More evidence that Glenn Greenwald is not a serious journalist

As we reported yesterday, on June 27th Glenn Greenwald addressed, via Skype, the annual U.S. ‘Socialism Conference’, a speech which was characteristically loaded with sophomoric platitudes, contemptuous diatribes directed at the U.S. government, and smears of his critics.

While you can view the entire video yourself to glimpse Greenwald’s triumphalism over his partnership with Edward Snowden, the following quote from his talk is especially worth exploring as it reveals much about his highly skewed understanding of what it means to be a journalist.

At roughly the 15 minute mark, Greenwald makes the following claim:

David Halberstam defined the measurement of good journalism as how much you anger the people in power that you’re covering…while most establishment journalists measure it by how much you please the people in power that you’re covering. And, for me, if you are pleasing the people in power with the things that you’re disclosing you may be very good at your job, but your job is not journalism.

Is that really the job of professional journalists? Should reporters at the Guardian and other news sites measure their effectiveness by the degree to which they “anger the people in power”? 

I’m sure most people working in the profession could easily refute such a facile and appallingly juvenile understanding of what it means to be a journalist, but a good answer to Greenwald’s hackneyed cliché was recently provided by a commenter beneath the line at a blog friendly to Greenwald. Here’s what the commenter wrote:

Glenn Greenwald is really full of himself these days. Good journalism is not measured by “how angry you make the people your covering.” That is a conceit that only Greenwald could come up with.

Good journalism is measured by how deeply, accurately, and objectively one covers a story or event. In doing so, a good journalist may indeed anger those he is covering. But not necessarily so. If Greenwald thinks that good journalism is only that which angers those being covered, he has a very narrow, pinched view of what constitutes journalism.

If Glenn Greenwald wants to be a political activist that is of course his right. However, those who read and fancy his commentaries at ‘Comment is Free’ must at least disabuse themselves from the increasingly absurd notion that what he’s engaged in at the Guardian even remotely resembles professional journalism.

Glenn Greenwald’s smears, distortions and lies about Brooklyn College BDS row

Over the course of several days the Guardian’s Glenn  Greenwald penned two long essays (and a short post), encompassing over 6,275 words, much of which attacked straw men, engaged in profound distortions, and included classic Greenwald vitriol and hyperbole.

GG_DNow_20101203 (1)The two full length pieces (which, not surprisingly, given that the topic is Israel, have already elicited nearly 2500 reader comments) are titled,  Brooklyn College’s academic freedom increasingly threatened over Israel event, Feb 2, and ‘NYC officials threaten funding of Brooklyn College over Israel event‘, Feb 4., and  a multi-topic post which included his first commentary on the Brooklyn College row, on Feb. 29.

Factual errors/errors of omission

A good example of a Greenwald distortion can seen early in this opening passage on Feb. 4:

“On Tuesday, I wrote about a brewing controversy that was threatening the academic freedom of Brooklyn College (see Item 7). The controversy was triggered by the sponsorship of the school’s Political Science department of an event, scheduled for 7 February, featuring two advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aimed at stopping Israeli oppression of the Palestinians [one speaker is a Palestinian (Omar Barghouti) and the other a Jewish American (philosopher Judith Butler)]”

It is simply a lie to claim that Barghouti and Butler merely aim to stop the oppression, as they are both are on record supporting the use of BDS as part of their larger goal to rid the Middle East of the Jewish state. Further, Barghouti, when not studying at Tel Aviv University, supports an academic boycott of Israel –  a ban on professors due to their national origin which would certainly seem quite inconsistent with the spirit of academic freedom.

Second, despite Greenwald’s hysterical claims, there is no threat to academic freedom at Brooklyn College. Most critics have merely objected to the fact that the political science department endorsed the BDS event and that it was going to be a one-sided debate.

In fact, one of the most prominent activists criticizing the event, Alan Dershowitz, said quite clearly that “of course, the event should go forward.” 

Hysterical, unsupportable claims

His Jan. 29 piece includes this classic Greenwald scare quote:

“It doesn’t matter what you think of the BDS movement. This is all part of a pernicious trend to ban controversial ideas from the place they should be most freely discussed: colleges and universities

 Indeed, this current controversy is a replica of the most extreme efforts by official authoritarians to suppress ideas they dislike.”

Again, contrary to what Greenwald is claiming, the event at Brooklyn College is not going to be banned. Further, to suggest that there is some “pernicious trend” of banning controversial speakers on college campuses ( which evokes censorship by “authoritarians”) is simply absurd.

