A not uncommon feature of the latter stages of the Second World War was the notion that German soldiers could “lose their chance” to surrender if they resisted for too long. It was not uncommon for Wehrmacht soldiers to be trapped in hopeless positions as Allied forces advanced in France or Italy; small units faced a choice of whether to continue fighting from strong but isolated defensive positions until their ammunition ran out, or to surrender and be taken prisoner. From the perspective of the Wehrmacht, as opposed perhaps to individual soldiers, the ideal situation was for the hopeless positions to fight as long as possible before surrendering, inflicting damage on the Allies while also burdening them with POWs. The Allies reacted to this (unevenly, of course) by establishing a norm of honorable surrender; if the Germans resisted too hard, their surrenders simply would not be accepted, and no prisoners would be taken. This sounds barbaric, and it is certainly in contravention of the laws of armed conflict. The result, however, could be less death and destruction all around; the Germans had the opportunity to resist honorably but not to the bitter end, while the Allies suffered fewer casualties while reducing hopeless German positions.
What put me in mind of this was the recent Daily Beast article on Glenn Greenwald, which hits most of the high points of his recent career. As noted in the quote above, there is a strong odor of “I never thought the leopard would eat *my* face” from the colleagues left to pick up the pieces in his wake. I don’t really think much about Glenn qua Glenn anymore; I don’t read his substack or follow him on twitter. But I care a lot about the folks who bitterly resisted listening to Glenn as he consistently, coherently, and repeatedly explained that he was a leopard, and that he intended to eat their faces. And I’ll even offer a mild defense of Glenn; if you didn’t know who he was by 2016, the problem isn’t with him, it’s with you. The man is not shy about telling people who he is. If you didn’t pay any attention to what he was saying, then *you* fucked up.
I can’t put my finger on exactly when the opportunity for an honorable surrender on the issue of Glenn Greenwald passed, but it sure as hell was before November 2020, and it sure as hell was before November 2016. Maybe it was after he claimed to vote for George W. Bush twice, or after he claimed that he had supported the Iraq War, or after he wrote vicious screeds against immigrants; after he showed Ron Paul curiosity, or after he showed Rand Paul curiosity, or after he showed Grover Norquist curiosity, or after he almost got disbarred for overzealously defending Matthew Hale; we can quibble over other highlights such as facilitating the rise of right wing cyber-crank Julian Assange or helping a US intelligence contractor defect to Russia. Your mileage on those may vary, although I’d hope that framing them against the rest of Glenn’s career creates some perspective on his contribution. Glenn was never anything but absolutely clear on the issue of method either; he pioneered “flying monkey” tactics of nasty harassment against anyone who disagreed with him about anything, which again should have provided a clue to the folks who actively enabled his career.
This is important, because many of the folks quoted in the Daily Beast article want to pretend that Glenn did a heel turn at some point, that in the past he was the “good Glenn,” who then suddenly became “bad Glenn” because he looked too long into the abyss or some such. This is of course nonsense; the Glenn of today is the Glenn of 2007. The only difference is the identity of the faces that he has chosen to eat. I will acknowledge a degree of bitterness, mixed with some pride on this point; LGM was a relatively early adopter of the idea that Greenwald was not a particularly admirable figure, and for this abuse was heaped upon us by the progressive bloggers and journalists who had determined not to pay attention to what Glenn was telling them.
To circle back… there’s still time to surrender to the reality of who Glenn Greenwald is. But it is long, long past the point of me having any respect for anyone coming to the belated realization that “Glennzilla” isn’t the person that they so long wished him to be. The prominence of Tucker Carlson’s Best Friend is the result of a lot of folks trying very hard to look the other way for a good long time, and I can’t pretend that I don’t find it funny when Glenn eats their faces.