Glenn Greenwald Explains How Pierre Omidyar Became a Bad Billionaire — After He Stopped Taking His Money


Glenn Greenwald took to his Substack yesterday to denounce Pierre Omidyar, the longtime donor to The Intercept, where Greenwald toiled until recently. Omidyar, Greenwald wrote, is a “major financial supporter of Facebook ‘whistleblower’ Frances Haugen’s sprawling P.R. and legal network.” Omidyar’s “central role” in supporting Haugen’s network was predictable, he wrote, as “his multi-national foundation, the Omidyar Network, fund many if not most of the campaigns and organizations designed to police and control political speech.”

If you care to read Greenwald’s entire story, go ahead and click on that link above. Here I’ll merely contrast Greenwald’s remarks in his story yesterday with his views on the very same issue of billionaire media moguls in 2014, after Omidyar agreed to put up $250 million towards the journalism project that became The Intercept. Greenwald connoisseurs, if that’s the right word, will be shocked to discover that when Greenwald was poised to make a fortune from Omidyar he didn’t see any problem with billionaires funding journalism and having political agendas. (What billionaire doesn’t?)

Greenwald acknowledged in his story yesterday that there would always an “elephant in the room” when he wrote about Omidyar because The Intercept, where he worked for around eight years, “was funded almost entirely by him.” That is a rather large elephant, especially since Omidyar, via The Intercept, paid Greenwald at least $1.6 million from 2014 to 2017 alone.

But Greenwald wants to have it both ways. On the one hand, “When it comes to billionaire funders of political and journalistic projects, Omidyar is…as good as it gets.” On the other hand, now that he’s no longer on Omidyar’s payroll –and something that Greenwald apparently only realized after his departure from The Intercept — “it is simply unavoidable — inevitable — that the ideology, views and political agenda of a billionaire funder will end up contaminating and dominating any project for which they are the exclusive or primary funder.”

Furthermore, Greenwald writes, he was always a brave truth teller during his 8 highly compensated years at The Intercept, and even took on Omidyar himself. “There were times when I was publishing investigative articles or scathing denunciations of the very groups Omidyar was funding and promoting,” he writes. Curiously, if you click on those links, which Greenwald inserted to prove his point, you will find scathing articles by him denouncing various and sundry groups but you won’t find Omidyar’s name anywhere. I guess at the time it would have been impolite to mention his funding.

Anyway, check out some of Greenwald’s writings and remarks from 2014, when he was helping found The Intercept, with the opinions he voiced yesterday. See if you can spot the subtle difference between what Greenwald passionately believed back then, when he was on Omidyar’s payroll, with his views after Omidyar made him fabulously wealthy and he’s no longer on his payroll.

Greenwald, writing in The Intercept, “On the Meaning of Journalistic Independence“:

Prior to creating The Intercept…I did not research Omidyar’s political views or donations. That’s because his political views and donations are of no special interest to me…There’s a very simple reason for that: they have no effect whatsoever on my journalism or the journalism of The Intercept.

About a Pando article by Mark Ames that showed the Omidyar Network had given several hundred thousand dollars to a Ukrainian “pro-democracy” organization opposed to the ruling regime.

I think it’s perfectly valid for journalists to investigate the financial dealings of corporations and billionaires who fund media outlets, whether it be those who fund or own Pando, First Look, MSNBC, Fox News, The Washington Post or any other. And it’s certainly reasonable to have concerns and objections about the funding of organizations that are devoted to regime change in other countries: I certainly have those myself. But the Omidyar Network doesn’t exactly seem ashamed of these donations, and they definitely don’t seem to be hiding them, given that they trumpeted them in their own press releases and web pages.

From a New York magazine story:

About Omidyar: He just seemed like the normal, average, amicable billionaire.

Greenwald had a tempestuous relationship with his Guardian editors and had already been planning to launch a website with Poitras and Scahill. “It was really kind of amazing, because we were actually in the process of doing almost exactly the same things,” Greenwald told me. “The obvious difference between what we were doing and what he was doing is that he has $8 billion.”

From a BuzzFeed story:

He is departing for a new, “once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity” with major financial backing.

Oh well, consistency has never been Greenwald’s strong suit. So, naturally, Greenwald din’t note in his story yesterday that he recently signed a lucrative deal with Rumble, the conservative alternative to YouTube, just months after billionaire Peter Thiel made an investment specifically so the platform could initiate a hiring spree. Now that’s some clean, apolitical cash.

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