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September 21, 2010


This is a few weeks ago, so you may have seen it already. But if not: Simon Owens wrote an entertaining article about the continuing online fight between Glenn Greenwald and Jeffrey Goldberg. The most important part of all it is clearly that Goldberg feels he can't simply ignore Greenwald. He does have to acknowledge that Greenwald exists, even if that's all he does:

“[Goldberg's responses] are all substance free,” [Greenwald] told me. “It’s funny. It’s almost like his responses are three or four years behind. When I first started writing about criticizing media figures — establishment media figures — that was very much the reaction. It was a very lame sort of not-really-attentive response, just dismissive or plain mockery. Like, ‘I don’t have to respond because in my world he’s nobody and I’m somebody so the most I’m going to do is be derisive about this.’ That’s a journalist/blogger cliché from 2005, and most journalists know they can no longer get away with it. He’s living in a world where he thinks it doesn’t affect his reputation. Among his friends it doesn’t. I’m sure he calls [TIME writer] Joe Klein or whoever else I’ve criticized and he’s like ‘he’s an asshole and a prick, don’t worry about that.’ But I guarantee you that there are a lot more people reading the stuff I write than the stuff he writes, in terms of sheer number. And the level of impact that that kind of level of critique has is infinitely greater than it was three years ago. So I’m sure he tells himself and convinces himself that it doesn’t actually matter but it does. And it’s hurting his credibility.”

Read it all.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at September 21, 2010 01:47 PM

I'm not as interested in Jeffrey Goldberg as some, I'll admit.

What strikes ME as noteworthy from Greenwald's recent writing is his criticism of the false equivalencies of Jon Stewart, who has criticized birthers on the right and war crimes for Bush advocates on the left, as if these were equally unreasonable positions. As Greenwald points out, certainly SOMEONE in the MICFiC is guilty of war crimes - specifically, authorizing torture, according to that famous leftist {not really} Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at September 21, 2010 06:59 PM

That false equivalency irritated me as well. It is a ruthlessly nasty insult. Pulling an example at random: rightwingers back cops who shoot an unarmed black man coming home from work to his family. People vehmently protest in response. To use Stewarts' formulation, both sides are overexcited. To use my formulation, Stewart was being an asshole here. I'm still waiting for Code Pink's massive corporate backers to distort politics by tapping into white supremacist outrage.

Oh, wait, that last sentence was complete fucking gibberish.

Goldberg -- to get back on topic -- is a rather fetid example of how imperial courtiership works. His flaw -- from the perspective of his self-interest -- is that he's insecure. He's terrified his lies will be exposed, apparently. Limbaugh doesn't sit around concerned that he's getting torn new rhetorical assholes left and right; he spends his time and energy enhancing his authoritarian credentials.

Perhaps it's not irrational on Goldberg's part, come to think of it -- many other rightwingers can afford to narrow their audience, but Goldberg is supposed to reach a broader group of people. Greenwald’s existence -- hell, the existence of non-rightwing online media outlets -- undermines his authority. And authority is all he has -- his content is bullshit.

Not that he’s going anywhere, no matter how discredited he becomes. It’s good to be an imperial courtier.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at September 21, 2010 11:25 PM

It seems so simple now.

I've listened to the national debate ad fucking nauseum. This is minutia, insanity.

It was always simple. That's why I missed it.

Posted by: Frankenstein Government at September 22, 2010 12:29 PM

I don't understand the fixation on Goldberg. Is it because he calls himself a reporter? If Greenwald wants to attack a loathsome "media figure", a better target would be Ken Pollack.

I'd argue that Pollack had more influence on elite liberals in the run up to war. He gets more face time as an "expert", and as far as I know, he hasn't recanted.

Posted by: Happy Jack at September 22, 2010 05:05 PM

STEWART IS A COMEDIAN! That doesn't mean he's always funny, but he is always a comedian. What's funny and not funny is that he's a better journalist than 90% of the media (because the bar is so low).

Be careful about false equivalencies--once you start noticing them, you won't be able to stop. They're like Lays potatoe chips.

Posted by: N E at September 23, 2010 05:52 AM

Many things about Jon Stewart have been bugging me over the years, including his "centrist" shtick, false-equivalence between "extreme left" and "extreme right" (as if those the left in America is anywhere as powerful, influential and extreme as the right) .. so I'm glad someone prominent like Glenn Greenwald has pointed out Stewart's smug "I"m a reasonable centrist" while everyone to the left of Stewart who doesn't believe American foreign policy has "noble intentions" is a crazy lefty loon.

