Censorship

Big Tech & The Democratic Party Are Collaborating to Build The Great Firewall of the West — Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald

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Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is a high-profile journalist and free speech advocate. A lawyer by education, he worked as an attorney for a decade, representing several controversial clients in First Amendment cases. He has been publicly critical of American foreign policy in the Middle East. Greenwald began blogging on national security issues in 2005 and started contributing to The Guardian in 2012.

In 2013, he began to publish reports about American and British global surveillance programs based on documents provided by Edward Snowden.

He has won a George Polk Award and a Pulitzer Prize for the reporting.

He co-founded The Intercept in 2013 but resigned from the position of editor there in October 2020 after other editors refused to publish his article about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, unless he removed portions that were seen as critical of the Democratic presidential nominee. He published his resignation letter along with critique of widespread media censorship on his newly founded Substack account.

Notes

Owing to the accelerating massive hike in censorship during the past two weeks, I’ve added a Telegram channel https://t.me/dryburgh and a Parler account https://parler.com/profile/DryburghDotCom.

YouTube ratcheted censorship up a notch on Christmas Day. A lot of videos and channels were removed. Some of them were very good, very informative. Years of great content was lost in some cases. My second YouTube channel was mysteriously removed.

In the last 24 hours Google has started to use the Play Store to censor political ideology. It removed Parler, the free speech alternative to Twitter. Apple has threatened to remove it from the App Store. Amazon has threatened to disable Parler by revoking the cloud services on which it runs.

Twitter in the past 36 hours has terminated a huge number of accounts it considered either sharing unfavorable political viewpoints or opposing the World Health Organization.

Since WhatsApp needs to be abandoned before February 8th (because of the unacceptable change to T&Cs), if you’ve not already tried Telegram, you should and make this your first channel subscription.

Quite frankly – if enough of us fail to take action now, it won’t be too long before we are all living under a technocratic medical tyranny.

Transcript

Glenn Greenwald [Trailer]

The Democratic Party and Silicon Valley are so inextricably linked now, is a sign that’s just going to continue. They’re going to use their power over Silicon Valley to extract even greater amounts of censorship.

Freddie Sayers

Hello and welcome. You’re watching Lockdown TV from UnHerd. So the question of censorship on tech platforms in the media is one that is more talked about than ever. And luckily, today we are joined all the way from Brazil, from the mountains outside Rio de Janeiro, by perhaps one of the most famous free speech campaigners and writers in the world, Glenn Greenwald. So hi, Glenn.

Glenn Greenwald

Hey, great to be with you. Thanks for the invitation.

Freddie Sayers

So I’m gonna confess from the outset that I’ve always been a little bit skeptical of some of the claims of people when we talk about censorship, because often they come out on platforms such as this, you know, we’re sitting here talking on YouTube that are clearly in large part promoting freedom of expression.

And yet the reason I’m so excited to have you on today is that the experiences of this year have led me to believe that maybe those people are right. And that actually censorship including by tech platforms is a serious problem. Is it?

Glenn Greenwald

Yeah, absolutely. And I think if you look at the history of censorship, it’s very rare that we go from one day of free expression to suddenly some melodramatic event that makes it clear beyond all doubt, that there’s no longer the ability to speak freely. It happens incrementally, almost imperceptibly by design.

The tactic typically is that someone who is particularly hated, who everyone across the ideological spectrum can unify to agree is just so beyond the pale that we’re just going to kind of make an exception because this person is such a toxic influence that they deserve to be excluded from any kind of platform.

December 28, 2020

“The Democratic Party and Silicon Valley are so inextricably linked now, is a sign that’s just going to continue. They’re going to use their power over Silicon Valley to extract even greater amounts of censorship.”

Glenn Greenwald

High-Profile Journalist

And you have some of those examples that you can point to when all of the tech giants got together and decided that Milo Yiannopoulos was that kind of person and just disappeared him from the internet, or did the same thing to Alex Jones or to more obscure, kind of say overt, neo-Nazis, that’s always the kind of strategy that’s used.

You find a person that everyone agrees that is detestable and offers nothing positive to the discourse and just cheers because of the emotional reaction to having that person gone, but suddenly the precedent is established that there are now lines that are being drawn by tech companies and of course, or governments, and very predictably that line starts to move inward toward the mainstream very slowly, very gradually, and very imperceptibly each day or each week or each month.

