The Boston terror attack, and the selective empathy of Glenn Greenwald


This is a cross post by Marcus Brutus at Harry’s Place

ggReactions to massacres reveal almost as much as much about the human dark side as mass slaughter itself.

The days of a media filled with respectful mourning died with the birth of the internet which gave a voice to anyone with an opinion. Now an atrocity sparks cretin cavalcades and concocted conspiracy theories before the bodies are even in the morgue.

Glenn Greenwald depicts himself as being so emphatic that he would qualify for the x-men if they were real instead of fictional, like his work. He invents himself as a humanitarian who values all life equally.

John-Paul Pagano documented how Greenwald insulted the Boston bombing victims: “8 year-old Martin Richard was blown to bits today. Glenn Greenwald sneers from Brazil: ‘I don’t wet my pants & beg to give up my rights…’”

Three people dead, others maimed and Greenwald makes it out to be all about him and how he is tougher than a dead child. The part about “giving up rights” is central in the narratives of Boston bomber troofers.

Pagano rightfully describes the article vivisected below as: “Glenn Greenwald shows up at every atrocity against the US and demands that we detour our sympathy. In this he is like the Westboro fanatics.”

He is obviously exploiting murdered fellow citizens for political gain because he does not hold all life as equally sacred. On twitter he refused to condemn the Assad dictatorship, then lashed out with ad hominem attacks (“morally worthless”, “moral cretin”) and hid behind a Chomsky quote which says Americans should only criticize their own country since they only have voting rights there. It would have been more convincing if the exchange hadn’t taken place after he wrote anti-Israel screeds; according to one Lebanon Now writer, Greenwald “failed the Orwell test.”

Greenwald has attacked Canada as a land of “creeping tyranny” and libeled Sweden as an oppressive state when he was hard at work deifying Assange. He doesn’t have voting rights in either of those great countries.

Greenwald’s article on the Boston bombings opens with accusations of “selective empathy.” If you listen carefully you can hear Syrians laughing. Greenwald agreed with a libel that the president could “rape a nun” and get away with it, which shows a lack of empathy for rape victims whose pain the smear trivializes. 

He describes the bombings as “exactly the kinds of horrific, civilian-slaughtering attacks that the US has been bringing to countries in the Muslim world over and over and over again for the last decade.” This is inaccurate since the US takes unprecedented efforts to minimize civilian casualties [while] the [Boston] attack was designed to maximize civilian deaths.

He cites a Gary Younge tweet asking us to declare ourselves “all Pakistanis.” Pakistan shares responsible in part for Taliban atrocities since 1994, gives tacit approval to anti-Shia terrorism and has a population that rallies in support of the death of Asia Bibi (that’s Pakistani empathy for you). Kamila Shamsie described in Greenwald’s own paper how there is “no solidarity” or empathy for Hazaras in Pakistan. Anti-drone activists ignore that the PAF is the chief cause of civilian death in the tribal region. Then along comes Gary Young to shame us for failing to follow Pakistan’s noble record.

Younge and Greenwald are using the same stratagem of trying to dispel American deaths by pointing to irrelevant violence. There’s no reason to do something that illogical unless you’re biased and seek to dismiss civilian death in a state you loathe. Greenwald did not apply similar arguments to his favored causes when Israel launched operation Pillar of Defense; his condemnation bordered on hysteria. He didn’t try to divert attention away from Israeli actions to atrocities committed by the Palestinians and their allies.

As a friend of mine wrote:

“online commenters who respond to the Boston attacks with ‘What about the dead in Iraq/Syria…?’ etc betray their own belief that innocent American lives are not worth even a few moments’ grief and outrage.”

Greenwald mentions Juan Cole’s “similar point about violence elsewhere. Indeed, just yesterday in Iraq, at least 42 people were killed and more than 250 injured by a series of car bombs, the enduring result of the US invasion and destruction of that country.” He doesn’t provide any evidence for the idea that Iraqi sectarianism that long predated 2003 was caused by the US. The dishonesty is unsurprising since car bombings claiming massive deaths that aren’t aimed at Western targets disproves narratives about terrorism as “blowback” or some response to “imperialism.”

