Time Magazine's Joe Klein is totally emo today, because people have been saying all sorts of mean things about him, on the Internet. This might be because people in the world meet him, find him churlish and weird, and then blog about it, and that's terrible for journalists who are used to living in a bubble, free from criticism. Well, Klein is upset about this, and the litigation of his hurt feelings is somehow considered news by Time, for reasons passing understanding.
Klein compiles his list of grievances today in a post titled "Glenn Greenwald," which is a subtle masterpiece of headlining. In it, he refers to Greenwald as "dishonorable" and more or less accuses him of hating the U.S. military, and, indeed, any effort to clandestinely root out terrorists. He also refers to another blogger -- herself the granddaughter of legendary investigative journalist I. F. Stone -- as a "pathetic woman acolyte of Greenwald's" (who published this first hand account of having to meet Klein in person...the bubble penetration that started this whole tiff.) Klein accuses Greenwald of publishing private emails, from super-secret journalist email gangbang club Journolist, and responds by publishing more of the same. To wit:
I'd like to quote here from a subsequent email on that thread, which Greenwald hasn't published, in which I explain why I have such strong feelings about Greenwald: [More...]
For the past several years, Greenwald has conducted a persistent, malicious campaign to distort who I am and where I stand. He is a mean-spirited, graceless bully. During that time, I have never seen him write a positive sentence about the US military, which has transformed itself dramatically for the better since Rumsfeld's departure (indeed, he ridiculed me when I reported that the situation in Anbar Province was turning around in 2007). I have never seen him acknowledge that the work of the clandestine service--performed disgracefully by the CIA during the early Bush years--is an absolute necessity in a world where terrorists have the capability to attack us at any time, in almost any place. Nor have I seen [him] acknowledge that such a threat exists, nor make a single positive suggestion about how to confront that threat in ways that might conform to his views. Therefore, I have seen no evidence that he cares one whit about the national security of the United States. It is not hyperbole, it is a fact.
Klein, in his next sentence, executes a mind-bending pirouette of pure illogic:
I am not a religious reader of Greenwald--he does go on, and on--and it's possible that I missed extensive posts in which he praises the Armed Forces or makes positive suggestions about how to track possible communications between terrorists abroad and their confederates here.
First of all, you really shouldn't be allowed to say: "Therefore, I have seen no evidence that he cares one whit about the national security of the United States. It is not hyperbole, it is a fact" in one sentence and then, in the next sentence, say, "I am not a religious reader of Greenwald--he does go on, and on--and it's possible that I missed extensive posts in which he praises the Armed Forces or makes positive suggestions about how to track possible communications between terrorists abroad and their confederates here." If you are willing to admit the latter, you SORT OF HAVE TO RETRACT THE WHOLE "IT'S FACT NOT HYPERBOLE" STATEMENT.
But, more to the point, the argumentation Klein practices here exposes either a dishonest, bad-faith brand of debating or a limited imagination. Klein's basic take is this: Either we have a security apparatus that is allowed to constantly break the law and be excused and apologized for, or millions of Americans die. This is what is known as a FALSE CHOICE. Why can't we have, for example, a security apparatus that is both effective and BEHAVES LAWFULLY? Surely that's an amenable alternative to both Americans dying constantly in terrorist attacks and the shrugging dollop of piffle in a Cheney reduction sauce that Klein is attempting to serve.
It is not hyperbolic, but factual, that waterboarding is ILLEGAL, a felonious activity. It is not hyperbolic, but factual, that the Supreme Court has ruled, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that detainees -- all of them -- are subject to the Geneva Convention. It is not hyperbolic, but factual, that the United States is bound to a treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan, that compels the prosecution of torture, and explicitly allows no exceptions.
What is hyperbolic is suggesting that these laws tie the hands of our security apparatus. It is similarly hyperbolic to suggest that the only way our security apparatus can operate is to secretly elide over the laws, under a veil, in an end run around the rule of law. It's often said that this is the "tough choice" that needs to be made, but it's actually the easy way out. The tough choice would be confronting the issue head on, debating it openly and honestly and deciding whether such laws needed to be changed. There's this whole thing called the "legislative process" that could accommodate this! But instead, we have people like Dick Cheney, who want all of the credit for our post 9/11 safety while taking none of the responsibility, and journalists like Joe Klein, who enable them.
And now, we're asked to accept that our clandestine forces must be allowed to go on, breaking laws and contravening treaties, so that they can maintain "morale." That's a pretty mean-spirited and graceless thing to say about the men and women who tirelessly work to protect us, and who no doubt obtain more than enough morale and motivation from the thought of defending a great and free nation. What's more: this is MENTAL. This sort of thinking would not be applicable to any other case in the criminal justice system. The flailing economy, and its attendant high unemployment rates, are certainly bad for morale. And I am reliably informed that it is a national crisis. Should people be allowed to knock over jewelry stores, for the sake of maintaining a positive attitude?
This is the nonsense that comes buried beneath all this intra-personal wankery that Klein thinks is "news," worthy of the esteemed Time Magazine. And this is why sometimes, when people meet him, they end up wondering: "Wow. Who is this cretinous mouther of pompous bilge?"
There's nothing I can say that will make Klein more absurd than his own writings. But there is something important here. No no, not Klein's fight with Greenwald. That's like watching a man with a "lion tamer's hat" actually taking on a lion. Time was a journalist wanted to be read, and remembered for what he'd written. A "public intellectual?" Even more so. But to want that is to be determined to stand behind what you've written or what you've said. You have to take your work seriously--do your research, form your opinions, and stick to them because they are good or as good as they could be under the circumstances. But Klein doesn't want to do that--he's said too many stupid things at this point. Too many venial, corrupt, weak, vile, bought and paid for political puff balls. He said things he knew his interlocutor wanted him to say. He's said things he knew one party wanted him to say although he knew that they were untrue, or dangerous, or foolish, or just partial. He's not a public intellectual--he's a fucking wind sock. And he knows it.
The "windsock" metaphor is choice. That's the sad truth. When Klein finds himself blowing in the intellectually honest direction, it's truly through no fault of his own.