And suddenly, you kind of wake up and you see these rights slipping away, and it’s kind of like a tide that keeps coming in. You hope it doesn’t come and get to you. And as long as it doesn’t, you feel free on the beach, but you see the water inching ever closer.

Freddie Sayers

So one example, which I think is a difficult one, but one that we’ve been engaging in quite a lot is responses to the COVID pandemic. We actually had a YouTube video taken down earlier this year by a very harmless kind of commonly featured on the BBC commentator who apparently was not sufficiently emphasizing the dangers of the pandemic and YouTube took it down.

We managed to get it reinstated, but that was part of their policy, which was that anything that might appear to deviate from WHO guidance would be taken down. And I now know that Twitter as of this week has promised to take down anything that is deemed to be anti-vax.

So when the tech platforms are now actually playing kind of arbiters of what health information is, right or not, is that a dangerous step for them to be taking?

Glenn Greenwald

It’s incredibly dangerous. First of all, the obvious question arises, which is what competency do tech giants have to arbitrate debates over science and health policy. I know a lot of people in Silicon Valley, some of them are very skillful at a very narrow set of human capabilities like computer code or marketing or envisioning how new websites might function.

How in any way does that make them in a position of some sort of philosopher-king, to be able to sit in judgment as overlords of our discourse and decree, not only what is impermissible or permissible, but also what is true and false when it comes to very highly complex questions, such as how to manage a pandemic or whether vaccines are safe and effective, or whether the balances of the lockdown are justified by their costs. These are incredibly complicated decisions as a society ought to be debating.

And when you have executives with Facebook or Google or Twitter posturing as competent experts to regulate the discourse, the obvious question is, well, what competence do they have? So then their answer is, well, we’re going to farm it out to experts who will tell us what is true and what is false, and we’ll just defer to their expertise.

So you’ve seen, for example, throughout the course of the pandemic, as you alluded to in your question, YouTube and Twitter and Facebook essentially banning any kind of thought or opinion that deviates from the World Health Organization on the grounds that that’s the gold standard for how to understand science.

Well, if you look at the history of the pandemic and the role that the WHO has played in it, they’ve issued all kinds of statements that we now by consensus believe were totally false, back in February and March.

Not only were they telling everyone that masks were unnecessary, they were telling everybody that masks were counter-productive and you can go through the list. I mean, they were in early on questioning, whether human to human transmission was even possible, whether the virus was really dangerous.

So that’s the nature of human fallibility is that what looks like a proven orthodoxy one month becomes a gross error the next, and that’s exactly why these things have to be debated rather than suppressed.

Freddie Sayers

Does that mean you’d be against anything being taken off on kind of public health grounds?

December 28, 2020

“How in any way does that make them in a position of some sort of philosopher-king, to be able to sit in judgment as overlords of our discourse and decree, not only what is impermissible or permissible, but also what is true and false when it comes to very highly complex questions”

Glenn Greenwald

High-Profile Journalist

I mean, if someone goes out there campaigning against taking a vaccine because they say that it’s filled with microchips and it’s going to be linked to Bill Gates, or, you know, that something that, you know, most people would deem to be obviously not true. You still think it should be out there and allowed, and you just rely on people’s common sense to decide whether they agree with it or not.

Glenn Greenwald

Well, you rely on people’s common sense, but also the ability of institutions of authority to rebuild trust. The way that, and maybe this is the fact that I’m American and the American tradition regarding free speech does tend to be a bit more absolutist than even in Western Europe and other places throughout the democratic world.

But we as a country have never allowed the government, for example, to intervene in our public debates and our public discourse and render off-limits certain opinions because they’re designed to spread disinformation. That’s something that we’ve decided is best left to the citizenry to resolve.

And of course, I mean, you can concoct examples, like the one that you created where someone like, say, well, what’s the benefit of allowing something obviously false to be disseminated. And the answer is while there may not be a benefit to allowing it to be disseminated, but the risks are the dangers of allowing or empowering institutions to suppress it are worse than the dangers of allowing it to be disseminated. And I think that’s the answer.

So, you know, one of the problems I think that, that we have with regards to these questions about disinformation is that we used to have institutions of authority in the media, in academia, in health policy that gained the trust of the population. So if somebody popped up and started spouting conspiracy theories, you had trusted media outlets or scholars, or, you know, health organizations to say, no, that’s actually untrue. The science proves otherwise and all, but a small handful of people trusted those pronouncements, that credibility has been eroded.

