A writer named Mark Ames
, published by Pando Daily, has lambasted Glenn Greenwald for "profiteering" from the Snowden documents. Ames:
Who “owns” the NSA secrets leaked by Edward Snowden to reporters Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras?
Given that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar just invested a quarter of a billion dollars to personally hire Greenwald and Poitras for his new for-profit media venture, it’s a question worth asking.
This is truly unprecedented. Never before has such a vast trove of public secrets been sold wholesale to a single billionaire as the foundation of a for-profit company.
Think about other famous leakers: Daniel Ellsberg neither monetized nor monopolized the Pentagon Papers....
Well, I could point out that the reporters who wrote stories based on the Ellsberg documents did, in fact, receive paychecks from large corporations. In particular, I'm thinking of Neil Sheehan of the New York Times, who published in defiance of a privacy agreement with Ellsberg. That was a semi-shitty thing to do, and I don't think Sheehan donated his paycheck to charity.
Greenwald's interesting response
takes us well beyond the Snowden controversy...
But now, this week's attack has been seized on by various national security establishment functionaries and DC journalists to impugn our NSA reporting and, in some cases, to argue that this "privatizing" theory should be used as a basis to prosecute me for the journalism I'm doing. Amazingly, it's being cited by all sorts of DC journalists and think tank advocates whose own work is paid for by billionaires and other assorted plutocrats: such as Josh Marshall, whose TPM journalism has been "privatized" and funded by the Romney-supporting Silicon Valley oligarch Marc Andreesen, and former Bush Homeland Security Adviser and current CNN analyst Fran Townsend ("profiteering!", exclaims the Time Warner Corp. employee and advocate of the American plundering of Iraq).
Indeed, Pando.com itself is partially funded by libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel, the co-founder of Paypal and CIA-serving Palantir Technologies.The very same author of this week's Pando post had previously described Thiel (before he was funded by him) as "an enemy of democracy" and the head of a firm "which last year was caught organizing an illegal spy ring targeting American political opponents of the US Chamber of Commerce, including journalists, progressive activists and union leaders" (one of whom happened to be me, targeted with threatened career destruction for the crime of advocating for WikiLeaks)).
My take: In a capitalist society, you can't keep your hands 100% clean if you hope to use those hands to write journalism. Not if you intend to make a living.
When readers read something they don't like, they often ascribe malign financial motives to the writer. I've been accused of being "in it for the money" many, many times -- and, hell, I'm givin'
it away here, except for the occasional donation. (My readers were kind enough to help me pay the veterinarian bill not long ago. I think about your kindness every time Bella licks my face.)
How many times have you heard a book's author dismissed with the words "Oh, he wrote that
thing just to make a buck"? Anyone who writes any book for any reason becomes vulnerable to that accusation.
Personally, I'm not inclined to level that accusation against those writers who inconvenience the intelligence community. I'm more likely to say those words about those who scribble on behalf
of that community. That's why I'm troubled to learn that Ames' angle of attack coordinates precisely with one launched by NSA chief Keith Alexander -- or so, at least, sayeth Greenwald:
That language didn't fall out of Keith Alexander's mouth by accident. This Pando post is not only reckless with the facts but espouses a theory very few of the journalists cheering for it could or would apply to themselves.
Greenwald notes that Bart Gellman of the Washington Post also possesses thousands of Snowden documents. The Post is now owned by Jeff Bezos -- yet another
libertarian billionaire. (You can't escape 'em!) Yet nobody accuses Gellman of being motivated by money.
Or let's take the revered-in-DC Bob Woodward, who has become America's richest journalist by writing book after book over the last decade that has spilled many of America's most sensitive secrets fed to him by top US government officials. In fact, his books are so filled with vital and sensitive secrets that Osama bin Laden personally recommended that they be read. Shall we accuse Woodward of selling US secrets to his publisher and profiteering off of them, and suggest he be prosecuted?
No. Instead, I would suggest he be ignored, on the grounds that Bob Woodward became a stenographer to power during the Bush years. (And frankly, the guy was always
kind of spooky -- as all readers of Secret Agenda
can tell you.)
Over the last three decades, Seymour Hersh has received all sorts of classified information from his sources. So has Jane Mayer. They do not dump it publicly on the internet. They keep it inside the New Yorker or their publishing company - where they vet it, understand it, verify it, and then report on it: all for pay! Let's hear all of you step up and accuse Mayer and Hersh of criminally "privatizing" and selling the nation's secrets and the New Yorker and their publishing companies of purchasing them.
The governing media (as Peter Dale Scott calls it) does not go after Sy because every so often he (Sy) kowtows to the Establishment by publishing crap like The Dark Side of Camelot
If we step back -- way
back -- the Ames/Greenwald bitchfight may be regarded as but one illustration of a much larger problem. Professional journalists need payment. It's a fact of life. But in a nation increasingly run by libertarian billionaires, those paychecks will necessarily come from people we non-libertarians do not like. Thus, even a journalist who does great work stands open to charges of corruption.
Long-time readers may recall one of my favorite lines from Lawrence of Arabia
: "The servant is the one who takes the money." If muckraking writers receive payment -- from anyone -- they are, in a sense, servants. Very often, the entity being served is an entity we have good reason to hate.
But if we want our muck raked, can we fairly expect the job to be done gratis
Here's a related poser: How can we come up with one standard applicable to all writers?
Let me explain what I'm getting at. I like Greenwald. On the other hand, for decades I've been calling Edward Epstein (the media mouthpiece for the CIA's James J. Angleton) a sell-out of the worst order. And as for Ames -- well, frankly, that whole Ames/Thiel/Palantir thing carries a rather foul reek, don't you think?
All three men have been paid for their efforts. Should we damn all three? Excuse all three? Excuse one and damn the others? By what metric?
(By the way: I did not know that about Josh Marshall. Yow.)