Jon Stewart has never cared for protesters or the protest movement. If you've watched his show, he has repeatedly made fun of them and criticized him. And since protesting has largely been something the left has indulged in, until recently with that Tea Party movement, it's been the left protesters who have been the target of Stewart's criticism. See for example the Daily Show's repeated jabs at Code Pink.

He's a fucking liberal, remember.. a smug millionaire. .sitting in his ivory tower in New York city. He may have social and economic liberal views but like most liberals, he's part of a privileged class and he has no real understanding of the poor, the downtrodden, the marginalized. So from his privileged perch, he looks down at those messy, unkempt, rabble-rousers on the left who get on the streets to protest, dismissing them as people who don't have "things to do" apparently like "average", "real" Americans (read white, suburban middle-class Americans). Like most liberals, he thinks politics is simply something involving polite "debate" and exchange of views by nice, polite, middle-to-upper-middle-class bourgeoise over tea and crumpets. I'm sorry Stewart.. but for the poor, the marginalized, for those at the bottom, for those outside the sphere of the comfortable, secure imperial bubble of the West, politics can be the difference between life and death, between being homeless and not, between having something to feed your children or not, etc. Politics is messy, ugly, and sometimes violent, and you have to fight for things sometimes tooth-and-nail because "polite debate" ain't gonna cut it because the viewpoints of the marginalized, the poor, and the victims of American and Western imperialism and aggression are not even represented in the political sphere.

And don't give me that crap about Stewart only being a "comedian" and the Daily Show only being a "comedy" show. Clearly, it's much, much more than that. It has a political viewpoint, and a political agenda. Stewart likes to retreat to his "I'm just a comedian" defense when he's called out on his bullshit but I'm sorry, that just doesn't cut it. IF you're going to inject your personal political viewpoints, and attack politicians and media figures on your show, you have an explicitly political and influential media platform yourself, and you don't get to hide like a coward behind "I'm just a comedian" and "this is just a comedy show" excuse when you get criticized and called out on on your bullshit.

He has also repeatedly diminished or outright rejected the history of American imperialism in Latin America. I remember how he attacked Hugo Chavez for his "devil" comment at the UN a few years ago when in actuality the speech Chavez made, notwithstanding the devil comment, was quite substantive and a very good critique of US foreign policy and American designs of hegemony, and of the anti-democratic nature of the major institutions and power structures that currently govern the world, and that are all heavily tilted to favor the West's economic and military and imperial interests, e.g., the UN, IMF, World Bank, etc. And that wasn't the first time either that Stewart has attacked Chavez, and it wasn't just for comedic effect. It was clearly something Stewart believes deep down, and reflects his politics. He dismissed the book about the long, brutal and exploitative history of Western imperialism in Latin America Chavez gave to Obama (Open Veins of Latin America) as a "left-wing diatribe". Those were his exact words.

Then there is his buddy, buddy and chummy relationship with a military propagandist like Brian Williams. He repeatedly refuses to bring up with Brian Williams that very serious matter of repeatedly having on "retired" Pentagon generals, masquerading as "neutral", "objective" analysts, who used that platform to propagandize for the Iraq war. I don't have the links right now but this is something Glenn Greenwald has written about quite extensively.

I could go and on.. Clearly, I'm someone to the left of Stewart, and I don't expect him to represent my views. Clearly, Stewart believes in the prevalent view of a "benevolent" American empire that means well (i.e., in Iraq) and only causes great death and destruction out of "poor execution" of "noble intentions". That's the narrative he repeatedly clings to when arguing about the Iraq issue with his guests. He's also quite the jingoistic, together with Stephen Colbert, with their military-and-troops-worshipping crap.

I watch his show semi-regularly because he's very good at pointing out the absurdities of the American right. But when it comes to the Democrats, the only critique Stewart and the Daily Show staff can muster is that they're "inept". This is a very shallow analysis of the institutional flaws with the two-party system in the US, and conveniently glosses over the point that there is actually a strong consensus between the two parties over all the major issues, whether it's domestic policy and economics, or foreign policy, with only slightly stylistic differences between the two parties.