In one of his articles Greenwald cited a David Frum post, which stated that the majority of civilian deaths were caused by insurgents. Ranj Alaadin explains that people should “blame Iraq, not America, for sectarian civil war. Iraqi society is as polarised as ever. The ongoing battles over its future shape show that the country’s divisions long pre-dated the Western invasion of a decade ago.”

He bemoans “the deep compassion and anger felt in the US when it is attacked never translates to understanding the effects of our own aggression against others.” However, Greenwald’s record on “compassion” is nonexistent; he displayed cold-blooded callousness to Malian suffering under jihadis. In his article he defended jihadi atrocities by arguing that rebel “”amputations, flogging, and stonings” were canceled out by the actions of “Malian government forces.” In a twitter argument he dismissed the fact that nearly all Malians support the intervention as irrelevant “local concerns” and stated he would still oppose the intervention no matter what Malians want. He presented the intervention as a “war against Islam.”

He claims that [US] drones are “targeting” rescuers. However, CIF Watch disproved that charge. If the US was morally equivalent or worse than the Boston bomber he wouldn’t have a need for that. Greenwald’s source is “discredited” and provides “no evidence” for the charge of attacking mourners. The source can actually be used against Glenn since it states that the Taliban sections off sites where drone strikes took place and do not allow civilians to enter.

Greenwood continues:

“There’s nothing wrong per se with paying more attention to tragedy and violence that happens relatively nearby and in familiar places. Whether wrong or not, it’s probably human nature, or at least human instinct, to do that, and that happens all over the world.”

So by his own admission the strawman he’s railing against isn’t wrong if it was true. Then the guy who displayed less empathy than Hezbollah over the Burgas massacre lectures people on empathy for over a paragraph. Do Guardian readers have any self-respect?

He displays a poor memory by asking readers to recall “that on the day of the 2011 Oslo massacre by a right-wing, Muslim-hating extremist, The New York Times spent virtually the entire day strongly suggesting in its headlines that an Islamic extremist group was responsible, a claim other major news outlets (including the BBC and Washington Post) then repeated as fact.”

However, people repeated it as fact because a jihadi group took responsibility for it; apparently reporting that now proves bigotry. Greenwald reported the exact same thing and took longer to correct himself than the outlets he attacks for doing the same as he did. Greenwald [actually] justified the Oslo attacks when he thought Islamists were responsible. He argued that Norway prompt[ed]” (defined as to “cause or bring about”) the attack. The fact that he [rationalized] the slaughter of children when he thought jihadis were to blame and then condemned it as a horrible tragedy when it became clear it was something he could use shows that he is devoid of empathy.

He complains that “when the perpetrators of notorious crimes turned out to be African-American, the entire community usually paid a collective price.” So says the man who libeled neo-nazi’s victims (which included a black pastor) out of court as “odious and repugnant” and explained that his contempt for them motivated him to defend his client. Who wouldn’t want to be lectured on empathy by him?

Greenwald has even defended former Congressman Ron Paul, who [opposes the 1964] civil rights act, by characterizing Paul’s critics as Stalinists!

10 comments on “The Boston terror attack, and the selective empathy of Glenn Greenwald

  1. i agree with you that Glenn Greenwald has bombastically and often illogically crossed the lines of decency with his comments. They are sloppy and do not take care to offer an appropriate level of empathy for the victims of the bombing in Boston.

