Monday, July 23, 2012

Glenn Greenwald vs. Joseph Farah

Cross-posted at

Glenn Greenwald is perhaps the best progressive columnist in the liberal media - writing for The Guardian (until recently, Salon) - , with scathing exposes and analyses of the institutional subversion of constitutional and civil rights, especially as perpetrated by the Obama administration in the case of Bradley Manning and targeted assassination of US citizens.  If you're a liberal that isn't interested in burying your head in the sand when the Dems are in power, Greenwald is a must read.

Joseph Farah is perhaps the one of the dimmest of the wingnut contingent, writing editorials for the publication he founded, World Nut Daily.  His accomplishments included continuing to indulge in the delusion that Obama was born abroad and comparing gay rights activists to "Arab terrorists".  If you're a blinkered, god fearing, tea-partyin' wingnut (or just a liberal looking for lulz), Farah is a must read.

So as I was perusing Farah's recent columns, I was ready to write off his blazing headline Proof! Establishment media controlled as his usual pablum.  Of course, I had to click on it, but was rather surprised to find a somewhat reasonable commentary on a NYT article that essentially admits that the revered newspaper gives administration officials the opportunity to quite literally edit the articles the NYT will eventually publish.  From the NYT article:

[The Obama] press office has veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name
The verdict from the campaign — an operation that prides itself on staying consistently on script — is often no, Barack Obama does not approve this message. . . .
Quote approval is standard practice for the Obama campaign
and lest you think that this is limited to Obama:
The Romney campaign insists that journalists interviewing any of Mitt Romney’s five sons agree to use only quotations that are approved by the press office. And Romney advisers almost always require that reporters ask them for the green light on anything from a conversation that they would like to include in an article.
From Capitol Hill to the Treasury Department, interviews granted only with quote approval have become the default position.
Journalism is supposed to be an adversarial endeavor in order to hold those in power accountable for their actions, policies and positions by bringing those actions, policies, and positions to light for the general populace to evaluate.  When those in power are granted not only veto power over the quotes that are used, but retroactively what they said, the citizenry of the nation is deceitfully being fed false information by an institution that citizens - perhaps naively - assumes to be objectively reporting upon those that, in fact, control it.

Despite Farah's status as head walnut, his piece actually does hit some key points.

See if you can differentiate who wrote these words - Greenwald or Farah (answers at the end):
  1. When Americans read these reports – whether in newspapers, wire services or on the Internet – they are not really reading news stories at all. They are reading approved, pre-packaged press releases from the government and politicians. But, even worse, they are not labeled as such. They are labeled as actual news.
  2. These so-called journalists are selling their ethical and moral souls for access to politicians. And this practice raises expectations by politicians that they can routinely manipulate the press to their advantage.
  3. It is beyond dispute that President Obama and his aides have an extreme, even unprecedented obsession with concealing embarrassing information, controlling the flow of information, and punishing anyone who stands in the way. But, at least theoretically speaking, it is the job of journalists to impede that effort, not to serve and enable it.
  4. We would be far better off without anonymous quotes from government officials repeating administration spin or sliming political opponents, and we would also be far better off without doctored quotes based on their veto power over what can be published — even if the price is that we do without their official statements.
  5. It seems the biggest threat to the American tradition of a free and independent press is not government coercion. It’s the willing submission of the press to being handled and managed by government and politicians.
While Farah gets it 75% right, I have to call out his excuse that Greenwald thoroughly demolishes in his piece.  Farah:
That makes the job of real journalists – independent reporters faithful to their craft – even more difficult, because they will be shut out from access.
Of course this is ludicrous:
It is simply absurd to claim that Obama officials will refuse to speak to, say, The New York Times if its reporters do not agree to these demands. .... Does anyone believe that if the NYT refuses to give Obama officials veto power over their quotes — or if they refuse to let Obama officials slime and attack people while hiding behind anonymity — that Obama officials will simply cease speaking to the NYT and allow the paper to drive the news cycle without their input? Please.
At the end of the piece, Greenwald lists a number of successful and competent journalists that don't grant such power to the people they are covering.


Through all of this, I can't help but think that such commentary by Farah is politically motivated since the other party is in office; I have a hard time believing that were this a story about a Republican that he would have the same tone.  Especially when Farah complains that his nututy organization isn't taken seriously and was denied press access to the Democratic National Convention, which Farah speculates is "Simply because the Democrats know we won’t play by their rules of control like the members of the establishment press club."  MMMhmm.  Or maybe its because he and his organization spew bullshit and hate.  Correlation ≠ causation.  

Meanwhile despite Greenwald's progressive bias, continually focuses his attention at Democrats.  It would be nice if more 'journalists' were willing to ask inconvienent questions as Greenwald does in his pieces.

Answer: 1) Farah; 2) Farah; 3) Greenwald; 4) Greenwald; 5) Farah

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