Posted by: hv at September 25, 2010 01:11 PM

One more thing. Can you tell me why Stewart was so hard on someone like Jim Cramer while he's so deferential to and easy on war-criminals like Tony Blair? Could it be that when it's his own or his parents 401k affected by the financial shenanigans that Jim Cramer and his like were responsible for, it affects him more personally than when the smug, unctuous, unrepentent Anglo-American war-criminal like Tony Blair and his partners in crime, the American establishment and government, launch their wars in the Middle-East as part of a long historical policy of Western domination and control of Middle-Eastern oil reserves?

Can you give me any rational, reasonable reason why what Jim Cramer and what he represents is far worse than someone like Colin Powell, John McCain, or Tony Blair, whose actions and policies fucking killed people and led to so much death and destruction?

Posted by: hv at September 25, 2010 01:21 PM

This post is entriely too long but I couldn't ignore hv's Chavez reference.

I was fucking livid when Stewart mistreated Chavez during his interview. He's treating a head of state, the first brown man running a brown-majority nation in his nation, far better than people who are objectively for the torture, rape, and murder of poor people who oppose their strategic objectives. The guy who plays footsie with rightwingers in order to ensure their return to his show was pissed because Chavez cracked down on traitors -- literal traitors as in "take up arms against one's own nation for selfish gain" -- who were using public airwaves to broadcast lies about him, after the United States government attempted to stage a coup, backed by plutocrats and white supremacists, and murder Chavez.

It was incredible. I couldn't believe he was that stupid. He was either colossally ignorant or a complete asshole. I had to go with the latter, given his behavior afterwards.

I definitely find the Daily Show amusing but I knew -- and said as much to friends -- that as soon as the Democratic field narrowed during the primary, the show would become increasingly tedious and it would be downright unfunny once Obama won, for at least a month or two. (I was calling it for Obama conditionally for months and unconditionally once Edwards dropped, since the only condition was how Hillary would run her campaign and she spent months sabotaging it.) I was right; after kissing Obama’s ass in the interview and waxing exstatic over how “historical” this election was, the entire thing became a continuous rehash -- and the anti-liberal (as in, liberal values, like justice for the poor, as opposed to liberal bullshit) snaps increased.

And, yeah, fun time with Brian Williams is also a bit noxious.

The problem is that The Daily Show isn't completely irreverent. It definitely treats Dems different than Repugs, regardless of the outcomes of their behavior, based purely on the PR employed. Rightwingers are notorious for terrible PR outside of their echo chamber and actually turn such noxious behavior into a positive amongst a small number of citizens who don’t consider themselves to be conservatives. Dems, on the other hand, maintain a veneer of professionalism. That’s all you need to protect yourself from the biting wit of The Daily Show. You can murder and rape your way across a continent, but look professional, and aristocratically apologetic, and the worst you’ll be called is stupid. It doesn’t go for the throat against Dems. Simply put, it isn’t mean or sharp. It does have some great jokes, but this is mostly because Republicans are so unabashedly and openly selfish any comedian could score big with the resulting premise.

One more thing. Can you tell me why Stewart was so hard on someone like Jim Cramer while he's so deferential to and easy on war-criminals like Tony Blair? Could it be that when it's his own or his parents 401k affected by the financial shenanigans that Jim Cramer and his like were responsible for, it affects him more personally than when the smug, unctuous, unrepentent Anglo-American war-criminal like Tony Blair and his partners in crime, the American establishment and government, launch their wars in the Middle-East as part of a long historical policy of Western domination and control of Middle-Eastern oil reserves?


Wait, was that rhetorical?

I still watch The Daily Show -- it’s weird since I usually preferred it to Colbert (because I liked the other “reporters” -- Oliver/Cynac/Bee/etc. add variety). But Colbert’s one-note performance is so damn consistent it actually turns out to be less likely to be misleading. As part of his shtick, Colbert has to concentrate on the consequences of politcal policies -- in order to call up down and declare the sky is green and grass is blue, he has to tell us why Horrible Policy X is good. Combine that with the mean-spirited nature of the character and that gives him little leave to play kissiface with rightwing Dems. (And though I find the celebrity interviews usually skippable, he’s WAY more even-handed than Stewart when talking to political players.)

Stewart’s take on the Dems reminds me of social studies (civics) textbooks in Texas. I cracked one of those open a decade or two ago and was surprised to learn that slavery and the Civil War wasn’t really anyone’s fault; they were just things that happened because people were being dumb.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at September 26, 2010 09:36 PM