09 March 2017

The Intercept: The Good, Bad and Ugly

It's hard to deny The Intercept is an exciting online magazine. Launched in 2014, it came on the scene in the wake of the Snowden revelations. Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill were the big names associated with its launch. Poitras has since departed to focus on her film-making.
Since its start the magazine has put together an impressive team of journalists and they literally churn out articles and analysis. The website has become a wealth of information and due to their high-profile in the alternative media world they are getting a lot of tips and leaks which facilitate their reporting. 

Greenwald's coverage is superb. I don't happen to share his worldview on many points but I appreciate the spirit in which he writes. Once you understand where he's coming from, and take that into consideration, I can say that I find his work to be valuable.
They've generated no small degree of ire from the US government and figures like Poitras (and Greenwald to some degree) have been subject to considerable harassment. This stems from the Snowden episode but is by no means the only complaint made by the Washington Establishment, which of course includes the Mainstream Media.
During the election, Greenwald in particular challenged the DNC and media narratives concerning Russian influence. This led to slander and accusations that The Intercept was part of Putin's 'fake news' programme.
Anyone who follows Greenwald as well as Wikileak's Assange, who faced similar accusations, knows these attacks are groundless and in fact are based on the fact that most of the media's audience is ignorant of who these people are or what they're about. The Establishment media doesn't cover viewpoints that stray from the accepted spectrum of the mainstream consensus. Everything is falsely cast in terms of pro-American militarism, capitalism and the pseudo-debates between the GOP and DNC.
The Intercept has functioned as something of a mediatorial voice between Leftist activists like Naomi Klein and Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! versus the principled Far Left which could include not only Marxists but Anarchists and many who at this point embrace a destructive brand of Anarchism.
Many think the Far Left is represented by people like Michael Moore or maybe Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. These figures, apart from being entertainers are largely pseudo-iconoclastic. This is not to say that they aren't sometimes informative. Personally I have little use for Stewart but some of the figures in this spectrum can be instructive and certainly in presenting material and arguments in a humourous fashion they are able to reach a broad audience.
But they're not really out to change the system. They don't question its foundations nor in their patriotism, praise of militarism and even embrace of Capitalism do they seem to understand the causes for society's present state. I say this knowing full well that they criticise Capitalism and in some instances pay lip service to Socialism but it's clear what they're really promoting is Social Democracy at best. While certainly closer to Socialism and it could be argued is in some sense within its larger spectrum, Social Democracy rejects state ownership of the means of production, retains private property and supports the finance-based market system. This is usually combined with globalist economic policies and multi-lateral imperialism.
In other words it's not Socialism at least as the term has come down to us historically.
Slightly further to the Left we find figures like the aforementioned Canadian activist Naomi Klein and Goodman of Democracy Now. These folks are certainly a bit more principled and willing to question the system itself. Much of their work is profitable and yet that said they seem to largely function in terms of reformism. That is they believe that the system as it stands now can be changed by democratic activism. To a certain extent these figures seem willing to channel their energies into existing party structures.
One of their greatest failings in my estimation is their commitment to identity politics which as I've written elsewhere is a distraction from the real social issues and in addition I question their belief (almost naive at times) that the existing system is reformable or that the powers that be would allow it to be reformed through their activist agendas.
Then we have the extreme spectrum. This is where the Left-Right divide breaks down. Figures like Julian Assange don't really fit into either category. Anarchism can be of the Libertarian-Right variety and yet historically it has been associated with Socialism. Regardless of where some of the Libertarian extremists fall, or groups like Anonymous, all of these individuals and groups represent a revolutionary agenda. They believe (rightly I think) that the system cannot be reformed. Contrary to my own view they believe it must be smashed. The question is how would they accomplish this?
Some would do it through hacktivism, others through Sovereign Citizen-type rebelliousness. Assange's goal seems to be one of exposure. He believes that the machine (as it were) is so powerful and pervasive that the only way it can be stopped is through exposure. Keep churning, shining the light, exposing what they're doing and let all the various forces move and begin to shake the pillars of power.
