Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

So recently I read this piece about Glenn Greenwald. Personally I’ve never had much of an opinion about the guy, but I think this description near the beginning of the article kind of sums him up:

Greenwald is predisposed to righteous posturing and contrarian eye-poking — and reflexively more skeptical of the U.S. intelligence community than of those it tells us to see as “enemies.”

The thing about Glenn though, is that when you look at his complaints about the Russiagate scandal, they’re not terribly irrational. Here’s his quote on the subject:

“When Trump becomes the starting point and ending point for how we talk about American politics, [we] don’t end up talking about the fundamental ways the American political and economic and cultural system are completely fucked for huge numbers of Americans who voted for Trump for that reason,” he says. “We don’t talk about all the ways the Democratic Party is a complete fucking disaster and a corrupt, sleazy sewer, and not an adequate alternative to this far-right movement that’s taking over American politics.”

This is entirely fair and in many ways mirrors my own position on the subject. What I don’t get though, is why he, like some other commentators, has to constantly leap to Russia’s defense the second anyone mentions anything related to Russiagate?

What exactly is the harm in acknowledging that there are other governments out there which do bad, and occasionally worse things than your own? What is he afraid is going to happen? If he admits that yes, Russia did act to negatively influence our domestic politics, does he fear that he’ll suddenly be on the cover of TIME  magazine as America’s newest neocon pundit? Does he think that some neocon cabal is just waiting for him to say something they can use to greenlight their secret plan to invade Syria and Russia simultaneously?

Realistically this is much bigger than Glenn Greenwald. I think this case just speaks to a larger problem of tribalism in politics, and the fear that any concession will be seen as weakness. To be fair, it’s not just an irrational fear. In the information space today, concession can be capitalized upon by bad actors to “win” internet debates. This video gives an example of how this works:


Going all-in on offense has a proven track record, especially today. But you also sometimes have to ask who these arguments are actually convincing. Alt-right and “anti-SJW” Youtubers have managed to garner large audiences by using this tactic, but who are they really getting? I’d reckon the majority are teenage to early twenty-something males who are gullible enough to be duped by endless videos telling them that Anita Sarkeesian is going to ruin their precious video games by lobbying the government to require all video game protagonists to be mixed-race body-positive females with colored hair. Of course Fox News has also managed to do well with a certain demographic- old people who are going to die soon.

My point is that integrity and consistency may also have qualities of their own, and even better- attract better, more reliable people. I realize it’s easy to be pessimistic these days, but at the same time the overwhelming fakeness of our politics these days, coupled with the polarized tribalism, may eventually reach a peak where increasing numbers of people start to rebel against joining a tribe and parroting one line in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

Of course what would I know? I’m no where near as successful as Glenn Greenwald. But on the other hand I’ve often been complimented for my balance and objectivity, even by people who strongly disagree with my politics. A lot of my friends and colleagues are also praised for their refusal to join a team. Hopefully in the future, more people burnt out on tribal politics will start seeking out nuance, if only to escape the cynicism of those dead-end politics.


13 thoughts on “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

  1. Heim

    “I am nowhere near as successful as Glenn Greenwald”.
    Define successful? Glenn Greenwald transition from “respected pundit” to whatever Glenn Greenwald represents now was a soul-selling trip.
    Equating the two major parties is a perversion.

  2. STC

    “What is he afraid is going to happen? If he admits that yes, Russia did act to negatively influence our domestic politics, does he fear that he’ll suddenly be on the cover of TIME magazine as America’s newest neocon pundit? Does he think that some neocon cabal is just waiting for him to say something they can use to greenlight their secret plan to invade Syria and Russia simultaneously?”

    Yep. It’s post-Iraq paranoia. The Bush Administration was able to justify Operation IRAQI FREEDOM in the eyes of many Americans by simply pushing the narrative that Saddam Husayn was a “bad guy.” The reaction from leftists like Greenwald ever since has been to deny any wrongdoing on the part of foreign governments. If they can cast doubt on the misdeeds of foreign governments, the neocons can’t have their wars.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I definitely think that has a lot to do with it, but it’s rather flawed because for one thing, the US government goes to war when it wants to, not by referendum. But more importantly, the Bush administration had 9/11 and the panic that ensued to capitalize on it the time.