And I think one of the things that we need to do rather than now starting to use brute force to say, we’re just going to allow people to express things that these institutions declare to be false is to question why it is that we’ve lost trust as a profession of journalism or why experts have lost trust. I think there’s a lot of reasons that lie within the behavior of those elites.

December 28, 2020

“YouTube and Twitter and Facebook essentially banning any kind of thought or opinion that deviates from the World Health Organization on the grounds that that’s the gold standard for how to understand science.
Well, if you look at the history of the pandemic and the role that the WHO has played in it, they’ve issued all kinds of statements that we now by consensus believe were totally false, back in February and March.”

Glenn Greenwald

High-Profile Journalist

And that to me seems like a much better solution.

Freddie Sayers

So how paranoid do you think we should be? I mean, I hate the idea of sort of joining the ranks of conspiracists, who are constantly attributing these incredibly wicked and complex motivations to people like tech companies.

But we have got a lot of people in the comments recently saying I’ve noticed how our videos are being downrated in search if they are more controversial. And that may be, we sort of have we get on a blacklist of heterodox channels that Google, that YouTube decides to slightly suppress.

Do you think that’s possible?

Glenn Greenwald

I mean, you don’t need to be a conspiracist to believe any of that. They acknowledge that they’re doing exactly all the things that you just described in your question. Just about a month ago, with two or three weeks before the elections, I guess maybe it’s five or six weeks ago now.

When the New York Post published reporting based on materials taken from the laptop of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and son, Twitter said, we’re going to block you from sharing this link even in private messages. So it was just like a brute force censorship.

Facebook though said something more subtle. They said, we’re going to deter the spread of this article, pending our fact-checking process. Meaning they’re going to tinker algorithmically with how information is spread on Facebook to impede the ability for this reporting to be disseminated.

Google has acknowledged on many occasions and reporting from mainstream outlets have demonstrated that they’re constantly tinkering with their own search results in order to benefit media outlets they regard as credible, and disfavor ones they regard as lacking credibility. Facebook, the same.

So what the problem is is that because there’s no transparency, right. At least when you have government censorship, you have some form of transparency, of accountability through democratic structures. If a government agency is engaged in censorship, there are mechanisms you can use to try and open up the process to make it not so opaque. With these private tech companies that are acting as overlords, they don’t have to account to anybody.

And so you’re right. Like it does create, in the minds of rational people, questions about whether things that don’t quite make sense on the internet are now the by-product of secret clandestine censorship. And it’s not, it doesn’t take a conspiratorial mind when we all know for sure that they’re doing it at least in some cases.

Freddie Sayers

Yeah. I mean, it is frightening having been on the receiving end of it. Just briefly, because there is no human being to deal with. You get a form, you can object, and then you get a, we had got a reaction within five minutes saying, I’m sorry, the appeal has been rejected. And that for most people would have been the end of the process.

Luckily we had a social media audience, and we kicked up a bit of a fuss and eventually, the PR team got in touch and they fixed it. But for most people, that’s the end. So you’re almost into a really kind of tyrannical world where those people that hold the power, you don’t even know where they are or who they are. You just know if you fall on the wrong side of them.

Glenn Greenwald

It’s cop to ask. And it’s, you know, to call it that is almost to minimize how repressive it is. You know, I just had an experience in the last couple of weeks where a user on Twitter who has about 30,000 followers, he is an African-American columnist, a very smart, thoughtful, funny commentator on the political scene, who I happen to have a friendship with. He was in a terrible car accident about three weeks ago, and he’s been hospitalized ever since he almost died on a couple of occasions and he’s been using social media as his way of just kind of coping.

And about a week ago, he was just, his account was just revoked out of nowhere on Twitter, no explanation. It was just suspended at first and then permanently revoked. And it was horrifying because the thing that he was using to kind of keep contact with the world through this very difficult time was taken away from him with no process, no notice.

December 28, 2020

“what’s the benefit of allowing something obviously false to be disseminated. And the answer is while there may not be a benefit to allowing it to be disseminated, but the risks are the dangers of allowing or empowering institutions to suppress it are worse than the dangers of allowing it to be disseminated. ”

Glenn Greenwald

High-Profile Journalist

And only because he happened to be friends with me just by sheer luck, and I have a big loud platform and was able to use it to agitate for his reinstatement, was his account reinstated, but it shouldn’t work like that. I actually felt quite creepy about that. You know, it’s almost like whoever has some kind of connection to the rulers is able to get an exemption and everybody else is just sort of off on their own. And it would be one thing if we had other platforms to go to, but these really are classic monopolies.