The risk is great because it could leap to collapse and yet the risk of letting it continue could be just as severe.
As I mentioned in a previous piece referencing a friendly debate between Greenwald and Klein, it's clear that Klein is quite hostile to Assange and believe his 'burn it all down' approach is wrong-headed and dangerous.
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! while on the one hand is heavily invested in identity politics and some of the 'reformist' figures within the DNC such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, she is nevertheless willing to give Assange a voice and frequently interviews figures like Greenwald. Goodman will allow voices extremely critical of Washington to speak and yet at the same time often falls prey to the State Department agenda as expressed through many of the NGO's. This has been particularly frustrating when it comes to coverage of Syria and Libya. And yet, to her credit she will allow other voices to speak, one's very critical of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The Intercept falls (I believe) somewhere between the Democracy Now and Wikileaks spectrum. The online magazine is not unified in its coverage especially when it comes to the present Russia maelstrom. Greenwald is clearly far more radical than someone like Klein and perhaps Goodman. I think he sees the picture clearly and understands that we're a little beyond activism and reformism. We've already crossed the line and at this point the deeds, hypocrisy and criminality of the state need to be exposed. He's not as reckless as Assange and yet at the same time, there are moments where he seems to embrace the Australian's extremism.
I think what's best about Greenwald is that he's trying to do what he does through the lens of being a conscientious journalist and he's produced some excellent work. I heartily recommend his 2014 book: No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. I would contrast this with the greatly inferior The Snowden Files by Luke Harding, a work which admittedly reports the story but fails when it comes to context and interpretation.
Greenwald's criticism of the New Yorker article (linked above) is especially pertinent as the Remnick piece is being heavily touted by the mainstream.
The biggest drawback to The Intercept in my estimation is the presence of Jeremy Scahill. Previously associated with Amy Goodman, Scahill has become something of a celebrity in alternative media circles. His bestseller on Blackwater and his movie Dirty Wars have brought him a lot of attention and I don't doubt have been somewhat lucrative.
He's been rightly accused of sensationalism and personally I can barely stomach his work. Something of a prima donna he brings a degree of celebrity to The Intercept but he's out of his league.
As something of an audio connoisseur I was excited to discover The Intercept started a new podcast a few weeks ago but with Scahill as the host, I've already given up on it. It's not palatable. He's a poseur and listening to him interact with real journalists like Seymour Hersh I was frankly embarrassed for him. He likes to impress us with lots of profanity and again maybe it's a generational thing but I'm not interested in rap music. I understand why people are, but I'm not convinced Scahill really resonates with the ghetto if you know what I mean.
Douglas Valentine's comments I think are both germane and insightful. His background narrative provides a lens through which to view Scahill and his work and frankly leaves him looking rather silly.
Next, it must be mentioned that The Intercept receives some flak due to its patron, the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. There are always legitimate concerns when journalism is wed to wealthy patronage and yet it does not necessarily discredit the work. What is the nature of the relationship? Does Omidyar get involved? Does he make editorial decisions? That could be problematic.
But thus far, other than upsetting the US government and mainstream media outlets like The Guardian, what has The Intercept done to suggest they are being manipulated?
Call me naive but I don't believe Glenn Greenwald is going to be bought.
Finally, there's been some scandal with regard to a former Intercept journalist Juan Thompson who was fired over the integrity of his work. Already a source of tension the controversy has exploded due to his alleged Anti-Semitic activity. It's ugly and unfortunate and yet I've noticed the media has attempted at times to make hay out of the author's former connections to The Intercept. They are eager to make any association which would possibly discredit the online magazine which continues to be a thorn in their side.
Visiting Wikileaks will get you flagged by the US government so if you're uncomfortable with that reality, The Intercept will bring you the information in journalistic form. That said, I would imagine at this point reading The Intercept will probably also 'flag' your IP-address and put you on some list. If the authorities are pushing to classify it as 'fake news' and part of the Putin machine, then you can be sure it's being monitored.

