Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald resigned from The Intercept this week. His decision came after editors decided to remove a section critical of Democrat candidate for president, Joe Biden, from his most recent article. You know things are going from bad to worse when a progressive writer is censored by the very website he co-founded simply for writing unfavorably about a public official on the left. Illiberalism is ascendant, and censorship is now de rigueur.
“The final, precipitating cause is that The Intercept’s editors, in violation of my contractual right of editorial freedom, censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all New-York-based Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression. The censored article, based on recently revealed emails and witness testimony, raised critical questions about Biden’s conduct.”
The writer went on to point out that the effort to silence him went even beyond the confines of this one site. “Not content to simply prevent publication of this article at the media outlet I co-founded,” Greenwald added, “these Intercept editors also demanded that I refrain from exercising a separate contractual right to publish this article with any other publication.”
In what he terms a “last-ditch attempt” to counter the suppression of his work, Greenwald encouraged his colleagues to write dueling articles rebutting his claims with dissenting perspectives – to no avail. Greenwald explicitly states that he had no objection to any disagreements with his views – a thing of vanishing rarity in American life. But what has become disturbingly evident in the current, positively charged political climate is that the ideal of tolerance has ceased to apply for much of the activist left. Greenwald has stood bravely for this value in a time of unprecedented rancor.
Exodus From the Groupthink Media
In his lengthy farewell, Greenwald laments the “pathologies, illiberalism and repressive mentality” that led to his personal censorship moment – one that unaccountably derives from within the organization he co-founded and helped to build into a company with a respected reputation in journalism. He joins defectors, including Bari Weiss and Andrew Sullivan, formerly of The New York Times and New York magazine, respectively – both of whom took exception to the smothering groupthink, narrative agendas, and repression within those formerly austere publications, and quit.
Greenwald specifically references his friendship with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, whom he accurately describes as “intrepid” and who has also taken to publishing on SUBSTACK in order to “practice journalism free of the increasingly repressive climate that is engulfing national mainstream media outlets across the country.” Is there something in the air? Both men have been critical of Democrats for increasingly extremist views about Trump and the current media zeitgeist they see as untethered from truth. Since both Greenwald and Taibbi are lifelong Democrats, their blunt honesty about their own party likely smacked of betrayal to the left. It now seems increasingly clear that an exodus is underway of principled journalists from formerly august media outlets now captured by rank bias and narrative myopia.
Naturally, spurned by The Intercept’s greatest asset’s decision to call them out for their “brute censorship,” the editor in chief was unsparing in her condemnation of her departed colleague. For his part, Greenwald betrays no bitterness or “personal animus” toward Betsy Reed, stating that she is “an exceptionally smart editor and a very good human being with whom I developed a close and valuable friendship.” In her responding statement, Reed goes low when Greenwald goes high. She writes of him:
“The narrative he presents about his departure is teeming with distortions and inaccuracies – all of them designed to make him look like a victim, not a grown person throwing a tantrum.”
Her embittered shiv of her colleague is suspect – and telling. Reed rejects Greenwald’s insinuation that the prevailing political affinity at The Intercept, which is overwhelmingly in favor of Joe Biden, caused them to kid-glove the candidate. Without providing easily-obtained evidence of this assertion she herself would’ve edited, she nonetheless imperiously maintains that their reporting on Biden “speaks for itself.”
But a search of the name “Biden” at The Intercept website yields the following recent titles:
Anatomy of a Lie: How the Trump Campaign Edited Video of Biden to Create a Fake Gaffe, Trump’s Pathetic Attempt to Get Netanyahu to Attack Biden Falls Flat, and Joe Biden Promises a Moral Renewal for the US – Here’s Where He Can Start. Not a critical word anywhere about the former VP – so, yes, The Intercept’s reporting on Biden “speaks for itself.”
On principle alone, Greenwald left his job, his paycheck, and his security to step out into the great unknown that American journalism has become. The defining standard appears to have presented itself starkly in the last four years. Writers now have to ask themselves if they belong in the activist camp that sees journalism as a way to advance a specific political agenda or if they adhere to a more classical definition that values honesty, accuracy, and at least the appearance of impartiality above all other concerns.
To be in favor of agenda-driven journalism and censorship in any form is anti-American. Glenn Greenwald was part of a team of journalists that helped break the Edward Snowden revelations in 2013. He is known for his bravery, insistence on transparency, and willingness to hold those in power accountable – on both sides of the ideological aisle.
After his resignation, Greenwald appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, something he has done with regularity and which no doubt irked his former colleagues. The journalist blasted The Intercept for only referring to the Hunter Biden story once, in passing. That reference was only to highlight that James Clapper, John Brennan, and their ilk dismiss the story as “Russian disinformation,” a claim that has been resoundingly debunked. Greenwald claimed that in censoring him, The Intercept betrayed its “over-arching premise,” which was “to confer complete journalistic independence and editorial freedom” on its writers and “never pull punches journalistically or pay homage to pieties because of the partisan or ideological preferences of editors.”
Greenwald went on to warn of an unholy union allied against Donald Trump, including the CIA, the FBI, the Democrats, the Neo-Conservatives, the Fourth Estate, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street. Greenwald worries that this axis of power has conspired to ensure a take-over of one or perhaps all branches of government. He sees that as a “very alarming proposition because they’re authoritarian, they believe in censorship, and they believe in suppression of information that exposes them in any kind of a critical light.”
Carlson rightly described this as an attack on democracy, and Greenwald agreed, stating that the American people are being propagandized. To his great credit, Greenwald’s body of work, his reputation, and now his resignation from The Intercept stand in opposition to this well-coordinated domestic disinformation campaign – a resistance that, while outnumbered, is growing.
Read more from Pennel Bird.