Glenn. What happened to you, man?

I used to appreciate Glenn Greenwald, back in the Bush years when he was a loud voice against the American war machine, defender of Chelsea Manning, etc. But then he got weird, and in his efforts to oppose the Establishment became increasingly aligned with what were fringe political perspectives that have since become mainstream Republicanism, and he never seemed to notice. He resigned from the Intercept because he thought they were neglecting marginal voices.

On Thursday, Greenwald penned a lengthy resignation letter ripping the publication he helped co-found, saying it is “completely unrecognizable” from its creation in 2014.

“Rather than offering a venue for airing dissent, marginalized voices and unheard perspectives, it is rapidly becoming just another media outlet with mandated ideological and partisan loyalties,” Greenwald wrote on Thursday.

So now, to avoid those “mandated ideological and partisan loyalties”, he has decided that the “marginalized voice and unheard perspective” he must support is that of… Tucker Carlson?

It’s good to see that I’m not the only one who has been dismayed by his strange and obvious rightward turn — not just a turn, by a headlong rush into the arms of Carlson and Jimmy Dore and other pundits who try to pretend to be brave centrists while parroting the Republican party line.

At this point, Greenwald seems to have almost no ideology besides reflexive contrarianism. Perhaps this is simply the end result of spending hours on Twitter every day for years, or spending two (or four?) years focused laser-like on the Russia inquiry. His incessant—and often finely detailed, and articulate—criticisms have transformed the man into a kind of fanatic.

More problematic, obviously, this tendency towards contrarian criticism has increasingly aligned him with the far right. Some of this can clearly be chalked up to the simplification of information within the context of social media; self-reinforcing media bubbles are created. But we pick our bubbles, and Greenwald appears to be comfortable with his niche.

It is worth noting that the rhetorical overlap between Greenwald and the far right was always there, but could, in the past, usually be plausibly discounted as both-sides hostility towards a corrupt elite—consider the comparisons between Trump and Bernie. Or at least that’s how I felt. No longer. Take a look at Greenwald’s Twitter feed, which reads as an unending stream of right-wing grievance against cultural liberalism, and/or specific and almost exclusive amplification of right-wing media.

Right now, he is just another media pundit with “mandated ideological and partisan loyalties” of the kind he deplored — and worse, he has incomprehensibly hitched his star to the wagon of Trumpism and far right conservatism. I’d say that’s too bad, but after four years of incontrovertible empirical evidence that that political wing is incompetent and evil, I just have to say … screw him.


  1. feministhomemaker says

    If you read Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel you will discover Greenwald’s failure to abide by professional journalistic ethics and how that contributed to his rift with the Intercept he co founded. Marcy Wheeler has dissected his unprofessional journalistic practices and inconsistent arguments in great detail. She would know. She covers national security issues and covered much of the same content he supposedly did and she confronted him on his errors. It is amazing reading. She is the go to journalist for the issues he supposedly cared about. He is now just untrustworthy and without credibility. She covered his break with Intercept.

  2. Dunc says

    At this point, Greenwald seems to have almost no ideology besides reflexive contrarianism.

    Did he ever? Genuine question, not snark – it can be hard to tell the difference. I’ve seen this happen with several personal acquaintances – contrarianism ends up leading them down a path of self-radicalisation into right-wing ideology, because the modern right is really, really good at convincing people that they’re fighting The Man.

  3. says

    @2. Left-leaning contrarians will always be caught in the contradiction bequeathed to us by the radical left – the idea that you could have atomized individualism perpetually at odds with any consensus along with collectivism-by-default which requires automatic conformity.

    Anyone caught up in that contradiction will abandon one extreme for the other rather than find s golden mean between the two.

  4. says

    Sorry, but Greenwald resigned from the publication he founded because editors were doing their job and editing him. He even said so, jawing on about his freedom as a writer and a journalist and yadda yadda. But like you PZ, I used to admire him and can not for the life of me figure out why he is carrying water for the pro-feudalism and pro-fascism crowd. I feel the same about Matt Taibbi every time he argues that the Russian election interference was a hoax. He still nails the finance industry to the wall but on the biggest intelligence failure in decades, he just won’t see what’s right there in front of our faces.

  5. says

    @4. Maybe it’s just that Greenwald is, at heart, just a cruel person and right-wing extremism offers more opportunities for cruelty these days than left-wing extremism.

