Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Home Stateside Attack on press freedom is led by journalists themselves

Attack on press freedom is led by journalists themselves

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THE departure of a journalist from his publication, in this case Glenn Greenwald from the US website The Intercept, is normally on a par with ‘small earthquake in Chile, not many dead’, an in-house journalistic joke for a non-event.

Its relevance here, however, is that it is part of an alarming trend in the US media to gag editorial dissent or punish offending writers who manage to express opinions that Left-wing progressives want to suppress because they are harmful to their political objectives.

Greenwald is known in the UK for his part in the Guardian‘s publication of the story of Edward Snowden, the American intelligence analyst who in 2013 revealed the extent of US and British government spying on their citizens. Greenwald’s articles won him a Pulitzer. Forget the role of the Guardian, which is a red rag to some.

Governments must have security secrets. But our privacy is a matter of concern to all, regardless of their politics, at a time when so many actors from intelligence services to social media are invading it to an extent we are mostly unaware of. It is an offence against everything liberal democracy means for governments to spy on their peoples just because they can.

Long influential on the Left but known for his independence, Greenwald says he was forced out of The Intercept, which he co-founded, because he wanted to write about potentially criminal allegations linking Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, to corruption in Ukraine and China when he was Obama’s vice president.

His colleagues took the view that even if Biden is a bad guy, he is our bad guy, and that nothing should be written to harm his chances of beating Donald Trump in the election on November 3. The overwhelmingly liberal-Left American MSM, joined by social media, have done their best to suppress the Biden story since emails under FBI investigation were published by the New York Post this month.

In an article about his resignation, Greenwald wrote that ’repression, censorship and ideological homogeneity plaguing the national press generally have engulfed the media outlet I co-founded, culminating in censorship of my own articles’. 

Greenwald said his article, which you can read here, raised critical questions about Biden’s conduct and described ‘an increasingly authoritarian, fear-driven, repressive editorial team in New York bent on imposing their own ideological and partisan preferences on all writers, while ensuring that nothing is published at The Intercept that contradicts their own narrow, homogenous ideological and partisan views: exactly what The Intercept, more than any other goal, was created to prevent.’

Everyone looking over their shoulder and regarding co-workers with fear. What does that remind you of?

Matt Taibbi, another independently-minded journalist who left Rolling Stone in April because, he said, it was in effect aligned with the Democratic Party, wrote a full account of Greenwald’s split with The Intercept here. 

What is scandalous in Greenwald’s and other cases is that the freedom of the press is under attack from journalists themselves at the very top of the industry. The usual prerogatives of editors in US outlets are under successful attack from the woke generation who see news outlets as collectives in which everyone has a say as long as it’s the right thing.

It matters to us in the UK because what happens in the US inevitably finds its way here too. A Guido Fawkes article this week said journalists at Murdoch newspapers in the UK, which include the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times, were to undergo diversity training to help them better understand minority activist movements such as Black Lives Matter.

Americans became aware of the political fermentation behind the scenes of American journalism in 2018 when Kevin Williamson was hired from the National Review by the Atlantic magazine to provide an alternative conservative voice and was summarily sacked within a week after progressive staff rebelled. Editor Jeffrey Goldberg surrendered to the mob.

Last July, New York magazine writer Andrew Sullivan was forced out because, he said, ‘a critical mass’ of journalists and management objected to his articles against critical race and sex theory.

A month earlier, the New York Times had been shaken by a staff revolt against an op-ed, written by Senator Tom Cotton, advocating the use of the National Guard to quell violent protests by Antifa in Portland. They claimed such a view should never have been published even if the paper itself didn’t endorse it. Op-Ed editor James Bennet was obliged to resign.

His op-ed page colleague Bari Weiss followed, claiming that management had not supported her against bullying by woke journalists at the paper. Weiss wrote that the New York Times was at war with itself with an older generation of editors under pressure from social justice warriors among younger staff. 

Journalists at less august outlets have also been fired for not being fully on board with the BLM and SJW agenda, and the fraught election year is not solely to blame. The space for non-Leftist views is gradually being shrunk within a tunnel vision media that is betraying the duty it owes to readers, most of whom get their information from liberal-dominated newspapers and television.

Independents such as Greenwald, Taibbi and Sullivan have either founded or are founding websites where their followers will find them, but it’s not the same as a perch within the established media.

Whatever the MSM pretends, the accusations against Biden are of the highest importance and cannot be swept aside because of hatred of Donald Trump. They say his presidency has meant four years of chaos for the American people. What do they think the effect will be if Biden is elected and evidence is found that necessitates his impeachment? It certainly won’t be sweetness and light or the ‘bringing us together’ that Biden promises.

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Donald Forbes
Donald Forbes is a retired Anglo-Scottish journalist now living in France who during a 40-year career worked in eastern Europe before and after communism.

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