Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Prioritizing Personalities Over a Free Press

I'm honored again to be guest-posting with the Freedom of the Press Foundation:

One of the most fascinating aspects of Glenn Greenwald’s journalism is the way it provokes various people who think of themselves as journalists to reveal their actual priorities. I wrote about this at length last week in a response to Michael Kinsley’s non-review review of Greenwald’s new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State, arguing that Kinsley had done the world a service by behaving in exactly the servile, establishment-revering manner Greenwald chronicles in the book.

But even more fascinating and revealing than Kinsley’s own demand — that when it comes to what the press should publish, "that decision must ultimately be made by the government,” and that journalists who don’t toe the government line might need to be “locked up" — has been the reaction of Kinsley’s peers. Here are a few I’ve come across:

If u missed great Kinsley review of Greenwald, one of biggest jerks in journo even if partly right.

Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine
Michael Kinsley deftly fillets Greenwald

Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, Bloomberg
You should also read George Packer's piece on the subject

David Gregory, NBC
An interesting addition to the debate

John Harwood, CNBC and The New York Times
if you're talking about Kinsley's piece, it was a valuable screed

Charles Lane, The Washington Post
Intellectual mismatch of the century: Kinsley v. Greenwald

Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek
A thoroughly refreshing takedown of the self-righteous Greenwald by Michael Kinsley

One notable (and potentially risky) feature of Twitter is how instantly people use it to express themselves. Often there’s little thought, little filtering, between the impulse behind a tweet and the expression in the tweet itself. So it’s fascinating to see how reflexively focused these people are on Greenwald’s personality, and how (at best) unconcerned they are about a fellow “journalist” calling for a blatantly unconstitutional system of prior restraint of the press and imprisonment of journalists. Their diction is remarkably telling: the most important thing to Alter is that he thinks Greenwald is a “jerk.” What Chait finds most relevant is that he thinks Kinsley “fillets Greenwald.” Lane is concerned only with who has the bigger intellect — Greenwald or Kinsley. The piece matters to Nazaryan because it’s a "takedown of the self-righteous Greenwald.”

Alter, by the way, is the person who suggested in a Newsweek column that it was “Time to Think About Torture.” According to Alter's values, it seems, advocating torture isn’t something that makes someone a jerk. Or, whatever it means to be a jerk, in Alter’s mind it’s a significantly more reprehensible thing than a call for America to start torturing people.

So here’s the situation. A fellow journalist — in the newspaper that once published the Pentagon Papers — calls for the government to assume ultimate decision-making authority over what the media is allowed to publish, describes another journalist as a “go-between” and “perpetrator” for his reporting, and wonders aloud whether journalists who do such reporting ought to be “locked up”… and not one of these journalists finds any of it even worthy of mention. What they do find worthy of mention is...

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1 comment:

1LLoyd said...

My political background started in the Religious Right, where the media was usually considered the enemy. Over the years, I realized that the press is a very important check on people and government. These attitudes make me wonder how independent the press really is. Thank you for sharing.