Establishment Media’s Slavishness Revealed by Snowden Saga
The reaction of the U.S. media to the Edward Snowden affair reveals the extent to which journalism here has become a handmaiden to the national security state.
Here’s the by now infamous exchange on “Meet the Press” between its host David Gregory and Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist whom Snowden used as a conduit for the information he leaked.
Gregory: “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”
Greenwald: “I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies.”
Gregory got himself into deeper trouble when he issued nonclarifying clarifications that earned him little sympathy, even from his mainstream peers.
“David Gregory’s logic has a cursory appeal,” Erik Wemple wrote in the Washington Post. “Shouldn’t a Sunday talk show host have the latitude to pose tough questions to another journalist? Too bad, however, Gregory didn’t do that. Rather, he seeded his question with a veiled accusation of federal criminal wrongdoing, very much in the tradition of ‘how long have you been beating your wife.’ ”
Gregory hasn’t been the worst culprit, however. Andrew Ross Sorkin, CNBC host and New York Times columnist, has defamed himself even more thoroughly.
“I would arrest [Snowden] and now I’d almost arrest Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who seems to be out there, he wants to help him get to Ecuador,” Sorkin opined. (Sorkin’s later clarifications didn’t redeem him, either.)
The epidemic of “more loyal than thou” seems to be catching, since Gregory and Sorkin have had lot of company.
NBC reporter Chuck Todd asked, “Glenn Greenwald, you know, how much was he involved in the plot? Did he have a role beyond simply being a receiver of this information?”
ABC foreign correspondent Martha Raddatz razzed on Snowden for having Venezuela as a possible destination, while the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen called him “a cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.
Over at the New York Times, David Brooks fretted over how Snowden was making Americans more cynical.
Greenwald has taken the jabs directed at him in stride; indeed, he says it proves a point he’s been making for a long time.
“One of the main criticisms that I’ve voiced about the Beltway media is that they’re not adversarial to the government at all, but actually that they are servants of the government, mouthpieces for it,” he told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. “And I think it’s almost like Christmas, for those of us who believe that, to watch this gift being handed to us that so vividly proves it, that rather than defend what is supposed to be their right that they are supposed to safeguard, which is freedom of the press, they’re leading the chorus against other journalists on behalf of the government that they serve.”
Greenwald is on the right track. If the subservience of big media to power is cast in an even starker light due to these recent stumbles, that’s all the better.
Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive and co-editor of the Progressive Media Project, is the author of “ ‘Islam’ Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today” (Praeger).
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