Glenn Greenwald is a member of that curious group of (exclusively) Western writers who are best referred to as pseudo-dissidents. A pseudo-dissident is not just someone who devotes his every waking breath to deligitimizing Western civilization; he does so while adopting the pose of the genuine dissident, those who, like Havel and Sakharov (both of whom they usually despise), have lived under truly oppressive regimes. The pseudo-dissident imbues his work with the paranoid sense that he is the brave Cassandra whose views of The Truth are ruthlessly suppressed by a corporate-media oligarchy–instead of realizing that those views are usually too insipid or stupid or radical to be taken seriously by average people. He usually expounds these views in the same corporate media said to be suppressing him, or else in packed lecture halls in which he is given a nice percentage of the door charge, and a significant stipend by the group who solicited his bile in denouncing profits and mass marketing.
Despite this pretense of brave dissident obscurity, the most well known American pseudo-dissidents, such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, are acclaimed and widely read authors–unjustifiably so, but it’s true nevertheless. Their views are standard on university campuses across the world. Greenwald himself has a perch at the Guardian, a highly regarded British newspaper. Not many people have such opportunities. Instead of putting his own to good use, Greenwald writes things such as the following, on the recent death of Margaret Thatcher:
“Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.”
Greenwald imagines that he is the lone voice criticizing Thatcher, the brave dissident in the howling-mad wilderness. Meanwhile, the hard Left in both the United States and the U.K. is busy crafting savage and sociopathic denunciations of a woman who had more courage in her two front teeth than they have had in the entire history of their wretched movement.
Greenwald’s own criticisms of Thatcher are that she spoke well of Augusto Pinochet and General Suharto–as opposed to his hero Noam Chomsky’s praises of and excuses for Mao, Pol Pot, and Slobodan Milosevic. (Greenwald is a confirmed Chomsky fanboy, about which more in due course.) He also accuses her of basically starting the Persian Gulf War; his source on this historical analysis is a post on the website of Michael Moore. The unstated corollary of Greenwald’s criticism is that Kuwait should have been left to the exclusive personal use of Saddam Hussein. That, in learned circles, is known as “anti-imperialism.”
I know of no one saying that Thatcher is beyond criticism. If someone is expressing this view, it’s not one I agree with. The complaint is that one should not say that a Western democratic leader is rotting in hell, or some ugly variation, and then cite conservative criticism of Hugo Chavez on the occasion of his death as license for this filth. This supposedly shows our “hypocrisy.” It is a classic Chomskyist tactic; it sets up a dubious moral equivalence between the leader of an essentially free society, constrained by the rule of law and a free press, and an authoritarian huckster who jailed critics and wrecked his own civil society.