Greenwald vs. ‘abject ignorance’?

“There are times when the glaring ignorance one encounters from people who are paid to write about political issues is so severe — so illustrative of how distorted and misleading our political discourse is — that it’s impossible to ignore even though one would really like to.”
Glenn Greenwald

There are times when a writer so compulsively over-dramatizes everything — hypes it up so relentlessly with words like “severe” and “impossible” — that one must struggle to resist the temptation to think of him as a histrionic stereotype.

Such temptation is especially difficult to resist when the object of Greenwald’s ire is not, say, Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney, but rather the mild-mannered libertarian blogger, Megan McArdle, whose Crimes Against Humanity are (a) to ask a very sensible question about Gitmo detainees, and (b) to get linked by Instapundit for doing so. (Reynolds is to Greenwald as Moriarity was to Holmes.)

Glenn, think about: Do you really want to pick a fight with the Giant Blog Woman? She’s bigger than Godzilla, and you’ll be like Tokyo.

UPDATE: Thanks to the commenter who points out this previous BloggingHeadsTV exchange between Greenwald and McArdle:

I’m watching this video and severely disliking Glenn’s arguments for requiring journalists to report this, that or the other. With the sole exception of libel law — and American libel law is stacked in favor of the defendant — I don’t want government requiring journalists to do anything. We can complain all we want about the quality, amount and content of journalism (and I do), but government compulsion in journalism is frightening.

UPDATE II: All your Instalanches are belong to us. For the benefit of readers who are not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans, Mycroft Holmes is Sherlock’s older brother, “the most indispensable man in the country.” (This may be arcana, but some fans say that Myrcroft’s wife, Dr. Helen Holmes, was the hottest babe in fin de siecle London.)

UPDATE III: In the comments, someone calling themselves “Glenn Greenwald” writes:

[P]lease identify a single instance where, either in that video or anywhere else, I’ve ever advocated that the state impose obligations on journalists. I don’t and haven’t.

All righty, then. I don’t want to transcribe the entire video, but here are a couple of sentences of what Greenwald said to Megan about “public interest” in journalism:

“I see journalism as a profession like the medical profession or the legal profession, where going into work every day and thinking about, ‘How do I maximize my profits? How do I feed my readers whatever they want so I can charge as much as I want for commercials?’ is not the only concern. There are other concerns that conflict with that, and I think the law gives privileges, special privileges, to journalism, to journalists, in every single possible realm that’s based upon the assumption, the premise that journalism owes a duty to the public interest besides maximizing profit.”

OK, the medical and legal professions are both licensed by the state, correct? Not just anyone can hang up a shingle and declare himself a surgeon. And what, pray tell, are these “special privileges . . . in every possible realm” accorded to journalists? If I get a speeding ticket on my way to an assignment (it happens), can I go to court and say, “Your honor, I am a journalist,” and expect the charge to be dismissed? No.

Greenwald seems to imply — excuse me if I don’t fully grasp his entire argument — that the legal privileges (he says are) accorded to journalists might be made contingent on their acting in “the public interest.” Well, who is to be the judge of “the public interest”? Me? Megan? Glenn?

If Greenwald feels that the press corps as a whole is not doing a bang-up job, he’s got a lot of company (including the editors of most newspapers and magazines). But when he compares the practice of journalism to law and medicine (both state-licensed professions), and speaks disparagingly of the profit motive, excuse my paranoia in discerning the implied threat of a Federal Bureau of Journalism looking over my shoulder.

I’ve got no more “privileges” than Greenwald has, and I’m sure that his affiliation with Salon would be plenty enough to get credentialed as a reporter, if that’s what he wants to do. He can go and do all the eat-your-vegetables journalism he wants — or at least as much as Salon is willing to pay for.

That’s just it, however: Somebody’s got to pay for all this reporting, and as long as the bill is paid by publishers dependent on ad revenue, the incentives of the market will prevail. From all the baleful headlines I see about the newspaper industry, it certainly doesn’t appear to me that publishers are guilty of paying excessive attention to market demand. If a newspaper doesn’t make a profit, it won’t do much good to demand they serve “the public interest” once they’re bankrupt and out of business.

UPDATE IV: The Case of the Tortured Analogy, wherein I find myself accused of likening Glenn Greenwald to Sherlock Holmes. What I intended, of course, was to suggest that (in the Greenwaldian mind) Professor Reynolds is a shadowy menace like Moriarity, the evidence of whose evil handiwork is . . . everywhere.

The Doyle reader will recall how relentlessly Holmes pursues Moriarity. This relentlessness occurred to mind as I pondered how Greenwald can’t go two days without lashing out at his nemesis Reynolds — which I think is just hunky-dory, BTW, since I end up getting ‘Lanched for posts mocking Greenwald. (How do I maximize my profits?)

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