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Corporate Media's Double Standard: They Attack Whomever They Want, But You Cannot Criticize Them

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Friday, May 21, 2021 - 04:40 PM

Authored by Glenn Greenwald via greenwald.substack.com,

On Monday, The Washington Post’s media reporter Paul Farhi contacted me to say that he had spoken with numerous editors and journalists at The Intercept, who voiced to him a wide range of personal and professional accusations about me. This was all in response to criticisms I had expressed about two recent Intercept stories. On Friday morning, The Post published Farhi's article about their attacks on me.

The Intercept’s live-blogging reporter Robert Mackey, narrating a 20-minute video maligning journalists Julio Rosas, Jorge Ventura, and other journalists who report on Antifa protests on the ground.

Among other things, that Post article features The Intercept's ongoing attempt to depict me as mentally unwell in order to delegitmize my criticisms of their shabby journalism. It quotes the site's editor-in-chief, Betsy Reed, as saying I have “lost [my] moral compass and grip on reality,” echoing The Intercept’s prior claim that mounting anger at their organization is being fueled not by widespread revulsion over their increasingly unethical and politicized journalism but rather by my “unbalanced tweets.” The Post also quotes Reed as claiming that I have “done a good job of torching [my] journalistic reputation": liberal journalists, who only speak to and for one another, always believe that the primary if not sole metric of journalistic credibility is how popular one is among other liberal journalists. "He's a huge bully,” she added.

Depicting critics of liberal orthodoxies as mentally ill, a rage-driven bully, and a shadow of their former selves is a long-time tactic of guardians of establishment liberalism to expel dissidents from their in-group circles. A lengthy 2003 New Yorker smear job on Noam Chomsky headlined "The Devil's Accountant” — at the time when he was a rare and vocal critic of post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy — described how Chomsky was once a credible voice but, sadly, has now "become increasingly alienated from the mainstream” because he "has no ideas to offer.” Chomsky's "thinking has grown simplistic and rigid,” the author wrote. She quoted Christopher Hitchens as saying that while he once admired Chomsky's stable ideology and noble commitment to principle, he is now going basically insane, describing his views of the war in Afghanistan as "the gleam of utter lunacy piercing through.”

The article also claimed that while Chomsky's criticisms of Israel has alienated his liberal following, it has caused him to become popular in far-right anti-Semitic circles. That article also described Chomsky as an angry bully, prone to outbursts of rage against female colleagues to the point of making them cry, being humorless, and in general just plagued by mental pathologies which accounts for his unwillingness to accept liberal pieties. Sound familiar?

In 2018, I compiled many of those personality-driven and mental health smears that had been weaponized back then against Chomsky because, at the time, other liberal outlets — such as The New Yorker and New York Magazine — were already using the same mental health and personality-based themes to expel me from the precincts of liberal decency due to my rejection of their Russiagate conspiracy theories, which had turned into a virtual religion, including at The Intercept. Both of those long profiles were devoted to a central theme: I refused to accept what everyone who is sane and mentally healthy could see — that Trump had colluded with Russia and Putin exercised some sort of clandestine control over Trump — because I had rage-based trauma from childhood that I never resolved.

In 2012 and in the years after I frequently described how the same mental health themes were weaponized by liberal establishmentarians against Julian Assange: an incessant focus on the WikiLeaks founder's personality and alleged mental health pathologies to discredit his pioneering work. I've often noted that the reason the Nixon administration ordered a break-in of the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychoanalyst as a response to his disclosure of the Pentagon Papers was because depicting someone as psychologically unwell is the preferred method of power centers to distract attention away from valid critiques and expelling dissidents from their salons. The script which The Intercept and their liberal allies are using against me is an old, stale, and trite one.

All of this, quite obviously, is an attempt to distract attention away from The Intercept’s serious journalistic sins. It is also designed to personalize the anger which their behavior validly provoked onto me, to conceal the fact that numerous journalists across the political spectrum — not just me — reacted with disgust at what they did and what they are still doing.

