At one time, I admired Glenn Greenwald as a journalist, thinking he was brave and bold on issues involving freedom of the press and speech, and standing up to government infringement on citizens’ rights to privacy. However, his recent online defense of both Tucker Carlson and Jesse Singal gives me pause, to put it mildly.
So I scratched beneath the surface of tech magnate Pierre Omidyar’s multimillionaire employee and tried to understand why Greenwald feels it necessary to defend the indefensible. Spoiler Alert: he’s not brave and bold but rather a textbook example of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described as the “White moderate.”
Before he turned to blogging, Greenwald was a lawyer whose notable clients included white supremacist Matthew Hale. Greenwald’s client could not get a license to practice law in Illinois because he failed the state Bar Committee’s Character and Fitness review owing to his well-known White supremacist ideology. Greenwald lost Hale’s case. Two days later, a member of Hale’s bigoted “religious” group, New Church of the Creator, went on a shooting spree inspired by Hale’s philosophy. The shooter, Benjamin Smith, killed two people and injured nine over two days.
Greenwald will tell you that the reason he feels the need to defend such people is the need to protect marginalized voices from being silenced by government, whether he agrees with their ideology or not. Greenwald had the gall to compare his racist clients to abused civil rights activists, in an interview with Nico Perrino from FIRE. He said of the Hale case:
And so, I got involved in that defense and then saw that there were a lot of other attacks on the free speech rights of neo-Nazis and White Supremacists and extremist anti-immigration groups where a lot of lawsuits were being brought against these groups and tended to bankrupt them; but more so, to set precedent that says that if somebody has sufficiently bad ideas, they can be held liable for the consequences of those ideas. And again, that was a theory that was used in the 1960s by the states of Alabama and Mississippi to try and bankrupt the NAACP by saying their leaders give such inflammatory speeches that they inspire their followers to commit violence and burn down stores, and so people can be held liable for the consequences of their bad speech.
That progressive sounding defense of his indefensible actions gives Greenwald, in his demented mind anyway, the right to legally defend Hale and publicly defend racist shit heads like Tucker Carlson and Jesse Singal. It also gives him — again, in his own bizarre bubblehead, — carte blanche to dismiss critics of his fraternizing with and defending White supremacists as rom what he considers “trite” and “petty.”
Perhaps Greenwald should grow a pair of balls and start denouncing White supremacists — and the president who has emboldened them — and stop pretending that defending racists makes him a civil rights hero and heroic martyr for free speech. What it actually makes him is an apologist for White nationalism and racism, and what Dr. Martin Luther King warned the country about many years ago.
As MLK wrote in Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciller or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’.”