Smearing his critics: Imputing the motives and tactics of BDS critics:

His Feb. 4 piece includes this:

“Plainly, this entire controversy has only one “principle” and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel.”

This is a classic Greenwald tick. When pro-Israel advocates who Greenwald dislikes engage in free speech, and participate in the political process, they are always characterized by Greenwald acting dishonorably: “threatening”, “bullying” and “intimidating”.  Also, note the misleading sentence at the end: falsely suggesting again that critics of the BDS event are trying to cancel the event. They clearly are not.

Martyrs: Defending antisemites and racists as victims:

Here, Greenwald trots out some of his favorite martyrs, victims of the coordinated campaign by pro-Israel advocates to ‘stifle debate about Israel’.

“In sum, the ugly lynch mob now assembled against Brooklyn College and its academic event is all too familiar in the US when it comes to criticism of and activism against Israeli government policy. Indeed, in the US, there are few more efficient ways to have your reputation and career as a politician or academic destroyed than by saying something perceived as critical of Israel. This is not news. Ask Chas Freeman. Or Ocatavia Nasr. Or Finkelstein. Or Juan Cole. Or Stephen Walt. Or Chuck Hagel.”

Career’s ruined? Really?

  • Steven Walt enjoys a profitable speaking tour, and received a six figure advance from his publisher for the book he wrote with John Mearsheimer called ‘The Israel Lobby’.  (Walt and Mearsheimer achieved notoriety recently for defending and endorsing a book by a Holocaust denier and Nazi sympathizer named Gilad Atzmon.)
  • Juan Cole Professor of History at the University of Michigan, and a frequent commentator on Middle Eastern affairs on TV and in print media. (See a sample of Cole’s hateful and racist comments, here.)
  • Octavia Nassr served as CNN’s Senior Editor of Mideast affairs until her dismissal in July 2010 over her public statement of respect on Twitter for Hezbollah’s cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who she considered “one of Hezbollah‘s giants I respect a lot.” CNN fired her for violating standards of objectivity in its reporting, and it’s unclear how Greenwald, who frequently bemoans the failure of the media to be objective, can frame CNN’s decision as evidence of the power of the Israel lobby. (My guess is that she said something positive about al Qaeda, for instance, CNN would have similarly dismissed her.)
  • Norman Finkelstein is the author of eight books and seems to have a very lucrative speaking tour: Other than being denied tenure at DePaul University over quite legitimate question regarding the quality of his scholarship his career as an Israel critic seems to be thriving.  Though his most notorious book, “The Holocaust Industry”, was reviewed by The New York Times’ and described its premise as a “novel variation” of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, there is simply no evidence that Finkelstein has suffered any social and financial injury from the frequent criticism he faces.
  • Chas Freeman, who was in the US Foreign Service for 30 years, and, as we noted in a post yesterday, his ‘victimhood’ seems to consist of having to, in 2009, withdraw his name from consideration to be chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council after revelations emerged over past statements about Saudi Arabia, China, and Israel’s alleged role as a catalyst in the 9/11 attacks, which concerned many senators.  Additionally, Greenwald’s suggestion that Freeman is just “critical of Israel”, as we noted yesterday, is simply a lie.  Among Freeman’s ugly smears of American Jews, as such, is the vile, reactionary charge that Jewish supporters of Israel represent a “fifth column” in the US – that is, according to Freeman, such Jews are clandestinely seeking to undermine America from within due to their ethnic loyalties.
  • Chuck Hagel will likely be confirmed as Defense Secretary.

Finally, it’s not surprising that Greenwald would sympathize with Chas Freeman, as Greenwald himself has engaged in similar antisemitic narratives on his blog.  Here are just a few.

  • “Large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups are the ones agitating for a US war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests.”
  • So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.”
  • “Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources [by the Israel lobby] to target and punish Israel’s enemies.”
  • “The real goal [of the Israel lobby], as always, was to ensure that there is no debate over America’s indescribably self-destructive, blind support for Israeli actions. [Charles] Freeman’s critics may have scored a short-term victory in that regard, but the more obvious it becomes what is really driving these scandals, the more difficult it will be to maintain this suffocating control over American debates and American policy.”

No doubt, Greenwald would accuse this Zionist blog of engaging in “McCarthyite smears and “stifling debate” by revealing accurate quotes demonstrating his decidedly illiberal, Judeophobic and borderline conspiratorial musings. 