One of the Intercept stories to which I (and many others) objected involved a fund-raising email sent by The Intercept to the public on May 4, in which they proudly boasted that they had obtained the full archive of private data on all users of the social media platform Gab. The Intercept vowed that they would use the data archive to target ordinary citizens, including Q Anon conspiracy theorists and those who believe that the election was defrauded. Based on that promise, the email solicited donations from the public (why an outlet lavishly funded by the world's 73rd richest billionaire and which provides their largely unread writers and editors enormous, above-market salaries has to beg for donations from the public in the middle of a pandemic and joblessness crisis is, as I understand it, the subject of an imminent investigative exposé on their finances). Because I am not on their email list, I became aware of that Gab email only when a former senior Intercept editor forwarded it to me, furious that The Intercept was now doing the work of the NSA and FBI by infringing privacy rights rather than protecting them: a core mission of the organization's founding.

The other Intercept story I criticized was an expensive, highly produced 20-minute video, narrated by former New York Times live-blogging reporter Robert Mackey, designed to vilify numerous journalists with small right-leaning news outlets who do the work that The Intercept would never get near: namely, they report on what actually happens at Antifa protests. Why would a news outlet that has a $15 million/year budget, which works from a $3 million/year penthouse office on the 18th floor of a Park Avenue tower offering panoramic views of Manhattan, and which pays their senior employees annual salaries between $350,000 and $450,000, devote their vast resources to villainizing obscure, poorly paid video journalists who — unlike most Intercept reporters — do actually dangerous, on-the-ground reporting? Who is the "bully” in this situation?

The primary grievance which The Intercept is voicing in response to my criticisms of their work is the same one which liberal outlets now constantly try to weaponize in order to place themselves off-limits from criticism: namely, that by criticizing Intercept writers, I have “endangered” them — a dangerous and shabby standard which, like their liberal media brethren, they obviously do not apply to themselves. Why can The Intercept use a billionaire’s money to expose ordinary people’s Gab activities and produce a video smearing multiple journalists such as Townhall’s Julio Rosas and The Daily Caller's Jorge Ventura, but I and others cannot criticize them? Numerous other journalists and commentators, including Matt Taibbi and Jimmy Dore along with Fox News and the other news outlets whose journalists were smeared by The Intercept, along with the targeted journalists themselves, voiced the same criticisms I did.

Despite the widespread criticism The Intercept has been receiving, I was contacted on Wednesday by The Daily Beast’s media reporter Lloyd Grove, who asked me to respond to a long list of accusations, smears and other attacks furnished to him by various Intercept reporters and editors — in order, again, to pretend that I was their only critic, driven by mental problems. These accusations conveyed by Grove were similar to the ones they fed to The Post. Now that The Post article is published, and knowing that one’s own views are never fully represented in articles written by other journalists, I’m posting below the full written exchange I had with Grove: his questions based on The Intercept’s accusations, followed by my answers.

I do so not only to ensure that the full context of my answers are known, but also because this double standard which liberal outlets like The Intercept are trying to impose — they can attack, expose, smear or vilify anyone they want, but you can never criticize them without being accused of “endangering” their journalists — is an unsustainable and unethical double standard that is now pervasive in liberal journalism culture:

As I told Grove, much of what is motivating The Intercept's rage is their institutional failures. They lost an enormous chunk of their membership base when I resigned last October, which they have not come close to replacing. They have repeatedly sent out emails pleading for donations on the ground that their fund-raising efforts are falling woefully short. And despite their enormous budget and exorbitant salaries, virtually nobody reads that site outside of a couple of writers:

The Intercept’s audience size is humiliatingly small. I’ll bet any amount of money that the Intercept spends more dollars per reader than any media outlet in the west. Outside of my articles and those of a couple others, their traffic is and always has been vanishingly small. They think they do such great journalism but nobody reads it, because it’s nothing more than the same partisan tripe one finds at the New York Times, Vox, MSNBC or any other liberal/DNC-loyal /AOC-loving outlet. . . .

The Intercept Brasil, which I founded in 2016, has 1/9 the budget that the Intercept US does and ⅛ the size of its staff, yet for many months, the Intercept Brasil produces more in raw traffic numbers than the entire Intercept US in raw numbers. That’s how few people read their work. It’s embarrassing.

Just to provide one illustrative example, the extremely expensive video they produced that attacked and endangered two working-class journalists of color who do the dangerous work of covering Antifa protests was one of their most-discussed pieces of journalism of the year, mostly due to how many people found it repellent. And yet even with that, the YouTube video — which has as many people who disliked it as liked it — did not even attract 10,000 views. Most unpaid random YouTubers have a larger audience than that:

In sum, The Intercept is an outlet that is as lavishly funded as it is widely ignored. But their journalistic breaches still matter because of how much billionaire funding they receive and, more so, because the tactics they are using to render it inherently illegitimate to criticize them — lest you be accused of “endangering” them — have become commonplace among other liberal outlets. That is the tactic that merits the most attention.


