When I received a copy of my friend David Boaz’s latest book, The Politics of Freedom: Taking on the Left, the Right, and Threats to Our Liberties, I was surprised to find a praiseworthy blurb from Glenn Greenwald on the book cover.
Up until then, I had only heard of Greenwald when he offered angry, sometimes incoherent rants against conservatives and the Bush Administration. To be sure, the only times I ever read his blog were when conservative and libertarian bloggers linked him to show the absurdity of his diatribes.
Maybe he wasn’t as unhinged as I had assumed.
I realized something yesterday about how we evaluate bloggers when another (albeit far more rational) Glenn linked Dean Barnett’s review of Greenwald’s new book, Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics. Â Sometimes, we don’t judge them by the totality of their writings, but by a small sample of their work.
Always appreciating Dean’s writing, I read the review and learned there was more to the oftentimes angry Glenn than his bile. Â According to Dean, he seems to be (on the whole) a generally decent guy and “worthy adversary,” although having an “unbecoming fondness for the personal insult.” His general read of the book:
Like most things that spring from Glenn Greenwald’s keyboard, Great American Hypocrites is a combination of literate insights, occasional distortions, and forays into ugliness that are difficult to understand given Greenwald’s obvious intelligence. In other words, the book is filled with the Good, the Bad, and the distinctly Greenwald.
Aware of that many on the left seem obsessed with (what they deem) conservative hypocrisy, this comment also caught my eye:
Greenwald’s larger point about hypocrisy among conservative ranks is worth considering. I can’t claim to be as bothered by hypocrisy as Greenwald is; I certainly wouldn’t write a book on the subject. We all fail to live up to our expressed values on occasion, and thus slip into hypocrisy. (In fairness to Greenwald, he makes this precise point in his book.)
We all do fail to live up to our own ideals. I think it unfair to brand such failures as hypocrisy.
Given “the Good” that this thoughtful conservative found in the book and that this left-wing blogger could recognize the intelligence of Boaz’s arguments made me reconsider my own evaluation of Greenwald. To be sure, I haven’t really blogged on him, so I never made public this observation (though have dismissed his comments when readers referenced them in re-mails to me).
I mean, with the wealth of information and opinions in the blogosphere, we can’t read everything out there, even everything by bloggers who have gained some notoriety or other renown. So, we may often evaluate a given blogger by a handful of pieces he wrote. And in Greenwald’s case, I have primarily read the diatribes linked by those on my side of the political aisle. But, it seems that, on occasion, he has written some thoughtful stuff.
Or maybe I’m saying this because I saw a picture of him once and found him quite fetching. And so want him to be less of an angry left-winger and more a thoughtful liberal, one whose ideas engage us and whose conversation we enjoy.
All that said, make sure to read Dean’s review, but you can probably dispense with the book.