Bad taste at the Guardian: Coleslaw with a pinch of Polonium

Cross posted by Petra Marquardt-Bigman at The Warped Mirror

Under the memorable headline “Making Cole-slaw of history,” Martin Kramer documented some years ago just how hilarious it is that Juan Cole calls his blog “Informed Comment” (and for “Cole-slaw”-fans, there is in fact a rich archive of additional helpings).  However, it’s apparently no joke that Cole, who is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, encourages the readers of his blog to send him money because “Informed Comment is made possible by your support.”


In any case, it’s arguably hardly surprising that editors at the Guardian are fans of Juan Cole, and when the professor recently vented his displeasure at Mitt Romney’s visit in Israel, the Guardian secured Cole’s “kind permission” to cross-post the piece on its Comment is Free (CiF) site.

The Guardian made a minor change to Cole’s original title – which read on CiF: “Ten reasons Mitt Romney’s Israel visit is in bad taste” – and added a sub-title: “The Republican presidential hopeful is holding a fundraiser and playing war enabler in Israel – it’s wrong on so many levels.”

The astonishing claim that Romney was “playing war enabler in Israel” is taken from Cole’s reason #7, which reads in part:

“Romney is promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran. When George W Bush promised his pro-Israel supporters a war on Iraq, it cost the US at least $3 trillion, got hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, destabilised the Gulf for some time, cost over 4,000 American soldiers’ lives and damaged American power and credibility and the economy.”

Of course, Cole’s link to an AP report does not show Romney “promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran” – indeed, why should this blood libel be different from all the other invented accusations against blood-thirsty Jews over the centuries?

What Cole is claiming here is plainly that Romney’s “donors in Jerusalem” want a war on Iran, just like the “pro-Israel supporters” of George W Bush wanted and got an incredibly costly and bloody war on Iraq. It’s really just another version of a paragraph from Article 22 of the Hamas Charter:

“They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. […] There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.”

The day after the Guardian featured Cole’s fantasies about Israel’s insatiable appetite for bloody wars and its mysterious ability to get the US to fight them, it was time for a Guardian-sponsored rehash of Al Jazeera’s pathetic attempts to revive rumors about Yasser Arafat’s death.


Some four weeks earlier, Al Jazeera had announced with great pomp and circumstance that it had conducted an “investigation” that pointed to poisoning with radioactive Polonium; however, conspiracy theories about Arafat’s death have been around ever since he died in November 2004, and even the specific claim that he was poisoned with Polonium is nothing new. While Al Jazeera’snew program succeeded in unleashing a veritable “orgy of conspiratorial theorizing” – with Israel as a favorite target – the people behind Al Jazeera’s“investigation” are apparently hoping to get yet more mileage out of this story, and the Guardian seems only too willing to provide a platform to the assorted conspiracy theorists.

There have been already countless reports and commentaries refuting the Al Jazeera “investigation,” but it’s perhaps worthwhile to add one particularly interesting testimony on Arafat’s death from a long and fascinating Atlanticreport that was published in September 2005 under the title “In a Ruined Country: How Yasir Arafat destroyed Palestine.” One of the people interviewed for this report was the Palestinian billionaire businessman Munib al-Masri; here are the relevant parts of the report:

“Talk of Arafat’s last illness makes al-Masri sad again. “Every morning I used to go see him and give him the medicine because he would not take it from anybody else,” he remembers, looking moodily out over his lawn. “Yeah, and I never thought he would die.”

“How long did you know that he was sick?” I ask.

“For the last year. Last year in September he told me he doesn’t feel well. So, and he felt that something was not right, and it looks like he had the same symptoms again, but the last time he had enough immunity. Yeah, he knew.”

I am struck by al-Masri’s use of the word “immunity,” which is a word characteristically associated with aids. Rumors that Arafat died of “a shameful illness” spread quickly through the West Bank and Gaza. […] The Palestinian leadership denounced reports that Arafat was a homosexual as lies spread by Mossad, the Israeli foreign-intelligence agency. Accounts also circulated that a secret agreement had been reached between the Israelis and Arafat’s heirs, stipulating that the truth about Arafat’s fatal illness would not be released, the Palestinian leader would be buried in Ramallah and not in Jerusalem, and the wanted men who had accompanied him in his captivity would not be pursued by Israeli forces.

“He knew that it was the same disease that he had a year ago?” I ask. Al-Masri nods his head.

“Same symptoms,” he answers. “But look how strong he was. I mean, when Abu Mazen came,” he says, referring to Arafat’s longtime deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, “we brought him from one bed in his small room to a bigger room where we could sit. I sat on the bed. Abu Mazen sat in front of him and Abu Alaa sat in front of him. He said, ‘Ah, Mazen.’ His face was very red, and you know that he was very sick, but he wants to show that he was still in control of the details with Mazen, you know? He said, ‘I have this flu, ah, ah. I have this flu. Came and went to my stomach.’”

