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The Inevitable Pivot

Source: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57866

I will have more on this profile of libertarian pundit Glenn Greenwald when I’ve had time to read it in full. In the meantime, I present the inevitable transformation of Glenn’s views from “saying that Russians ratfucked the elections is McCarthyism” to “if Putin ratfucked the elections on behalf of and with the collaboration of the Trump campaign it’s no big deal:”

Was the charge “grave”? He had just called it the stuff of everyday international relations. “I personally don’t think it’s grave,” he said. “But there are millions of Americans who believe the election of Trump is this grave threat. So if you convince them that what has endangered them is Putin—you hear Democrats comparing this to 9/11 or Pearl Harbor—that’s really dangerous rhetoric. I don’t think it’s particularly grave at all, even if it’s true. I think it’s a very pedestrian event.” The risk, then—one also identified by President Trump—was that unfounded American hysteria could set off a nuclear war. Put another way: the choice is between Greenwald and the end of the world.

He later said, “If there was evidence inside the U.S. government that genuinely proved collusion—an intercepted call, an e-mail—it would have been leaked by now.” (He seemed to be disregarding the discipline displayed by Mueller’s investigation.) He added that, even if Putin himself had ordered the hacking, “and worked with WikiLeaks and Michael Cohen and Jared Kushner to distribute the e-mails,” then this was still just “standard shit.”

I said that he sometimes seemed to be giving argumentative form to a psychological preference: it was perhaps more satisfying to defend a besieged opinion than to share an agreed one and thereby become tainted with tribalism. This was “totally accurate,” he said, kindly. Then: “Maybe not totally.” He went on, “I think the role we end up playing in politics, in public discourse, in life, is almost always a by-product of who we are psychologically.” Greenwald’s preference, then, is to enact the dynamics of an unequal power struggle, even as he describes one.

His choice of journalistic subjects was also pragmatic, he said. Over the years, he could have written more often about gay rights, or abortion, areas where his views largely conform to progressive orthodoxy. But he didn’t feel that his time was “best spent saying things that zillions of other people are already saying.”

Upon the release of Mueller’s July indictments, which contained detailed descriptions of Russian methods, Greenwald tweeted that “indictments are extremely easy to obtain & are proof of nothing.” He urged “skepticism toward the claims of prosecutors who have turned the U.S. into a penal state, and security state agencies which have turned the U.S. into a militaristic imperial state.” After Michael Tracey, another journalist who is largely dismissive of Trump-Russia reporting, wrote mockingly about the respect being paid to “our Lord and savior Mueller,” Greenwald expressed fellowship by noting that the act of “asking for evidence, and refusing to believe it until you see it, is literally heretical.”

A few days later, on the phone, Greenwald had news. He had “talked to a bunch of people and figured out what I thought, in the most rational way possible,” and now regarded the indictments as genuine evidence of Russian hacking—the first he’d seen in two years. To think otherwise, he said, “you’d pretty much have to believe that Mueller and his team fabricated it all out of whole cloth, which I don’t believe is likely.”

He hadn’t tweeted about this yet. He was still pondering the best way to announce it. “I want it to be substantive—I don’t want it to be distorted,” he said. “If I did it on Twitter, it would be ‘Oh, Glenn Greenwald admits he’s wrong!’ I don’t actually think I’ve been wrong about anything.”

Yup, just standard shit. Yawn. Call me when there’s something really unusual and important, like Trump hiring a publicist — now that would be a five-alarm scandal.

As a coda, to unite the “I’ve never been wrong about anything” and “I’m just waiting for real evidence” themes:

[Piles of evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian ratfucking] “McCarthyism!” [Incoherent babbling by Trump about how he’s a great deal-maker] “Donald Trump will be the best friend the Palestinians have ever had in the White House!”

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