UPDATED WITH GLENN GREENWALD RESPONSE AT BOTTOM OF POST (AND MY REPLY)
Like myself, I am sure that many regular readers were intrigued by Glenn Greenwald’s announcement last month that he was leaving The Guardian to start a new online journalism venture funded by eBay founder and billionaire Pierre Omidyar. The former lawyer and blogger has teamed up with Laura Poitras, with whom he worked to publish Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, and Jeremy Scahill, famed for his acerbic and penetrating coverage of America’s adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.
Understandably, the new venture received a largely warm welcome from many in the mainstream media not just because it promised added scrutiny of a security state gone AWOL, but because it also provided a business model, albeit one dependent on a very rich sugar daddy, that might rescue the US media from decline and despair.
I have to say that my own curiosity cum anticipation was tempered by concerns about that last matter. Why would a multi-billionaire internet tycoon invest $250 million of his own cash unless he expected to get something out of it? After all these guys are not exactly renowned for their charity work.
Added to that are my own niggling doubts about Greenwald. There’s no doubt that when it comes to excessive state power, Glenn is the guy to take on the Washington behemoth, as his NSA coverage has demonstrated. But what about Wall Street’s excessive power, or the exploitative business models that internet billionaires like Omidyar have created, or the untrammeled economic domination of American life exercised by corporations in this country. I just can’t remember Glenn Greenwald getting as upset by those issues as he has done over the erosion of privacy rights. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not belittling his work just pointing out an obvious gap.
I also wonder what due diligence he, Poitras and Scahill carried out before they agreed to go into business with Omidyar. I ask because I have just come across a disturbing profile of the eBay founder and his business practices and reading it one has to ask did Greenwald et al know any of this before signing on a dotted line or were they just bewitched by the prospect of spending someone else’s $250 million on something they love doing?
The article, ‘The Extraordinary Pierre Omidyar’, has just appeared in that excellent publication ‘nsfwcorp’, and I reproduce it below with a hearty recommendation that you read it. Once you do, I am confident that like myself, you will ask yourself the obvious question: what on earth is Glenn Greenwald doing, working for this creep?
No-one, least of all myself, would suggest that Glenn Greenwald does not write or has not written about subjects like Wall Street excess, corporate greed or inequality. Of course he has. But let’s face it, when you think of his name you associate him with exposing the awfulness of government in America, particularly the horrors of US foreign policy and the seemingly inexorable growth of the Big Brother state. And very good and necessary journalism it is as well. But one does wonder and is entitled to ask that if he was better known for the sort of journalism that, for instance, Matt Taibbi makes his speciality, journalism that calls for regulation of the economic system rather than the deregulation of the state – as so many of these internet billionaires seem to favor – Mr Omidyar would have been so quick to reach for his check book. The acid test is a simple one: will this new journalistic venture expose the crimes of businesses that drive poverty-stricken Indians to suicide, as Omidyar’s micro-financing outfits have, as eagerly and deeply as the crimes of the NSA?