  6. says

    His journey is probably not as long as most people perceive. He was always a libertarian, and his popularity with liberal/left folks was because he made his brand denouncing the civil liberties abuses and wars of aggression of the George Bush II era. That’s all people knew about him at the time. But obviously he was a right-wing libertarian of the Ayn Rand stripe. That he has allied himself with conservative culture warriors is surprising, however, especially since he’s a married gay man. I don’t know what to make of that.

  7. brucegee1962 says

    @3 Susan Montgomery, you make a very good point.

    The biggest political shift in my lifetime is that, during my formative years of the 60s and 70s, Republicans sold themselves as very much the party of the Establishment — all about Civic Responsibility, individual sacrifice for the Greater Good, and conformity. The Left were the ones yammering about personal freedom (mostly the freedom not to get sent to Vietnam).
    Then Reagan started the anti-government shift of the right, and Trump ended it, and now Republicans treat the concept of civic responsibility the way vampires treat holy water, and Democrats are the ones saying we all have a moral obligation to help each other out. It’s very strange.

  8. says

    @7. Not entirely. A favorite counterculture mantra was “The Democratic party has blood on it’s hands” – remember that the drivers of Vietnam intervention were the Democratic JFK and LBJ. Maybe the Dems of the time were into noblesse oblige a little more than Republicans, but they were still “establishment” to the New Left.

    My point @3 was that the New Left’s inability to pick whether they believed in freewheeling individuals or rigid social responsibility still haunts us and leaves us vulnerable to manipulation. To say that “people should make up their own minds” leaves us struggling to say “put the damn mask on!”. The chief way the right is beating us is to hold us to our own contradictions.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    Susan Montgomery @3: You’ll never tire of beating that silly little drum, will you? The great thing about having simplistic mantras about what has been “bequeathed to us by the radical left”, or whatever, is that you can just keep repeating them as though they are self-evident. Lazy bullshit.

    And, on refreshing, I see the same shallow “analysis” continued at #9. History as a handful of catchy soundbites. Urgh.

  10. tigerbirdman says

    I think being a successful critic of the US government is bad for your mental health. You can see this more clearly with Assange, who also was always a bit weird, but turned into a much more vindictive man after years of (basically) house arrest.

    Greenwald didn’t have it as bad, but he was still targeted for his involvement with the Snowden leaks. I don’t want to give him a free pass, but I do think that it at least responsible for part of what happened.

  11. stroppy says

    Worth posting again:

    How America Lost Its Mind
    The nation’s current post-truth moment is the ultimate expression of mind-sets that have made America exceptional throughout its history.

    Republicans have certainly been about conformity. All authoritarianism, including Trump’s appeal to it, requires conformity– “how dare those people take a knee before the flag,” for instance. They have also long been staunchly nuts on religion, states rights, and small government since before Reagan.

    Reagan came along at a time when people, especially the military, were looking to place blame for the loss of Viet Nam on liberals rather that accept responsibility for their own actions, policies, denial, and delusions– including feeding kids into a pointless meat grinder and generally driving everyone crazy.

    I might add that the importance of “hippies” in all this was blown out of proportion, but because they looked and acted weird, they made a convenient and easily stereotyped target that could be used to paint and attack the left and “everything” they stood for, including civil rights.

    The ‘establishment’ was just another naive buzz word like ‘deep-state’ today. It’s a thread that runs throughout American history, like the distortions of reality derived from religion and the authoritarianism required to justify slavery and are still polluting just about everything.

  12. markgisleson says

    Greenwald, Matt Taibbi and most lefty (not “Democrat”) journalists have been banned from MSNBC, CNN and other mainstream news media. I can’t fault them for doing the shows that will have them on, and that limits what they can talk about. Regarding principles and consistency, they give the right credit when it’s due (when’s the last time MSNBC reminded you that Trump — who was wrong about almost EVERYTHING — was right about Ivermectin?).

    MSNBC is all agitprop all the time and, like Fox, does so inconsistently, trading off the memes of the week. Almost all the online/cable news shows flipped their opinions on countless issues after we transitioned from Trump to Biden. Kids are still in cages, the rich are still looting the economy (at a record pace), cops are still doing Wild West shootouts. The only real consistency is that Republican outlets are still lying about Trump’s “achievements” while Democrat-affiliated news shows are still lying about Russiagate.

    But yeah, Glenn Greenwald is still irritating. And still mostly right about the issues.