While not true in every case, in this particular instance that means it's probably worth reading.


  1. I wouldn't be surprised if visiting THIS site would get someone flagged by the US government.

    On that note, what are your thoughts on the recent exposure of the CIA's methods of surveillance that utilize spyware and malware to monitor people through popular technological platforms such as PCs and I-Phones? Although not explicitly stated, I would not be surprised if the CIA collaborated with major tech companies like Google, Apple and IBM either with operatives working clandestinely within those companies or with the full knowledge of corporate executive staff.

    1. My site is inconsequential and besides though I may not be saying things people in authority would like... I'm certainly not advocating any kind of resistance other than spiritual.

      As far as the leaks, I'm still taking it all in. In some ways, it's all stuff we kind of knew. I'm reading the various articles etc...

      Television spying, there were already reports. These just confirm it.

      Hacking cars, possible assassination... people have been talking about that since Michael Hastings.

      I think the part a lot of people still don't get is that they're not just targeting suspects or people overseas. Their philosophy is to grab everything. This is why they're building some of the biggest data storage facilities ever imagined. And sorry it's not just meta-data. That's part of it but the meta-data combined with other info is run through algorithims which allow them to build profiles on everyone. Then when they want to target you they can cross reference from the massive pile of data and pull up intercepted emails, phone calls etc...

      I think at this point the biggest problem for them is making the massive quantities of data work in harmony, make it all accessible.

      If you want to drop off the grid, there's only one way. Dump all the connections and even then it's hard. I'm not trying to drop off the grid but as I've said many times before I will never utilise a smartphone. I'm not into any of the toys which is (to me) all those things are.

      To me the real story is the American media response. There's not much of one. It's more about how you can protect yourself, should you be concerned about your zombie slave toys and so forth. Some have even managed to turn this into an anti-Assange/Russia story. They've so decimated Assange that they can more easily dismiss this dump. It's clever, really.

      Europe is reacting and yet what are they going to do? I tell you what though, many realise this may be the moment. The Trump window probably won't last too long.

      You might think the public would storm Langley like the Bastille and string them up or at the very least throw a whole bunch of them into jail. Send Clapper and Hayden to Guantanamo. That would be just. No, that would be beautiful, but of course it will never happen.

      But there's no real anger or anything like that. The media through 'news', tv and movies have done their job. Our country, nay the Western Order is run by a group of untouchable criminals and murderers.
      It can be proclaimed that they've trampled the Constitution and yet the very people who pretend to uphold it and venerate it... say nothing or if anything support it.
      I have no doubt whatsoever that the Founding Fathers would (if alive today) call for the public to take up arms.

      I wouldn't join them, but I have no doubts that this country has become the antithesis of what the laid out in the Constitution. Hey, they weren't perfect. Few seem to grasp what empire really means. It means secrecy and militarism. In some ways considering the power of the US it's surprising there haven't been more problems with regard to the magnitude of secrets. But let's face it, the American public is unique. No other nation has ever been born, live and died is such a zombie-like stupor.
      But I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free!

  2. I like Naomi Klein well enough. The Shock Doctrine was an interesting movie. I didn't bother with the book. She has some interesting things to say, but as I indicated in a previous post:


    She's rather naive and still very much within the 'reformist' framework. She has fallen under the spell of identity politics as well. She's intelligent and does good work but its value is limited.

    The Intercept seems to be undergoing something of a change. Greenwald still supposedly runs the thing but I almost get the feeling like his grip is splipping. The nature of their stories and coverage are starting to stray into a more typical left-reform realm. They've brought on some bad writers and Klein is now tenuously on-board and starting to produce more for them.

    I think this is really unfortunate and marks the end of what The Intercept was supposed to be about... at least how I understood it. It's amazing how seemingly everything in this world so quickly degenerates.