Glenn Greenwald’s meteoric rise from independent blogger to the man who broke the news about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs is illustrative of the role bloggers have played since the beginning of the 21st century. Like many bloggers, Greenwald began blogging in response to his feeling that the media was not properly holding the Bush Administration accountable during the Iraq War. Greenwald’s work would make him a hero in left-wing blogosphere to the extent he was cited by Chris Dodd on the U.S. Senate floor.
Greenwald’s rise in influence is illustrative of how parties work as networks. As noted in an article by Gregory Koger, Seth Masket and Hans Noel, parties in the modern day are not solely comprised of elected officials and partisan apparatuses, but also interest groups, consultants, 527 groups and partisan media (35). As Greenwald worked for Salon.com for years, a left-wing news site, while he may not have been an explicit Democrat, he still belonged to the Democratic Party’s network at a time when the Democratic Party needed fuel against the Bush Administration.
But since the election of Barack Obama, Greenwald has at times found himself at odds with many on the left. He has frequently criticized the Obama Administration for the killing of Anwar al Alwaki by drone strike. Similarly, he has criticized a majority of liberal Democrats for supporting the use of drones and fellow liberal pundits. Conversely, liberal pundits like Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall found themselves disagreeing with their erstwhile ally.
But while Greenwald may see his opponents as morally bankrupt and his critics in the media may see him as an ideologue, it could be that they identify differently. As Michael Heaney noted in his lecture at UNC “Party in the Street: The antiwar movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11,” during the 2004-2005 period of the Iraq War, one of the primary rationales for protesters was opposition to the Republican Party. However, once Democrats started gaining control of the House of Representative, the Senate and eventually the White House, protest levels went down significantly, as did conventional anti-war lobbying, perhaps because of the fact that protesters did not want to put the recently elected Democrats in a bind early in their terms. On the other hand, anti-war activists continue to oppose large-scale military action or drone strikes.
But for Democrats, there might be more hesitancy to speak out against the President’s expansion of the drone program, particularly during a time when it is the only aspect of his Administration that has positive approval ratings. Meanwhile Greenwald, while clearly having his own opinions, might not tie himself to one party and therefore has no reason to censor himself in the name of promoting the welfare of the Democratic Party.
As a result, it is fair to call Greenwald’s journalism outside of the partisan divide and instead holds the value of holding all politicians accountable. This will make his new venture with Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill and Pierre Odimyar all the more interesting, as it will have a different role than most ideological media.
Koger, Gregory, Seth Masket, and Hans Noel. “Cooperative Party Factions in American Politics.” American Politics Research38.1 (2010). Web. 15 Nov. 2013.
Heaney, Michael. ” “Party in the Street”.” The University of North Carolina-CH. Chapel Hill, NC. 15 Nov. 2013. Address.