If you’re a journalist, you can’t work without Twitter. Facebook has all the classic attributes of a monopoly. And so it’s not like there are alternatives competing with them. That one can say, well, if they’re unfair, I’ll just go to the other.

Freddie Sayers

Where it gets even more sinister, I think, and even more concerning is where it gets political because it’d be one thing if it was just a kind of technocrat or a technical platform and they were making arbitrary decisions, but you mentioned the Hunter Biden controversy. Let’s get into that. I mean, you actually have stepped down from the publication you helped to found, The Intercept, because of what you felt was censorship around some of the questions around Hunter Biden.

Do you think there is a bleed now between these tech platforms and between a kind of progressive liberal democratic mindset and that it’s actually overtly political in that sense?

Glenn Greenwald

Oh yeah, without question. First of all, you can look at every metric and it all leads to the same conclusion, which is that there is a union, a coalition that includes several components, but two of the most important, the Democratic Party, meaning the establishment wing of the Democratic Party, the kind of corporatist militarist wing of the Democratic Party, not the left, like the Bernie Sanders left, which is despised by them and excluded from it.

But that wing of the Democratic Party, Wall Street and Silicon Valley. And one way you can see that is that Silicone Valley overwhelmingly poured its money being into the campaign coffers of the Democratic Party, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and barely in each of the Republicans and Donald Trump, their employees and Silicon Valley are overwhelmingly progressive, overwhelmingly liberal, overwhelmingly Democrat, whenever there’s agitation within these companies for greater censorship, which there is, it’s almost always on the grounds that right-wing or conservative voices ought to be censored.

December 28, 2020

“you’re almost into a really kind of tyrannical world where those people that hold the power, you don’t even know where they are or who they are. You just know if you fall on the wrong side of them.”

Glenn Greenwald

High-Profile Journalist

There are throughout the transition team of what will be the Biden administration in virtually every significant realm, nothing but Google, not nothing but, but many Facebook and Google, Twitter, and other Silicon Valley executives. They’re very much in bed together. And to me, that censorship effort episode involving the Hunter Biden reporting in the weeks leading up to an election was one of the most alarming and one of the most significant events to take place in politics in years, that one of the primary means that human beings and citizens have to communicate with one another was simply manipulated to prevent incriminating reporting about the candidate that the employees and executives and shareholders of those means of communications wanted to win the election. It was pure brute censorship of the most toxic and damaging kind. And I don’t think we’ve quite yet processed the significance of it.

Freddie Sayers

What makes it so difficult is that I know lots of Democrats who would be passionately you know, against what they would… They’d be against Donald Trump. They would probably disagree with the Hunter Biden story and they don’t make the decision to support censorship. There’s no figurehead for the censorship movement. There’s no one we can have an argument with. Who do we address this too?

Glenn Greenwald

Well, I think you’re right in one important, I think you’re right in one important way, which is that nobody ever likes to think of themselves as a censor. So nobody will ever self-identify as being pro-censorship because of the stigma attached to that word, even as they’re advocating constitute censorship. But I think one really important dynamic to observe here is that these tech companies, when they were originally created, never wanted the responsibility to regulate discourse.

Not because they’re good noble people who believe in freedom, although some of them did, there was this very libertarian strain in Silicon Valley, back in the nineties and into the early aughts where it was a kind of political belief, but it was more that as a company, you would rather have more people on your platform than less, but you especially would rather avoid having the responsibility of having to decide which speech is permissible in which speech isn’t.

When you’re a corporation, the last thing you want to do is alienate huge sectors of the society by appearing to be politically biased in favor of one party or the other, or one ideology or the other. You want it to stay away from political controversies, as much as possible.

And their model when they began, the one that they were pitching was, we’re not going to be a platform that publishes. We’re not like a newspaper. We don’t make decisions about what articles or op-eds do or don’t get published. We’re just a content-neutral platform that gives the opportunity for anybody who wants to publish information. And we don’t evaluate that information to determine whether or not it’s legitimate or not, whether it’s permissible or not.

