On Monday evening, journalist Glenn Greenwald spoke at New York's Carnegie Hall as part of his U.S. tour in connection with the release of his book, "No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State." During his speech, Greenwald didn't hold back in his criticism of the U.S. government and media, unloading most harshly on a perhaps unsuspecting victim.
Calling her "indescribably heinous," the outspoken author attacked Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, contemptuously casting her as the "NSA's best best friend in...all of Washington, D.C."
Chairman and Vice Chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (L) and U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) (R), speak to the media about the National Security Agency (NSA) collecting phone records of Verizon customers June 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Image Source: Getty Images)
As evidence, he referenced a USA Today op-ed Feinstein penned last year in which she argued that the NSA's "call-records program is not surveillance," with metadata collection a Constitutionally protected practice. Greenwald characterized the piece as the "peak of brazen political propaganda."
The context for this aside was a characteristically bombastic speech that in its themes almost made Greenwald sound like a Tea Partier.
It started with an introduction by famed actor and playwright Wallace Shawn.
"Well I guess as long as intelligent Democrats stay in power, we don't need to worry [about the NSA]," Shawn said sarcastically, calling out those who seem okay with government snooping just as long as their candidates are in charge. "A man like Obama wouldn't get involved in hurting people who haven't done anything wrong."
Shortly thereafter, Greenwald -- of Edward Snowden leak fame -- stepped to the microphone and lambasted the government (almost singularly Democrats) and its national security establishment, as well as the mainstream media.
Harping on the fact that the NSA's motto is "collect it all," Greenwald argued that while the NSA claims that its data collection tools are about protecting America from terrorists, in reality the agency is "devoted to the elimination of privacy in the digital age."
"They literally intend and are very close to achieving a system that collects and stores every single communication event by and between every human being on the planet that takes place electronically," he added.
"It is the greatest and most oppressive and most pervasive system of suspicion-less surveillance ever created in human history."
While hurling the harshest invectives during his speech at Sen. Feinstein, Greenwald slammed many others who he feels carry water for the NSA's intelligence-gathering practices and overall system -- in particular, the mainstream media.
Greenwald said MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell "irritated [Greenwald] even more than usual" during an interview O'Donnell conducted with Greenwald, in which O'Donnell said that none of the NSA revelations bothered him. Greenwald also called out Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post, Roger Cohen of the New York Times, Hendrik Hertzberg and Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker, Edward Jay Epstein of the Wall Street Journal as others who routinely advance government narratives as a matter of expediency.
Greenwald is outraged at these figures, among many others in the mainstream media, for what he perceives as their subservience to government power in the stories they report and the way they report them, especially on matters of national security.
The author argued, for example, that in the media's unanimity (according to Greenwald) in pegging Edward Snowden as a Russian spy, it revealed more about the media's own "soullessness" than anything else. This soullessness leads the media to protect the Obama administration and government more broadly, out of a desire for "career advancement" and self-aggrandizement.
Later in his speech, Greenwald made a forceful argument for the importance of privacy, stating that "dissent, creativity [and] personal exploration," require it. Further, he said that the "measure of how free a society is...is how it treats its dissidents."
And Greenwald has little faith that meaningful change regarding surveillance is going to come from the state, arguing that government doesn't walk around saying, "How can I unilaterally reduce my own power?"
Yet what is ironic in all of this is that while Greenwald argued against effectively Leviathan government and a complicit media used to stamp out critics of the prevailing political orthodoxy, conveniently missing from the groups he cited as being subject to injustices at the hands of government were liberty-minded groups and individuals.
Greenwald referenced Muslims, African-Americans, the folks at Wikileaks, and "hacktivists" broadly as groups targeted by government, but never mentioned the so-called "right-wing extremists" referenced in Department of Homeland Security literature, or even conservative groups targeted by the IRS, let alone the private individuals targeted by government via audits and other means in recent years.
Further, in spite of Greenwald's criticism of government, the very event at which he spoke was sponsored by progressive/socialist groups from Haymarket Books and its sponsor the Center for Economic Research and Social Change, to the Glaser Progress Foundation. Greenwald is speaking at the similarly-aligned Socialism 2014 conference, and has spoken at such conferences in the past.
Greenwald's focus on themes of "radical" dissent, and his comments on alleged atrocities carried out by U.S. troops overseas, plus his belief that the Iraq War was executed on behalf of Wall Street -- themes typically focused on by the political left -- combined with Greenwald's associations indicate his sympathy with those who themselves champion even more expansive statism. This would be consistent with many other civil libertarians, and groups like the ACLU, who defend causes and groups antithetical to liberty.
Alan Dershowitz, no conservative, was perhaps most blunt in his views on Greenwald's ideology, stating back in 2013 that the journalist is "anti-American, he loves tyrannical regimes, and he did this [aiding Edward Snowden in leaking NSA information] because he hates America. This had nothing to do with publicizing information."
So while the crowd at Carnegie Gall booed and howled at many of the leftist names that Greenwald mentioned during his speech, judging by Greenwald's own political associations and tendencies, the groups backing his speech and as echoed by the various socialist groups who passed out pro-Greenwald literature outside of the the lecture hall, could it be that Greenwald and his fans are more upset at the leftists who they feel are betraying the "change" they seek, rather than tyrannical government itself?