There is another very interesting part from the meeting with al-Masri in this report:

“The money he [Arafat] spent to buy the loyalty of his court, al-Masri gently suggests, could easily have paid for a functioning Palestinian state instead.

“With three hundred, four hundred million dollars we could have built Palestine in ten years. Waste, waste, waste. I flew over the West Bank in a helicopter with Arafat at the beginning of Oslo, and I told him how easy we could make five, six, seven towns here; we could absorb a lot of people here; and have the right of return for the refugees. If you have good intentions and you say you want to reach a solution, we could do it. I said, if you have money and water, it could be comparable to Israel, this piece of land.”

But if you don’t have good intentions and don’t really want to reach a solution, you can always blame Israel – as is regularly done on Al Jazeera, the Guardian, and Juan Cole’s blog…

“Bad taste” & “Wrong on so many levels” – Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’

Cross posted by Mark Gardner at the CST

Few things are guaranteed to upset the Guardian like a US Republican presidential candidate’s visit to Jerusalem: on a fund-raiser no less! 

If bookies took bets on such things, you could put your house on the paper writing a poorly worded article that risks sounding like a modern version of old antisemitic conspiracy myths. Remember this Guardian editorial from 2008?

“When a presumptive US presidential candidate arrives in Jerusalem, he willingly dons a jacket designed by Israeli tailors.”

And that was for Barack Obama, a black Democrat! 

Indeed, right on cue, here comes Comment is Free with an article by Juan Cole concerning Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel, entitled:

‘Ten reasons Mitt Romney’s Israel visit is in bad taste’

The “bad taste” begins in the article’s sub-title:

Did you catch that? “Presidential hopeful…fundraiser…playing war enabler in Israel”.

The article is reasonably straightforward, consisting of 10 points against Romney’s visit.

Unlike many other articles on this risk-strewn subject, it at least stresses (in its very 1st point) that Romney is reaching out to Christian Zionists “and the minority of American Jews who would be willing to vote Republican”. So, this is no crass antisemitic slur, but it still risks hitting those nerves, particularly with its 7th point, which states:

7. Romney is promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran. When George W Bush promised his pro-Israel supporters a war on Iraq, it cost the US at least $3 trillion, got hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, destabilised the Gulf for some time, cost over 4,000 American soldiers’ lives and damaged American power and credibility and the economy. As Nancy Reagan said of drugs, so US politicians must say to constant Israeli entreaties that the US continually fight new wars in the Middle East on their behalf: “Just say no.” Instead, Romney is playing war enabler, and that abroad.

Of the 10 points in the article, this was the “war enabler” one that made the sub-title, obviously having caught the attention of the Comment is Free sub-editor.

Consider, however, exactly what this 7th point actually states. It says “Romney is promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran”. Nothing more and nothing less. A war that could make Iraq look like a picnic, promised by a Presidential candidate to “his donors in Jerusalem”

If the Guardian has proof of such a conspiracy and such a dangerous promise, then surely it should be on the front page, not buried on the CiF website with all the other dross. If the Guardian has no such proof, then this allegation should be removed immediately. The author does, however, provide a link. It is here and goes to an Associated Press report that shows differing nuanced statements made by Romney and on his behalf concerning whether or not America would back an Israeli strike upon Iran. It ends with:

“He [Romney] later clarified his comments in a written statement, saying that the candidate “believes we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course and it is his fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded.”

This hardly meets the burden of proof that “promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran” should require from the Guardian: even upon its journalistically subnormal CiF site.

But there’s worse than this. Double it, in fact, because the promised Iran war is immediately followed by:

“When George W Bush promised his pro-Israel supporters a war on Iraq, it cost the US at least $3 trillion, got hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed…cost over 4,000 American soldiers’ lives…US politicians must say [no] to constant Israeli entreaties that the US continually fight new wars in the Middle East on their behalf.”

So, the Iraq war was all Israel’s fault. Well, not exactly…it was the fault of President Bush’s “pro-Israel supporters” to whom he had “promised…a war on Iraq”. No link is provided for this colossal claim, nor for the even bigger succeeding one, that American wars for Israel is standard operating procedure.

Perhaps the author feels that no proof is required, perhaps this is what simply passes for received wisdom at the Guardian these days. It certainly feels that way: an impression that is not helped by senior figure, Brian Whitaker, recommending the article under the title “best blogs and analysis from the Middle East”.   