Their model was very much like Milo Yiannopoulos calls Alex Jones on the telephone to plan some rally, to promote a conspiracy theory or some… Nobody expects the phone company to intervene in that call or to terminate their service because their model is on a content-neutral platform.

Glenn Greenwald

The reason these companies started regulating discourse was because it was foisted upon them, demanded of them largely by journalists with corporate media outlets who began agitating, especially after the 2016 election claiming that these, they were essentially looking for culprits to blame for Donald Trump’s victory and Hillary Clinton’s defeat much like people in the United Kingdom are looking for culprits to blame for Brexit. And what they settled on.

One of the things they settled on was, well, Facebook and Google and Twitter are acting recklessly and irresponsibly by allowing this kind of disinformation to be circulated online. And they are the ones who began pressuring these companies and insisting that they do that, and created this kind of public demand where these companies felt compelled.

And then once they started, then just kind of all hell broke loose, and now it’s like a free for all. So now once they ban one post, the question then becomes, well, here’s another one that we think is inciting violence or expressing hatred. Why aren’t you banning this one as well? And the pressure just continues to escalate, but it originated with ironically, corporate journalist who largely wanted to ensure that they maintain control, monopolistic control over the discourse by preventing other outlets that are other venues that are independent, such as social media from allowing people to speak who they don’t want to heard.

Freddie Sayers

This whole thing has been fast-forwarded in the last four years. I mean, the Trump victory was just such a kind of explosion. And I think what happened is a lot of liberals were genuinely frightened by it. It revealed part of the country and ways of thinking that they had never had any contact with. And in a way, this is a sort of push back against that. It comes out of that fear that there’s this desire to regulate.

Should we be hopeful at least. Do you think that at least if now Joe Biden is going to be president, some of that fear will ever weigh and elite liberals will be more confident about allowing a freer discourse?

Glenn Greenwald

No, absolutely not. I wish that were the case. I share that hope, but I don’t think it’s remotely realistic as an expectation in part because… the power to censor is an incredibly potent power. It’s something that becomes so addictive once you actually get your hands on it. I mean, the ability to control what people can and can’t say, and what information can and can’t be disseminated is an exhilarating power.

You know, it’s the reason why when the American founders created a new republic, the very first amendment to the constitution that they wrote was one to guarantee freedom of speech, because they knew that it was both not just dangerous, but also very tempting for majorities to want to just declare that the opinions of minorities. I don’t just mean racial minorities. I mean, whoever has an opinion that doesn’t command more than 50% of the society is so dangerous that it ought to be suppressed.

I mean, we’ve seen this throughout, you know, millennia of history. It’s a very pulsating power to be able to decree what can and can’t be said, it fortifies your own power. So I think that the fact that number one, the Democratic Party and Silicon Valley are so inextricably linked now is a sign that that’s just going to continue. They’re going to use their power over Silicon Valley to extract even greater amounts of censorship.

In fact, this senator from Massachusetts, Ed Markey, who was reelected in large part because he had the support of not establishment liberals, but the left in his primary challenge against Congressman Joe Kennedy The Third is a bit more conservative. He had, once he won, they had a hearing where Mark Zuckerberg and the other Silicon Valley executives appeared. And he told Mark Zuckerberg, our problem with you as Democrats is not that you’re censoring too much. It’s that you’re not censoring enough. That is very much the posture of the Democratic Party.

And then I think the other thing is the fear that you’re talking about of Trump was extremely profitable with so many sectors. I don’t just mean financially, which, you know, media executives will tell you, the thing that saved many of these media outlets, made millions of millions of dollars for them, was that people were so afraid of Trump, that they were tuning in every night, buying subscriptions to newspapers. It was incredibly beneficial to them, but it was also very beneficial to the CIA, to the FBI, to anybody who positioned themselves as an opponent of the Trump movement.

And even with Trump gone, they’re going to continue to try and elevate him as some dangerous voice, but also his movement. They’re going to say, this is the fascist movement. The it’s not just a political these aren’t just your political adversaries. These are white supremacists, domestic terrorists. And just like the war on terror was so beneficial to power centers to consolidate greater power, this kind of domestic terrorism theme that has already been kind of consecrated about the Trump movement is going to continue to escalate. And they’re going to continue to use that to elevate fear levels and justify increasing of this power.