Questions from The Daily Beast’s media reporter Lloyd Grove and my answers (links and tweets have been added):

People at the Intercept are especially upset about your attacks on Micah Lee, which they say have resulted in doxxing and death threats on him and his wife. Here’s a quote from Micah: “Glenn and I have always disagreed on some things, but at least he used to have consistent principles and respect for basic facts. It’s disappointing and tragic that he’s gone so far off the deep end, from what seemed to be an honest and fearless journalist into a conspiracy-peddling pundit that spends all his time misleading people.”

Precisely because of my long work relationship and friendship with Micah -- which includes my reporting on the NSA archives, the Brazil archive and our work at the Freedom of the Press Foundation -- I would never have criticized him personally or even by name under any circumstances. When I co-founded the Intercept back in 2013, Micah was one of the first if not the first people we hired. That’s why I was so disappointed when he decided to start publicly criticizing me by name. After having chosen to do that to great applause from his liberal following, he -- like the Intercept generally -- wants to play the victim and whine about how he’s being persecuted for something that he himself did. 

Why did you target Micah, who by most accounts has been essential in your journalistic success, especially your reporting on Snowden and Brazil corruption?

See the answer above. I will also add that my original criticisms about the Intercept’s abuse of the Gab archive to target private citizens was based on the Intercept’s own description of how they intended to use the archive, set forth in a fund-raising email they sent to their entire email list. Because I’m not on their email list, I did not see that email until a former highly respected Intercept editor forwarded it to me, indignant that the Intercept was doing the work of the NSA/FBI and infringing rather than protecting the digital privacy rights of ordinary people: one of our original missions.

I adopt in full Matt Taibbi’s critique of their work on this Gab archive -- which you should read. Taibbi’s article includes statements from at least one, perhaps two, former senior Intercept journalists harshly criticizing their work. 

The Intercept keeps trying to personalize these criticisms, pretending that I’m the only one voicing them so they can blame me for whatever repercussions come from it and delegitimize the criticisms as just my embittered feud with them. They’re lying. Many, many journalists and others across the political spectrum have voiced these same criticisms of the Intercept, including people -- like Taibbi and Jimmy Dore -- with platforms and audiences far larger than what the Intercept has.

When I first criticized the work the Intercept said in their fund-raising email that they wanted to do on the Gab archive -- namely that they would use it to go after Q Anon conspiracy believers and those who believe the 2020 election was stolen -- several people at the Intercept tried to tell me privately that that email did not accurately reflect their intentions. I did not believe that: I know from experience that those fundraising emails originate in the newsroom and then pass through the hands of multiple editors, including its Editor in Chief Betsy Reed, before going out. But if that’s true -- if that fundraising email inaccurately portrayed their intended uses of that Gab archive as they tried privately to convince me -- why have they never said that publicly?

People say you must have known that it would prompt some of your social media fans to threaten him and make his family’s life difficult, including having to change phone numbers and hire security.

This reveals the abject hypocrisy of the Intercept. They produced a 20-minute video targeting two journalists who -- unlike virtually everyone at the Intercept -- do dangerous on-the-ground reporting. But then they turn around and claim that you cannot criticize Intercept journalists because doing so subjects them to harassment campaigns.

This is the question the Intercept (along with so many similar liberal media outlets) can never answer: why is it morally fine for the Intercept to use a billionaire’s money to produce a video targeting and attacking two journalists -- Julio Rosas and Jorge Ventura -- but it’s immoral and reckless to criticize Intercept writers such as Micah Lee and Robert Mackey? Why can the New York Times out Scott Alexander, but then turn around and insist that nobody can criticize their front-page reporter Taylor Lorenz because doing so subjects her to dangers?

Liberal outlets like the Intercept are trying to create a blatant double standard where they can smear anyone’s reputation they want and attack anyone they want, while demanding a shield of immunity from criticism by threatening to accuse anyone who criticizes them of “endangering” them. 

I get harassment and threats every time the Intercept and its staff lies about me -- which is frequent -- but I don’t go around whining about it because I’m someone who sought out a public platform and who does journalism, so I know I’m fair game for criticisms. The Intercept should grow up, stop whining, and apply the same standards to themselves that they apply to others. 

