Glenn Greenwald resigned from the Intercept over its refusal to publish a story at odds with the prevailing narrative on the Hunter Biden laptop story, that it is a moshup of a nothingburger and a dastardly Russian plot.
In Greenwald’s post on his departure, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter not only describes how the Intercept has abandoned its founding mission of skeptical, hard-hitting, “no favorites” reporting and won’t even consider publishing the work of journalists who depart from good mainstream thinking. Greenwald also called out demonstrable Biden-flattering distortions in previous accounts published by the Intercept on l’affaire laptop.
The Intercept has shamelessly tried to spin Greenwald’s resignation as that of an artiste refusing to submit to editing…..when Greenwald’s agreement with the Intercept, like his earlier contracts with Salon and the Guardian, effectively exempted him from editorial intervention, save for statements that could expose the publication to liability. If you read the e-mails between Greenwald and his editors over the article, which Greenwald also published, the editors never once asserted that Greenwald’s piece would create legal risk, nor do they respond to his demand that they specify inaccuracies that merit revision.1
Greenwald’s agreement also prohibited the Intercept from preventing Greenwald from running a piece elsewhere if they rejected it, yet his editors attempted to violate his contract a second time by insisting he could not run his article elsewhere.
In a brief appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show, Greenwald hones in on the underlying issue, which is the intelligence community’s increasingly open intervention in US politics and the “liberal” media’s eager embrace of their propagandizing:
Greenwald describes how his vision for the Intercept was for it to be extremely wary of the claims of the intelligence community:
This is the real story of last four years of the Trump Administration. For a long time on the left, there was a healthy skepticism of the CIA, there was a lot of anti-war activism in the Bush and Cheney years. That has all disappeared. And the reason it’s disappeared is because the CIA, from the very first days of the Trump Administration, even before he was inaugurated, devoted themselves to sabotaging the Administration because Donald Trump questioned just a few of their pieties, and even that can’t be done in Washington, and whoever does that must be destroyed. So the CIA and the deep state operatives became heroes of the liberal left, the people who support the Democratic Party. They’re now in a full union with neocons, the Bush operatives, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street. That is the union of power, along with mainstream media outlets that are fully behind the Democratic Party, which is likely to at least take over one branch of government if not all of them in them in the coming election. It’s a very alarming proposition because they are authoritarian, they believe in censorship, and they believe in suppression of information that exposes them in any kind of a critical light.
To be quite honest, I’m amazed Greenwald is still standing. During the publication of the Snowden documents, it seemed entirely plausible that Greenwald would eventually get the Assange treatment; recall how he and Laura Poitras stayed out of the US and dared the intel state by entering the US to collect a journalism award. Recall also how Greenwald’s husband Daniel Miranda was detained at Heathrow and had all of his electronic gear taken from him; in response to Miranda’s complaint, the UK tried claiming that Miranda was engaged in terrorism.
Greenwald more recently crossed swords with Jair Bolosonaro, the right wing president of Greenwald’s home country, Brazil, by exposing judicial corruption that facilitated the successful prosecution of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, which made him ineligible to run for re-election. The government indicted Greenwald on 126 counts of felony. From what I can tell, a judge has yet to approve the government’s charges, which means the case is not advancing. But that’s quite a sword of Damocles to have hanging over your head.
I’m not surprised that things went sour at the Intercept. Greenwald in his talk to Tucker Carlson highlighted Silicon Valley as a key ally of the security state. The Intercept’s moneybags, eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar, is a big Democratic party donor. I sincerely doubt the editors consulted with Omidyar in their defacto refusal to run Greenwald’s Biden piece or in the blowup that ensued. But the flip side is I doubt they had to….in classic working towards the Fuhrer behavior.
Some were critical of Greenwald for leaving the Guardian and taking the Snowden archives with him…..and publication of their contents did dry up after he started the Intercept. The reason I’m not sure this development is as questionable as it looks is that Snowden has had plenty of access to the media, and he could have called out Greenwald if Snowden thought the Intercept was blocking the release of more documents.
Nevertheless, the Intercept has gone in short order from regularly publishing important pieces to being a damp squib, save for Greenwald’s and Lee Fang’s pieces. I used to look pretty much daily at my RSS feed to look for new Intercept stories. I can’t recall doing that except by accident in the two years.