Freddie Sayers

That’s actually quite a frightening prospect. Looking ahead at the next four years, if, instead of being confident in victory, because it was obviously such a fragile victory, despite what many headlines say, in fact, what you’re saying is that the Democrats will be continued to be anxious and will attempt to sort of eviscerate or kind of destroy what they thought of as this very frightening beast that was released four years ago. Is that, is that right?

Glenn Greenwald

Well, first of all, I think the premise of your question is absolutely true, but also very important and not widely understood. The victory that the Democrats achieved was incredibly fragile, which if you think about it is amazing, they were running against one of the most unqualified and unpopular political figures in modern times who presided over multiple crises of a out of control health pandemic, an accompanying unemployment crisis where people lost their jobs by the tens of millions, rent delinquency, shuttered towns, just utter chaos, the kind that incumbents can barely ever survive.

And yet, despite all the advantages in the world in terms of money, in terms of establishment authority and power, Biden barely won, he barely won. He won three or four key swing states by a small number of votes where it was such a small margin that the results weren’t even known until a week after the election.

The Democrats somehow managed to lose seats in the house. Despite having great hopes that they could double their margin over the Republicans and have a small chance to take over the Senate, although it’s very unlikely despite the expectations that they would.

And this is because the ideology of the democratic party, which is neo-liberalism, being in bed with corporations, acting on behalf of the professional-managerial class, ignoring the working class, being interventionists and internationalists in the world, is one that has been failing in most democratic countries. Here in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right figure won after 14 years of rule by the workers’ party, which is very kind of center-left, not left-wing, in the same way that Brexit won, in the same way that right-wing parties are spreading throughout Western Europe in places where nobody ever thought they would, including Germany.

And obviously the victory of Trump. They know that that ideology will fail. So they don’t feel secure at all in their position. And I do think they’re going to use the coercive power of the government to try and secure their position because they know they don’t have a governing program that is popular.

Freddie Sayers

Yeah, because at that moment in November when Joe Biden’s victory became apparent and, you know, we had here in the UK, we had the eviction from number 10 Downing Street of this character, Dom Cummings, who was a sort of populist character.

And then there was the news that the vaccines had come in, which sort of put an end to at least a lot of the controversy about lockdowns.

I was wondering whether maybe the next phase here, if we look big picture narrative, is going to be a kind of normy restoration for awhile. And everyone’s going to kind of let the technocrats take over for a period and just try to be normal for a while.

Do you think that’s wrong? And actually that the sort of populist spirit is as alive and strong as ever?

Glenn Greenwald

I don’t know. I think it’s a really good question. I can’t say I know the answer. I can see either outcome possible of the two you presented me. There definitely is a craving to kind of dis-attack, to detach from politics for a little while, because it’s not the normal state of affairs and probably not a healthy state of affairs for people to have to wake up every day and be petrified of what is happening in Washington.

They probably should be even when they hadn’t been prior to Trump, but it’s just not the normal, psychological state of affairs. And it’s not something that people actually want. It’s really quite exhausting when you’re constantly being fed fear. And this kind of connecting to this energy of hatred. And obviously when you’re in the middle of the pandemic, locked up in your home, it becomes even worse.

So I do think people are just exhausted and part of the appeal of Biden, which they very much knew. One of the only appeals was this promise, Obama said it multiple times. You’re not going to have to pay attention to politics anymore. At least not every day, once Joe Biden is in office. So I think there will be a little bit of that.

Trump is just such a hurricane, where he just sucks up so much energy and just forces people to pay attention to him all the time. I think there will be a little bit of that kind of desire to rest, but populist anger is real. And it’s been very evident for a long time. Well before Brexit and Trump, because people’s lives are, have been undone, they’re uprooted, they have no security about their future. They have nothing but anxiety and angst, very valid anxiety about what their future holds.

And when you threaten people’s financial and physical security that way, they don’t just go and take a nap. We have an instinct to fight against any threats that we perceive to our well being. And so I think it might be very temporary that kind of cathartic release of intense attention being paid to the political process, but I don’t expect it to endure.

Freddie Sayers

Is there anyone.. I mean, you talk about the legitimate grievances of people who voted for populists, and I would agree with that, but is there anyone who you think well represents them either on the right or the left? It seems like because there’s such a sort of elite status conferred upon the centrists that you tend to get these quite fruity characters coming out on either the left or the right, you know, they they’re propelled by a kind of oddball energy.

