Is Glenn Greenwald Still "Red-Hot"? The Politico Investigates

Politico Magazine is a magazine edition of The Politico—America's worst publication—whose mission is "to pull back from the flood to understand what it's all about." The flood, in that metaphor, is supposed to be the tremendous churning hourly volume of vacuous meta- and meta-meta-political Narrative and Controversy that sustains The Politico and is sustained by The Politico.

So here, in a piece published online yesterday, The Politico: The Magazine is pulling back and taking a long view on the work of a blogger named Glenn Greenwald, who was famous in 2013 for something or other about codes or wiretapping (CK?). The headline announces the purpose of the piece, by national editor Michael Hirsh, which is to raise the question (i.e., answer the question) "Has Greenwald Inc. Peaked?"

("[H]is stock may be dropping fast," the subhead adds.)

"Stock" is a metaphor too, for what was known in a more intellectual and serious age, before The Politico, as "buzz." Buzz is a sort of enacted publicity. Under the rules of the buzz process, once a person or entity—Mike Huckabee, The Help, the panoptical security state—has been established as the subject of sustained public attention, the eventual next step is to inform the public that the public is no longer interested. This generates new attention. Ups and downs.

So Glenn Greenwald, having been up—on the strength of Edward Snowden's decision to trust him with a collection of leaked classified documentation of the NSA's immense and all but unchecked mass surveillance program—is due to be down. Because the NSA has stopped spying on everyone, hasn't it?

The NSA, duly chastened by Snowden's leaks, is changing under presidential directives that will rein in its mass collection of telephone "metadata"—its most controversial program—while most of the rest of us have moved on.

Quite a bit of recent history and political discourse is squeezed between (and out of) those em dashes. How did metadata collection come to be the NSA's "most controversial program" rather than a harmless abstraction, again?

But that was before, and we have moved on, the rest of us. Most of the rest of us. Which ones of us, for instance?

"I think there's a bit of Snowden fatigue out there right now," said former NSA director Michael Hayden.

Yes, the former director of the NSA, a disinterested observer of the public mood, says that people are tired of hearing about his agency's secrets. He notes ("frankly") that Greenwald's more recent coverage "didn't bounce very much." Up, down, not so far up.

But The Politico will not allow the NSA scandal to bounce to a halt and roll under the radiator without a reckoning of its real consequences. So Hirsh confronts Greenwald with the question that matters:

Asked whether it bothered him that he had helped to damage America's brand — considering that the successor to claimant of sole superpower someday could be China or some even less freedom-loving country than the United States—Greenwald suggested that he has a higher calling than mere patriotism. "I look at the work I do and the effect it has on world, not as an American citizen," he said.

Glenn Greenwald is a traitor to the American brand. He has damaged America's brand profile—a "superpower" that is "freedom-loving"—exposing it to potential marketing competition from other brands. Surely the Glenn Greenwald brand will suffer for it.

The magazine is currently also promoting "The Politico 50," described as "Our list of the thinkers, doers and dreamers who really matter in this age of gridlock and dysfunction." No. 1 is Sen. Rand Paul, "The Most Interesting Man in Politics," who "has joined the Senate's most liberal members to rip President Barack Obama on his killer-drone and National Security Agency spying programs."

The Politico's brand remains intact.

[Image via Getty]