    I apologize for taking us slightly to one angle from the core focus here–but I have to take issue with one point you make, as being overly general: “the US takes unprecedented efforts to minimize civilian casualties [while] the [Boston] attack was designed to maximize civilian deaths.” Yes, the Boston attack was intended to kill civilians (just to be clear that my subsequent comments in no way dispute that, or even relate to it). But regarding my own country’s official actions: the US has refused to join / sign / ratify the 111-nation agreement (ratifiers number at 81) to ban cluster bombs. Cluster bombs are designed to scatter “bomblets,” many of which remain unexploded for years. They later detonate when adults or children at play encounter them accidentally, many years after the attack. Every day, people are maimed or killed by these. Also well documented are atrocities committed by soldiers and commanding officers, which the higher levels of the military have been shown to routinely cover up. for example the recent “Kill Team” convictions (see here, from Yahoo News: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/kill-team-examines-moral-dilemmas-facing-young-soldiers-155420443.html )

    I agree completely that Greenwald strikes out at the US in ways that seem almost obsessive and which are sometimes scathingly personal, dishonestly speculative, and which minimize the culpability of others that he supports (in fact, i started following CIF Watch out of my discomfort with greenwald’s increasing bombast). But, I balk at being overly complimentary to US decision makers and the military in reaction…history proves that no side in war stands out as moral, or even kind. John Brennan and others certainly feel compelled to say “we take extraordinary care in targeting…” but in fact, they struck 40 innocent civilians in N. Waziristand in a strike in the spring of 2011, and killed up to 69 children in a strike on a school in 2006. Their target in the ’06 strike was the headmaster, a known militant. Maybe there is an explanation for this, but at this point, with what is known, it’s tough for me at least to buy Brennan’s description, “we take extraordinary care to avoid civilian deaths.”

    • Something very important you should keep in mind is that the Pakistani military also conducts drone strikes in Pakistan, making it very difficult to measure the responsibility of civilian casualties by country. Of course, I would understand that innocents in the region care little about who is sending the strikes, and there are plenty of cases of people there being pushed into aiding terrorists in retaliation to these strikes.

      I think we’ll both agree that these are very complex issues to be dealing with. The United States is fighting an unconventional war, where the enemy prefers to hide within tribal villages. There’s no “good” way to deal with these problems, and there are completely innocent people who will inevitably be caught in the crossfire. That, I believe, is what folks like Greenwald utterly fail to understand.

  2. Hey CIFwatch people: You NEED to start taking 5 minutes a day to tweet blog entries like this out to reporters, bloggers, etc. who are NOT FOLLOWING YOU on Twitter.

    The anti-Israel hatemongers do this. They actively tweet AT other people who aren’t following them to promote their stuff. YOU have to start doing that, too. Just tweeting to a couple thousand people who are already on your side only helps a little. Taking just 5 minutes to tweet your stuff out to actual reporters, bloggers, etc. makes a huge difference.

    You aren’t doing it. The anti-Israel hatemongers are doing it. So they get quoted more often. It’s that simple. Take 5 minutes a day and tweet it @ influential media members, in polite, clear, non-sarcastic, helpful fashion.

  3. Yes, I agree. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out a short way to say it! But it’s amazing how fast a well crafted tweet can spread, esp. to journalists who have many followers.

  4. I’d never heard of the Westboro “church” before. It makes you wonder what these perverse people do as a day job.

    • They are a deeply homophobic, anti-American, anti-semetic group that tries to gain attention by protesting the funerals of deceased soldiers and victims of disasters. I wouldn’t put Greenwald at the same level as them, but what is being compared here is his tendency to capitalize on atrocities.

  5. Hi Anon Pakistan does not use Drones at the moment. It has asked the US to supply them so it can but US has refused to do so. The US Drones do fly from Pakistan when targeting villages in Pakistan and Pakistani rulers are complicit in these drone attacks. The Army sometimes claims responsibility when a large number of civilian casualties are obvious but than it transpires a Drone was used. As Pakistani President said to US President civilian casualties does not bother him I will keep complaining you continue the Drone attacks.

  6. One of the victims of the bombings was Lu Lingzi, a Chinese citizen. Her death matters as much as the other two.

    A full tally of the 9/11 victims shows that whilst the majority were Americans, the dead came from all over the globe.

    Greenwald and his kind are not only scum, they are utter cretins for ignoring the reality that terrorism makes no distinctions based on nationality. A student from Shenyang, an eight-year old boy, and a restaurant manager. Genuine human beings will mourn their loss and express anger at their deaths. Guardianista wankers will not.

Comments are closed.