Who’s On First Base?

Glenn Greenwald as we all now know has brought light to the assumption that journalism is somehow neutral. To be objective is the sine quo non of journalism but in our new day in age who gets to decide which point of view to trust is up for debate. There’s finger-pointing in every direction and no one knows who’s on first base. When David Gregory point-blank asked Mr. Greenwald “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” the question was simply rhetorical. No more no less. But Mr. Greenwald didn’t see it that way. His response was direct and subversive. In extraordinary fashion Mr. Greenwald retorted:

“I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea that I’ve aided and abetted him in any way. The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the e-mails and phone records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory that you just embraced, being a co-conspirator in felonies, for working with sources.”

I believe what Mr. Greenwald is doing as far as exposing the faulty foundation of a government that sees fit to invade the privacy of its citizens is paramount. The role that government plays in our day-to-day lives and how that government goes about doing this has to be transparent and open for debate, no doubt. Any American regardless if they’re journalist or not should always be vigilant in questioning the authority of the government. This sentiment is not up for debate.

So where does this leave us? Suppose I had the good fortune to meet Mr. Greenwald in a restaurant and I asked him verbatim what Mr. Gregory asked. Mind you I would not purport to be a journalist hypothetically or realistically. I would simply be asking a question. Would Mr. Greenwald’s answer be in the same vain as the answer he gave Mr. Gregory? I doubt it. Let’s take a minute and imagine what that answer would be if we substituted “journalist” for “lawyer”.

“I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a lawyer would publicly muse about whether or not other lawyers should be charged with felonies.”

Anyone unfortunate enough to spent time with lawyers would know that Mr. Greenwald answer was stating nothing more than a truism. But most of the journalist that are either criticizing or defending him can’t seem to make any sense at all of what is and isn’t relevant. Many pundits including Mr. Gregory trapped themselves when they started questioning who can and can not be called a journalist. Who has a right to call her/him self a journalist is not relevant to the original question Mr. Gregory asked. I’m not going to go into all the different arguments that addresses the issue because quite frankly non of them make much sense. But feel free to here.

It’s quite clear Mr. Greenwald was simply using hyperbole to draw attention to his cause and to that end he did an excellent job. He knowns exactly what he’s doing as far as playing the media game is concerned and I find no fault with that per se. What I do find troubling is that he would posit a rhetorical questions as somehow nefarious to the integrity of journalism. This is a harder pill to swallow.

Of course it’s more than reasonable to conclude that this heated debate between Mr. Greenwald and Mr. Gregory was nothing more than show therefore it’s irrelevant to the more crucial findings Mr. Greenwald’s reporting has uncovered. True but it’s a harder sell when you consider the broader implications that this debate has created. Are we now to presume that any question asked of Mr. Greenwald have to be qualified before a debate even takes place? I would hope not. Consider for a moment what happens when a rhetorical question is taken out of context. Recently Anne Phillips a professor at The London School of Economics ask:

“If we consider it legitimate for women to hire themselves out as low-paid and often badly treated cleaners, why is   it not also legitimate for them to hire themselves out as prostitutes?”

Professor Philips was asking this question to spark a metaphysical debate. She was by no means advocating for women to become prostituted. In fact her opinion is quite the opposite. Regardless of her opinion though her question had merit. But what happened next is quite troubling. Dennis MacShane an MP took it upon himself to call attention to what he found to be evidence of Ms. Phillips ‘filling the minds of our young students with the most poisonous drivel’. Indeed, the Daily Mail questioned the need for gender studies at a time of university cuts sparking a debate on the value of education. Apparently students shouldn’t be encouraged to answer questions. And according to Mr. Greenwald neither should journalist.