Guardian partner blog, The Arabist, promotes anti-Israel snuff film

As I noted about the blog when they were first included as part of the Guardian Comment Network, The Arabist devotes an entire page of pejorative characterizations of AIPAC, called “AIPAC Logo Remakes”, several advancing anti-Semitic narratives, such as the charge of Dual Loyalty against American Jews who support Israel, as well as the suggestion that organized Jewry “buys” the U.S. Congress.

While the blog largely deals with issues relating to the larger Arab world, and has devoted much coverage to recent “Arab Spring” events, their views on Israel are evident merely by looking at their blogroll – where you can find links to such prolific Israel haters as Ali Abunimah, Helena Cobban, Juan Cole, Max Blumenthal, and, most interestingly, the blog of Guardian Editor, Brian Whitaker.

Today at The Arabist one of their most frequent bloggers, Issandre El Amrani, an Egyptian journalist and al-Jazeera commentator, blogged to request support for a film project he’s backing called “Roadmap to Apartheid”, and embeds a brief promo clip along with a link to the film’s site.

The film goes well beyond merely labeling Israel as an Apartheid state, but equates the Israeli government as morally equivalent to the Apartheid regime in South Africa by using frame after frame of images which show, side by side, depictions of brutality meted out to Blacks under Apartheid in S. Africa next to “similar” looking scenes from Israel – and also includes clips which clearly glorify Palestinian violence. 

The film goes beyond mere agitprop to outright incitement – a narrative which portrays Israel as a state which, like S. African before it, must be taken down.

Here are a few images from the film, which you can see at their blog.

Yeah, I know.  The film’s producers and supporters are not hateful, anti-Israel extremists.

They’re just “human rights activists”.  


Exclusive: Teletubbies to write political analysis for CiF

O.K. – that’s not true (as far as I know), but to be frank, were Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po and Tinky Winky to rise to the challenge, they certainly could not have come up with anything less puerile than the ‘analysis’ of the U.S. Embassy cables  leaked by WikiFlops which appeared on CiF on November 29th.

A gaggle of commentators, including some of the most prominent conspiracy theorists around, produced a collection of absolute comedy gems which the Guardian apparently hopes to pass off as serious political analysis to readers it obviously considers to be both ill-informed and gullible.

Thus we have Seumas Milne trying to persuade us that the Arab leaders whom the leaked cables show as having expressed deep concern regarding the Iranian nuclear program don’t really want to take Tehran to task. According to Milne, they’re only saying so because they get money from America, and even if they do really mean it, they don’t count in his book because they’re lacking in proletariat credentials.

“The relentless global mobilisation of US power against Iran – and of Washington-backed Arab autocracies and dictatorships for an American attack on Tehran – is an ominous thread that runs through thousands of the leaked state department WikiLeaks cables published in the Guardian.”

As familiar as we are with Milne’s monochrome anti-Americanism which taints his view of almost everything going on in the world, even for him it is quite an achievement to reach the conclusion that “the majority of their people support Iran’s nuclear programme and believe it would be “positive” for the region if Iran did develop nuclear weapons” on the basis of one poll and in total ( and apparently willful) ignorance of the limitations of any poll which takes place in societies subject to relentless propaganda, high levels of illiteracy and low levels of freedom of information. Even if the average Egyptian or Saudi Arabian really does believe that the world will be a better place if Iran has nuclear weapons, that hardly seems like a good reason for Western analysts to jump on the bandwagon driven by people who, if asked, would probably also tell Milne that thieves should have their hands chopped off and adulteresses be stoned to death.

Next we have the rather colorful figure of Craig Murray with his contribution to the analysis.

“There is therefore a huge amount about Iran’s putative nuclear arsenal and an exaggeration of Iran’s warhead delivery capability. But there is nothing about Israel’s massive nuclear arsenal. That is not because WikiLeaks has censored criticism of Israel. It is because any US diplomat who made an honest and open assessment of Israeli crimes would very quickly be an unemployed ex-diplomat.”

Continue reading

The Guardian’s Cartoon Analysis

This animated short is a stunningly effective reply to the Guardian’s Algonquin Round Table of anti-Israel Middle East “experts” recently put together to analyze the U.S. Embassy Cables in the context of Middle East policy – most of whom demonstrate contempt for Israel while minimizing the threat from Tehran.  The collection of wise-men included Juan Cole, whose sage analysis included his apparently serious contention that, “There is no evidence that the Iranians have a nuclear weapons program…”.   When I read the passage by Cole, the look on my face was not unlike that of the character in the video (wearing blue) in the last scene.  You’ll see what I mean.

H/T Barry Rubin and Mere Rhetoric