Over at The Intercept, a website he founded with a billionaire, arch-gadfly Glenn Greenwald has penned a clucking remonstrance to the Democratic Party for nominating Hillary Clinton — because billionaires.
Greenwald isn’t complaining about Clinton’s policy or her actions in office this time. Instead, he has narrowly focused on the way she operates under the campaign finance laws which currently exist, spinning it as evidence of malfeasance.
That key argument of the right-wing justices in Citizens United has now become the key argument of the Clinton campaign and its media supporters to justify her personal and political receipt of millions upon millions of dollars in corporate money: “Expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption” — at least when the candidate in question is Hillary Clinton.
Sure, one can read plenty of this sort of commentary on the web. Even if Democratic primary elections are over, dead-end supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders still declare the evil $hillary too corrupt for their tastes every day, and a number still resist her pending coronation in Philadelphia as if there were still delegates left to win somehow. Greenwald is simply one of the most popular writers in a popular genre.
But there’s also a delightful note of hypocrisy in Greenwald’s words here along with the usual notes of arrogance. Because when the Citizens United decision came down, Greenwald was the voice of calm in the room. Remember? There he stood, aloof of the liberal herd, gently telling us not to panic about those open floodgates of dark money because — I am not making this up — he said the Supreme Court had actually struck an important blow for the First Amendment.
Yes, that’s right, Glenn Greenwald not only upheld the premise that ‘money is speech,’ he went out of his way to defend the basis of the Citizens United decision. He even appeared on The Young Turks to debate Professor Lawrence Lessig on this very point:
That wasn’t just a one-off event, either. Here’s Greenwald debating uber-progressive Rep. Dennis Kucinich in defense of the Supreme Court’s decision, making the exact same arguments with almost the exact same words:
Now, I don’t want to question Greenwald’s character the way he does Clinton’s. But given the fact that he admits accepting speaker’s fees from the right wing-funded ‘libertarian’ Cato Institute, doesn’t he deserve at least a little bit of the same suspicion he would assign to Hillary for telling Goldman Sachs they should support female entrepreneurs? I mean, as long as we’re being intellectually consistent, shouldn’t we at least ask whether Greenwald was unduly influenced into defending a breakthrough victory for libertarian political philosophy at the Supreme Court?
It takes a special kind of chutzpah to call someone else out for operating under a current legal framework that you have personally defended multiple times in public. From there, it is a short step to asserting a double set of moral standards, one for me, one for she.
Indeed, the only truly consistent quality to Greenwald’s body of work is Greenwald himself. Having nearly lost his law license by surreptitiously recording witnesses against a violent white supremacist client, Greenwald went on to become famous for hyperbolic reporting which framed an NSA metadata collection program as history’s greatest crime against civil rights. The only consistent data point within this range is that Greenwald wants you to set aside what you’re doing to buy his book, to buy his speeches, to buy his bullshit.
Consider the following video in which Greenwald condescends to take a question about LGBT groups in the United States which haven’t set aside their primary mission statements in order to adopt his noble cause.
Get that? If you are a trans person fighting ‘bathroom bills,’ or a gay marriage applicant subject to rear-guard actions against Obergefell, or a lesbian demanding protection from job discrimination, then you should stop that kind of “assimilation” right now. Set aside your lobbying and awareness work! Forget about your issues! The only issues that really matter are Greenwald’s, and your revolution is just not as cool or awesome as his.
What sort of revolution is he throwing? Again, we can look to the past. Greenwald became disgusted with Democrats after they voted to immunize telecom companies for complying with Bush-era abuses of the FISA warrant system in 2007. (Incidentally, that legislation also protected eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who now pays Greenwald to write for The Intercept.) Within two years, the columnist helped found the Accountability Now PAC to advance the libertarian-progressive agenda of demolishing the ‘national security state.’ Claiming Jane Hamsher and Markos as co-founders, the committee was supposed to demonstrate the new power of online organizing — the ‘netroots’ — to push their issues, which, as stated by the committee, bore understandable resemblance to Greenwald’s.
Before it was done, Accountability Now PAC ended up spending a total of $285,272, mostly on its founders, and from that total cutting exactly one check for $5,000 to an actual candidate. This poor prize went to an obscure primary contender in Pennsylvania named Ryan Buchianneri, who lost badly. But that sort of “accountability” was exactly what Greenald wanted; while plugging the committee, Greenwald named such longshot challenges as a cornerstone strategy.
Accountability Now is an organization built around a single guiding principle: challenging the institutional power structures that make it so easy, so consequence-free for Congress to open up the government coffers for looting by corporate America while people across the country are losing their jobs and their basic constitutional rights while unable to afford basic health care.
Speaking those words in 2009, Greenwald cited an issue on which his coalition would split with President Obama before the end of the year, with Hamsher leading a rump party in cries of “kill the bill!” because the Affordable Care Act did not include a public option. Mind you, Clinton is campaigning on a renewed call for the public option right now, but that sort of incremental change is just not really enough for people like Greenwald, anyway. It’s boring, technocratic problem-solving when the ‘centrists’ do it, and a basis for criticism when they don’t.
What Greenwald demands is fundamental, radical, Generation X change — the kind that drinks rebellious soft beverages and watches ‘extreme sports.’ Federal intelligence agencies must now be abolished to make way for a new single payer health care plan; the ‘establishment’ must be destroyed so that fringe elements may advance into the center from both sides; nothing else will satisfy, and any Democrat who doesn’t deliver on his demands is a neoliberal sellout.
Just don’t ask him where all the money goes while he keeps agitating for that perfect revolution of his.