Just Who On Earth Has Glenn Greenwald Agreed To Work For?


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.

Glenn Greenwald, leaving Guardian for job with internet billionaire

Glenn Greenwald, leaving Guardian for job with internet billionaire

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.

Pierre Omidyar - his micro-financing ventures in India drove people to suicide

Pierre Omidyar – his micro-financing ventures in India drove people to suicide

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?

TweetNo-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?

9 responses to “Just Who On Earth Has Glenn Greenwald Agreed To Work For?

  1. He’s not working for him. He’s working with him. You’re just a bitter jealous asswipe from hell.

  2. I doubt it’s possible for journalists to avoid these kinds of relationships. Everyone at the Washington Post works for Jeff Bezos, now, and used to work for the Graham family. Everyone at the New Republic now works for a co-founder of Facebook. Everyone at the Boston Globe works for the owner of the Red Sox. Once upon a time, everyone at the New York Journal worked for the heir to the Anaconda Mine fortune. Journalism costs money — where would the disinterested investors come from?

    • i guess it is all about the difference between “working for” and “working with”. as someone else suggested in these comments, someone far less polite than chris bray (!), I should have described GG as “working with” the eBay character rather than “for”. here’s the difference: i have worked many times for rupert murdoch just as i worked “for” the irish times, or “for” the BBC. but i never worked “with” any of them, in the sense that this word implies, i.e. sharing a common agenda, advancing that person/organisation’s political or economic interests, etcetera. it is one reason why no-one has ever bothered to make me an editor of anything. i couldn’t do it. that is what worries me about this arrangement. GG and his friends are going in as effective partners with omidyar but on an unequal basis: his $250 million versus their sweat. and as a multi-billionaire internet oligarch with a definite economic agenda they will be helping him advance his cause. or am i wrong? has he funded this enterprise so that they can expose his suicide inducing businesses around the world? i doubt it somehow. no, what has attracted mr eBay to GG And friends is their opposition to big government. that dovetails into his wider interests. that’s why they are working “with” him.

  3. Very informative article. However, you lost me in making the connection to the State, and why Omidyar and Greenwald would be focusing on just our overreaching government. The article by Ames and Levine clearly indicate that behind every government authority is a billionaire or two manipulating their decisions and actions.

    While all free market neo-liberals like the Koch’s are anti-government, anti-collectivism, Ayn Rand followers, in listening to the early comments from those assembling at NewCo, including a harsh media critic with Jay Rosen from NYU, I see a group wanting to return journalism to its roots of truth seeking and reporting those findings so consumers/citizens can make better informed decisions.

    The neo-liberals already have Fox News misinforming millions of people across the country whose boots on the ground are “patriots” from the tea party. I don’t see Greenwald or Scahill adding to the disinformation campaigns associated with ALEC, and all the dark money groups, PACS, and corporate owned media which employ anything but real journalists.

    I see NewCo, just from my early observations, as a group interested in bringing journalism back to it’s roots of being the “fourth branch” of the government which would hold accountable the massive intrusion of monied interests in our democracy. The Free Press was supposed to lie outside of both the public and private sector so it could check the powers of both and maintain our democracy by informing citizens of the abuse of power coming from both. We haven’t seen this kind of journalism since the 1970’s in America, since it has been acquired by now 6 companies holding over 80% ownership in all media.

    Unless I’m wrong, NewCo’s goal is to restore our “Fourth Branch of Government”, and I’m hoping Pierre Omidyar’s goal as well. Anything less would be very disappointing and complete waste of journalistic talent.

    • i guess my fear todd is that omidyar sees this project as opening another front in the libertarian battle against the state, with his interest largely being in the area of state supervision/regulation of the economy (such as it exists in this society) and that GG et al are at best unwitting allies in this. i also would have problems myself in taking money from someone whose business practices cause poor indians to take their own lives. but otherwise i hope i am wrong and they do well.

  4. Good observation with rational fears as well. I would hope that Omidyar has learned from his mistakes in human nature. A simple review of Maslow and sociological principles could have signaled potential problems.

    Education reformers are making the same fatal assumptions by forcing kids to improve their scores who live in poverty or who are unable to satisfy their basic needs. Without fulfilling those needs first, you certainly cannot expect them to manifest an “entrepreneurial spirit”. You get some of the “smarter” people within those struggling who figure out ways to manipulate or take advantage of their neighbors – basic human nature. Using free markets or unfettered capitalism as a means to solve the problems created by capitalism is equally amusing to watch, but I predict will have the same poor results. You’ll get even further division and create a two class structure – producers and a serving class.

    I don’t know any of the players assembled by Omidyar, but from what I have read about them, I’m hoping they view journalism the way our founders viewed its role and the way I see its need at this point in time. Since the free press lost its way through consolidation of power in a few hands, it has evolved into a public relations entity being used to manipulate the masses.

    Citizens are latching on to this information and making really poor decisions. You have entire geographic areas who are voting against their own self interests, but don’t realize it. Due to ideological beliefs, they are voting for people who are hurting them economically – a self inflicted wound.

    Again, what we find in the USA is mostly yellow journalism which doesn’t inform and doesn’t provide us what we need to make informed decisions. I’m hoping “NewCo” is organizing to create the solution which is restoring the free press to our “fourth branch” of government holding both the private and public sector accountable. Once this information becomes “the mainstream” source of information, people will be able to make better decisions.

    Thanks for your response and glad I found your blog. I’m going to carry our conversation to my website (http;//muncievoice.com) and provide a link back to your blog so readers can find you. I hope you will reciprocate.

  5. Galloway's Valet

    You might be right, and time will undobutedly tell. However, I don’t think Greenwald’s been picked because of an anti government agenda.
    As for business practices, everybody’s hands are dirty. The corporate media, from the liberal Guardian to the Times, have promoted wars of aggression, covered up state crimes, ignored atrocities abroad, etc.

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