  13. mrquotidian says

    I have to respectfully disagree with the characterization of people like Greenwald and Taibbi as somehow right-wing.. For better or worse, I think they are iconoclasts and at the very lest demonstrate that politics is not a linear gradient from one side BAD to another GOOD (based on where some guys sat a couple centuries ago). They are more akin to classical liberals, or some bizarre version of left-libertarian, and are proof that people can hold very divergent positions of a variety of subjects.

    Sometimes Greenwald and Taibbi do good work that is broadly in support of a leftist agenda (Greenwald’s work in Brazil has been incredibly effective at potentially restoring Lula, though it is also not without criticism)… Other times they are tilting at the wrong windmills (IMO). I don’t like fox news and personally would never appear on it, but that alone is not enough for me to completely write Greenwald off. After all, there are absolute war criminals are on the payroll at ostensibly center-left outlets. Those are the people who are trying to shut people like him up.

    Journalists, despite their self-portrayal, are not white knights, or anything like that. So I don’t think ordinary people should get bogged down in the inane drama among journalists on twitter who spend half their time trashing each other for petty personal reasons. A lot of it seems to be the left eating itself because the real avenues to change are long and seem generally hopeless. In the absence of meaningful action, it can feel like progress to eject “enemies within” from the group, but sometimes this is cutting off the nose to spite the face. Better to focus on doing good work than trying to figure out these self-aggrandizing weirdos.

  14. Rich Woods says

    @cervantes #6:

    That he has allied himself with conservative culture warriors is surprising, however, especially since he’s a married gay man. I don’t know what to make of that.

    I think the only thing you can make of it is that he’s fallen for them being nice to him for the time being, but once he no longer serves the purpose of useful idiot they’ll turn on him without a second’s hesitation.

  15. spinynorman8 says

    He is an insufferably thin skinned bully with impulse control problems. Occasionally, he can make a valid point. Mostly, he seems quite content to spend the majority of his time arguing with anyone over the interpretation of his words/positions, while simultaneously, and frequently, misinterpreting and misunderstanding nearly everyone he criticizes. He is the very definition of a Troll Who Doesn’t Think He’s a Troll. It is beyond frustrating to even try to make sense of what he is saying anymore, and I stopped doing so many years ago. I only wish that people on twitter that I follow, and who I like, stopped paying any attention to him at all so his idiotic verbal pollution wouldn’t be spread around.

  16. says

    @12. Triggered much? How about you explain to me how the radical left has been flawless in every respect and yet failed utterly to achieve any success.

  17. anbheal says

    @19, Susan Mont-Troll, define “radical left” to me. There are two words, you use them all the time, what do they actually mean? To you? Or to sane persons?

  18. harryblack says

    I dont know about the thin skinned bully bit (not disagreeing, I literally dont know) but the rest of your post seems spot on to me!
    I would respect the people who say that they will take any platform they can etc etc to justify going on Tuckers show. Great. You criticise the left and the right? Great! But never Tucker….weird how compromise works.
    Its been very disappointing when people whose work Ive enjoyed find a what I call a kernal issue and go down a rabbit hole. Its like a piece of popcorn that gets stuck in their teeth and it preoccupies them to the point that it clouds their analysis.
    Greenwald has been bugging me for about a year now (despite my admiration for his courage and past work) and he has become so one note I dont even bother listening to him anymore.

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    @19: You have a thesis about a link between a vague, nebulous “movement” in the 60s and current “liberal” attitudes. The onus is on you to provide evidence for that link.

    Echoing anbheal, what do you mean by “radical left”? The Weather Underground? The Chicago Seven? Kids getting stoned at Woodstock? The supporters of George McGovern?

    Maybe you’re confusing the 60s and early 70s with the 50s, when Marlon Brando had that memorable line in The Wild One;

    Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?
    Whadda you got?

  20. says

    @22. Yeah, pretty much all of that. Do you have a different definition I could use?

    And I’m not even kidding. The evident absence of a clear definition of liberal or left is kinda the crux of the problem. If I’m wrong about it, then what is right?

    And is it possible not to imply mental illness as being the source of a philosophical disagreement? Not only is that hugely disrespectful of people who actually have one, it also implies that insanity is the only possible reason someone might disagree with you.

  21. Rob Grigjanis says


    is it possible not to imply mental illness as being the source of a philosophical disagreement?

    WTH are you talking about? A crack about you confusing the 60s with the 50s? Er, OK.

    What does “Triggered much?” imply?

