything worth quoting. I find his analysis extremely banal.

      at least half of the small commentariat has departed due to my GG/Snowden critiques

      That’s too bad. Also pathetic. It’s a testament to how circumscribed our discourse is that Greenwald’s toothless liberaltarian dissent is a really big deal and also that criticizing him alienates people.

      As to the lively discussion at Cryptome, it may be that I just don’t know how to navigate there, but are there more comments than Young’s and Jones’?

      Young’s comments dominate but there are a few more. ‘Lively’ I guess is the wrong word. Young is lively. The rest go off on a tangent about Main Core. You navigate by clicking the link on each page that says ‘Next message.’ Or you view them all by thread and click all the ones with the subject ‘CITIZENFOUR’

      (The comment in your Update seems to be missing a few words, no? ‘I recall Ed saying releasing all of the documents Wikileaks-style would [x] an ideal outcome…’)

      The errors in the original have been reproduced. I don’t edit direct quotes.

      • wendyedavis says:

        Hey, Tarzie; yes, I’d assumed that the missing words were down to the author, but meant: bulk release *wouldn’t be an ideal outcome*. we hear that only too often and fans believe that greenwald only offers the G a chance to make their case, and if the case ain’t good enough published. but what about the nation X cell towers? it was down to WikiLeaks to publish: Afghanistan. wth was that even about?

        Thank you for the Cryptome hints; I’ll try again later. But yes, it’s sad that so many otherwise bright and attentive people are so captured by their devotion that my take offends them. This, after I posted on so many of the Snowden docs at My.fdl before Kevin took over. But as time went on, and my Spidee Senses were tingling more and more, I grew disenchanted.

        On a couple posts (one was JP Sottile’s piece at My.fdl, mirroring Pando’s pieces on First Look), I got reamed. But again, otherwise bright people, and many quite familiar with tech issues, srsly defended Pierre’s involvement with Center UA and USAID, even down to stupid backways-thinking like: “You know Marcy Wheeler would never be involved in anything sinister, wendydavis!’ Any other day, they might remember that USAID = CIA, NED is deep state ‘Democracy for plutocrats’, and so on.

        I quit cross-posting my critiques, esp. after the ‘drip drip’ stopped, and my second-to-last piece was a ‘GG is soooo tired’ bullshit. Then…the Auckland Town Hall, which I finally watched, and was revolted by. I think I’d mentioned that Assange got a bit of revenge for Snowden’s ‘bad whistleblower’ zings… Ach, I should have put a ‘Whinge Alert’ at the top, so sorry, but I had wondered if you knew that ‘First Look’ is on…er…indefinite hold. The writing is so jejune and laughable as to terms he used, but…heeeere’s Pierre!: ‘Nine Months in, First Look is Still Very Much a Startup’, Pierre Omidyar July 28, 2014

  7. RUKidding says:

    Been reading some about “CitzenFour” and wondering about it, so glad to see what’s posted here. As I noted above, I gave up on GG some time ago (albeit cut him slack longer than I should have). Not much to add, except to say that I finally saw “Kill the Messenger” yesterday and thought about the difference between GG and Gary Webb after the movie ended.

    I’m sure GG was/is familiar with Webb’s whole story, so decided to go the other route. Suck up to power; tell some truth, but be in the game to enhance and enrich yourself.

    Well telling truth to power and sticking to his story really messed up Webb’s life, sad to say. No excuse for GG’s behavior. But what a difference between the 2. Snowden’s a horse of a different feather. May never know what his gig is. As with Webb’s situation, the “media” seems to have turned the story around to be mostly about Snowden, and somehow nowadays Snowden seems to be trotted out by the M$M to “explain” things in a weirded out way. In other words: sanitized and put to use by the PTB to fit their narrative whilst letting the rubes believe that we’re “onto them” or something…

    • Tarzie says:

      so decided to go the other route

      I really doubt this was an agonizing decision, if, in fact, he ever came to a crossroads at all. GG has always been an opportunistic chameleon. But as you suggest, going the other way will destroy you.

  8. meh. glenn has his flaws, like all people, but he’s competent and well-intentioned enough for me to respect him.

  9. wendyedavis says:

    Schadenfreude is one of my worst flaws. (smile)

    • Tarzie says:

      Oh, nothing wrong with that. But I dunno how much damage this is gonna do. I think it depends on the subsequent disclosures. I feel like schadenfreude is premature. I’m glad Taibbi got burned, though.

  10. wendyedavis says:

    Maybe so, *if* there are subsequent disclosures. Smart opinion says he likely has a non-disparagement clause; Yves Smith says breaking it would cause Pierre to break him. Why ‘fuck Taibbi’, though. I admit I was not impressed seeing him on Moyers with Chrystia Freeland (The rich are not like you and me’ puff piece) looking entirely too pleased with himself.

  11. wendyedavis says:

    lol; I reckon no one will need to wake you, goldfish training institute. no, he is not a radical, none of them at the Intercept are. i’m embarrassed to say i got hooked reading the comments on ‘the inside story’ off an on through the day, though. the ones at naked capitalism as well. (a number of folks there pushed against pierre’ and even the three authors of the ‘story’.

    the best comment at the original was benito mussolini who said it shoud all be made into a serial soap opera.

  12. Pingback: “Kill your idols”: Chelsea Manning and the reactionary “left” – Leftist Critic

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