You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

August 26, 2005

The Semi-Collected Wisdom of William Greider

I'm a big, big, big, big (big) admirer of the journalist William Greider. He's now Political Affairs editor of the Nation; before that he wrote for Rolling Stone and before that was a reporter and editor at the Washington Post.

I've been deeply influenced by his books, particularly Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy. So sometimes I harass him with email, filled with complaints about life on earth.

Here are some of these emails from this past June. I believe they illustrate why you should read all his work and also send him a box of money.

I started off with this. I particularly wanted to gripe about the Washington Post to him, given his history there:

From: Jonathan Schwarz
Date: Sun Jun 19, 2005 1:25:14 PM US/Central
To: William Greider
Subject: god, the Washington Post sucks

What a awful paper it is. I'm doing some work with the people at, and the Post's coverage has been truly appalling. The level of contempt they have for normal people is extraordinary.

America seems more and more like Venezuela. As you may know, the last attempted coup against Chavez was organized with meetings in the office of one of their media conglomerates. If there's ever a progressive president in America again, the same kind of thing will probably happen here.

Then after some consideration, I sent this:

From: Jonathan Schwarz
Date: Mon Jun 20, 2005 8:36:22 AM US/Central
To: William Greider
Subject: but on the other hand...

On the other hand, it's been quite an experience to be part of After Downing Street. We get about an email a minute from people all over the US. Having been raised in cynical, sneering Bethesda, I'm almost embarrassed to say this... but it's genuinely moving to find out how many people truly care about the idea of this country. There may be more life left in this old Republic than I thought.

So, fuck the Washington Post. So much the worse for them that they lead such pinched lives with such neutered imaginations.

Here was his wise and encouraging response:

From: William Greider
Date: Tue Jun 21, 2005 12:14:40 PM US/Central
To: Jonathan Schwarz
Subject: Re: but on the other hand...

Dear Jon -- This is breakthrough knowledge you have obtained. It took me 20 years plus as a reporter to understand what I was learning about Americans at large -- they are terrific, smart, serious, generous, funny, willing to share and sacrifice in circumstances that demand it. ETC. It is the platform for my political optimism. Now all you have to do is close the gap between the reality you see about Americans and what represents them in formal politics.

Congrats. Go to work.

Best, Bill

Posted at August 26, 2005 10:26 AM | TrackBack

That was neat. I don't read Greider all that often, because the hard truths he uncovers lead me to sheer depression more often than not (an outcome he obviously wouldn't intend, but there ya go).

At any rate, I got here by way of digby, who is fast becoming one of my own heroes. Nice place ya got here.

Posted by: Captain Goto at August 26, 2005 01:34 PM

Jon - nice response from Mr. Greider. Thank you for sharing this. A personal request - I've sent afterdowningstreet several e-mails seeing if they need help with no response up until now. Can you recommend anyone there to whom I might send a note? Thanks - Keep up the great work!

Posted by: McGee at August 26, 2005 05:16 PM

Captain Goto,

I know what you mean, but not all of Greider's books and writing are relentlessly depressing. For instance, most of Who Will Tell the People makes you want to kill yourself. But the chapter about the Industrial Areas Foundation is actually (legitimately) encouraging. And most of The Soul of Capitalism is shamelessly optimistic.

Beyond that, there's one of Greider's favorite sayings, by Wendell Barry: "Be joyful though you have considered all the facts."


Let's hypothetically say that I'm the person who should have responded to your emails. Then (speaking purely hypothetically) I would be embarrassed and will be in touch you shortly.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at August 27, 2005 07:50 AM