  22. Rob Grigjanis says

    You don’t have to be mentally ill to confuse two adjacent decades 60 or 70 years ago. Just not very well read.

  23. lotharloo says

    I don’t know about Glenn but Jimmy Dore is certainly grifting and that is blatantly obviously clearly transparent.

  24. Rob Grigjanis says

    @28: You were addressing me in your #23.

    Here’s a thought: Use people’s names as well as comment numbers. I do, until I encounter someone too fucking lazy to use my name.

  25. ibyea says

    He was always like this. It’s just that a lot of people have forgotten is contrarian/libertarian writings because of his opposition to Bush era stuff.

  26. says

    @29 Fair enough.

    Let me rephrase the question @23 that you’ve cleverly avoided answering so that it bears a fleeting relevance to the discussion at hand. Again, PZ is posting an article which goes “Gloriosky! I thought X was a sound liberal and now I find out they’re not, dang-nabbit!” What benchmarks did Greenwald hit to make anyone think he was anything but a right-leaning libertarian jackwad? If the liberal political program is so ill-defined that you don’t know who’s sound and who isn’t, how can you criticize me for not “getting it”?

  27. Rob Grigjanis says

    @31: I’m criticizing you for your supposedly well-defined link between hippies and current liberals. If you think you have a point, then fucking demonstrate it.

  28. says

    @32 I see discussion is pointless with you, as usual. Maybe you should calm down, have some herbal tea and align your chakras or something. I think that how the mistakes of the past have propagated into the failures of the present are, indeed, self-evident. I don’t think PZ would be holding up a vulgar clown as a hero of his movement if he hadn’t been convinced of the value of shocking spectacle over substance by the RadLeft. Speaking of the LGBT community as a whole, being suckered by the RadLeft into confirming the worst stereotypes and most overblown fears of America just so a few Lefties could briefly feel smug about sticking it to The Man did far more damage to us than any good that came out of it.

    You may be as cruel to me as you like in your response. I’ve heard far worse from far better people ;)

  29. consciousness razor says

    The left supports the lower classes and aims to eliminate classism. Plain and simple.

    That’s not actually “radical,” although some people still do lose their fucking minds over it.

  30. chigau (違う) says

    Rob Grigjanis
    Have you clicked on Susan Montgomery’s name?
    The comments at her blog are … interesting.

  31. says

    I read his email exchange that led to his resignation at the Intercept. I thought he was seriously overreacting. When I read his article (that was supposedly censored), I thought it had problems of both readability but also, his caveat that nothing had been proven about the Biden allegations (or whatever he was saying: I’m a little too sleepy right now to remember exactly) did undermine his argument. Which is what the editor said! His second email, in which he accuses his editor of trying to censor him, was so over the top, I can see why they were insulted by it.

  32. says

    @34 I’ve heard worse ;)

    @35 I did. I’m sorry, but this is not something that requires a 1000 page monograph. Liberals have traded principle, engagement and steady reform for vulgar shock, moral relativism and Hail Mary plays which never work. We can see this in action with our mutual pal on Patheos who never makes a firm statement, always avoids a principled position in favor of “just reporting” and gives airtime to an unashamed bigot in the name of “balance” and/or being hip and edgy for it’s own sake.

    @36 Then the left should get it’s shit together enough so that they can readily tell who is and who isn’t on their side in that fight, yes?

    @37 Oh, please, don’t give him ideas. I don’t need him whining that I’m not sufficiently vulgar for his amusement on top of anything else.

  33. KG says

    Susan Montgomery@39,
    In using “the left” and “liberals” interchangeably, you make it clear to anyone with an ounce more sense than a cuckoo clock that you have absolutely no idea WTF you’re on about.

  34. stroppy says

    WMDKitty @ 35

    Yep, and then SM risibly proceeds to respond by deflecting @39. Long on sophistry and caricatures, short on substance. Could be trolling, could be a simple inability to make a well informed and grounded, connected argument. Interesting to note the seeming need to lump everyone here into one generalized model of some sort of straw liberal.

    I’d be curious to learn of all the wonderful things SM has done to successfully solve the world’s problems, it might be enlightening enough to make all the bitter ax grinding more tolerable.

  35. Alt-X says

    I stopped listening to the intercept podcast awhile ago when he had tucker Carlson on. I’m glad to hear he’s left, I’ll re-subscribe. I was floored when he had the loudest most popular right wing opinion mouth breather on his podcast. It’s sad to hear he’s still sucking up to the guy. What is up with these weird milo, theal type guys and the alt-right? So bizarre.

