Monday, May 26, 2014

Greenwald's extremism damages the cause

Government has long corrupted journalists. We see that in the last decade how mainstream journalists protected secret programs like NSA spying rather than reveal them. We see that in steady stream of stories coming from Washington D.C. correspondents citing unnamed officials pushing the government’s interests. We see this in their yearly party together called the “Washington Correspondent’s Dinner”. The NetFlix series “House of Cards” shows journalists whoring themselves in order to get “access” to top government officials – this is exactly what happens (well, not the sex, but the sacrificing of journalistic ethics in order to get access).

Greenwald’s dump of the Snowden material could’ve changed things – but has in fact made this worse. Firstly, the dump has been rather indiscriminate, including many things that legitimate journalists would never disclose. Secondly, it’s biased and distorted, serving Greenwald’s political agenda rather than informing the public.

Thus, rather than a foil against traditional journalism, proving how corrupt they’ve become, Greenwald’s reporting has done the reverse, justifying their pro-government approach as being the more responsible of the two alternatives. That’s what we’ve seen recently with journalists supporting Michael Kinsley’s op-ed against Greenwald. All agree that the Snowden leaks are legitimate news that should be reported, but disagree with how Greenwald has done it.

Mainstream journalism has been complicit in the NSA’s misdeeds, and Snowden was right to leak to somebody outside the mainstream establishment. Still, Greenwald has gone too far the other direction, turning away erstwhile supporters, damaging the cause.

A quick example of bad reporting is this story by Greenwald claiming that the NSA spied on the G20 summit in Canada. However, the leaked documents the story was based upon do not support that conclusion. Greenwald fabricated that conclusion ought of thin air. I have some experience in this area, so I know this is true reading the document. Moreover, other academics and experts have come to the same conclusion as mine.

After coming under fire, CBC has defended itself (here and here, h/t @LitThom), This defense is nonsense, of the quality of Newsweek's defense of its fraudulent Satoshi Nakamoto story, and NBC's defense of it's fraudulent "Hacking in Sochi" story.

The upshot is this: the leaked documents show simply that the NSA coordinated with helping security at the G20 summit, and nothing else. Extraordinary claims that they "spied on the G20" needs to cite specifics support. The document isn't enough -- if they have an expert that stands by their claim that it is, then they need to cite that expert.

...and this goes back to the origin claim up top: "journalism" means citing sources for your claims, something Greenwald and CBC do not. We have nothing to go on other than trusting CBC consulted the right experts. On the flip side, critics who say this is bunk cite named experts, who we ourselves can verify, by looking at their credentials and challenging their assertions. That Greenwald and his supporters expect to get away with unsubstantiated journalism offends real journalists.

Another example of Greenwald's bad reporting is described in this blog post. The story was a good one about intelligence services targeting activists -- but made exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims about DDoS.

In this case, the expert I'm citing on this is myself. Therefore, in the second part of my post, I prove my bonafides by showing you my code. Anybody can look at my code and confirm that yes, I am an expert.

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