This liberal effort to delegitimize criticisms by pointing to what random people do in response is so dishonest and dangerous. If someone threatened one of their reporters, how do they know it’s someone inspired by me instead of countless other critics they have such as Taibbi, Dore, Fox New or Aaron Mate? 

Moreover, why aren’t these standards applied equally: if Rosas or Ventura are physically assaulted the next time they go to report on an Antifa protest, will The Intercept be to blame? The Intercept recklessly implied that Daily Caller reporter Ritchie McGinnis filmed the Kyle Rittenhouse shooting but criminally erased the video and lied about it to the U.S. Government -- a disgusting lie based on nothing more than the “speculation” of a random Twitter user with 70 followers.

If McGinnis is threatened or physically assaulted, will this be the fault of The Intercept for inciting hatred against him? The deranged individual who tried to murder Rep. Steve Scalise was an avid fan of Bernie Sanders and Rachel Maddow, from whom he constantly heard that Republican are traitors and criminals (claims he repeated often on his Facebook page). Are Sanders and Maddow responsible for the bullets that almost killed Rep. Scalise because of their very harsh attacks on House Republicans?

The standard liberal outlets like The Intercept want to impose -- you can’t criticize journalists because you might endanger us -- is itself dangerous, because it renders all criticisms off-limits. But what makes it so much worse is that they do not subject themselves to their own standards: as their attacks on me to you show -- and as their video attacking those reporters shows -- they feel perfectly free to criticize whoever they want without any regard for the consequences of those criticisms.

Some of your former colleagues believe that you have traveled increasingly rightward , perhaps motivated in part by your dislike of the liberal establishment, and that their hatred for Trump has prompted you to defend him and, according to some of your ex-colleagues and ex-friends, embrace something akin to fascism. Your response?

Unlike the Intercept, I don’t think of myself as a soldier fighting for an ideological faction or political party -- instead, I’m an independent journalist -- so this label debate is irrelevant. But to the extent they want to have it, it’s The Intercept that has moved to the authoritarian right. They still have some good reporters whose work I respect, but they are largely a dumping ground for CIA and FBI talking points. They led the way publishing the CIA’s pre-election lies that the Hunter Biden laptop was “Russian disinformation.” They brought on two former New York Times reporters -- Mackey and Jim Risen -- who ratified every last CIA/FBI claim about Russiagate and Trump. Anyone who launders CIA lies and does the work of the FBI -- such as helping the FBI find “domestic extremists” by trolling through their personal data -- has no business accusing others of having “moved to the right.”

Several people there, including Peter Maass and Roger Hodge, tell me you’re attacking them, including ad hominem attacks on Hodge  and Betsy Reed, in order to draw attention to your Substack project and gain subscribers. Here’s a quote from Hodge: “He needs subscribers and he’s giving people what they want, which is hatred and rage. He’s tapped into the rage machine. He understands that there’s no engagement like rage engagement—in the same way that Facebook understands this.” Your response?

This criticism is literally laughable. Unlike essentially everyone at The Intercept with maybe one or two exceptions -- certainly excluding Roger Hodge and Peter Maas -- I’ve always had a large and loyal readership that follows my work wherever it’s published. I don’t need to incite anger to attract subscriptions; in fact, I have so many paid subscribers that I’ve basically been able to hire a full-scale media outlet including editors, fact-checkers, a video team and now a freelance program that pays writers more than the stingy billionaire-funded Intercept freelance program provides. I did not even write about my criticisms of the Intercept on my Substack because I presumed that my readers don’t care enough about them to even want to read about them. 

The Intercept’s audience size is humiliatingly small. I’ll bet any amount of money that the Intercept spends more dollars per reader than any media outlet in the west. Outside of my articles and those of a couple others, their traffic is and always has been vanishingly small. They think they do such great journalism but nobody reads it, because it’s nothing more than the same partisan tripe one finds at the New York Times, Vox, MSNBC or any other liberal/DNC-loyal /AOC-loving outlet. Journalism that nobody reads cannot create any societal impact or political change, which in turn means that, by definition, it cannot be good journalism. It’s not art or poetry: the value of journalism is a direct function of how much impact it produces, which in turn requires finding ways to make the public care about what you are writing. The Intercept does not know how to attract readers and -- because they have infinite funding from a billionaire -- they do not even try. I do know how to do that. Contrary to their belief, having a large audience and having your journalism actually make an impact is a testament to one’s impact as a journalist, not a source of shame.