And therefore it’s very hard for a lot of normal people to buy into them. Can you see anyone who is properly representing those people’s interests that could appeal to a more center ground voter?

Glenn Greenwald

Well, I mean, I think one of the tactics, and this is not new, it’s probably been an instrument used for society by society for as long as it’s existed. It was a threat to the prevailing order as being odd as being strange as being weird, which is precisely why they’re dissidents from conventional piety. And so I’m not sure that whether, I’m not sure whether those kinds of people are actually oddballs or whether they end up being effectively depicted by the media machine on behalf of the establishment as being that.

I think in 2016, there was a very impressive threat to establishment power and a populous movement represented by Bernie Sanders. He would have beaten Hillary Clinton had the democratic party not cheated. And I don’t think there’s any question about that. I don’t mean cheated in terms of like distorting vote counts. I mean, just interfering in the election constantly to put their thumb on the scale.

And in 2020, he just became a kind of more conventional Democrat because that’s what he got convinced he needed to do in order to win. And so he became much less populous, much more ordinary, and that’s why he lost a lot of the rural voters, independent voters that had propelled as candidates and seen 2016. So I would point to the 2016 version of standards.

And then on the Republican side, if you listen to Josh Hawley, who is a young senator, I think he’s 41 now, went to Ivy League schools, was a lawyer, but is essentially positioning himself as an ardent opponent of standard Republican orthodoxies, of the idea that there should be governance on behalf of corporations.

He joined with Bernie Sanders and this COVID relief bill to basically hold it up, demanding that at least some, a small portion of it, not go to banks and corporations, but be doled out in direct payment to the actual citizens who are suffering, and is very much saying that he now believes the democratic party is the party of Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the professional-managerial class and the Republican party is going to be the party of a multiracial working-class coalition, which has rhetoric you haven’t heard from a Republican in many, many years.

So I think you’re seeing, and obviously, you look at Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and the energy that kind of is swirling around her. I think you’re seeing populist energy on both sides of the spectrum, but I think in order for it to be able to overcome what is still very formidable, authoritarian instruments or establishment instruments, it needs to be willing to find a lot more common ground and joined together where there’s common interests, which I think happens much more frequently than many people, even within those fears, recognize.

Freddie Sayers

Let me end by asking a little bit about the media because you, your departure from The Intercept, and you’ve now set up on Substack, joining Andrew Sullivan and Yglesias and a bunch of other high profile journalists. Do you think that is a good thing for the world? I mean, in a sense, it gives you independence. It means you can sit there in Brazil and have as loud a megaphone as you ever had. B

ut in another sense, it’s just people signing up to one voice that they are hearing again and again, and they are very unlikely to be surprised and confronted as much.

Glenn Greenwald

I think that the future of journalism, if there’s going to be trust restored, as we were talking about earlier, needs to be that journalists who aren’t captive to a particular dogma or ideology, who are doing their best to say what they think the truth is, recognizing that none of us are oracles of wisdom, that we all see things through our subjective lenses, but that we’re willing to say fearlessly what it is that we see, regardless of which political faction aggrandizes or subverts, only that will restore trust and faith in journalism.

And I’m hopeful that models like Substack and Patreon will enable more independent writers to be able to make a living writing that way. But I ultimately do think that in order to have a counterweight to the large corporate media outlets, like the New York Times, CNN, NBC, that just being a Substack columnist is not really going to be enough.

You’re going to have to create a media outlet that captures and embodies those journalistic values, that has teams of reporters and editors and writers doing that kind of journalism based on those values together. Because that’s the only way to compete with those other institutions.

Freddie Sayers

Which is what we are trying to do here on UnHerd, so watch this space. Glenn Greenwald, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your thoughts all the way from Brazil.

Glenn Greenwald

Yeah. I know you guys are doing a lot of great work there. I’ve been watching several of your videos and I’ve found them great. So keep up the great work and thanks so much for having me on.

Freddie Sayers

That was Glenn Greenwald from a slightly dodgy internet connection in the mountains above Rio de Janeiro. He wasn’t actually hostage. He is a free man. And he was sharing some of his thoughts about the really quite worrying level of censorship that is now beginning to be made apparent in the tech platforms and elsewhere. So thank you to him. I hope you find it. Interesting. This was locked down TV.

 

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Video Copyright UnHerd (December 28, 2020)

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