Even so, Greenwald’s signature no-holds-barred description of how the Intercept went south confirms the David Einhorn saying, “No matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse.” From his post announcing his resignation:
The current iteration of The Intercept is completely unrecognizable when compared to that original vision. 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, a rigid and narrow range of permitted viewpoints (ranging from establishment liberalism to soft leftism, but always anchored in ultimate support for the Democratic Party), a deep fear of offending hegemonic cultural liberalism and center-left Twitter luminaries, and an overarching need to secure the approval and admiration of the very mainstream media outlets we created The Intercept to oppose, critique and subvert….
Making all of this worse, The Intercept — while gradually excluding the co-founders from any role in its editorial mission or direction, and making one choice after the next to which I vocally objected as a betrayal of our core mission — continued publicly to trade on my name in order to raise funds for journalism it knew I did not support…
The most egregious, but by no means only, example of exploiting my name to evade responsibility was the Reality Winner debacle. As The New York Times recently reported, that was a story in which I had no involvement whatsoever….The person who oversaw, edited and controlled that story was Betsy Reed…
It was Intercept editors who pressured the story’s reporters to quickly send those documents for authentication to the government — because they was eager to prove to mainstream media outlets and prominent liberals that The Intercept was willing to get on board the Russiagate train. They wanted to counter-act the perception, created by my articles expressing skepticism about the central claims of that scandal, that The Intercept had stepped out of line on a story of high importance to U.S. liberalism and even the left…
But The Intercept, to this very day, has refused to provide any public accounting of what happened in the Reality Winner story: to explain who the editors were who made mistakes and why any of it happened.
Greenwald is his relentless self in the Biden draft too. So as not to deter you from reading it in full, we’ll highlight only a few of its key points:
The laptop archives have been subjected to the same types of tests of veracity as other record troves (third party verifications, plus lack of denials), yet these are dismissed when others meeting these standards have been widely publicized
Claims that “the Russians done it” are absurd on their face and those wanting to sell that line can’t even bring themselves to get any closer than tortured insinuations
Biden’s denial of his involvement in the ouster of the Ukrainian prosecutor as well as the fallback defense, that his replacement didn’t benefit Burisma, are at odds with new evidence
Greenwald’s story incorporates two accounts from last Sunday, one from the New York Times, the other from Matt Taibbi:
The New York Times on Sunday reached a similar conclusion: while no documents prove that such a deal was consummated, “records produced by Mr. Bobulinski show that in 2017, Hunter Biden and James Biden were involved in negotiations about a joint venture with a Chinese energy and finance company called CEFC China Energy,” and “make clear that Hunter Biden saw the family name as a valuable asset, angrily citing his ‘family’s brand’ as a reason he is valuable to the proposed venture.”
These documents also demonstrate, reported the Times, “that the countries that Hunter Biden, James Biden and their associates planned to target for deals overlapped with nations where Joe Biden had previously been involved as vice president.” Strassel noted that “a May 2017 ‘expectations’ document shows Hunter receiving 20% of the equity in the venture and holding another 10% for ‘the big guy’—who Mr. Bobulinski attests is Joe Biden.” And the independent journalist Matt Taibbi published an article on Sunday with ample documentation suggesting that Biden’s attempt to replace a Ukranian prosecutor in 2015 benefited Burisma.
Greenwald also excoriates many journalists for their lickspittle behavior in either amplifying howlers or going the “nothing to see here” route.
Matt Taibbi quickly published his take on the Greenwald-Intercept blowup, which is also very much worth reading, and not just because it gives NC a shout-out.2
Taibbi has also regularly been attacked on trumped-up charges when his real sin was taking up the wrong cause. Recall how his book on Eric Garner, I Can’t Breathe (which a former prosecutor in our readership says is excellent) was denied reviews due to spurious allegations that he’d treated the women in his office badly when he’d worked at The Exile in Moscow (debunked by a writer who bothered tracking down those women, all of whom were perplexed at the idea that they’d had any problems with Taibbi or his partner Mark Ames).
Taibbi translates the early exchanges between Greenwald and the higher ups. It’s clear they weren’t keen with the piece Greenwald wanted to write. From Taibbi:
The first hint of trouble came when [editor Betsy] Reed suggested that yes, it might be a story, if proven correct, but “even if it did represent something untoward about Biden,” that would “represent a tiny fraction of the sleaze and lies Trump and his cronies are oozing in every day.”