  36. stroppy says

    Alt-X @ 43

    “What is up with these weird milo, theal type guys and the alt-right? So bizarre.”

    …and Roy Cohn. Broken and self-loathing? I don’t know.

  37. says

    @42 Stroppy, it’s you all who genuinely cannot differentiate between friend or foe. I’ve always seen Greenwald for what he was – Bush was part of the establishment that the Tea Party rebelled against, so Glenn criticizing Dubya didn’t register as anything new. How did you not see it?

    How can you fault me for not understanding your philosophy when you do not understand it yourself?

  38. Rob Grigjanis says


    it’s you all who genuinely cannot differentiate between friend or foe. I’ve always seen Greenwald for what he was…

    You also called AOC transphobic. If you scatter enough shit around, some of it is bound to stick eventually, right?

  39. Kagehi says

    I won’t bother looking at her comments by clicking her name. I can already tell that she is one of those loverly, “Anyone farther left than me is a radical!!”, types. All that remains is to watch as she slides to the right, and keeps adding more and more groups of people that she doesn’t like any more to the, “radicals”, like all the rest do.

  40. garnetstar says

    To no one’s surprise, yet more petty, bullying, just-plain-mean-and-stupid, behavior from Greenwald:

    “Glenn Greenwald grossly misfires in botched attempt to smear an intern”

    The article really dissects his loathsome, inexcusable nastiness in this case.

  41. stroppy says

    Susan @ 47

    Um, other than an oblique, OT response to Alt-X, I didn’t comment on Greenwald, did I? So, I’m not really “you all” and you’re just putting words in my mouth, because what? That’s the only way I’ll fit through your filters?

    By the way, I’ll remind you that you said on an earlier thread that you weren’t going to respond to any of my comments — hard to do, I know, when we’re all just interchangeable parts of one undifferentiated mass of prejudged liberalness.

  42. Ichthyic says

    Anyone caught up in that contradiction will abandon one extreme for the other rather than find s golden mean between the two.

    you apparently fail to realize you literally used the name of the logical fallacy, while committing the logical fallacy.


  43. KG says

    Susan Montgomery@41,

    The left favours greater social and economic equality – that’s not much different from consciousness razor’s definition @36, but it covers a vast range of views and people, many of them fundamentally opposed to each other: Leninists, democratic socialists, social democrats in the modern sense (e.g. Sanders), anarchist communists, some liberals. Liberals prioritise opposition to (what they see as) unjustified restrictions on individual liberty, and tend to be aware (unlike “libertarians”) that systemic racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia/etc., and poverty, fall into that category; but they do not necessarily oppose economic inequality per se. The two categories overlap, but do not by any means coincide: liberals who are not opposed to economic inequality are not part of the left, and indeed are not likely to self-identify as belonging to it; almost any socialist will reject the label “liberal”.

    I don’t expect this explanation to make any difference to you, because you like to lump together all those you blame for the rise of the far right – which, oddly, means “hippies” and “liberals”, but not the far right themselves, or their conservative and “libertarian” enablers. I have seen no evidence you’re capable of getting beyond: “Hippies and liberals bad”, as I summed up your viewpoint on an earlier thread.

    As for Greenwald, I first became aware of him, as far as I recall, in connection with Snowden’s revelations (I’m not American, which explains why I knew nothing of him earlier). I thought, and still think, he did well in helping Snowden bring those revelations to light. I didn’t investigate his earlier activities, or form a view as to his political ideology at that time. Insofar as he has one (he seems to select targets and causes quite idiosyncratically), he appears to be a “libertarian” and Freeze Peach absolutist, so it doesn’t surprise me that he’s now associating with fascists such as Carlson.

  44. lotharloo says

    People are complicated and IMO purity tests are useless and they are especially harmful because due to influence of social media, virtue signalling and holier than thou attitudes are very common, in all political groups. Both of them work as forms of self-radicalization that constantly propel the most extreme individuals and behaviors to the top. So basically, what I am saying is that you can still read Glenn Greenwald and he probably still has a lot of interesting and worthwhile opinions, you should just be aware of his biases and blind spots. The only people I would not bother listening to are blatant grifters, and bad faith actors, e.g., people like Jimmy Dore, Dave Rubin, and half of the rightwing crowd.