  3. NonDenominationalLeftist

    I lost a lot of respect for Glenn Greenwald after his friendly interview with Tucker Carlson. Platforming one of the most prominent alt lite personalities just to circlejerk against the Russia investigation gives me the impression that he doesn’t have very strong principles.

    It’s a shame, the Intercept has a lot of great journalists, and Greenwald’s antics really undermine their work.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Thanks for reminding me. I should have left a comment about that out of the article. That is unforgivable, especially with Tucker Carlson moving into full-on Nazi mode lately. I’d even say that’s worse than going on RT.

  4. NonDenominationalLeftist

    Honestly I am kind of upset with the way the Iraq War is talked about these days. People act like Saddam was the best leader Iraq could have had, and that even wanting him gone in the abstract was a bad idea. I do think he should have been removed from office, but not by the invasion Bush and Rumsfeld carried out that only benefited their military contractor friends. That’s a controversial thing to say in leftist circles these days, but Saddam was a right wing, CIA-sponsored, genocidal dicator who had multiple insurgencies from various ideologies and ethnic groups opposing him.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Bullshit as usual. I remember one of these types swearing that they’d discovered it was Michael Weiss. Now it’s Irena Chalupa. Sure.

      Over the years I haven’t been on the best terms with PropOrNot (I had them muted after numerous arguments). Obviously if this person were involved in StopFake or any of those other organizations this would have come back to me somehow. This is a ridiculously small community.

    2. Jim Kovpak Post author

      You’d also have to wonder why people who openly identify themselves would see the need to create an amateurish attempt at counter-propaganda as an anonymous sock puppet. It’s like someone says: “Okay we’ve got our professional, well-funded counter-propaganda organs, but what we really need is a shadowy, crappy knockoff which just ends up embarrassing our work and gets pounced on by pro-Kremlin sources looking to discredit what we do.”

      On the other hand, Occam’s Razor says this is just another wannabe info-warrior wading into a field they don’t have experience or background knowledge in.

      1. Harry

        The article has screencaps of the file structure of Propornot.com which shows it’s being run as an adjunct of Interpreter Mag. And as we know Interpreter Mag has connections with RFE etc. I agree it’s hard to see why anyone respectable would run such a lowbrow and ignorant outfit, but it’s pretty obvious they did! After all look at Bellingcat, it’s associated with the Atlantic Council and it’s run by a guy who has no expertise or training and who uses free online software and Google searches to “prove” stuff only to have all his claims rejected by the people who make the software! Maybe our guys just aren’t very good at choosing who to work with.

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Note the irony in your claim. You claim they have screenshots and they found this stuff with open source info, then you proceed to attack someone who uses open source info and stuff that’s available via Google for having “no expertise.”

        It’s pretty simple:

        You trust Off Guardian because they say things you agree with.

        You dismiss Bellingcat because they say things you disagree with.

        I should also point out that I’ve yet to see a thorough debunking of anything Bellingcat has done. The attempts I have seen are pathetic and this is odd since there’s a super-easy way to debunk their work if it were actually false. All you have to do is show that, for example, tanks that were supposedly in one place were actually in another. This ought to be extremely easy for the Russian Ministry of Defense to do in the case of military equipment in Ukraine, for example. Debunk about 10 photos, using the same methodology to show their actual location within Russia, and Bellingcat would be wrecked.

        And yet for some strange reason the well-funded Russian Ministry of Defense and state media don’t seem interested in doing that.

        As for what you said about the people who make the software rejecting his claim, I’ve never seen anything of this sort.

  5. Jim Kovpak Post author

    I’m currently talking to someone about the technical claims, but here you can see how idiotic the writer of the article is:

    “The Boston ‘Free Speech’ Rally was billed by the social networks and MSM as a fascist rally. It was really a Free Speech Rally. What they learned is that with just a little nudge, they can make you demand nationalist repression. Nice going Boston!”

    It WAS a fascist rally. If it were just for “free speech,” you’d expect more people to come. American neo-Nazis have always used free speech, which they don’t even believe in, as a shield. The newsletter for one of America’s largest neo-Nazi organizations was actually titled FREE SPEECH.

    This is indicative of a typical tactic used by people like this- delve deep into technical details the audience may not understand and then make wild and idiotic claims that can supposedly be extrapolated from them.


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