When Greenwald retorted that deciding not to report on one politician’s scandals because those of another politician are deemed worse is a “corrupt calculus” for reporters, Reed expressed concern. Based on this, on his comments on Twitter, and other factors, she worried that “we are headed for a conflict over the editing of this piece.”
Greenwald insisted he wasn’t planning an overwhelming amount of coverage but wanted to do a single article, reviewing the available facts and perhaps asking the Biden campaign to comment on the veracity of the Post story. Reed agreed that he should write a draft, then they could “see where we are.”
Greenwald also took umbrage at the notion that the likes of James Risen would have a say. Again from Taibbi:
Essentially, Reed was telling Greenwald his piece would be quasi-edited by people with whom he’d had major public disagreements about Russia-related issues going back years.
To this, Greenwald responded that this was a double-standard: when Risen wrote an article credulously quoting intelligence officials like James Clapper, John Brennan, and Michael Hayden (more on the extreme irony of this later) describing the Post story as having “the classic earmarks of Russian misinformation,” he could do so willy-nilly. But when Greenwald wanted to write an op-ed piece questioning the “prevailing wisdom on Biden and Burisma,” a team of people would would be summoned.
“The only reason people are getting interested in and ready to scrutinize what I write is because everyone is afraid of being accused of having published something harmful to Biden,” Greenwald told them. “That’s the reality.”
Needless to say, I strongly urge you to read all the key documents: Greenwald’s resignation post, his draft article, the e-mails with his editors about the piece, and Taibbi’s assessment. Oh, and subscribe to Greenwald and Taibbi and be generous!!!
Finally, Greenwald’s abrupt departure also reveals widespread, craven careerism among soi-disant reporters. The Intercept has disgracefully been attempting to fund-raise off the back of Greenwald’s departure, and its writers are also amplifying its bogus claims about Greenwald being uncooperative (What about “He has a special contactual deal” don’t you understand?).
“Running dog” has lost its sting as a epithet for mindless, brutal pack followership; they look like hyenas to me:
Reminder that The Intercept is funded by billionaire oligarch Pierre Omidyar, who bankrolls a huge network of regime-change orgs that work with CIA cutouts like USAID & NED: https://t.co/EfXMYyBAt5
That makes it even more revolting that they’re milking this scandal for donations https://t.co/VAo4Pa39iC
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) October 29, 2020
The negative response to Greenwald has been overwhelmingly dishonest bc nobody wants to say “Trump is so dangerous that journalists shouldn’t publish any info Trump helped get out that is critical of Hunter Biden close to an election.” Instead they pretend GG is a fascist & brat
— Katie Halper (@kthalps) October 30, 2020
The most amazing thing about the Glenn Greenwald thing today was how not a single person stepped over the line and went “Yeah this is wrong.”
All the usual suspects fell right in line. They all nodded quietly, and then turned away.
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) October 30, 2020
Someone put Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi in the same category as Donald Trump Jr? Who would sa— oh, I see. It’s Iraq War architect David Frum.
Carry on. https://t.co/pGFxc4TN6P
— Emma Vigeland (@EmmaVigeland) October 29, 2020
Needless to say, this disgraceful episode confirms our decision to run a bare-bones operation, funded by many small and a few not so small (but nowhere big enough to push us around) donations. So we remain extremely grateful for your readership and support.
1 The arrogance of Greenwald’s editors is remarkable. The smart way to have thwarted his piece would have been to nitpick the text and tie him up with substantiating and negotiating the language so that the piece didn’t run until Monday early AM at the earliest. Even if they didn’t water it down all that much, delaying it publication so that it didn’t appear soon enough to have much pre-election impact should have suited their ends. But they must have been too lazy to be willing to engage in an editing trench war with him, particularly since Greenwald unquestionably had more command of the subject matter than they did.
Some on Twitter are nevertheless taking up the Intercept party line that Greenwald was not cooperating with editing. Aside from the fact that editors were violating Greenwald’s contract in attempting to intervene in his piece, their comments didn’t amount to editing (recall I’ve written for publication since 1994). They were no specific structural, paragraph, or sentence level comments or suggested revisions. They were high level objections to the thrust of the piece, almost entirely without meaningful substantiation.
One also has to wonder if the Intercept editors had decided to declare war on Greenwald (the egregious violation of his contract with them amounts to that) for his sin of appearing on Joe Rogan, shortly after Rogan also gave Alex Jones an extended interview.
2 Per Lambert: “Proudly Listed By PropOrNot”™