The Intercept Brasil, which I founded in 2016, has 1/9 the budget that the Intercept US does and ⅛ the size of its staff, yet for many months, the Intercept Brasil produces more in raw traffic numbers than the entire Intercept US in raw numbers. That’s how few people read their work. It’s embarrassing.

The idea that I or anyone would try to generate subscriptions by criticizing The Intercept -- an outlet very few people read or care about -- is genuinely hilarious: as if the public is craving some kind of content about the charismatic and fascinating giants of journalism called Betsy Reed and Roger Hodge.

Nothing I’m doing now is different than what I did for seven years at The Intercept: not in tone, content or style. How come none of these people had the courage to voice these criticisms when I was there?

I’m told that when several of your colleagues objected to your frequent appearances on Fox News, Betsy defended them as your 1st Amendment right?

I wasn’t privy to those conversations because other than in the context of a private friendship with Jeremy Scahill -- who is not really involved in the Intercept’s management -- nobody at the Intercept ever voiced those objections about going on Fox to me. In response to anonymous sniping to other media outlets, I did make explicitly clear to Betsy at least once and probably more than once that I would speak to whatever media outlets I wanted and would never be told where I could and could not be interviewed. She never said I couldn’t. I don’t doubt that Betsy defended my right to go on Fox when others complained, but I just don’t know for a fact that she did so.

How is the Intercept doxxing the two “working class” Hispanic videographers, dragging them unwillingly into the spotlight, when they place themselves in public-facing roles, including in at least one case going on Laura Ingraham’s show?

This is the question for you to ask the Intercept. How am I endangering Micah Lee or Robert Mackey by criticizing them when they are not hiding but boasting about the work they are doing on the Gab archive and on these right-wing reporters? Both Mackey and Micah’s names and faces are on the articles and the Intercept website. Using this standard you just invoked, how is it rational to claim that I endangered them by criticizing their work?

Here again we have this same double standard of liberal media outlets generally: they think it’s fine for them to attack and malign two journalists who actually do dangerous on-the-ground reporting, but nobody is allowed to criticize Intercept writers without being accused of “endangering” them.

I don’t think that Julio Rosas and Jorge Ventura should be off-limits from criticism. But unlike the people the New York Times and The Intercept are constantly claiming are “endangered” because of criticisms -- people like Robert Mackey and Taylor Lorenz -- Rosas and Ventura actually do dangerous reporting on the ground. I do think the Intercept’s well-financed attacks on them and others who do that work endanger them even while I think the Intercept has the right to use its billionaire-provided budget to focus on two relatively obscure video journalists at poorly funded websites.

You criticize your ex colleagues for being disconnected from working class concerns like looting and rioting—because they earn high salaries and live in posh Brooklyn neighborhoods. But didn’t you earn more than $500K a year at the Intercept?

Unlike many of the people who work at the Intercept -- who went to $60,000/year prep schools and who come from some of the richest families on the planet -- I grew up in a working-class neighborhood raised by a single mother who worked hourly-wage jobs as a McDonald’s cashier and a defensive driving instructor. I went to public schools and only could go to college and law school because of a full-time scholarship from the debate team and student loans. That said -- despite the work I do with Brazilian homeless people and the background of my husband’s family -- I don’t pretend that my life is some avatar of working class values. I do, though, think that’s true of Julio and Jorge.

And that’s why I find it so repellent to watch a bunch of coddled, highly paid editors and journalists using a billionaire’s money from their $3 million/year office on the 18th floor of a Park Avenue tower to target actual working class journalists doing dangerous reporting about a violent group (Antifa) with which the Intercept ideologically identifies.

On a recent episode of the Jimmy Dore Show, you claimed that the Huffington Post was doing police work for the FBI, which is pursuing and arresting the Jan. 6 folks for “thought crimes.” Aren’t they being prosecuted for violently breaching the Capitol Building, damaging parts of the building and injuring  police officers?

Many protesters from Black Lives Matter and Antifa also used property damage, violence and intimidation to advance their political goals. I personally know journalists who were assaulted or threatened by Antifa while reporting on them. Why isn’t the Huffington Post helping the police catch them? It’s obviously because most Huffington Post editors approve ideologically of those protesters but not those at the January 6 Capitol. I think it’s the work of the FBI and law enforcement agencies to hunt down suspected criminals, not the work of journalists.

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